I then grabbed a quick tea at Hotel Mayura Hoysala next door, and hopped on the bus. Around 6 other people, from Bombay, were there on the same tour, and were a pleasant family. First stop was the Karani zoo. A fascinating collection. Though not in any way comparable to Singapore zoo, it was certianly OK, with decent, open spaces for the animals. I saw some beautiful white tigers, an African elephant complete with tusks, leopards, hyenas, and the only captive gorilla in India, which was a sight to behold.
After the zoo, we headed to various other places of interest, inclusing the inevitable Silk Emporium. Though at first I was negative and reluctant to enter, I did end up buying some 100% pure silk, handwoken scarves within each one the ‘Royal Seal of My Sore, quality guranteed.’ They were beautiful pieces, and expensive too. Each one 1,200 Rs, and one specially handwoven number 1,450 Rs. No haggling permitted.
The Maharaj’s palace was quite a scene, set in beautiful landscaped gardens. Elephants cavorted at the back. Hordes of people were swarming around. The outside was less hectic than the inside, where hundreds of schoolchildren gawked at me, and their teachers, eager to gain some respect from their students, talked to me in their best English “What is your good name, sir?” drawing admiring glances from other teachers and pupils in the process. The usual ‘single or married quiestion’ follows. As soon as I say I’m a teacher, I get given a certain amount of respect not afforded to me in other Asian countries, where the secret’s out that ‘native’ teachers, for the most part (British Council teachers not included), are a bunch of uneducated twats.
Outside, I passed a group of young Indians, smartly groomed with sharp clothes and cool sunglasses. They looked like Bombay rock stars, so I was surprised when they asked me for a photo. Then another large group of people asked me to do the same. I grinned and posed politely, aware that this was the first time many of them had met a foreigner. Outside the palace grounds I saw an old guy on crutches out of the corner of my eye. I knew he was walking towards me, so I quickly turned to walk the other way. He also somehow bodyswerved, so I bodyswerved the other way. I was doing my best Chris Waddel / Christiano Ronaldo dummies, but he was reading them like Cannevaro. I laughed, and he gave a toothless grin, and I gave him 15 rupees for his excellent defensive abilities.
I also visited the Sri Shweta Varahaswamy temple in the palace grounds, and the Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery, in the Jaganmohan Palace. Chamundi Hill, overlooking My Sore from the 1062m high summit,was another highlight, and the Drividian style Gopuram was also impressive. Beggars, always attracted to temples, were in force here, still vehemently praying to a God who probably made them poor, or crippled like that anyway, but I didn’t feel particularly charitable. A yoga promotion centre was also at the top of the hill, and 2 messages on the boards outside really stuck with me, so I took photos of them:
“At present, how can you see the future, if you live in the past.” and
“If I keep the weaknesses of others in my mind, they soon become a part of me.” How true….
On the way down the hill, we stopped at the 5m high Nandi (Shiva’s bull vehicle) that was carved out of solid rock in 1659. One of the largest in India, the garlanded statue has a flaky black coating of coconut-husk charcoal mixed with glee. Monkeys ran riot in this area, and I saw one climb through a Landrover’s open window and make away with handfuls of documents.
We also took in Stirangapatnam, where Tipus’s summer palace, the Daria Daulot Bagh is. The fascinating floor to ceiling murals depicting courtly life and Tipus’ campaigns against the British were impressive.
Final stop was Brindavan Gardens, which houses the worst ‘aquarium’ I’ve ever seen. Their ‘star’ attraction is a goldfich from Malaysia. Claims of ‘Tiger sharks’ are false..nothing bigger than a goldfish swims in the 60 tiny tanks in 2 compressed rooms. Still, photos were being taken enthusiastically by the Indian tourists, and I felt spoilt having been lucky enough to see Osaka Aqarium and Singapore Aquarium. It was wrong of me to compare. Those coming here from tiny villages will never have seen anything like it.
This place is a setting for many a Bollywood movie, and the ornamental gardens are quite nice. The illuminated ‘dancing fountain’ lightshow was a very, very poor mans version of Sentosas. Schoolchildren from all around the area were here, with teachers desperately trying to control them in the dwindling light and drizzle. The poorest schools didn’t have uniforms, and hardly any children wore sandals. By 7pm people were still rushing to see the lights, creating a near stampede situation. I returned to the bus after scoffing 4 samosas and drinking a cup of coffee.
Back in My Sore I returned to Park Lane Hotel and ate a delicious chicken tikka massala, washed down with a bottle of Fosters. Delicious. Then, I went to the Presidents Pub. It was ‘Mens Night’ again. Like every night. All local men. So I sat and had a beer and a chat, then back to the hotel for an 11:30pm bedtime. A great day.