Sunday, June 16, 2013

More of Mysore

Palace of Mysore
The next morning got off to a late start, due to the fact we needed some time to recover from the nighttime discoride that took place the day before. After a very hot and sunny walk to the place, we got caught up in some shadiness. Firstly, I should explain that India has a two tier pricing system, whereby foreigner tickets are often 10x to 25x that of Indian residents. While this ensures attractions are not prohibitively expensive for residents, it is mildly irritating at times because they don't explain how they use the additional funds. When we arrived, a 'helpful' security guard insisted on purchasing our tickets for us, meaning he shoved people out of the line, barged up to the window of the ticketing agent and brokered the sale for us. An examination of our tickets revealed that one was from several hours earlier, and they were reselling used tickets. (Hmm...Nancy Drew and the the Case of the Suspicious Ticket? Compared to the Hardy Boys, she did seem to get all the lame mysteries.) Let's just say there is a lot of money to be made on this little scheme.
At the entrance gate to the palace, the security guards gestured wildly at us, encouraging us to go in. However, there was a little kiosk selling audio guides and I was balking like a dog at bath time. The audio guide had information about all the things. And I desperately wanted to know about all the things. To our delighted surprise, we discovered the guides were free with the price of a foreign ticket. And they were really really good! To paraphrase Ross Geller, seeing pretty things and learning? Sign me up please! (I think the guards can only resell tickets for the people who do not use the audio guide. Hence all the pressure and lack of pricing information.)
We weren't allowed to take photos inside the building, which is a bit of a shame because it's got a lovely art deco feel to it, with astonishingly intricate carvings, paintings, and inlaid tiles. It was constructed in 1912 after the original palace burnt down due to a kitchen fire. (Seems a bit suspicious, possibly another case for Ms. Drew?) I was rather surprised it was constructed so recently, because—to my mind—such extravagant expenditures belong to a far more distant past. It did make me wonder how the people of Mysore felt about it. Given the fact it was constructed at a time where a single light-bulb was a status symbol, how were the hundreds adorning the building viewed? Alas, we learned of the palace only from the perspective of the Raj and his family, which was pretty favorable to say the least.

After the palace, we had a stroll through the bazaar, which was a wonderful explosion of colour. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling very chipper (doggone dengue), so we curtailed the evening to rest for a tour the following day, which was described by the Lonely Planet as leaving one 'breathless.”

The tour started at 8:30 am, and with an 8:30 pm finish, it was going to be a loooong day. The first stop was Mysore zoo, which was not a place I was entirely comfortable going. I've always had a bit of a thing about zoos, because it makes me kind of sad to see animals penned in with a parade of gawping visitors. However, given the increase in human-led extinctions, it seems that zoos are—somewhat paradoxically—now one of the only safe places for some of our animal friends. It also made me feel better that Mysore zoo had signs that stated most of the animals at their zoo had been rescued from damaging or exploitative conditions, or had been found injured and could not be re-released into the wild. And if you accidentally fell in the lion den, and the lion ate you, they were much more concerned the poor beast would suffer some indigestion. 
After you are dismembered, you will go to jail.


Anyhow, to our great surprise, we both really enjoyed the zoo. So much in fact that we were four minutes late back to the bus by my watch, though a fraction early according to the official time. (Jon: “It's India! Everyone's going to be a little late.”) As soon as we exited the zoo gates, our bus surged forward, careened through the parking lot, swerved around the corner—where it hesitated just long enough for us to leap aboard—before speeding off to the next destination of Chamundi hill. And this is how we found out the importance of timeliness in India.The drive up to the hill offered some spectacular views of Mysore. We didn't have much time at the top, but we did check out a the markets, a couple of temples and some statues.

Next, we dropped in at the waxworks/musical instrument museum, which was so astonishingly bad, it was kind of awesome. The waxworks, each playing a different musical instrument, all featured grotesquely small heads perched—sometimes at improbable angles—atop anemic looking bodies. Remarkably, all the faces had nearly identical features, save the size of the mustache on display. The signage in the museum was also pretty special; approximately every ten feet we were informed it was forbidden to spit, and near the exit, we were treated to a long and petulant rant about how they were not part of the state government's official tour. We did not spring the additional $0.25 for photos inside the museum, so this picture outside will have to suffice. 
Alas, no mustache.
Perplexingly, the next stop was the only time our tour group was tardy returning to the bus. Behold the silk “museum,” where everything on display was brand new and could be yours for a price. Our fellow tour-goers were all over that like a silkworm on a mulberry bush. (Bewildered, Jon and I wandered about looking for the 'museum' before abandoning ship and heading out for refreshments.)
After everybody reluctantly returned to the bus, we headed off to lunch, which was unfortunately not the best experience. Favoring something a bit blander for a change, I asked for a korma, which was so spicy, it nearly blew the back of my head off. Jon's order took 45 minutes to arrive, by which point, everybody was on the bus waiting for us. Yet again.
Next stop was the palace. Since we had already been, we just walked around the complex, eating ice cream while watching the elephants eat their lunch. We then headed off to the Catholic church in the centre of town, which was a very lovely building.The next stop, Tipu's summer palace, was a bit farther afield. Situated in some lovely gardens, the palace was not particularly impressive from the outside. However, the plaster murals on the inside were really intricate, and unfortunately, not at all preserved from the dangers of tourists' errant elbows and bags. We then did a drive by of Tipu's death place (at the hands of the British, naturally), before checking out the former city walls and another temple. Since we'd have to walk barefoot through the glass strewn parking lot to enter this particular temple, the appeal of the inside was pretty low. 

Finally, our last stop was the Brindavan gardens, which were nice, albeit really crowded. The big draw was some 'dancing' musical fountains, which are often used as a backdrop for local films. The first show was not particularly pleasant; people insisted on standing directly in front of the fountain, with little care or concern about blocking the view of others. The crowds had dispersed somewhat by the second show, and we had a pretty great view. We were even able to return to the bus 15 minutes early, where our tour guide dryly noted we were the “last ones.” (Seriously??)

The next morning we dropped in at the railway museum, which featured some steam locomotives. It was quite delightful, and brought back some good memories for Jon, whose grandfather really loved trains. A brief bit of clothes shopping and some lime sodas and peanuty pakora later, we were finally ready to head off to Ooty. 

No comments:

Post a Comment