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Published: April 26th 2016
I write this blog to help me remember things and to keep my friends and family updated on what I'm doing. I write a lot of chatty stuff so it's best if you know me (my friends say they like the chatting because it reminds me of how I talk... which I'm not sure is a good thing!) but anyone interested enough is welcome.
Friday 23 April
Friday evening we watched Slumdog Millionaire (can relate to it a bit more from here) which reminded me to write about the TV censorship. It’s pretty strict. There are some words that are ok… some that are not ok for example if the f word is used it’s muted out, if the s**t word is used the English subtitles on the screen (always present, even when the TV is in English) replace it with ‘damn’. There’s also no sex and violence… but the definition of violence is very unclear (some things you expect to be censored are not and vice versa). There are also a lot of public health warnings… if there’s anyone smoking (even if it’s so far in the background you can barely see them and only when you’re looking for it)) or drinking alcohol a “Smoking/Drinking is injurious to your health warning comes up”. The next season of Game of Thrones is due in a couple of days… no way that’s being watched on Indian TV! You can set up something called a Virtual Proxy Network (VPN) so you want watch TV as if you were in another location… it’s legal when you’re watching TV that you’re paying for… e.g. through a TV licence or satellite subscription. So Brian is going to set up a VPN based in the UK so can watch my TV from there (e.g. Sky Go, iPlayer).
Saturday 24 April
Today we had a day out of the city visiting Mysore, about 1 ½ hours away without traffic… 3 hours with Bangalore traffic. The traffic is so so frustrating but you do go slow enough to notice what’s going on, there’s always something interesting like cows pulling carts and people riding horses in the city traffic. The most random thing was on a 2 lane highway, with a concrete barrier in between, a car making its way very slowly amongst the traffic… on the wrong side of the road, in the wrong direction. It must have taken a lot of bottle given the amount of anger being directed at the car! We asked Noor “why????” and he just said “they’re crazy”.
We stopped for breakfast at a kind of service station. We had no idea of what to order but went for Dosa which was a kind of breakfast pancake. Mine was plain and Brian’s had masala on it, both were really nice, I’d have just liked jam on my Dosa J Noor had something that looked like a huge Yorkshire pudding… I want that next time!!!
Once we were way out of the city (and there was less dust!) the journey was nice. Lots of palm trees, sugar cane and rice fields that got lusher and lusher. We passed through the odd town… with people selling fruit between the cars (reminded me of Uganda) and in one a park where so many people were sleeping. I’m not sure if they just slept there or were chilling out.
In the Mysore area the countryside was idyllic. Our first stop was the ‘Gumbaz’, a tomb and mosque built as a tribute to his father by Tipu Sultan, who was once ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. To walk around the tomb, we had to take our shoes off and deposit them in a box for safekeeping which wasn’t great, not because I thought we’d lose our shoes but because the ground was hot enough to burn our feet, they put some carpet down but it still wasn’t a pleasant walk. We felt uncomfortable inside the tomb itself as it looked like a place of workshop and neither of us would have known the right etiquette. Brian got asked for a photo… I thought it was a scam (seen it before) and left him to it (he’s not stupid) but then realised it was genuine… he was like a celeb (he’d said it happened a lot in China). I was bit put out nobody asked me for a photo… until 5 minutes later when they did (someone told me later they ask the man first before asking the woman, the mans in charge). I was like a celeb too! J
After that temple we stopped a bit further down the road at a ruin surrounded by a river, in which many Indians were swimming. Brian said it was a shame he hadn’t bought his trunks but they were all fully clothed so he’d have been ok… We sat on the side and dipped our feet in for a while and then before I knew it a group of women and children had approached me and were encouraging me in the water. I wasn’t naïve enough to thing I’d get away with just standing in it but I didn’t have the energy to argue so I pulled my long dress up above my knees (probably not appropriate) and stood in the river. Then they encouraged me further out into the river, it was only about 10 metres away but such a difficult walk, the water wasn’t clear and there was a lot of rubbish in it (I wouldn’t have got in if I thought the water was dodgy) and the rocks were really slippery. The locals were trying to get me to go faster but I really don’t know how they could without falling over. They were also trying to pull my dress down; I didn’t want it to get wet but I gave up. The next thing was getting me to sit down… it’s unusual for me to get in water with my clothes on so I was reluctant… so they splashed me! A lot. I kept my mouth shut and in the end thought well I’m wet now so might as well and got right in (it was actually quite nice because it was so hot!). I stayed there a while and noticed that Brian was taking photos (typical, the one time he decides to take photos) and made my way out. I was drenched!!! If I look like I’d been dragged through a river in my photos… it’s because I was.
Back in the car we headed into Mysore to the Mysore Palace… it wasn’t open until 4 (I’m not actually sure that was true, think a local just wanted us to go shopping!) so we went to a silk shop where I bought a nice scarf as a present (I thought pashmina was a style… it’s a fabric?!) and Brian got measured up for a shirt we were to go back and collect later.
