Home of incense, yoga and India’s finest zoo, Mysore was the final major city on our planned route around South India.
The number one reason for coming to Mysore, drawing millions of visitors to the city each year, is not any of the aforementioned attractions – it’s the grandiose Palace.
Despite the best efforts of lying scam artists at every turn (trying with varying degrees of success to lead us away from the palace and toward incense, sandalwood and silk factories), we managed to catch sight of the palace at night lit up with hundreds of thousands of light bulbs.
This quick look from a distance was all we had time for on our first evening but it certainly whetted our appetite for a full tour the next day.
Fast forward 12 hours and we were on our way back to the palace, a ten minute walk from our hotel. En route we managed to find time for a breakfast stop in a fabulous cafe which served ‘mini’ breakfast plates – India’s version of a full English. The word ‘mini’ led us to believe it would be a small portion but instead it turned out to mean small versions of just about every Indian breakfast dish we had encountered so far including dosas, idlys and wada. While the food was delicious, it still doesn’t float my boat as early morning cuisine. Porridge, eggs, toast, kippers, bacon or crumpets still win for me. See what you think, unfortunately you’ll have to imagine the taste and smell. Looks good though!
Once Jess had finished the idlys (circular fermented rice cakes and a firm favourite) and I everything else, we paid our foreigners fee and entered the palace grounds.
Unfortunately we have no more photographs of this incredible building due to a zero tolerance stance on photography inside. One western gentleman attempted to flaunt this rule with his iPad and was aggressively reprimanded a whistle wielding security officer.
Instead of photos, you’ll have to make do reader with a bit of history and factual information:
Among the grandest of India’s Royal buildings, the palace was the former seat of the Wodeyar Maharajas. The original palace was gutted by fire in 1897; the one in place now was built in 1912 by English architect Henry I twin at a high cost.
The highlights inside were:
- a brass double gate with bronze inlays of elephants, eagles and mythical creatures
- A golden Howdah (a chair carried by servants upon which a Maharaja would sit) made out of 80kg of solid gold. At the four corners of the howdah were fly whisks made out of incredibly fine ivory
- Stained glass ceilings
- Rosewood doors and teak ceilings
- Priceless collections of paintings including work by Ravi Varma
Moving on from the palace we decided to hit the markets and do some shopping. On our way we stumbled upon a dozen elephants ploughing their way through the traffic.
These weren’t wild elephants who had lost their way but specially trained animals from local nature reserves taking part in the Dasara festival (the reason the palace was lit up too). Seeing the enormous mammals in such an unnatural setting lent them an even greater degree of power and size.
The markets themselves were of a significant size too and were a kaleidoscope of smells and colours. One section in particular housed about 30 different types of bananas each varying in size and colour.
Thanks to a successful visit to an emporium selling local crafts, we managed to wangle 90 mins the next morning to visit Mysore Zoo before our bus to Wayanad.
The walk around the zoo was about 6km in total so it was a bit of a whirlwind tour but we managed to see everything including some imperious gaur (Indian bison), a hairy baby elephant (I managed to steal a stroke as it ran past with its keeper) and a regal looking lion.
The zoo was situated in beautiful gardens and also contained an impressive array of birds. A mad dash past an evil looking hyena, hippos being bathed and feeding giraffes brought us to the exit. A short tuk tuk ride to the bus station and we were on the move again. This time to Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala.