17 to 21 October 2009
Arriving into Bangalore (or Bengalaru as it is now officially known as and which literally means ‘town of boiled beans’,) we went straight to Sonya’s place. For those of you who don’t know, my sister is currently living in Bangalore for a couple of months and working at a local school and vocational centre for disabled children and young adults. Finding the place was easier said than done and our Chennai based driver had to stop for directions several times as well as speak on the phone to the apartment manager at least twice but we found it eventually. We normally find in India that residential addresses in India are a complete nightmare to find even for someone who knows a city well. Also without wanting to generalise, you will find a driver stops for directions, seems to get quite precise ones and then as soon as he’s gone 10 metres down the road starts hesitantly slowing and stops and asks someone else! Anyway, as mentioned, we got there in the end. After a cup of chai (hot, sweet Indian tea) we walked to the centre. Although it was Saturday there was still some activity and it was interesting to get an idea of what happens there. After another cup of chai and some Diwali sweets back at the apartment we whisked Sonya away to our hotel for a night of 5 star luxury. We were completely spoilt at the Leela and they gave us a huge suite, and an evening of champagne (beer for Mark) and a delicious meal.

A quick diversion…. as referred to above this weekend is Diwali, the most important Hindu festival, Christmas and New Year rolled into one. Known as the ‘Festival of Lights’, it is a time to celebrate with family and friends, spring clean the house with an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude and shops for a new outfit and wear it. It is also a time to eat loads of sickly sweet goodies and for children let off fire-crackers from dawn to dusk. There are also loads of fireworks and wherever we were over the 5-night, long weekend period there were amazing firework displays every night. Although the constant noise, smell of sulphur (or whatever it is that makes fireworks smell like they do) and heavy air from a combination of firecrackers and fireworks did make it feel like we were under siege in a war zone.

Lalitha Mahal Palace MysoreLalitha Mahal Palace Mysore

Back on the road, after a night in Bangalore we head for Mysore and, as it was a holiday weekend, Sonya came with us for 2 out of the 3 nights we had there. None of us had been to Mysore before so we were looking forward to exploring. Manageable Indian cities are becoming harder to find as they seem to expand at a rate of knots but Mysore is still one such place. By manageable I mean that they are small enough to explore the main sights on foot and relatively easy to negotiate without getting too lost. Big cities that you only spend a short amount of time in and largely move around by car are hard to get to navigate. We did all the sights but one of the most spectacular sites is Mysore Palace lit up at night. Actually it’s pretty impressive inside by daylight but at night, every Saturday and Sunday, it is lit up by 96,000 light bulbs. We wondered who has the job of checking whether all the bulbs were working and if the system is like those of some Christmas tree lights whereby if one bulb blows none of them work until the dud is identified. I doubt it, but it’s a fun thought.

Maharaja's Palace MysoreMaharaja’s Palace Mysore

Maharaja's Palace MysoreMaharaja’s Palace Mysore

Maharaja's Palace MysoreMaharaja’s Palace Mysore

Maharaja's Palace MysoreMaharaja’s Palace Mysore

Maharaja's Palace MysoreMaharaja’s Palace Mysore

Another highlight was Keshava Temple at Somnathpur just outside Mysore. Built in 1268, the temple is almost completely intact and is covered in amazing intricate carvings and sculptures – our kind of temple. The main temple is star-shaped but you can’t really appreciate this and it’s a pity you can’t get some kind of aerial view of it. And although this sounds a bit nerdy, another interesting place we visited was the Railway Museum – lots of engine to climb over but also some original carriages from the Maharajah’s train of the 1920’s which were fascinating to see. So all in all, a good few days in Mysore with a good mix of sightseeing, relaxation and eating and drinking; and of course catching up with my ‘lil sis.

Somnathpur Temple near MysoreSomnathpur Temple near Mysore

Somnathpur Temple near MysoreSomnathpur Temple near Mysore

Somnathpur Temple near MysoreSomnathpur Temple near Mysore

Somnathpur Temple near MysoreSomnathpur Temple near Mysore

 

PS Those of you who also read Sonya’s blog will see that she has filled in a lot of detail I haven’t quite got around to!

 

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