Geo: 12.314, 76.6759
After yet another overnight train ride, this time returning to Mysore from Hampi, we arrived at our hotel (Parklane) and were able to check-in immediately upon arrival at about 9:30am. What a relief! Our room, an air conditioned refuge, was huge with a balcony that we didn't use because it overlooked the quintessentially noisy, busy, dirty street. Jim and I don't typically like cities so we keep our stops short such as this one for three nights.
It was Republic Day in India - a big holiday - so the Mysore Palace a short block away was to be lit with its 100,000 lights. We sauntered over before it was dark joined by the throngs of other tourists and locals to view this spectacular sight.The air was alive with celebration and anticipation as children played and adults waited, taking endless selfies. And that moment, one I will never forget, was breathtaking as the entire palace grounds with every building and gateway on it lit up simultaneously. There was a momentary silence, then a collective gasp. It brought tears to my eyes.
The next day we returned to the travel agency across the street, planning to
confirm a taxi to Pondicherry. Five days ago they had quoted $140 for the ride. Even though we got a different person, we were surprised he quoted us $190. When we asked about the discrepancy, he wobbled his head and shrugged his shoulders.That got us thinking that maybe we could get a better deal at a different yet well reviewed travel agency. So we stode a couple of kilometers in the noise and heat only to be quoted $280. Back to the original travel agency we trudged (in the same noise and heat) and the initial man quoted us $210 with no good explanation of what was happening with this ever-increasing quote. Frustrated, we hired a tuk-tuk, dashed into the train station and booked a day train ticket - no more night trains for us! At the end of all this, the train and a taxi from the railway station in Chennai to Pondicherry cost us a mere $53.
These are the woes of independent travellers and we choose this because we don't particularly like group tours and we travel inexpensively (or cheap as some might say). Basically, we trade in convenience and expense for more leisurely travel, not much luxury
and independence. It does mean we have to set aside days periodically to make our own arrangements, though.
A bonus was when a high school friend from Montreal and I realized on Facebook that we might be in Mysore at the same time, we had the flexibility to manage our schedules to rendezvous. Jeff and I had seen each other twice in the past 42 years since graduating. Jim and I met up with Jeff and Anick at the bed and breakfast they were staying at (Mysore B&B), enjoyed lovely conversation on the rooftop, catching up and getting to know each other. We joined the vibrant group of travellers staying at the B&B (mostly yogis) and the salacious hosts Stephen and Manjula for a delicious Indian meal.
This is our kind of travel. Seeing wondrous sights, navigating the frustrations and the work, hiding out in AC when we need a break and the serendipitous meetings of like-minded souls - even ones you went to high school with on the other side of this planet or perhaps those we knew in a previous life.
To see more of Jim's photos and in higher resolution, visit his Flickr site.
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