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Published: March 12th 2010
Matt and the Men
Matt was very popular in Mysore - all the guys wanted their photo with him (I had to take photos on 3 different cameras before getting to take my own!!)
9th Feb - 22nd Feb
I'm guessing I'm probably not alone in having once dreamt of being a princess and in Mysore, it’s easy to slip into a fantasy of what this might be like (this is Michelle writing by the way, Not Matthew…..not that there would be anything wrong with him dreaming that too!)
As well as being famous for making some of the finest silks, perfumes and incense in India, Mysore is home to what has to be the most lavish and outrageously fantastical Palace in the country. I love it!
First off, we decided to stay in a real hotel for our first night in Mysore. We checked into the Park Lane just opposite the Palace grounds at about 3pm and didn’t leave the building until 12 noon the following day!! It was so wonderful to sink into a proper hotel bed with silky smooth cotton sheets and watch cable movies on the flat screen plaza. They had a pool on the top floor and a really good restaurant and bar. While in the restaurant on our first night, we sat beside a group who were on an Intrepid Tour of the
south of India. One of the Australian girls suddenly looked at me and said - “oh my goodness, you look like Princess Mary”! It’s so funny, I heard this a few times while we were in Oz, but it’s been a while. Mary is an Aussie girl who married the Prince of Denmark after meeting him in the Slip Inn in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. She represents a modern day fairy tale for pretty much everyone who knows of her and whilst I’m still not sure about the similarity, I will very happily take it as a compliment!
We met another Australian couple the following day called Catie and Lindsay. It turns out though that we had actually met them briefly in Nepal over 3 months ago. Matt was telling the story of his narrow escape in the Annapurnas and Lindsay turned around and said “hang on a second, you’re the chatty Irish girl and square jawed English guy that we were walking beside on the trek”!! Tis a small world after all. The guys are from Perth and when they heard that we were headed there after India, they gave us so many fabulous
recommendations - we all got very excited talking about Australia….am looking forward to it already!
We spent the next couple of days exploring Mysore. It’s a really fun city and very easy to get around (unlike some other cities in India). We took a tuk tuk tour on our first full day and went to see some Temples, the largest statue of Nandi (Shiva’s bull) in India, a couple of markets and most interestingly a home based incense and perfume factory. This little enterprise is owned by a former Mr India and as well as ceremoniously bringing us through his entire collection of perfumes (everything from white rose to sandlewood), he took great pride in showing us his body building photos. His wife also taught me how they make the incense by rolling plasticine like charcoal around a stick and then dipping it in oil or perfumed powder. It was such a charming experience that we ended up buying some beautifully scented incense and a small vile of pure lotus perfume oil.
We visited the palace on the last day and that’s where I really let my imagination run away with me. The original palace actually
burned down during a wedding ceremony in 1897 but was rebuilt on the same site and completed in 1912. The architecture is a blend of Victorian with classic Mughal and Persian with grand pillars, intricate lattice work, large curved domes and spiraling staircases. It’s fairytale pretty with painted ceilings, gold, pastel paint and mirrored walls, embellished silver doors, mosaic and marble floors and massive paintings detailing the royal splendour of a bygone era. The best bit though, is that on weekends between 7pm and 8pm, the whole thing is lit up by over 97,000 lightbulbs. Quite magical!
I joined Catie on a silk shopping outing. She bought a full sari and looked so beautiful in her newly made little shirt and emerald green and gold lengths of silk. The girls in the shop were thrilled to dress her up and all wanted to be in the photo with her. After some debating, I also bought a luscious red and turquoise length of handmade silk. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with it but I have this idea of having a dress fit for a princess made up at some stage ….
we wanted to go to Hampi. To get there, we had to first get a 3 hour bus to Bangalore and then an 8 hour night bus to Hampi. We only had a few hours in Bangalore but from what we saw it’s a really happening, young city with a great vibe. We ended up going to the Hard Rock Café for dinner which was amazing - I ate the best steak I’ve had since Cape Town and lovely glass of red wine (not that easy to get in most of India) ….very happy!
