Archive for the category "Mysore"

Last day in Mysore

Today was the last day in Mysore before we leave. We woke up and met around 7:30. Today was the first day that I honestly felt the temptation to simply lay in bed. So this could be a crucial turning point in the India experience. But we got up and went out to the market we went to yesterday. And the atmosphere could not have been anymore different. The market was empty. The few people were that were there were fresh to the morning themselves and slowly worked themselves around fumbling to stack piles of coconuts and potatoes. No one was trying to make us buy anything. The few people there buying things seemed to be stocking up wholesale. Loading mounds and mounds of bananas into the backseats of rickshaws and so on. It was much more relaxing then the mid day rush. Of course being that it was the morning after New Year’s probably didn’t hurt that much either. I wandered around with Cara and Adam and we took a quick tour of the meat market, met a few kids and kept on walking.

It had been a running little discussion within the India group about getting haircuts in India. So as Adam, Cara and I walked through the market what do we find but a lovely little barber shop. So it was only natural of us to check it out. I decided to go ahead and get a hair cut and what followed was the greatest haircut I have ever received. Done entirely with scissors, no razor except for the back of the neck and brushing up the remainder of my beard. Hair was brushed off via a strange noogie method I was unfamiliar with and in the end the whole deal was only the equivalent of about 4 bucks. Not too shabby at all.

After exploring the market we went ahead and had a nice brunch at a hotel on the other side of town before heading out to St. Philomena’s Catholic Church . Which is really much more like a cathedral. The place is massive. And beautifully ornate. After we explored the grounds and what not we sat along the steps outside the church. A group of about five middle school boys rushed up to shake our hands and take pictures with us. Then a couple more, and a couple more and before we knew it we were swarmed by easily forty or so boys all hollering and taking pictures. It was needless to say a bit overwhelming. But luckily there was a security officer who quickly brought the situation down a bit.

Later on we found out we had made it into three local papers! We have becoming quite famous in Mysore and I don’t know if I should leave.

After a quick break we went to the mall with the delicious ice cream to shoot some pictures. Adam, Carson and I loaded up into this 4D experience ride simulator thing and it was amazing. It was like riding a video game from the 90’s. No real set motion just a shmorgus board of graphics they were able to kind of pull off. It was awesome.

After we returned to the market again where Cara and I made our way up to the roof of the meat market and watched some dogs, ravens and falcons pick apart the remains of chickens for the day. I have never seen so many falcons in my life. They were everywhere .

Chamundi Hill and Mysore

Today I was drastically shaken from my sleep again by the sound of the call to prayer at the mosque a couple buildings over from us. But it has become this nice sort of alarm clock so I really didn’t mind. Just a little shocking to have a man chanting at you at a truly incredible volume first thing in the morning. Today was the day that we all go to Chamundi Hills and I present to the group on the significance of the area. I was informed by Mike that it would probably be just us there, I’d give a brief presentation and then we would start our hike up. However, things never seem to go exactly according to plan in India.

As our rickshaws approached the base of Chamundi Hill I began to see more and more motorcycles and people and the combination of stirred up dust and predawn fog lingered heavy in the air. This wasn’t quite the audience I had expected to hear my little speech. So we stuck to the back of the pack and I gave my presentation and afterward our rickshaw drivers explained to us that there was actually a race up the hill today being put on by the local government. A race we were free to compete in! At first we were a little skeptical and just wanted to go up on our own accord but soon it was clear that wasn’t really going to happen. So we signed up, got some free T-shirts and got behind of the rest of the pack. AT one point the government officials were on a stage saying things that us Americans couldn’t understand so Adam leans into one of the rickshaw drivers and asks “What are they saying?” He just sighed and answered “Politics.” By age and gender they launched groups of runners up the mountain. When it was clear we just wanted to stick together we were given our own special “foreigners” category to compete in. So they announced us, threw the green flag and we began to slowly walk up the hill. Which I’m sure was a little anticlimactic for those in charge. But Adam did a good job posing to run for some pictures. We were even being filmed so he would sprint at the camera guy a few steps then instantly slow to this slow motion jog pace. THroughly confusing the guy trying to walk backwards up the steps and film us.

