We left Hampi in the evening and got our first overnight train in the AC3 carriage. A long journey is much better overnight, this journey was 13 hours but obviously didn't feel it because we slept for a lot of it although a train that stops at Bangalore at 5am where seemingly everyone in South India lives and alights very noisily was not ideal. Not the best nights sleep in the world. Olly dropped off straight away as usual, but I kept waking in the night paranoid someone was going to steal my bag which obviously didn't happen.
We arrived in the morning and got a rickshaw to a residential area a little bit out of the city centre. We stayed in a lovely B&B owned by a man from Yorkshire. He made us feel immediately welcome in his home. A family from Bath who we had coincidentally sat next to the night before in Hampi at dinner and a man from Belfast valiantly cycling through India also stayed there the same time as us and we all had our breakfast and dinners together along with the owner. Mysore is a great city, but the B&B made it extra special as we were in great company of fellow British travellers. Stories were shared of visiting India in the 70s, cycling around Syria, road tripping around Australia, and we spoke of our time in Indonesia. Guesthouses, homestays and b&b's really are the best when you meet so many great people and we get to share our stories in advance to save you lot back home in a few months time... 'That so reminds me of this one time on our gap' I'll live that there. We paid more for the Mysore B&B but that homely welcoming feel really is priceless when you're on the other side of the world, and Manjulas breakfasts were worth every penny!
We went on another cycle tour around the island of Sriangapatna, 14km out of Mysore. The bikes were a lot better than the ones in Hampi! We cycled through villages, across train tracks, along a canal, passed farms, we saw rice and sugar being made and had a peek in to the rituals that surround the death of a family member marked by the kin throwing the ashes in pots to a river and even got to see the elaborately painted bull carts in the making. Stephen was very knowledgable about the area and the incredibly rich history surrounding this unassuming rural village.
It's history starts in the 1454 when the fort that characterises the island landscape was built by the Vijayanagars (same era as in Hampi temples) becoming the capital of the rajas of Mysore Wadiyar in 1616. Things get more exciting, however, when the Wadiyars were deposed by Haider Ali and his son Tipu Sultan in 1761. It is generally considered that Tipu Sultan in his 17 year reign posed a greater threat than any other Indian ruler to British plans of domination predominantly due to his hatred of the British invaders providing him with great allys in the French. In fact Tipu Sultans reign was ended in 1799 by the Duke of Wellington, at this point simply a military leader Arthur Wellesly, in the bloody battle of Sringapatnam, a fort that was incredibly well defended and had never been seiged until conveniently someone left the back door open for the Duke to walk through. These battles were beautifully illustrated in huge wall murals at the summer palace, showing all the different British, Indian and often French soldiers dressed accordingly and fighting or looking through telescopes at the fighting in the case of the French. Stephen explained all this and much more, it was a genuine history lesson in the best way. In fact it is believed that Tipu Sultan had called upon his French ally's to aid him in battle at Sriangaptna, not just any ally but one Napoleon Bonaparte was said to be on his way to India. If this had occurred as many expected it would have lead to the soon to be Duke of Wellington and Napoleon coming head to head not at Waterloo but 14km outside of Mysore in what would later become Karnataka state. This never happened and now we have Waterloo station... Hurray?!
It was hot, but not humid at all, felt more like Mediterranean summer, simply perfect. Mysore doesn't have much of a monsoon season either so I can see why Stephen decided to open up shop here.
We went to the zoo, which was extremely busy with school trips and families. We got quite a bit of attention, most people were more interested in taking photos of us than the animals! Now we know how the animals feel. It was quite a large zoo, and once you start walking round, there are no exits until the beginning again, so you have to walk all the way around. Not that we minded. They had various primates and large cats, elephants, tropical birds, deer, antelope and all Inbetween, bears, reptiles, and more. We particularly liked the Wallabies as they were interesting to watch and did more than just lie in the shade away from the loud Indian hordes. The animals seemed well looked after and in generally well kept large spaces, but after seeing Orangutans in the wild, it didn't feel quite right.
Ridiculous signs throughout the park! Definitely added some comedic value.
The main tourist attraction in Mysore is the Maharajas palace, a grand building in the middle of town. However, the Maharaja had sadly passed away the week before and when we were there it was his funeral, which meant the palace was closed to all visitors, so unfortunately we only got to see the palace through the large gates. It certainly looked very big and grand and beautiful in pictures.
Instead we found the sweet palace, which did tasty sandwiches and a great tart/flan type thing! so ate to fill the palace shaped hole in our soul. Oh and we went to see The Hobbit (part 2) quality 9/10. The old market in Mysore was also a real burst of colour and character. It benefited greatly from being pedestrianised (the only place in India?) and was full of spices, paints, sandalwood products and an awesome fruit sellers row of nothing but bananas. (Day off from being snap happy so no photos of the market, you'll live though ey)
KR circle, a working roundabout in India.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time on Mysore, retrospectively 4 nights worked out as a longer stay than we'd planned but as South Indian cities go it remains our favourite.