The night bus was interesting. It was a sleeper which means that you can actually lie down flat in a kind of double bed…very weird. It was also one of the worst roads we’ve been on yet so it kind of felt like we were on a fair ground ride. We arrived into Hospet in the early morning and got an auto rickshaw from there to Hampi. As the sun rose and we wiped the sleep out of our eyes we noticed the landscape getting more and more fascinating the closer we got to Hampi. There were huge boulders everywhere, neon green paddy fields
Getting blessed by Lakshmi
the temple elephant in Hampi
and temples absolutely everywhere. It looked like we were driving into the set of a new Indiana Jones movie!
Although Hampi is becoming more popular with tourists, it’s still a real hippie chill out gem with more than it’s fair share of tie die clothing articles, bongo drums and the ever present scent of hash in the air. We ended up spending a week in Hampi and could easily have spent another there. We stayed on the relatively busy bazaar side for the first 3 nights so that we could explore the temples and enjoy the bustling river side activity - locals come from all around to bathe, pray, clothes wash and play on the banks of the river. It’s a lovely place to sit and soak in the atmosphere early in the morning - the kids are so funny too, they all want to have their photos taken and sit and practice their English. We also met Lakshmi the Temple Elephant down by the water who will ‘bless’ you with her trunk if you give her a few rupees. After our first few “hectic” days, we retired to the almost horizontally chilled haven of the north side
of the river. We stayed in one of the Shanti cottages that had a lovely chill out pillow lounge overlooking the paddy fields and rivers. It was so tranquil that it was tempting to just stay laying there for the whole time sipping on banana lassies and drinking in the mesmerising view.
Whilst lounging there, we met an Israeli guy called Tal and a Dutch girl called Lisa. The four of us decided to raise our activity levels on one of the days and head out on some mopeds to see what else Hampi had to offer. We had such a fun day whizzing around the countryside, through small villages and along dirt tracks. We cooled off with dip in the reservoir and found a cute family restaurant for lunch called the whispering rocks. We ended the day by climbing the hundreds of steps up to the monkey temple and watching the sun set across the boulder and temple strewn landscape. Beautiful.
We spent our last evening back on the bazaar side so that we could get to the train station early (the boat across the river only starts at 7am). Whilst taking some pictures of
the main town temple, I bumped into two lovely elderly sisters who asked me to take their picture with some surrounding kids. I got chatting to them and after lots of hand gestures, random words and pointing, figured out that they were at the end of a big celebration. There was a very pretty girl wearing lots of gold who had just had her coming of age party the previous day - I gather she was about 13. I had a few little things that I was able to give as pressies to the party girl, her granny and granny’s sister and they were thrilled. All of the extended family had travelled for the party (some as far as 400 Ks) and Matt and I were invited in to meet the ones that were still there and have coffee and sweets. We then had to pose with pretty much everyone as umpteen photos were taken!! It was a lovely way to end our time in Hampi and we headed home for an early night before setting off for Goa the following day. Some Recommendations Sleeping:
Mysore: the Park Lane was a lovely spot of luxury for
The new woman with her two sisters
She had just had her coming of age party
a night. It cost 1500 which was a lot more than we normally pay but definitely worth it for some nice relaxing. We moved to a cheaper hotel after that….sorry can’t remember the name but it was 400 per night.
Hampi: We stayed in Shanti on both sides of the river! Not related - the one on the bazaar side is 300 per night for a double room with share bathroom and the one on the other side was 800 for one of their nicest bungalows with a little hammock overlooking the paddies (they’re asking 1000 but we were able to negotiate). Eating:
Bangalore: There’s so many great looking places to eat here but we only tried the Hard Rock (40 St Marks Road) which was outstanding and great if you need a bit of a western hit
Hampi: The Mango tree is definitely the best place to eat. Their special curry is out of this world, their momos are the best we’ve tasted this side of the Nepalese border and they do really lovely fresh juices.
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