Just had a bit of a trip over the weekend to nearby Mysore. It’s quite a touristy place compared to Bangalore, in fact we saw a lot of tour buses from here. The drive was an experience in itself – it took over an hour to get out of Bangalore and on to the open road. I say open – it was of course quite chaotic, being India and all. A lot of the road is dual carriageway, but there are parts where one side is under construction so with no warning whatsoever you suddenly have diverted traffic coming the other way at you. No cones or anything to separate the streams. And by traffic, this could be cars or maybe motorbikes or regular bikes or ox carts. On the motorbikes you frequently have 2+ people – a number of times I saw dad on the front, mom on the back and a child fast asleep sandwiched between them. So even though it was open road, the drivers still drove the exact same way as in Bangalore, pushing their way in and out of traffic, literally inches apart, with overladen vehicles (a truck packed to standing room only full of people going to a wedding party), just at considerably higher speed. Randy, who travelled with me, commented, “I think I have seen every single moving violation possible today.”
The scenery was, er, scenic – rice fields and palm tree plantations for a long time, with the occasional small town or village, where the road often became a dust track. Lots of market stalls and huts – many of the huts were walled and roofed with thatched with palm leaves, some were only tarp tents. We didn’t see any western faces at all for the whole drive, so it felt like quite an adventure. Interestingly even in the worst looking villages the women were wearing bright colored saris. It was made even more of an adventure by the fact that we got a flat tyre about 70km before Mysore. We pulled over and our driver made short work of putting on the spare, but unfortunately spare tyres aren’t that sturdy, so that one punctured as we got into Mysore. Our driver, Prashanth, told us he’d be back in five minutes, got into an auto rickshaw and zoomed off, so Randy and I were left sitting in the car on a busy shopping street with lots of people walking by. It crossed our minds that it was a good thing we weren’t in, say, Iran – we felt quite conspicuous, but actually nobody seemed to care particularly that we were there.
We were recommended a lovely place to stay – the Green Hotel in Mysore. It’s worth a look at their website so you can read about their mission – they’re run by a charity/non-profit and try to keep everything ecofriendly and use local workers. It also happens to be a very relaxing place and it’s an excellent deal. The only downer was that Emma wasn’t there – I spent the whole time vowing to take her there one day. The rooms were nice, kind of basic but that was fine. They were also quite close to nature – Saturday morning Randy was woken by the sound of two monkeys outside his room – his neighbors had left their used room service tray on the balcony so the monkeys came to eat the leftovers. On the Saturday night I noticed something moving on my room’s ceiling. I can’t stand bugs so I was ready to freak out, but it turned out that it was a couple of two-inch-long geckos – kind of cute, and also useful because they eat bugs.
Our driver took us to a few tourist spots on Saturday – on this page look at the sections for Chamundi Hill (where we were somewhat fleeced by an unofficial guide but were blown away by the crowds, the architecture and the experience of seeing people doing puja – blessing ceremonies), Mysore Palace (which is phenomenally opulent), St Philomena’s Cathedral (where there are gigantic bees’ nests under the eaves) and Brindivan Gardens. The Gardens were quite relaxing – apart from the fact that it was nice to stroll in a park, we didn’t get hassled by anyone trying to sell us stuff. It did get kind of old having kids and trinket sellers calling at us and bugging us, but I worked out that you just have to be very firm when you say no, and don’t explain why, just say no and keep walking. At one point a bunch of these people strangely passed us by without a glance, and when I looked round, noticed that they’d totally swarmed a group of Japanese tourists, who I guess might be a better financial bet than Americans or Europeans. The Palace and Gardens were very crowded, but again most people didn’t particularly seem to care that we were there and just treated us like any other local tourist, which involved cutting in line in front of us and shoving us out of the way. Randy said that the Gardens were a bit like a state fair, but without the fat people.
On the Sunday we spent some time comparing sunburn and I bought some presents for Emma from the shop in the hotel. Then we went to the Mysore Art Gallery in Jaganmohan Palace. There was some beautiful art work there, but it was so different from a Western gallery – no climate control, wide open windows with direct light on the paintings, no particular security and not much plan in the way the art was laid out. But because of that it was very charming and interesting, and also not very crowded so we could spend a couple of hours wandering around. After that we headed back to Bangalore, quite tired and but feeling like it was a worthwhile weekend. Just in case you think I was just lolling around, I also got some work done while we were there, which was good. Apart from slight sunburn the only problem was that I wasn’t with Emma – I’m sure she will love it when I take here there, one of these days.
One final note – I saw a billboard yesterday for a stockbroker company whose mascot is a tiger – the company is called Share Khan. Ahahaha.