My journey to Mysore was an improvised one. I turned up at Gokarna bus stand resolute in my determination to leave but not sure if it would be possible. I was soon dispatched onto the 513 to a place I had never heard of and could not work out how to pronounce it. It turned out to be, without the accent, Kumta.
I only saw the bus stand but it was a little gem. It was the sort of place where everyone pauses and stares, children hide behind their mothers and scientists emerge to examine you. After confusion at the enquiry booth I sat down and looked at alternative options to Mysore. It was at that time that an Indian man, playing a version of ‘Where’s Wally’ approached me. “Are you the one who is looking for a bus to Mysore?” he asked. What a miracle, in a bustling bus station he had found me, it’s not like I stood out like a sore thumb or anything! I blindly followed him and ended up on an ultra deluxe bus, run by the local bus service. I don’t think that I have ever slept so well on a local bus before.
By the time I had left the bus station in Mysore I had been invited to a silk shop (I let him down gently), been told my hotel had no bathroom or windows (it had both), that it was not safe to walk there (it took me ten minutes and was muggings free), and been offered a pair of kids sized shorts (they weren’t my colour). It felt good to be back in India again.
I had envisaged Mysore as a bustling spice center with glorious colours and smells. It’s got a small area where this is sort of evident but I think that it is time that it re-invents itself. The real reason to come to Mysore is to see the palace. After burning down in 1897, a stupid amount of money was spent on re-building it. Such is the incredible job that they have done that in my opinion it bats in the same team as the Taj Mahal and the Golden Temple. The grandeur design and attention to detail is something to behold.
Mysore also has quite a good zoo. The idea of visiting a zoo abroad is probably not that high on most peoples list of attractions however I find the two I’ve been to fascinating. The animals are almost a bonus and play second fiddle to people watching. Zoos are one of those places that feel very much like your at home but with the addition of hundreds of Indian families and groups it becomes so much more entertaining. I’ve never seen so many ‘do not make noise’ signs. I’ve never seen it ignored so many times either. This includes by the Park Wardens who drive around in trucks beeping their horns at will.
Mysore was a pleasant stop. I was glad that I only stayed one night as everything is in easy walking distance. It’s a very manageable and inoffensive city with large green spaces and a relaxed approach. I get the feeling this is the norm across the south of India, with many travelers saying that it feels like a different country to the north. I’m starting to understand what they mean.