After spending 10 days lounging on the beach in Goa, we went to Mysore. To get there we took the overnight train to Bangalore where we waited a few hours then another train to Mysore, a mid sized city in Karnataka state. These trains are definitely unique, as my good friend Saso would say “I’ve seen better conditions in Norwegian prisons” – pretty much sums up the experience.
Though we did meet Flea, a British guy who has been travelling for years and gave us a piece of useful advice – “if you walk into a restaurant and the floor is clean, it is generally safe to eat there as it means that someone of the staff cares about hygene” and also opened our eyes to the world of prepaid tuktuks and taxis that can be found at airports and stations. We also met Muhir, a jolly Iranian guy who came to India to do a bachelor degree in city planning (!), but admitted that he mainly came here cause he wanted to travel around India, his dad is loaded and only agrees to pay for it if Muhir is getting an education. This guy was hillarious and the cheeriest I’ve seen a person after a 16 hours train ride, he gave us some advice on places to go and told us he’d been going to China next as it’s a country he always wanted to check out and as he’s been accepted into Master studies, his dad was more than happy to pay for it.
The first day we went to check out the surroundings and ended up in the food market, where the first stall we walked up to was a perfume oil vendor. Perfume oils and insence are quite unique to Mysore and Imran, the young guy selling them was really good at explaining how the perfume oils are made locally, how and what they are used for. He gave us a good price so we bought a couple. Imran told us how the shop has been in his family for generations and they have a long history in the trade. He also told us about the brightly coloured powder they sell and that people mix it with water and use it to paint their houses. We had a really nice chat with Imran after which he invited us to his sisters wedding that Sunday. He said it would be a small affair, only 1500 (!) people. Unfortunately, we were meant to travel to Kochi so missed out on the wedding, though no doubt it would have been an awesome party to go to.
Imrans dad told us how in Mysore they have a big problem with the tuktuk drivers as they hassle the tourists into taking “sightseeing tours” where they take tourists to their mates shops to get commission on the heavily overpriced items people buy. These guys can be pretty persistant and sometimes a bit unpleasant. He adviced that we familiarise ourselves with the maps of Mysore, work out where we want to go before getting a tuktuk, and to never agree to “pitstops” or for the driver to wait for us and become our driver for the day. Some of these guys will insist that the place you are going to is closed and suggest to take you some where else (where his mate will greet you and your western money with open arms). Irfans dad told us that markets are pretty much open every day and that you should always insist on goiong to your initial destination first.
Luckly Matija the mapmaster had all of this under control and when we met our hassly Hassan it wasn’t a problem.
Walking around the market we met some more people, Adil another perfume seller being one of them. This guy is a legend and showed us his big collection of note books, full of pictures and greetings from tourists that had visited his shop (2 Croats, 0 Bosnians, 3 books full of Germans). Adil also complaind about the tuktuk problem and pointed out that if tourists stop agreeing to these “sightseeing tours” and became firmer with thedrivers, the drivers will be forced to change tactics. He said that every tuktuk has a price pr km written in the back, work out roughly how many kilometers you are travelling and insist on a fair price and you initial destination only. This has for Mat become a new “harrasing the fish” method and tuktukers generally give us an easier time as we basically harass them for the price as much as they harass us.
In Mysore, we stayed in a nice hotel with a jungle themed restaurant. This place had fake trees and plastic animals hanging from the ceilings. In stead of music they played “jungle ambience” sounds on the stereo, apart from one “Happy Birthday” track, which clearly was on the same CD so came on repeat every hour or so. The staff were all dressed in full colonial style safari suits (including the hats) and wore these pistol holsters in wich they kept their pens and little notepads, genuinley the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.
Mysore was nice, but not a place I’d rush to re visit. I would have preferred to do some yoga, but our hotel was on the opposite side of the city from the yoga studios. We probably missed out on a lot of things people come to Mysore to see, but we were more keen to move on to Kerala to chill out in as they call it – Gods own land.