We had several days to fill between Khajuraho and Delhi, so we headed to Orchha, a riverside town filled with palaces, temples, and chhatris (tombs) built by the Bundela dynasty in the 15th and 16th centuries, but quickly abandoned when the Bundelas had to flee Orchha for safer ground. I won't bore you with too much history, save for this fun fact: the king that commissioned most of the magnificent palaces, Raja Rudra Pratap, died while trying to wrestle a cow from the clutches of a tiger!
While the town sees its share of tourists, most of them only stay for a few hours during the day and are gone by mid-afternoon. We picked a hotel that had nice views of the main palace from its patio and decided to camp out there for three nights. There are an overwhelming number of buildings to see, so we rested up and visited most of them in one long morning and afternoon. The fun thing about Orchha is that besides the most famous palaces, temples, and chattris, there are literally dozens more spread out along the river that are in various stages of disrepair (all of Orchha was pretty much deserted until relatively recently) and seem rarley visited. It's easy to wander around for hours and explore them on your own. The only people we ran into were a few families who lived next to, and sometimes inside, some of these abandoned structures. Aside from temple-hopping, we enjoyed (surprise, surprise) the food, and especially the sweets on offer in Orchha, which is known for kalakand, a huge, dense milk cake that is found at dozens of stalls in the bazaar.
We left Orchha and headed for Delhi, stopping in Datia along the way to check out another palace we had heard of. It ended up being an underwhelming version of the much more impressive palaces we had seen in Orchha, and the fact that the top floors were being restored and therefore off-limits didn't help. However, this town clearly does not see too many tourists, so walking around it while we killed time until our train departure proved to be an adventure; as usual, we received lots of stares and giggles, but also found a great lunchtime spot with a tasty unlimited thali: a classic Indian lunch of a sort of sampler of several vegetable, lentil, and potato dishes, served with rice and fresh-baked chapati. After lunch, Nick got a 10-Rupee ($0.20) straight-razor shave, leaving him with just a mustache and therefore giving him about 500% more street-cred here in India (every month is Movember in Incredible India)!