Sunday, February 19, 2012

Exploring South India - Part 6: Mysore

My hubby was still very sick the next morning, which was really rare for him who typically conquers any kind of sickness in 24 hrs. He tried to eat breakfast to regain energy, but of course it didn't work well. He went back to bed, and we decided to hold off on any sightseeing activities until he felt better.

It was around noon when he finally thought he could get up and visit Mysore Palace, which was luckily within 5 mins auto ride from the hotel. The sun was high, and so was the humidity. The perfect combination for sick people :( We had hired an auto driver as a guide to take us around the town the previous day, but we told him just to take us to Mysore Palace.

Mysore Place looked big from outside but even bigger after stepping inside the site. The place was packed with thousands of tourists. As the wiki said, it is one of the most popular tourist sites after the Taj Mahal. I had heard of the palace of course, but never really imagined this magnitude of palace in a small city such as Mysore which is also only 2hr car drive away from Bangalore.

The first thing which came into sight was the vast garden glittering with different colors of flowers and plants completely exposed to the bright sun, and the contrast to the off-whitish palace building was just perfect.

The construction of the current palace started in 1897 and finished in 1912, taking only 15 years. Although some parts were added later around 1940, it is still unbelievable to be able to build such a huge palace in 15 yrs!!!! I could just picture hard working cows and Indian labors working night and day under the hot sun for 15 short but long years.

You are not allowed to go into the palace with your shoes on just like any other holy places in India. You would then proceed to the security check where your bags will be scanned. The security guard will also make sure that you do not have a camera in your bag, and if you do, he would ask you to go back outside, walk back to the gate, and hand in the camera at the booth next to the gate. The funny thing, however, is that they do not care about a mobile phone with a camera. :-) The great part about this palace is that it comes with an audio guide, which I highly recommend you to get one. If you want one, you need to stop at a small booth on the opposite corner from the security before moving forward into the palace.

Thank god, inside the palace was much cooler than outside. The granite floor would also feel cool to your bare feet (so if you don't like that, I would recommend wearing a pair of socks like I did). The first hall you enter is pretty impressive with very high ceiling gorgeously decorated with stained glasses and supported with numbers of thick pillars. There are numerous exhibitions throughout the palace, and if you spend time on each one, it would likely take you up to 3 hrs (or even more) to go around. Since my hubby was sick, we just went along with the wave of people moving from one exhibition to another. Still it took us about an hour and half.

We skipped another part of palace as my hubby needed to lay down again. We went back to the hotel and rested for a couple of hours before we headed out again with the guide to the wood carving factory and incense factory. We knew it was tied with his commission to bring us to these random local factories, but we just love factories so much that we didn't care. All you have to do is to say "NO" to very obnoxious sales guy who would follow you around and try selling anything in the store.

The wood carving factory was interesting. I have seen this kind of furniture before in Bangalore, but I never realized it was engraved and smoothed out using sand paper rather than just a painting on the wood. And interestingly each design is made by professional designers before it is placed into the engraving which is done by another professional. Of course you have a separate professional to do the sanding. And the finished products were pretty good looking.

Unfortunately my hubby was not feeling well, so we visited another factory and headed back to the hotel. I had dinner by myself that night, but guess what happened? I got attacked by some sort of food poisoning this time :(  gG was trying to comfort both of us (thanks gG--) that night.

Boy... it took a while to finish writing about my trip to South India at the end of last year...  For those of you who wanted to know the contact information about the hotel in Kochi, here it is.  I think they are still working on their web site.

Les 3 Elephants
1078 Convent Beach, Pipeline Road,
North Cherai, Kochi (Cochin) 683515, India