Published: October 7th 2008October 7th 2008
With an eerie similarity to our first night in China, we hopped in a taxi cab at the Bangalore Airport with a driver who quickly got lost, was illiterate, and liked to park the car (unlocked) in sketchy areas at 1:30 am and ask random people who by all rights ought to be in bed, for directions. Of course, none of these people were able to help. All the phone numbers we had for the cottage we had booked were not being picked up. Muddling through Internet directions in a strange town we didn't know in the middle of the night, we finally found Casa Cottage down a little back lane at 2am. The night custodian showed us to our room where we slumped on the bed and passed out.
"Craig...." I nudged my husband "the doorbell is ringing..."
"No its not" says Craig, "go back to sleep."
hmmm...ok....I fall back asleep quite quickly.
"Craig...really, I know I heard it that time!"
"Its not for our room" he mumbles as he flips over onto his stomach and buries his head in his pillow.
hmmm...ok.... [I don't want to answer the door
Here is the tailor we chatted with near Ulsoor Market.
to unknown strangers in the middle of the night anyway.]
Ring, Ring Ring! Yes...the phone starts to ring...
"Craig! Now the phone is ringing!"
"What time is it?" he asks.
"uhhhh...." I check the clock, "4am"
Craig answers the phone "Your kidding me! Oh my god! Yes just a second!"
Craig opens the doors to receive my passport from the night custodian and illiterate taxi driver. It would seem that in the confusion of trying to find the place, making phone calls and pulling out directions, that my passport had fallen out of my bag and the driver had discovered it when he got back out to the airport. In gratitude and grogginess we paid him 1000 rupees (double the previous fare), thanked him profusely and fell back on our beds.
Welcome to India
Our first adventure out into the streets of Bangalore was certainly stimulating to all the senses. They honk all the time like in China. Street vendors sell all manner of tasty treats and the people! Most women are dressed like princesses and queens, in the most vivid and fantastic colours.
Exhausted from very little sleep,
We had to pay 500 rupees to get this picture. There were guards with really big guns who made sure we paid.
and overwhelmed at landing in somewhere so entirely new, we just started wandering the streets with no particular plan. That first morning we walked by a school with the children all waiting in uniform outside on the sidewalk.
"Welcome to India!" they announced [ I guess foreigners stand out here] Then, "Take our picture!" and suddenly I was mobbed by 20 odd boys in matching green and white striped shirts insisting on having their pictures taken. They were so cute I was happy to oblige.
It turns out this enthusiasm for being in pictures is not just the fun of local children but also adults. Craig and I ended up in countless photos posing with Indian tourists to the city. Sometimes it was a huge group of young men, and they would insist on using each of their cameras. The few times we said no, they said "No problem!" then arranged themselves behind us when they thought we weren't looking and had friends try to take the picture sneakily anyways. By the end of the trip I would insist that we should get a picture too.
Run-ins with wildlife
At the top of Nandhi
Hills, 60 km out of Bangalore, I had just bought an ice cream cone, and was about to set off down another trail. Suddenly, flying down out of the tree before me was a monkey with an evil grin on its face reaching for my barely licked ice cream! We danced a funny dance, with him lunging towards me and me dancing backwards and swinging my arms. Suddenly the ice cream vendor rushed forward wielding a huge stick and chased the monkey away.(never managed to hit it...but would have) He ordered me back to the immediate vicinity of his stall where the monkeys had learned "the hard way" to stay away and I finished my ice cream in relative peace.
Cows are everywhere! I mean, I knew there would be lots of cows wandering about, its India afterall , but I have to admit its hilarious to see them eating garbage on the side of the road in a major city. Cars just go around them should they decide to stand or lie in the middle of the road. At the beginning, we were so in awe, we would walk in a wide arc around them, staring at them
the whole while. By the end of the trip, we had seen so many cows, we didn't even think of them. We were at a temple at the top of Chenundi Hill and a cow was slowly meandering towards us. I knew it was there but thought little of it. Discussing our latest temple adventure with Craig I was suddenly thrown to the side! The cow had nudged me to the side, actually quite gently as my arm is only a little bruised, it could have been much worse, mostly it just left me feeling a little edgy and a little embarassed to have been so unaware.
