South India - The Cities
After our boating adventures in Kerala it was time to move north and on to our next Indian destination; the home of Ashtanga yoga- Mysore (or Mysuru). The journey there wasn't as straightforward as we'd hoped... we took a bus to Coimbatore where we spent the night to break up the long drive. And then the next day we missed our bus to Mysore because the bus stand in Coimbatore was one of the most confusing places we've ever been. To add to this, one guy (helpfully) directed us to another bus stand entirely, only for our bus to be leaving from the first one. So there we were, stranded in Coimbatore... not the best place to be stranded! We (and by we, I mean Sander) were convinced by a local guy to take a shared taxi to Ooty (only a couple of hours out of our way...) and from there take a bus to Mysore.
A few hours later we found ourselves on a very crammed bus from Ooty to Mysore, with a driver that sped down the tiny mountain roads like he had a death wish. Five very hair-raising hours later we arrived at our destination, somehow still in one piece.
Mysore is a great place to enjoy a slice of South Indian life and I'd really recommend spending a few nights there. Here are a few highlights from our stay.
1) The Magnificent Mysore Palace- a very grand & stately affair with a stunning exterior and an even more delightful interior. The palace is a photographer's dream and I was enamoured with the beautiful pastel colour schemes found throughout. It's also worth visiting Mysore on a public holiday or a Sunday as the whole palace is illuminated and it shimmers and shines like a fairytale castle for 10 minutes or so.
2) The Colourful Devaraja Market- the market was a real shock to the senses (in a good way). I really enjoyed all the colours and general hub-bub of this busy place. You lose yourself in the kaleidoscope of noise and sensory experiences. We didn't buy anything, but you don't need to go with the intention to buy. I have never felt more like I was really in India than I did wandering the small, covered lanes of this pulsating place.
3) Climb the hill to the Chamundeshwari Temple- unfortunately, our taxi driver took us all the way up the hill, rather than dropping us at the start of the steps to climb up! However, we did climb down which was painful enough on the legs. The climb itself is part of the experience of visiting this important Hindu temple.
4) Dine in a beautiful courtyard - surrounded by twinkly lights dine at the beautiful Tiger Trail restaurant found in the Royal Orchid hotel. If this is a bit out of budget then head to the skies & dine at the fun rooftop restaurant Infinit Lounge.
5) Take a yoga class - as the home of Ashtanga yoga it's a great place to practice yoga, especially if you can get into the Patthabhi Jois Ashtanga Institute.
We stayed two nights in Mysore & that's enough to see the main sites and get a feel for the city but if you don't want to rush around you could stay a while longer and immerse yourself in the yoga scene in the city.
From Mysore we took a train to Bangalore (The IT hub of India), our train was supposed to take 2 hours but ended up taking 5! According to a friendly Indian man whom Sander befriended on a the train, delays of this time are not typical... so we were just unlucky! Bangalore doesn't have as many sights as some other Indian cities but it's still a good place to hang out for a few days.
The drinking and dining scene is some of the best in India and we had a great time trying out some of the foodie places. A few of our favourites included; The Church Street social - a hipster hangout that serves excellent Indian comfort food, colourful cocktails & a good selection of Indian wine. We were very happy to arrive here after our lonnnng train journey. We also had delicious food at Olive Beach, a very romantic restaurant where time ceases to exist. A good lunch spot is Fava for a meze feast washed down with some chilled Indian wine.
After three hotel changes in as many days! We finally landed at the Lemon Tree hotel which was the perfect place to recharge our batteries after almost ten days of Indian cities! The rooftop pool is the perfect place for a morning dip and I was super happy to find a gym with a treadmill as I've been missing running so much. I can also highly recommend their spa for a massage for those aching traveller limbs. The pan-Asian restaurant serves up yummy food from all over Asia; needless to say, we didn't end up leaving our hotel on our last day in Bangalore.
If you find yourself in Bangalore then take a trip to the eclectic Bangalore Palace; the architecture seems a bit ad-hoc and each room in inspired by a different architectural style or country and the end result is a bit bizarre. The audio guide gives you a good insight in to the Palace's past. Bangalore is also a good place for some retail therapy; there are many malls around the city ranging from luxury to affordable, so it's a good place to stock up on anything you need for your future travels.
Interestingly, Bangalore is also a pretty green city, and whilst we didn't make it to the botanical gardens we enjoyed a post-walk lunch around Cubbon Park and watched the lawyers mill in and out of the grand (and very red) High Court. From Bangalore we took a taxi (we're a bit over public transport by now) to the atmospheric ruined city of Hampi.