Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mysore

Mysore just might have the dubious distinction of being the most unfortunately named city I have visited. It is a step up from say, Myfesteringwound, but it doesn't exactly conjure up the most delightful of images for native English speakers. Fortunately, the name is not reflective of the place, and we really enjoyed our time in Mysore, which was filled to the brim with all sorts of fun touristy stuff. But before we could check out any palaces or ruins, we had to get there, which was a crazy adventure all in its own right.
Although we did not sleep a wink on the sleeper bus, we both had a certain level of appreciation for the “Studio 54” feel of the bus. Rainbow holographic laminate on ceiling and walls? Check. Purple velveteen curtains? Check. Flashing multicolor lights lining the door frame? Check. Driver who alternated between blaring his horn and dance music through the wee hours? Check and double check.
We ended up taking a train from Bangalore, which was super super cheap. For a reason. When the train arrived, an unruly mob formed at the entrance to the cars, pushing and shoving to such an extent that people could barely get off the train. Only the people who dove into the scrum and weren't afraid to throw elbows got seats. I secured us two. (My elbows are at most people's face level...winning!)
For about two and a half hours, the journey was reasonably pleasant. Whilst we had aisle seats--far from deliciously cool and refreshing oxygen available to those people near a window--the people in our train compartment were rather pleasant. In the adjacent apartment, there were some kids sitting in the overhead luggage racks who were interested in playing peek-a-boo with us through the metal screen that separated us, a game they didn't seem to tire of for the next three hours.
People shared some of their food with us, we shared some laughs, our headphones and the Lonely Planet guidebook. One of our fellow passengers asked to see it, and spent over an hour poring through it. We thought it was a bit odd, until another person asked, then another. During the course of our travels, we have found the Lonely Planet to be a big hit; it seems everywhere we've gone in India, Indians have been quite curious about India.  :)  
Unfortunately, all our new travel companions departed around the third hour mark. While we were free to secure window seats, our compartment filled with individuals who were comparatively less friendly and far more inclined to stare. (Our peek-a-boo buddies were replaced by a total perv of a guy who seemed like he was trying to stare down my top for the next three hours. Trust me buddy, it's really not that interesting down there.)
When we finally arrived in Mysore, we were marooned on a platform with no clear exit signs. However, a quick glance around revealed the appropriate way to proceed: we should jump down from the platform, clamber over a fence, amble across two sets of tracks, slither under another fence, then hoist ourselves back up on the opposite platform, where the exit awaited us. Although we followed our fellow passengers across the tracks, it didn't seem like the best idea, particularly given Jon's familial history of difficulty with train crossings. Although I had seen several videos of people nearly hit by trains (e.g. below), I was unaware that the seemingly reckless stars of these videos were not entirely negligent, they were simply following protocol. 

 
One fixed-price (more winning!) ride in a rickshaw later, we found ourselves in the city centre, where a tout led us to our new temporary digs. After some much needed R&R, we headed out to investigate Mysore (haha, that sounds like a medical docudrama). After we were lured into an incense and oil shop, and ate dinner at a restaurant that proudly featured disposable vomit bags as a dining convenience (see picture below), we turned our attention to the--much more savory--light show at the palace. 
 
The light show basically meant that the light bulbs covering the palace and its attendant grounds were switched on, then without any fanfare, they are switched off. (I think the more western concept of “light show” may have been lost in translation.) In general, it is like a much classier version of Clark Griswalds infamous Christmas d├ęcor in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Although the notion of the “light show” was somewhat lost in translation, it was a really lovely atmosphere and we both really enjoyed the evening. With all the lights, food vendors, and friends and families milling about, it even had a bit of a Christmassy feel to it. 

 
On our way back to the guesthouse, we saw a man with long hair sat in a silver chariot that was pulled by a white horse, which was led by a processional of drum players. Periodically, the entourage would stop in the middle of the road and everybody would get down for a group boogie. Jon and I watched the scene unfold, and before we knew it, we were pulled into the fray. (Me willingly, Jon a bit less so.) In India thus far, I have subscribed to a basic formula of jump+flail=dance. While I have tried to use the moves I have been taught of “sow the seed” and “twist the lightbulb,” sometimes I just don't know what's going on, so I just wave my arms about wildly whilst bouncing. Surprisingly, this seems to go down well. After we shook our groove thing in the middle of the road not once, but twice, it was time for bed. 
The above is for illustrative (v. aesthetic) purposes.  :)  Too busy dancing for a good snap. 



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