Risking our lives in the name of adventure
One night we drove out to the countryside in order to enjoy two spectacular waterfalls, and to see Asia's first hydroelectric station. This was the best part of the trip, just driving about rural India and seeing all manner of things. People working in the fields, shepperding goats and sheep, making bricks, spinning yarn and women washing sarees in the river, we were driving through an issue of National Geographic.
The waterfalls though, they were something else. The first
ones, you can only view from a distance, a safe distance really. But the second set of falls, you can walk down to the river at the base of the falls where Craig was convinced by our driver and some locals to get us into what they call a boat, but what I call a basket for a tour about the base of the falls. The thing is perfectly round!!! No pointy tip to help with steering. Its ridiculous really! So, no lifejackets to be seen we let ourselves be rowed over to the gushing water, and well, it was stimulating, in the way putting yourself in genuine danger can be, and the boat driver told us that recently a film crew had paid him to ride his boat/basket over the falls himself. I haven't decided if I believe him... but I later learned from a good source that when he told us there were gian t fish in the river 100s of kilograms big, that he was in fact telling the truth. Sportfishing these massive fish is a tourist enterprise in the area....so maybe he did go over the falls for fame and glory...I'll never know.
Well Thursday October 2nd, was Gandhi's birthday and we found out that morning when we asked the driver why so many people were dressed in white. It was actually a huge celebration and great fun in general to be in Mysore around that time.
Every night at the Mysore Palace, they would illuminate the castle with thousands of white lights and then there would be a free performance of Indian classical music. Needless to say my husband was in heaven. In fact the South is the birthplace of Indian classical music, so there were a lot of die hard fans. During the performance on Gandhi's birthday a procession of elephants in gold armour went through the crowd and entered the palace. It was eerie and beautiful and strange, especially with the music in the background. I felt I was in an epic movie with Sultans and...well... elephants!
One week is not enough time for a visit to India. To be truthful, we were only getting our "land legs" in the last 2 days, on how to handle people, negotiations, how to get where we wanted, when we wanted, and
its time to go. I think our trip would be improved dramatically with a 3-4 week stay.
The food was unbelievable, we ate vegetarian all week...most restaurants don't serve meat.
We visited countless palaces and thousand year old temples, but our favourite moments were spent just wandering and chatting with people.
The air quality in the south is poor. The vehicles need some level of emission standards, and the area is so water poor that its incredibly dusty. So I would advise those with asthma to think twice about heading here.
If you do go visit, be prepared for your tuktuk drivers to sometimes try to renegotiate the price higher at the end of the trip by yelling and making a scene, even though you already agreed to a price any local would find exorbitant. Everybody expects a tip, even if it seems they are just being friendly and trying to help you, like showing you the way out of a temple. So keep all your small bills so you have something. Likewise, there is a lot of begging, and despite hearing that if you give to one beggar, they will come out of the woodwork
and suddenly you'll have 5 or 6 more demanding money, that in fact never happened. Maybe they have staked out territory. But I tried to always have small change for them.
People in India are kind and helpful, and very proud to have you visit their country. They like to chat, and they like to have their pictures taken, though of course, you should ask permission first, especially with the women.
Last piece of advice to any women travelling there, I didn't see a single woman where shorts or a skirt that wasn't full length. I made the mistake of wearing shorts one day, and attracted far too much attention...and they were quite long actually. As I had only brought one pair of pants, they were well worn by the end of the trip. So I recommend comfy pants, and long skirts. The younger women do wear jeans under beautiful tunics.
Take care everyone, and write back!
There are more photos below