The train ride to Mysore was great. We were on the Shitabdi Express – which is the highest-class of train in India that is accessible to mere mortals (RS 640 / $14.88 for the two of us). It was definitely a cut above Amtrak. Comfortable, good food – the trip took 2.5 hours to cover 130 km.
In Mysore on the auto-rickshaw ride from the train station we had a completely novel experience – a lady rickshaw driver! One of only two in all Mysore. Just guessing, but in a city of a bit over a million people, I’d hazard that makes her one-in-a-thousand.
We spent the balance of Friday exploring the hotel and relaxing. The Green Hotel is a former (small palace) now operating as an environmentally friendly hotel. The room was spacious, cool, and clean; the staff was very friendly; and the food could not be beat.
We arranged for a car and driver through the hotel’s travel desk…
Day 5 (Saturday)
Saturday morning we headed out with our driver – Ahmed – to visit a bird sanctuary outside the city. Ahmed turned out to be a wonderfully knowledgeable and friendly guide to all things Mysore.
At the sanctuary, we had a great park guide who rowed us around the sanctuary (part of the Cauvery river), pointing out all of the different bird species.
From there we visited a temple (Srirangapatna) inside the ruins of a (very large) old fort, and the summer palace of the last Emperor of Mysore (Tipu) –. Amazing paintings inside. Given its proximity to the fort, I’m amazed that the British didn’t raze it when they stormed Tipu’s stronghold.
From there we went to a crafts emporium – a operation sponsored by the government of Karnataka state – back in downtown Mysore, and did some shopping.
We had a late lunch back at the hotel, and spent the rest of the day just being with each other.
Day 6 (Sunday)
We arranged an earlier start with Ahmed; our objective was to climb the 1000 steps up the Chamundeshwari hill to see the Nandi Bull and the Chamundeshwari temple. (On the way to the base of Chamundeshwari hill we passed the driest golf course I have ever seen!)
Weeeeel. After 30 minutes of steady climbing, we surmounted the 800 steps to the Nandi Bull. Ahmed had told us that he’d be waiting for us there with the car. We had initially poo-pooed the thought of riding any of the way up, but looking at the sign saying “300 steps to temple”, and feeling mighty rubber-legged, we recognized the wisdom of Ahmed’s approach.
So, we went by car up to the very top. Where, after beating our way through hordes of hawkers (silver bangles, jasmine flowers, post cards, sandalwood Ganeshas, brass figurines, you name it) we walked around the temple for a bit and headed on down.
On the way back to Mysore we stopped at another palace for a look. This one was a British Raj era palace that has been converted into a luxury hotel. Asha’s ability to charm anyone got us an impromptu tour, including a rooftop look over the property and surrounding land.
From there we went to Mysore Palace; the palace of the last Maharaja of Mysore (built in the 1920s and still occupied by his last surviving heir). Um, wow. I have never seen such splendor. One of the main halls is surrounded by murals (painted from photos) of parades. The murals date from the 1920s to the ‘30s and are just astounding.
We had lunch at the hotel, and then decided to while away the afternoon’s high heat there before going back to Mysore Palace at seven to see it illuminated. Another case of wow.
Day 7 (Monday)
Monday – today – was a travel day. We said good-bye to the Green Hotel and headed to the railway station by auto-rickshaw.
We took the train back from Mysore to Bangalore. This time we were on the Tippu Express (not as nice – no free lunch – and not a straight-though express, but still better then Amtrak). With the three or four station stops on the way, we got back to Bangalore in three hours. We had another auto-rickshaw adventure and met up with Asha’s cousin Sudhi just outside of the warren that is his neighborhood.
Some lunch, some tea, and a two-hour walk with Sudhi and Anju and there you have it – all caught up!
If you hadn’t guessed, we really loved the Green Hotel. It was a treat to be, not exactly doted on, but paid attention to in a very welcoming, low-key kind of way. It made a wonderful green retreat from the bustle and noise of Mysore.
Dinner is ready, so off I go…