Pavements are great aren’t they? On a pavement I feel safe. Comfortable. I know my place. I know my rights. Hunky dory. Unfortunately, our city Coimbatore does not share my passion for the humble sidewalk. Mysore, though, was an absolute joy – there were almost too many pavements (can you tell I’m slowly going mad yet?). If you want to know about what else Mysore has to offer, please read on. If you’re just happy knowing they have pavements, then that’s cool too.
One thing you should know about Mysore Palace is that if you’re clearly not from the Indian subcontinent (or as one child called me, a “China lady”), you will be asked continuously for selfies. At first, I was pretty flattered, especially when, being the trendsetter I clearly am, people started to copy the (clearly ironically) lame poses I was pulling. Soon, though, the Britney 2007 in me was unleashed and you’ve just got to leave her alone. Sometimes, you’ve just got to say no or you will be swarmed and will struggle to see what you came to see!
You walk through the large rooms of the palace barefoot. I usually find this a chore in India, but the cool, smooth mosaic floors of the building make this a really enjoyable experience. The palace is ostentatious to the max – stained glass windows, elaborate murals depicting battles and processions, golden pillars, teak doors with delicate carvings and, tucked away in a dark corner, a pretty random elephant bust.
If you’re a foreigner, you get an audio guide included with the price of your ticket. The English voice is so over the top the Queen’s butler-esque and I’m not sure how useful I found it, but it’s worth knowing that you can get one. My favourite thing about the palace was that you’re not allowed to take photos inside, meaning moving through the rooms was relatively hassle-free.
This was definitely my top experience in Mysore. Winding through the bazaar, the brightness of the mounds of kum kum powder (for bindi dots), the sweetness of the juice bursting from pomegranates, and the aroma of fresh flowers infused to create an explosion for the senses. We were pretty swiftly whisked away by a man promising he didn’t want to sell us anything, just show us all his produce (because naturally, why would he want to make any money from us?). Like many of the stalls, he was selling natural oils in dainty little bottles that actually do smell like Hugo Boss and Kenzo (I was sceptical when he claimed this, but I don’t think my senses were fooling me). He also showed us how to make incense, adding rose water to various powders to turn it into a paste and then roll onto the stick (these of course were free for his new friends). To secure the sale, he knew what he had to do to win us over: produce a photo album of all the white people that have ever shopped at his stall. “See, Glastonbury people like you buy from my shop!” – sold.
In all honesty, the 30-minute bus journey up was the highlight for me. Not only did the bus feel pretty luxurious (picture it, smooth tarmac and seats reminiscent of the 34 from Lenton to Nottingham) but the scenery was lush too. On arrival, you’re rather unfortunately met with the sight of the temple framed with the bright blue tarpaulin of tacky market stalls – because nothing screams ‘holy’ more than a vendor thrusting postcards for sale under your nose. I much preferred the Lakshmi Ramanaswami Temple in the grounds of Mysore Palace and don’t feel like it was worth the journey up to see the temple on Chamundi Hill.
Hotel Palace Plaza
Being presented with a drinks menu that boasted wine, gin, whisky and rum after a month of no alcohol (boo to dry states) felt like what I can only imagine being presented with your new born baby feels like – joyful and leaving you even more desperate for Bombay Sapphire. Excited, I was ready to treat myself, “a Tom Collins, please”. The reply? A blunt, sassy ‘no’ with literally no explanation as to why (it was hard not to laugh/cry at this point). We waited for about half an hour for, we can only assume, the waiters to buy the beers (the only alcohol available) from the nearest alcohol store. Although the service was pretty shoddy, the views of lush hills, monkeys swinging from telephone wires and palm trees, and the minaret of the neighbouring mosque in the light of the pinks and purples of an Indian sunset made this rooftop ‘bar’ totally worth it.
Only a short walk from the palace, Café Aramane was a relatively quiet and pleasant spot for lunch. Inside, it felt a little bit too much like a canteen, but sitting outside, shaded from the midday sun, was pretty chill. The paneer butter masala and South Indian thali (which is a bit of everything really, so is good if you can’t decide what to have) got a Thums Up from me – this is actually a really hilarious pun, particularly when I have to explain it, because this is the name of an Indian cola brand. I am such a lol. The vegetable kofta, though, was bizarre. Picture a pile of rice and veg sprinkled with India’s answer to wine gums and you get the idea.
A simple roadside food and chai bar, we ate like kings here for breakfast. For only 45 rupees (less than a packet of Quavers, what a bargain), we had a giant masala dosa. This is basically a really big pancake stuffed with lentils and potatoes cooked in turmeric and served with chutneys.
So the staff at this jungle-vibe terrace bar and restaurant are pretty charming. So charming that they almost persuaded me to part with 2500 rupees (about £30) on a gorgeous shawl-cum-tapestry, before I remembered I don’t really wear shawls and I don’t own any walls. We didn’t actually eat a meal here, just ‘tid-bids’ (how quaint) including masala pappad, which was effectively a poppadum accompanied with what must have been a whole onion. The banana lassi (yoghurt drink) was delicious and thankfully, they didn’t say no to a Tom Collins either.
Mysore: an enjoyable city to sightsee in, if not a little touristy.