1001 steps later we were at the top. A little ceremony had been drawn and the competitors were divided up by age and gender brackets and they sat waiting to hear who the winners were. So once again, we tended towards the back. Which of course would yet again not stand. We were hauled up to the front and on stage where we were each awarded certificates for our participation as well as a slew of pictures with the government officials. It was the most bizarre situation I have ever been a part of. After we were presented with awards we were promptly swarmed by crowds of kids. All wanting to shake our hands and talk to us. So I obliged them on the sole condition that they in turn write their names in my notebook. They were incredibly sweet.

After the celbration we made our way to the top of Chamundi Hill. With intermitant stops along the way for pictures of course. There is also a small village on Chamundi Hill where some people live. I was passing by one and this little girl darts out of her house and looks up the stairs at me. So I walk down to her house and soon everyone is out and ready to be photogrpahed! THe first boy and his mother went very smoothly. But when the second mother brought her child out to take a picture. Well…things didn’t go quite as well. After that I gradually made it to the top. Chamundi Temple. We walked around a bit before heading back by rickshaw to the hotel.

ALl of this happened before 9 in the morning! Soon we broke for lunch and some time to unwind before going out again. We ventured out to the Mysore Spice Market where we split up. Shelby and I wandered around the streets and found our way to a meat market that was surprisingly hospitable to us. They took time to tell us how they cut the meat and what meat is which animal and how you can tell and so on. After some time in there we went down to the larger market. A place I can’t say I was fully prepared for. Rows and rows of stands under a tapestry of multicolored tarps that illuminated every square foot a different color. And it was packed. Maneuvering was similar to trying to climb through a rock crevasse. People were everywhere. We spent some time wandering through before we were quickly busted out of 6 bucks.

A kid came up to us quite instant he show us how to make the incense he makes. So we followed and as he is demonstrating to Shelby and I, Adam and Caleb find their way into the place as well. So he makes incense and we all buy some fragrance oils that smelled delightful and truthfully weren’t that expensive. Which makes me feel a bit better about being scammed I suppose. Anyway we all buy some and head out. Not four feet from that stand another kid comes up to us and gives us the exact same talk about showing us how to make incense and what not. We were no longer special. But honestly I could not help but feel that I would do the exact same thing to tourists. In reality there is no way in hell most tourists would fork over 6 bucks to someone for nothing. And really 6 bucks is not that much to us. But that could feed people for days in India. I would tell every story I could to weasel an extra buck out tourists who don’t know any better. It was just one of those experiences that really made you realize the relationship between visitors and hosts in places such as India. Even I, someone of very modes income, make over 7 bucks an hour. More than many people selling things in that market may see in a week! I cannot be upset by that. They are simply trying ti survive.

I was getting sidetracked. Anyway after the market we cut through a local mall where we found the most delicious ice cream stand in the world. We bled 34 dollars on that Ice cream. and every scoop was a little over one dollar. That is a lot of very delicious ice cream. I’m talking ginger, orangello, mocha, lemon zest, raspberry, blueberry, rum rasin and the very illusive mixed flavor. 30 plus scoops of ice cream. 12 people. And some people only got one scoop, the poor bastards. We literally had a scoop of every flavor they offered. It was amazing.

After all that we reconvened at the hotel for a quick photo critique and pizza dinner in mine and Caleb’s room. And after we adjourned to the roof where we stayed up as late as we could for the new year. About 11. The days we have had have just been exhausting but exhilarating to say the least. It was also Jade’s birthday so we had to help her enjoy that as well.

Bangalore to Mysore

Today was the day we travelled from Bangalore to Mysore. Another early morning and photographing before we packed up our things and set out to the train station in Bangalore. Over breakfast Cara had informed me that there seemed to be two types of times at the train station. Empty or sardine style crowds.

