After a very long drive we arrived at Mysuru early in the evening. Our hotel, the Parklane Hotel, was a wonderfully kitchy place with a bit of a jungle motif in the dining area and pool and very good food.
After settling in, Josh, Flo and myself headed off to the Pelican Pub a good 15 minute tuk tuk ride away. The place is a super cheap student locale known for the cheap beer and live music, but the food is actually quite good–the spinach balls in particular are worth a try. I didn’t take any pictures in the restaurant because it wasn’t particularly picturesque.
Mysore is a city that is just shy of 900,000 people which nevertheless retains a bit of a sleepy feel. The city is said to be the mythical place, Mahisuru (hence the city’s name), where a demon was slain by the goddess Chamundi. The city was the centre of the Wodeyar dynasty starting in 1399 and it continued to thrive as a part of the Vijayanagar empire until the latter’s fall in 1565. The Wodeyar dynasty subsequently declared its sovereignty and with the exception of a short sultinate in the late 1800’s, the dynasty remained intact until India’s independence in 1947.
The highlight of the city is Mysuru Palace, pictured below. The palace is in fact a very recent construction–the original structure burnt down in 1912. No expense was spared in rebuilding the palace, now designed by the English architect Henry Irwin. As would be expected given that the prior palace burnt to the ground, most of the palace is constructed of steel. Unfortunately, photographs are not allowed inside, so you will have to click on the link below to see additional photographs of the palace:
On the day that we visited the palace there was some sort of military event in the palace courtyard. As a part of that event, a number of military marching bands were belting out music at maximum volume. It sounded strangely like Mexican banda music from the north.
I recorded a bit:
After visiting the palace, we had a free day to ourselves so Josh, Flo and I headed off to explore the city with the help of a tuk tuk driver who offered to take us around for a couple of hours for about $10 (plus, no doubt commissions from the places he pointed us to for shopping). He started off by recommending the Cafe Aramane for lunch which did indeed have excellent dosas:
We each ordered different types of dosas, so you can get a feel for what they are like. The dosas itself is a thick, airy pancake with a bit of a crunchy crust. If you order a masala dosa, it comes with a spiced, mostly potato, vegetable puree–that’s the one pictured directly below. The one to the top right is an onion dosa which just has the onions mixed into the pancake batter. If memory serves me right the dosa on the top left is just a plain dosa. You rip off chunks of the dosa and dip them into the two sauces in the little metal bowls. I would have to say that dosas are one of my favourite Indian dishes, if not my favourite.
After finishing up with lunch, the tuk tuk driver took us to a small market that caters mostly to Muslim clients:
Mysuru is known for its essential oils and given that Josh wanted to purchase some, our driver took us to a nearby oil shop. The lady pictured below was rolling up incense sticks by hand outside the door of the oil shop. When we asked what type of incense sticks she was rolling, the tuk tuk driver lifted one up and showed us that it had no smell. He explained that they were scam incense sticks intended to bait-and-switch jobs at incense shops.
Some shots inside the oil shop. The large device at the bottom is used to crush herbs and flowers to make the oils.
Our last stop on the tour was a church. At this point, our tuk tuk driver took off (before we had paid him for his time) and left us wondering why he would leave given that we hadn’t paid. Eventually, he called a street vendor nearby who explained to us that he had gotten delayed and would be sending his brother. The brother did show up eventually and we paid him the money that had been agreed upon, minus the tip we intended to give, so I’m not sure what the disappearing act was all about.
For dinner, Josh was out on a date, so Flo and I headed off to a nearby restaurant called Tiger Trail. The restaurant purportedly features recipes gathered from tiger reserves around India. What is certain is that the restaurant is a delightful place for an outdoor meal as you can see from the pictures below. The prices were also surprisingly reasonable for a restaurant of that caliber–without a doubt I ate the best tandori chicken that I have eaten in India. The bar also makes a killer mint julep, but at a steep $10 CDN price point.
There was some sort of lights festival on while we were there so much of the downtown core was decorated with elaborate light displays. A photo of a display from our tuk tuk ride back:
Josh was finishing up his date when we arrived if you catch my drift, so we headed up to the hotel restaurant for a drink in the interim. Below is a shot of the smoking booths for the restaurant (one for men, one for women), and a shot of Flo at the restaurant so that you can get a sense of the cool kitch of hotel.