August 14th, 2004

The mysore palace was one of the most recommended things to see outside of bangalore. Others included ooty (a city) and some national parks, but i only had about 2-3 days left. I ended up taking a private taxi that i hooked up through yahoo – it costs about 6rs/km (or 8rs/km if you want a/c), which ends up being roughly 2400 rupees for the 300km roundtrip, or about $50 USD. Not bad for a car and a driver who knows all the sites and how to get to them, but a really good deal for me since i would otherwise have to figure out all the things i wanted to see and how to get to them. My initial attempts at going to 2 different tourist offices proved completely fruitless.

I arranged to leave a 9am from st marks hotel, which is right around the corner from fritz's google house where i'm staying. The locals don't like to believe foreigners can be anywhere besides a hotel, so it's lucky that fritz lives near one. The road to mysore included many villages, several factories (i noticed toyota and pepsi), universities, and a lot of road construction. We also saw some younger indians shooting off fireworks, the driver would only tell me that they were students. Later i read that there were some tuition issues for students, where the public colleges and the gov't were arguing over who would pay what. Apparently some issues were resolved, fritz guessed that could be the cause of celebration. We also passed several beautiful hills and quaries. Most of south india seems to be red-brownish dirt, so the white and grey rocks on the hills made an interesting contrast.

Our first stop was the Tipu summer palace in Srirangapatna. This is where the Tipu Sultan used to kick it when it got too hot in other parts of his dominion. The sultan controlled most of southern india in the 18th century, finally losing much of his power and territory to the british in 1799. The entrance was cool, but the grounds around the palace, like most of india, were not kept up very well. The inside of the palace was quite ornate, with carvings and murals everywhere. Once again, time was noticeably not on its side despite the attempts block the sun with green shutters and disallowing cameras. Got back in the car and drove the 15 km to mysore.

Upon entering the city of Mysore, we briefly stopped at an old church, which looked exactly like a 300 or 400 year old church from europe. Then off to an atm, then lunch, then the Mysore palace. The palace was impressive, especially since it was built for only $4.2 million rupees at the time over a period of about 15 years. It is actually the second palace, finished in 1912, since the original one burnt to the ground in 1897. The grounds outside the palace were interesting as well, with a grand entrance, a hindu temple, and several mini temple-like towers at the corners. I was happily enjoying my walk alone, taking artistic shots when this kid in a red shirt came up and started talking to me. I tried to shoo him off, but he would not leave me alone – it was one of the few times I really got pissed by the locals. For the most part, I get approached by beggars about as much here as i do in san francisco.

The main part of the mysore palace is the inside. Before entering, you must remove your shoes. This is rare outside of religious temples, for the indians view your feet as pretty dirty. I assume they do it for practical reasons, bare feet bring in less dirt into the palace and probably cause less wear and tear. The inside was very interesting. A bit gaudy (as the lonely planet phrases it), but fascinating nonetheless. It was mostly large open rooms and columns, with many murals on the walls depicting usually people posed for a picture. They had sultans and maharaja's, generals and officers, and various types of indian elephants fashioned in different attire. There was also a room of paintings which once again reminded me of my european travels. I also found the very ornate doors extremely interesting, as well as 5-foot long stone tigers that appeared near many entrance areas. I got my shoes back and headed back to my car where the driver was waiting. He took a shot of me with the palace in the background. How nice.

Right before leaving the palace, i enjoyed a fresh sugar cane drink. Basically they harvest the sugar cane, cut off the leaves and the top so there's just about the 4-foot stalk left, then cart it into town and sell it to the stands. When you order, he takes a few stalks and puts them into this press where to gears flatten the stalks, squeezing out the sweet juice. For us, he had about 3 stalksand did 3 or 4 iterations of squeezing which produced 2 drinks, about 8 oz each. They also can add sugar, ginger, and lime to these. Here's the stand with my driver on the right side.

The next stop was a Chamundi hill and temple, which rises 1000 meters over mysore. I always love mountains and hills, so i especially liked this one. Not only was i offered a beautiful view of mysore and surrounding villages, but i got to see the only monkees i saw in india. In fact, I didn't even go in the temple after 2 failed attempts (i got shoo-ed away by locals). The monkeys were fascinating, their little hands were much more skilled than mine. There were about 20 that i saw near the temple, but i'm sure there were more. Here's a monkey family.

The last sight was Brindavan Gardens and KRS Dam. It was about 30 min or 19km northwest of mysore, and once again, the place was not the cleanest place i've been. The gardens themselves did not contain many flowers and was under construction. Apparently the dam is about 100 years old, and sprung a leak about 5 or 10 years ago. They say the whole thing is unstable, i definitely don't wanna be around when it breaks. However, after the initial shock of not finding beautiful flowers passed, i enjoyed the gardens. They did have several areas that were beautiful, but i especially liked the lake formed from the dam. It reminded me of the ocean on account of the choppy waves (the lake is huge). I found the indian people visiting the damn to be as interesting as the place itself. Many familes seemed to be there to take pictures of themselves sitting amoungst the flowers. There were also legions of school girls, in late teens or early twenties. Some of them i recognized from the mysore palace, so they must have been following me around. Get the white boy! Actually there was a youth group from assam that found me fascinating. They wanted to take pictures of me, and i prolly ended being in 15 shots with various assam-ites. For the record, assam is a state in eastern india between bangladesh and china.

On the way home we stopped at a handicraft store. My driver was telling me all day not to purchase anything at the sites, but wait till later. The shop he took me to was a government shop, where the goods are 100% gauranteed, the prices are set, and the employees are paid by the government. It was actually an extremely pleasant experience – i was the only customer there, and one boy followed me around and describing items only when i asked, which is very different than most places where the salespeople are extremely aggressive. They only wanted cash, so i ended up not getting everything i wanted. Too bad for them. After that we hit the road with about another hour left. We got home, i hit another atm to pay the driver, thanked him immensely, and was asleep in bed within 30 mins. Once again, i only slept 3 hours the night before. Overall i was very “happy” with my trip – the driver, who spoke br
oken english, constantly asked if i was happy. When i wasn't, like when i needed atm's, he tried hard to help. I like happy india. I recommend this to all who have a bit more money than time.

There were too many interesting pictures to choose from, so why don't you just
view all of my mysore pics (may not be ready till 8/16).

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