The drive to Mysore was a bit longer than expected. We were told that it would take anywhere from two to four hours, the most common answer being two and a half hours. It took us about three and a half. One thing I did notice is that the space between cities is more urbanized than I expected. We did encounter some more rural areas, such as rice fields, but much less than I expected. India is growing very quickly.
Our first destination in Mysore was the Sri Chamundeshwari Temple. We parked the car and hiked up a huge stone staircase. We walked through a few side streets liked with simple houses, and watched the “free range monkeys” climb all over the rooftops. We turned a corner, and all of a sudden there was this huge temple in front of us. It was very impressive. We took a number of photos, decided we did not want to wait the hour to get inside, and went into a smaller side temple. The Hindu religion is not one that I know very much about. Laurent recommended a number of books that would be good for me to read.
Next stop was a brief photo opportunity at the Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel. Our driver said that this used to be the home of one of the Princes, and that now it has been turned into a hotel. We took a couple of snapshots, admired the beautiful sunflowers, and moved on to the zoo.
It had been a long time since I have been to a zoo. I have been to the drive-through safari with my nephew earlier in the year, but walking through a zoo is much different. It seems much more personal, and allows you to connect to the local residents a bit more. Laurent and his wife have been visiting zoos wherever they travel, and find that it is a fun thing to do and an opportunity to get away from more touristy location. The Mysore Zoo was very nice. They had lots of local animals, particularly birds and snakes. They did have African elephants, white tigers, gorillas, giraffes, rhinos, leopards, and king cobras. The short walk through the zoo was 3 kilometers. It was a bit hot, and at the end I was ready for lunch and a cold soda.
Lunch was at a very nice hotel within the town proper. It seems that hotels have the safest restaurants for foreigners’ delicate stomachs. They had an international menu, and the food was good. The coke was cold, and the seat was comfortable. It gave us time to rest and rejuvenate, and prepare for the trip through Mysore Palace.
As we approached the center of town, we turned a corner, and Mysore Palace was on our right. It was an impressive sight. Our driver parked by the side entrance, and let us out. He had coordinated for someone to give us a tour. We took photos of the palace exterior, then had to check our cameras and our shoes, as they were not allowed on the inside. The tour inside took about an hour and a half. The guide was very knowledgeable. He told us all about the paintings, the hand carved mahogany and teak doors, and the history of the maharajahs that lived there. The most impressive room was the audience hall, with its gorgeous view of the palace, its colorful painted ceiling, and the overall architecture of the room. Other interests were the pure gold thrones that the maharajahs use atop elephants, and the pure silver doors that are used as entrances to their private audience hall.
After the tour, we made our way to one of the temples on the palace grounds. On the way to the temple, we came across the elephants and their riders preparing for the parade that evening. One of them reached out his trunk and smelled my hand! This is considered good luck, as elephants are associated with the god Shiva. The only problem with that is that the elephant must have been sniffing around some mud or dirty water, as my hand and pants got covered in brown mud. But that’s okay, I think I need the luck.
After the temple, we collected our shoes and our camera, and went shopping. We went to a local silk shop. Laurent wanted to see if he could find something for his children. The first place we went sold mostly bulk silk, not clothes. We moved on to a Cauvery store, the only company that can sell sandalwood. I bought white wood statues for Nick and John, and a small sandalwood statue of Shiva for myself. The driver took us to another silk clothing store for Laurent, and he was much more successful. He found something for both of his kids there. As we got into the car, the rain started. We were afraid it would ruin our plans to get photos of the palace all lit up at night.
We finished up our shopping at 6pm, so we had some time to kill until the lighting and the parade at 7:30pm. We headed back over to the hotel where we had lunch, and spent some time at the bar. The beer was very cold, and very refreshing after a long day. Laurent and I passed the time with some interesting conversation. We did not want to spend a lot of time at the palace again, just enough time to get some photos. We made our way back to the car, and the driver fought the gridlock and the rain to get us to the palace. We hopped out, took a few quick snapshots of the main gate and the palace, saw the tail end (don’t mind the pun) of the elephant parade, and hopped back in the car to head back to the hotel after another long day.
With all the rain we got, it took us four hours to get back to the hotel. The roads throughout Bangalore flooded. This is an example of the need for improved infrastructure. I know this is the monsoon season, but the three times we got rain this week all flooded the streets to the point of real danger. This is different than the gaps of power from the electric companies. A man died during the first rainstorm. Cars were washed away during the second storm. I was afraid that we would have problems getting to the airport the next day. Bangalore is expanding very fast. I hope the infrastructure catches up soon. I really like this town.