After a long day on the road, across the Western Ghats into new South Indian territories, we reached the imperial city Mysore in the Indian state of Karnataka. On our way down from Goa to Mysore by car, we ended up traveling 606 kilometers which took us about 14 incredible hours and we were quite speedy with only 2 stops.
We saw the beautiful konkan coastline, experienced the up and downs of the western ghat mountains, passed a massive surreal looking crater somewhere near Sagara in the lunch hour heat and thought that we were in Europe for a brief dazed moment when passing the juicy green fields and straight wonderful roads.We saw various forest types and experienced humidity and arid climate all in one day!
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Until, at a certain moment just before we reached Mysore, our car stopped abruptly because a few steps away a 2 meter long snake had decided to cross the road and that’s when an unaware motor bike driver crashed into the snake, which instinctively coiled up – most probably in pain – before disappearing in the green shrubs on the other side of the road.
Completely awake after the freak snake incident, at around 6 pm rush hour, we crossed the Kaveri River and continued our way towards Mysore. The traffic was quite moderate and getting into the city was so easy and surprisingly short, we expected the usual Indian city turmoil, but we never experienced any of that.
Initially I had picked a few hotels from TripAdvisor since I expected Mysore to be another insane Indian city. I never book hotel rooms in advance since I had experienced a few bad situations in the past. We ended up near one of those hand picked TripAdvisor hotels, so I went to check for rooms and guess what? They were over booked. The staff was quite buggy, trying to convince us to see a neighboring hotel. At the end we did just that, although I knew they were after a referral commission, and against all my principles I decided to take two rooms for us there.
When you pick a hotel for a night or two, what will YOU look out for?
Will you try to haggle the price low, will you look at the ambiance or even “judge the book by its cover”? Where should the hotel room be located, near the city center or in the outskirts/nature. Do you want a magnificent view when getting up in the morning? Or do you check the bed sheets and the bathroom with the promised hot running water?
Picking a hotel in India can be a massive challenge, many things need to be considered and I am definitely not the queen of hotel rooms. I mean I have had my fair share of “slaps in the face” each time I realized that I walked into another cunning hotel
trick trap in India. On the other hand I have never had issues in Goa and I hear the same from other visitors to Goa.
So what has been your experience with hotels in India? Please share in a comment or mail.
Later on I hope to share my experience (and my husband’s too because he has gone through a few incredible stories too) but I will publish a dedicated post just around the topic: crazy hotel room experiences in India and what to look out for.
Getting back to our Mysore experience…
So I picked the fancy looking hotel simply because they promised us instant rooms, warm water and at first it looked clean and understandably we were tired and we just wanted to have a shower, eat our belly full and crash. I paid the whole amount for the two rooms directly and you know what happened next?
We waited what seemed an eternity for our rooms (they had promised that we would get it right away), we tried to lock our room when we noticed that the sophisticated card lock system was not working, we waited 4 hours for a clean bedding without alien hair and strange non-kosher looking stains and ended up laughing out loud because after ordering a soup the hotel could not find a spoon in the whole establishment. It was a joke…
Luckily they had us as customers…
Anyway, we somehow slept through the night like stones, got up early, packed all our belongings and moved towards the Saint Philomena Cathedral. At 8 am in the morning there were only a few people around. A couple of domestic tourists took a few family snaps in front of the mini cathedral and then went in. We just chilled outside the cathedral, we never really even considered going in but I am sure that you might find it interesting to visit.
So, while I was struggling with my DSLR, which has been playing gaga lately, some of us had made a new friend with a boy at the Philomena Cathedral. He was about our age but there was something strange about him. Anyway he ended up as our local Mysore guide and let me tell you it’s much easier to move around in this city with a local guide. We saved time and effort!
He brought us to a decent breakfast hotel restaurant, whose name we forgot. The food was ok, they served dosas and idlis. Not necessarily what we were craving for but better then nothing. Outside the restaurant we got into a small chat with some taxi drivers, they introduced us to a tree and fruit growing there. We have been trying to recollect the local name in Kannada, we all forgot, but I did take a few pictures and later on I found an English name under another tree which looked same and bore the same fruits.
We believe Singapore cherry or japanese cherry might be what this fruit is called. Do you know this fruit? One can eat it when it’s pinkish in color and the flavor is very intensive sweet, nothing like a cherry itself but more like a apricot/peach/strawberry.
After breakfast we moved towards the famous Mysore zoo. I was in a hurry. Our plan was to leave Mysore by afternoon to continue our trip towards the mountains, we were just fed up of experiencing highly hot weather, our aim for this trip was to experience the cool south Indian hill stations. Also, the earlier we finished the zoo, the more chances we would get to see something else in Mysore. I had no idea at that time that the zoo would be so inspiring!
The Mysore zoo, also known as the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological gardens, was established by the late ruler of Mysore in 1892, making it one of the oldest zoos in the world. The zoo is situated near the Mysore palace at the city center and it covers about 80 acres alone and the neighboring bird sanctuary, belonging to the zoo, is another 70 acres big. In three words: It is massive!
I caught myself repeatedly comparing the Mysore zoo with the Vienna Schönbrunn Zoo, both zoos have much in common. The Vienna zoo was initiated by the Royal Habsburg family and hence it’s the oldest Zoo in the world. Schönbrunn is situated next to the Palace as well and covers 42 acres, which is definitely less then Mysore zoo, however, the Vienna zoo houses more then 500 different animal species while the Mysore zoo counted 168 as of May 2014.
Both, the Mysore and Vienna Zoo, have the same aims:
- to rescue and rehabilitate hurt wild animals
- to conserve animal species which are about to go extinct
- to research and study the animals
- to educate the human population about our friends, the animals
Mysore zoo was nothing what I had expected, in fact it was better then I could have imagined! Most of the animals have a lot of space to move about and I absolutely didn’t realize how much time it would take to walk around 80 acres.
The entry for the Mysore zoo is around 40 INR (1/2 a euro!!) and that means that everybody gets a chance to learn and visit the home of all the wondrous animals in the Mysore zoo. We asked our local guide if he wanted to join us, but he had seen the zoo on many previous occasions.
We entered the Mysore zoo at around 10:30 am and to our right we already discovered the giraffe enclosure. I started to take snaps like a crazy lady (the usual of course) and the others giggled and laughed. I asked them what was wrong “You are clicking snaps of a statue”, they proclaimed. I just looked at them dumbfounded, lol, you see they thought it was a statue but the giraffe turned out to be real, moving occasionally or maybe just consciously modeling exclusively for my camera.
We continued towards the highly active bird enclosures, spotting a male peacock on top of a peacock cage. Either that peacock escaped and couldn’t get back in or that guy was wild and trying to get in and into a dance with the females. Later on we saw a lot of wild macaque monkeys hanging out in the zoo or maybe the zoo was their home too.
Further on we, we reached the mammals were we came across the Indian Guar, South American Tapir and many other animals. You end up passing all animals anyway because it’s a one way path around the whole zoo, so you won’t miss any animals. I was so in my photography element that I managed to capture a few great photos, especially of the big cats, including the lion (Indian lion?) the white bengal tiger and Jaguar.
We strolled around the zoo for the mammal feeding time, so we saw numerous animals. The zoo itself suggests to visit the mammals either before 11 am or after 3 pm, because the mammals tend to be less active during the midday summer heat. We did not see the Hyena or the Jackals for example.
When you think you have done most of the zoo you discover the bird enclosures and the reptile enclosures. Different crocodiles from around the world, snakes and all kind of crazy looking fascinating birds, you will be enthralled by what the zoo has to offer. I was sucked in by all the different bird species, many of whom I have never heard off or seen before. Different bird species seem to feel comfortable sleeping and chilling next to each other, the scene was quite surreal and also very fascinating.
Then we got to another bird enclosure with a pond. It was smelling of fresh Coriander leafs! I looked around and suddenly I noticed swans eating quickly green leafs from the water surface. Do you remember Tchaikovsky’s Swan lake with the white and black swan? Well, I didn’t know but there are actual black swans in this world and they look magnificent with the green coriander on the water surface as background. Don’t you think?
One of my favorite pictures that I made is of an ape sitting in the morning sun. I was watching him from far behind a few orange pink flowers for a minute and he seemed lost in this thoughts. I wonder what he was mulling over, he reminded me much of us humans, with the kindle of an innocent heart in his dark eyes.
The most popular animals amongst the domestic tourists were mostly non Indian animals such as the Jaguar but of course the albino Bengal Tiger and Albino Blackbuck were as much visited. Snakes such as the constrictor snakes were mostly visited by young kids and luckily there is a security at the terrarium because people would just knock on the glass if the security wasn’t there to explain how to behave.
We were amazed by the gardens and plant diversity as well. We discovered huge trees called Rain trees. They were beautiful and gave a great ancient ambiance to the zoo. The zoo is clean and garbage free and you have several opportunities to sit and take in your surrounding. The picture underneath shows a short cut to get faster to the end of the zoo, if you are in a hurry.
We preferred to continue our Zoo journey and after the busy bear, all the smaller animals and the Indian and African elephants, we left the zoo 3 hours later with a happy smile on our face.
Basically we forgot time in the zoo and once we were out it was already past one and our appetite was growing by the minute. Since we learned there was a Mcdonalds in Mysore, we had lunch there. Don’t judge me, we don’t have a McDonald’s in Goa! Let me tell you I have tried mcdonals in Delhi, Bombay and Jaipur before, Mysore is not any better and you get to pick only one meat burger which is the chicken burger. Mcdonals in India is horrible and nothing compared to Europe, basta!
After lunch it was getting late already so we decided to move on towards Ooty and that means we never visited the Royal Palace or the gardens. I am definitely looking forward to go back to Mysore one day and to visit the bird sanctuary as well.
Next Masala Herb travel post: our short trip to Ooty and more detailed travel stories about Kodaikanal!