Back at the palace we paid our entry (about 40p for locals, £3 for foreigners). It was quite nice to look at, with the Hindu temples surrounding it. It was really crowded inside, we were herded around and every so often a whistle would go telling someone off, I wasn’t always sure why but think it was because they weren’t moving quickly enough or because they were taking photos (which then got deleted by security). It was pretty inside though, colourful tiles on the ceilings and gifts and ornaments from around the world. You got a sense that this was somewhere that the Indian royalty would greet guest and put on a good show.
Back outside we got our shoes back and went for wander. We came across some camels and elephants you could ride. One of the elephants came right past of us and they were so so so big. I was conscious they’re big and can turn. Brian found them interesting and after a while of watching I realised he REALLY wanted a ride on one… we both weren’t sure about how well they were treated but they looked well cared for and were treated nicely so we decided to go. I got the queue whilst Brian got the tickets (100 rupees, £1 each). Before we knew it we were on the elephant. I was scared at first (it was so high!) but it moved at a slow although uncomfortable pace. The guy ‘driving’ told me to give him his camera (I thought I was in trouble for taking photos) but it was so he could hand it down to someone to take photos. So then we spent ages posing for photos (not impressed!) but I guess they tell a story. Once back we got off and went to find Noor.
We needed something to eat with a quick turnaround and after a bit of driving we found a restaurant called ‘Tal’ – it wasn’t much and wasn’t the sort of place you’d normally think to go into, very dark and basic. We were the only ones in there and I don’t think they’d had western tourists for an age but I went with it (Brian wasn’t fussed, happy to eat anything). There wasn’t a menu, they listed five dishes for us to choose from, and there was no beer, but we got there with an order (and they got the no onion message for me) and waited. It was with us in about 10 minutes and taught me not to make a snap judgement because it was amazing. They were so attentive and chatting to us about where we were from.
After dinner we went back to the palace for the ‘sound and light show’. I knew they’d be a story of Mysore’s history supported by light and sound show, but the main event was the palace being illuminated for 5 minutes at the end (most of the information you find online about the palace tells you it’s only illuminated on Sundays and Public Holidays for 45 minutes, that’s not entirely true… it’s also lit for 5 minutes at the end of the nightly sound and light show). Inside there were plastic chairs waiting and we got a good viewpoint. The light and show itself starting off pretty impressive, lots of booming lights and there was obviously a good story going on, but Brian and I had no idea what it was. I got ‘British’ and ‘Raj’ at one point but was that it. I loved it at first, found it all quite exciting but after about 10 minutes it was a bit repetitive… it would have been alright if we’d known what they were saying. After 40 minutes we were rewarded… with the palace being lit up. That was pretty cool.
Our next stop was to collect Brian’s shirt from the silk store. It wasn’t ready (we were early) so I went to buy beer from the store across the road but came back scared as the road was hard to cross and several people had stopped to ‘chat’ to me. So Brian had to come help me. At 8.25pm (just before the deadline!) the shirt cam but it did not fit. Brian couldn’t move his arms above shoulder height… I couldn’t help laughing out loud when the guy told Brian “it’s ok if you don’t lift your arms up” and Brian responded with “Yeah it’s fine… if I don’t use my arms?!?!?!”.
The drive home took nearly 3 hours, more traffic than usual. There wasn’t as much to see but some temples were lit up and it looked like there were a lot of parties going on. Noor did a great job but must have been tired. Back in the city we got pulled over for a random breath test and learned later that if a driver is caught at night it’s a 1000 rupee fine (about £10) and then you’re on your way.
We got home really late and I felt bad for Noor who still had to get home but we’d all had a good day.
Sunday 24 April
We had a lazy morning (I still have to study) and were ready to go out for breakfast when a knock on the door came. It was my neighbour Marcus coming to introduce himself. We had a lovely chat and he invited us out to lunch with the other neighbours we’ had dinner with the week before. We walked to the Om Made Café which did really nice salads, and flat breads and sandwiches. It was really cool and made me see how a settled life could be here. Marcus had so much information that was useful to me for Uni I didn’t feel like I was so bad for delaying studying.
After lunch Brian and I walked to the Oasis Centre to get some supplies. We had a lot of stuff so got our first auto rickshaws in India (tuk tuk) and got screwed on the price… paid £1 when should have paid about 50p but it was fun.
After chilling and some study (me) for a bit we met up with the others from lunch for drinks on the roof at sunset, it was so nice, I love a good sunset. After a few more drinks and a lend of some books from Marcus for Uni we were back in the apartment for dinner.
Whilst I was writing this and we were watching a film the power went. It’s worth a mention because the power goes all of the time, sometimes several times an hour. It’s not so bad as within seconds the generator turns on the lights but it takes a minute or so for the TV to turn back on and a few more minutes for the Wifi to restart (frustrating when I’m working or Brian is gaming and we get disconnected) and about 5 for the aircon to come back on.
Anyway time for a rest, work again tomorrow.
Lots of love!
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