Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mysore toe

 It would be a joke if it wasn't. Maybe it's a known medical condition. Anyway, the rest of me is fine - and even the toe is starting to get better.
What a contrast since leaving Agonda (above)! The train ride provided a pleasant, sometimes spectacular, view down the coast from Goa to Mangalore.  As I may have said, train travel gives you a view of people's back doors while bus travel shows the front. Sometimes the back view is more than a person wants to see!

On arrival at Mangalore at 9.20 p.m., I thought I'd do the independent traveller thing, so I strode off to the centre of town, the filling in my backpack sandwich, running the gauntlet of the rickshaw drivers offering guest houses ("my brother's, very nice place ...") but by the stage in my solo hotel search that I had met the third "all full" response I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of my bravado. I was almost contemplating having to surrender to the clutches of a rickshaw driver when my fourth choice, a huge hotel, had space. "No A.C.!" they apologised. "No problem!" was my response ... and even fewer problems when the room turned out to be very comfortable and with profuse hot water - I was soon a very much cleaner me. Not so much can be said for the Mangalore skyline ... (view from the room)
 It was beginning to dawn on me - as was reinforced several times over the next 48 hours - that a weekend approaching New Year's is a difficult time to travel. Too many people, particularly Indian tourists, are doing it at the same time. Deciding to book ahead, I found that there were no rooms at all to be had in known venues in the Coorg region (spice plantations in the hills, trekking opportunities) and, even after I switched objectives to Mysore, I again had to try several places and only got the last room in the hotel I hit on by booking on line - and immediately had to rush for the bus (it was by then nearly noon and the trip from Mangalore to Mysore is 7 hours +).

I had been planning a drive-by appreciation of the countryside of the Coorg region but some kids on the bus had other ideas.  In some circumstances, I would have found them a bit trying but this was a group of primary school kids off for the weekend with their families and they were actually bright and engaging, educated and good at English. First we had the usual mutual interviewing, then looking at pictures, then of course cameras came out and there was a lot of camera play, then songs, games (scissors, paper, stone seems international; they also had lady, tiger, hunter: apparently the lady slaps the hunter. Hmm, he might need more than that!) And jokes and storytelling.  And this was the girls.  The boys just sat back watching, being cool - or shy (how often that happens!).  I couldn't help reflecting that such a thing would be highly unlikely to happen in the UK, what with "stranger danger" and all, even with the parents and relations right there.  Should I worry about their innocent trustfulness - or be glad?



 

The girl in the middle has the same birthday as me good opportunity to teach new English phrase: "That's a coincidence!". Old habits die hard!


Arriving at Mysore, they suggested I get off at the same place but I'd already paid for my room so I thought I'd better go there - although in the event it became a bit of a saga.  I'll spare you the details but it was a crumbling old-style government-run place where the A.C. room I'd paid for turned out to have no operational A.C., no hot water, defunct TV etc. but it was late to look for another hotel (and I'd paid etc..). My requests for a discount (down to non-A.C. rate anyway) were met with job's-worth obstruction, procrastination and evasion (at which some Indians are particularly good). None of which has soured me against Mysore; rather, I've been reminded how stately and civilised the place is, largely as a result of the reign of Maharajahs influencing the development of the city over many centuries right up to independence. Lots of colonnades, towers, marble, wide streets - and the air perfumed with flowers, sandalwood and other more pleasant scents than usually waft through the Indian air. And finally I found a room in another hotel with A.C., hot water and a view - and much better value. I can even view the Maharajah's palace as I go up in the glass lift! Whatever happened to the rugged backpacker?

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