Another sleepless night on the overnight sleeper train and we pulled into the city of Mysore. By this time, Mark had functioning on no sleep down pat and we checked into our room before starting the day. We were super thrilled with the amenities that included a television with no plug on the end of the cable, a bedside phone with no phone plug in the wall, a feces sprayed toilet complete with dried urine on the seat, a sink that hadn’t been cleaned, maybe ever, and a fan that had years worth of dust plugging it into overheat mode. Mark pulls out the disinfectant wipes, gives everything a cursory wipe, smiles and says “oh India”. It is only for one night, so we set out to the world heritage listed Mysore Palace.
Mysore is known for its royal heritage. Central streets are wide, lined with trees and monuments, and it has seven palaces. Some converted into hospitals and other government buildings. Mysore is also known for producing premium silks, sandalwood and the fanciest incense sticks we have ever seen. The city also has a reputation for having the best places in India to practice yoga. Namaste.
Not really caring too much to see the Mysore Palace, it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. Islamic power in India at the turn of the 12th century brought a new style of architecture to India that included Hindu, Islamic and Gothic styles. The palace combined these styles giving it the reputation as the most ornate place in India. Our vision was overwhelmed by a multitude of colors, mismatched mosaics, mirrors, carved wooden doors and paintings.
Afterwards, we headed up Chamundi Hill (1062 metres) for an overview of Mysore and a walk through the Sri Chamundeswari Temple. The temple was uneventful but the travel to get there was redeemed when we were able to catch locals beginning their own little Ganesh Chaturthi (10 day festival celebrating Ganesha) parade.
Even die hard travellers need a break from reality and Mysore had a theatre playing a Hollywood movie in English. An opportunity too good to pass up, we jumped in a rickshaw to catch every Canadian woman’s leading man Ryan Reynolds in Hitman’s Bodyguard. We made it in the theatre through the common male and separate female security screening lines and went straight to the concession line. Grinning ear to ear, we stuffed our face with popcorn and pop while watching our fellow Canadian Ryan kick some butt. Thankfully, Indian theatre intermissions are perfectly timed for pee breaks and another bucket of popcorn! It was so good.
From the movie theatre, a rickshaw trip and we boarded another overnight sleeper train to the highlight of our southern lndian journey, Hampi.
Set over thirty-six square kilometres, Hampi has a gorgeous landscape dotted with huge rusty brown colored boulders which makes for an incredibly, fascinating “where the heck did they come from” kind of setting. Beautiful green rice fields and palm trees interspersed with the boulders are what postcards are made from. Hindu ancient temple ruins dating from 1336 provide days worth of entertainment.
Hampi is a place we could easily recommend chilling for a few days. The Tungabhadra River flowed through Hampi. A short two minute boat trip separated us from the absolutely most disgusting accommodations we have ever stayed in and the fascinating Hampi ruins.
Hampi, n our prediction, is an up and coming tourist destination. The area is gorgeous and offers so much.
Two sites in particular really stood out. The Zenana Enclosure, known as the Queen’s recreational mansion complete with eleven incredible elephant stables…
…and Vittala Temple with its stone chariot and remote setting.
We climbed an incredible 858 step walk to a small Buddhist temple with an incredible sunset.
It is easy to see fascinating tribal clothing and witness life unchanged by modern influences.
It was just in 2012 that the Indian government declared Hampi ruins as protected monuments. Sadly, people had their homes and shops within the ruins and they had to be removed. We hear the government rolled in one night in the past year with bulldozers and flattened everything. Locals were provided with a parcel of land in the area; however, one of our rickshaw drivers was not happy and showed us where he once lived. Piles of building debris continued to be cleaned up during our visit.
Unfortunately, Hampi is not connected by train heading west, so we took a three and a half hour van ride (great bonding moment with fellow travellers) to reach Hubli and our very last (yeehaw, alleluia, dance of joy) Indian sleeper train. Our sleeper train (three in the past six nights) arrived in the state of Goa. It had been raining along the western Indian coast everyday during this monsoon season. Reports of brutal flooding in Mumbai just north of Goa had been reported. Thankfully, we were greeted by blue skies when our train pulled in to the station.
Mark had been looking forward to Goa considering his favorite movie (Jason Bourne series) had a beautiful opening scene filmed in Goa. We stayed in Candolim for a couple of nights and then in Calangute for a special treat.
Overall, Goa disappointed. Not really more than a place to party hard and drink cheap booze, Goa lacked any culture. The cinder block buildings built one after another littered with ugly signs and broken or unkept sandy entrances. The entire area was just… ugly. The wide expansive sandy beach was beautiful but the water too rough and brown from monsoon churning failed to impress. Further, our preferred beach has bikinis and board shorts versus burkas and denim jeans. Just saying!
In the past thirty-seven days, we had one flight, rode seven overnight trains, two-day trains, numerous rickshaws, cars, vans, bus, boats and canoes. We explored nineteen cities or villages, set foot in at least as many temples/churches, but thankfully avoided stepping in cow dung. We slept in twenty-six different beds and it was time for a treat. The twenty-seventh bed was a soft but supportive mattress, it was cozy with clean sheets and had a duvet. A television hung on the wall at the foot of the bed. We could walk bare feet IN the room. It was divine. It was the Hard Rock Hotel and we never wanted to leave.
We had died and gone to heaven. Alas, check out came, we jumped in a taxi to the airport and arrived in our absolute favorite Indian destination.
…Mark and Christine