Monday, 28 March 2011

India - The first Indian palace

March 21-23

Hello everyone!

Following two megacities, I decided to return south. I boarded a train and, after a delightful conversation with Bassapa, a local who worked in Singapore, I disembarked in Mysore. Mysore, the backwater and home of a mere 800,000 people.

I met many of the indigenous population, and many interesting characters. I spent some time in the Devaraja Market, which was awash with colour and crackling with the screeches of salesmen and women. A young boy caught my attention, and I followed him to his father’s perfume shop. I spent over half an hour chatting to him, drinking chai as his son demonstrated the art attached to the creation of incense sticks.

Another man later conversed with me in a futile attempt to lure me into his perfume shop by asking where I was from. And then telling me he liked Geordies. ‘Wye aye, man’. I told him he could also say ‘pet’ instead of ‘man’. Still a teacher at heart. He dealt his final hand by offering me the special price. The discount price. The ASDA price. He didn’t slap his pocket, though – if he had, he would have had a sale.

Other locals were less amiable. One, who alerted me by name-checking the Stereophonics as I walked by, soon offered to take me somewhere. A coffee house. But not one of those places where you go to…you know…drink coffee. I knew about this scam, but found it particularly funny that he claimed it was legal to carry a gram in Mysore, whilst offering me ten times that figure.

This wasn’t the only grandiose claim from a local, either. I got into a heated argument with a rickshaw driver who wanted to convince me that the palace was in excess of two kilometres away. My Bible stated it was 400m. It was slightly unnerving that, when I reached the entrance after a stroll totalling a figure somewhere in between our two extravagant claims, he was stood at the gate, wanting to mock me. I resisted the temptation to wave the money I’d preserved in his face, and proceeded into the palace.

Aah, the palace. I have thus far abstained from talking about one of the beautiful palatial structures I have ever laid my chocolate-brown eyes upon…and will continue to do so for a little while longer. As grand as it may be, there are other sights here. After a delightful conversation with some cheeky college students – one of whom claimed, in spite of his youthful appearance and demeanour, that he was completing a PhD, a claim which brought roars of laughter from all sides – I boarded a bus that scaled the imperious Chatmundi Hill. Looming over the bustling city below, it possesses a quiet air of elegance. As well a temple and a bull.

OK, back to the main event. Mysore Palace, also known as Maharaja’s Palace, was the old seat of the prestigious Wodeyar family. The grounds have a similarity to those of Buckingham Palace, yet the actual building seems to possess more flamboyance and character. Also, I would stake some limbs on Queen Liz’s house not having a shop selling copper cups that cure fatness, mental weakness and ‘monthly ladies problem’.

Cameras are not allowed to be used inside the building – I saw a young man have his phone confiscated, and amongst the chatter I heard ‘police station, two days’. But its beauty, ranging from the skill of the artistry in the military oil paintings, through the serene, cool blue plaza, and to the power and mastery of the Durbar Hall, filled with columns and decorated with wreaths and artwork of mythical creatures. From here, you can see the entrance, and the long, plain approach to the palace itself. Majestic.

Mysore was a good place to visit. Many people opt to visit Hampi instead, which regrettably I will fail to do, but those travellers miss out on the charm and eagerness of the wonderful people that live in this place. All living in the shadow of a large hill, and one of the most regal and stunning palaces I have had the pleasure of seeing.

Love you all


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