Upon reaching the train station it felt like we were most likely going to be set up like sardines. We stuck out like painfully white sore thumbs. 12 white people with large bags in the middle of a densely populated Indian train station. There was no hiding that we did not belong there under normal day-to-day pretenses. We arrived at the station about an hour and a half early so we could spend some time photographing before we set out by train. The train station was organized by a series of 10 platforms and a walkway above connecting them all. Some of us head up to the walkway above the train yard. We were met with a strange wave like frequency of crowds. Every so often a train would come in and the walkway would be packed for a good five minutes. Then no one. Then a train would be departing soon and a massive crowd would flood in from the opposite direction. When the two met on the rare occurrence it seemed like a navigational nightmare. I just stood next to the wall and waited for the waves to pass. And of course being there wouldn’t be complete without more people wanting to take pictures with us.

After a bit we loaded up into the train and set out for Mysore. Traveling through India by train is truly an amazing experience. It was so wonderful to watch as the city and urban sprawl slowly receded into nothing as they became replaced by small farms, streams and mountains in the distance. Apart from this you see so many people near the tracks as you pass through small towns in the rural areas. A man teaching his children to harvest their crops, a woman washing her clothes in the river, kids playing volleyball and people simply walking down the tracks. I found these little instances to be beautifully crafted in a way. You saw such a short snippit of these people’s lives and were forced to somewhat invent a story or at least a reason behind their actions. It was truly a snapshot that passed too quickly to even take a picture of. Every second away from the window and you missed something breath taking.

However, I could not ignore the environment of the train. I decided to get up and snoop around the train cars a bit. I found that each train car was painted with a surprisingly different and refreshing color palette. Where one would be a mint like green, another would be a muted pink or an underwater blue.

In seemingly no time at all we were in Mysore, or as one man called it “the Beverly Hills of India”. Mysore is quite a popular destination for those studying yoga. So the sight of white people did not seem as shocking here. Which, I must admit, hurt my ego. A whole day and no one asked for a picture with me. Just when I thought I was developing quite a following in India. Anyway, we came into Mysore and were greeted at the train station by three cabs. So the group split up and I landed a cab with Emily, Kelsey and Jessica. And it was glorious. We weren’t a minute away from the train station when the driver looks at me, slowly turns up the volume to the radio and begins to serenade all of us. Grinning ear to ear he went on for almost the entire car ride. Only stopping at the end to finally make introductions and small talk. Even when we had come to a stop in traffic he would begin to play air guitar to the song and nod me on as I tapped my hands to the beat.

We reached our destination, a small residence in the suburb of Bangalore. We went in and were greeted by the two most gentlemanly dogs I have ever met. One of the owners, Anu Ganesh, led us in a cooking class where learned how to make Indian cheese, a spinach and cheese entree and a delicious chocolate dessert. After the class we sat down and enjoyed a meal. One of of the dogs lay on the floor with his front paws crossed over one another as a man would cross his legs and sit back in relaxation.

We ventured out into Mysore to take some pictures around dusk. I teamed up with Jade again as we made our way down the main street where we turned off and found a small neighborhood park where a group of kids were playing cricket. We took some pictures before a ball was hit our way and I embarrassed myself trying to throw it back. Cricket balls are not quite like baseballs I found. At least not the one they were using. As we walked our way back to the house we saw so many kids playing in the streets and it was the most enjoyable thing to watch. A sight that seems to have become less frequent back home for some reason. But it was just lovely to watch kids have fun without anyone worrying about the new flu strand everyone has or people stealing kids away from their parents.

We met back up at the house so we could be shuttled to out hotel. Two cabs arrived and a group of four of us had to hang back while they dropped off the rest for the class. SO we sat on the roof of the house drinking chai and eating some of the most delicious pie I have ever had. Adam had brought up my pies before to Anu earlier as she taught us how to cook so she insisted we try her pie. I humbly admit defeat. The pie was amazing. Chocolate, banana, cinnamon and crust living together in perfect harmony.

When we finally made it to the hotel I found my way up to a spectacular 360 degree view from the roof. A nice quiet spot to gaze out on the bumbling city as I watched on in a sort of exhausted silence.