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First day impressions!

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Mysore is a city tucked away in India's southwestern state of Karnataka. Quite often skipped by tourists, it is overshadowed by Bangalore, the capital of the state and Mangalore, well known for it's pristine beaches. Having only three weeks, I decided against visiting the next state south, Kerala, to concentrate my time exploring Mysore, a city of just under a million inhabitants.

I awoke that first morning in Mysore with my host Ganga gently rattling the door.

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Breakfast was ready and waiting to be served downstairs. I stumbled down to their house and met her husband Cari. I soon learned he was a Private Investigator. Being quite the question asker, I soon got an insight into his work over a mouthwatering masala dosa, fruit and plentiful fresh coffee. It was a long, slow breakfast that continued out on the patio with Cari, whilst Ganga began to cook lunch for her family. No microwaves or ready meals here, everything is cooked from scratch with locally sourced fresh vegetables bought daily from local markets. The family are vegetarian in line with the Hindu tradition which spreads into the cities restaurants. Cari practised yoga daily and on learning my interest, arranged to call his yoga teacher friend for details. Many Westerners arriving in Mysore, stay in Gokalum an area famous for yoga courses and teacher training. Quite often with tourst prices! I consiously decided not to base there since I enjoy meeting local people and learning about their cities and lives. Siddarhati Layout was to be my home for three weeks and as I was soon to learn, not many Westerners passed through.

I decided to go into the city that mornng and took the bus. I was surprised to find the fare was only 5 rupees, so about 5p. So off I went, staring excitedly out the bus window waiting for my first glimpses of Mysore. There had been a recent festival in the city and all the cows roaming the streets were decorated and their white patches were transformed into yellow. Red horns, yellow patches! It struck me that Mysore wasn't as chaotic as the other Indian cities I visited many moons ago. Well they do say the south is more laid back. The bus zoomed past temples, people, statues, Mysore palace, everything encapsulated in a myriad of colour. I was soon at the bus station and decided to wander and familiarise myself with the city.

The first interaction I had were with two nuns. I met them at the traffic lights and they both smiled sweetly at me.

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Exchanging some small talk, I asked where I could find a cafe. Whilst they led me to a my caffeine fix, Mary told me she was from Delhi but had moved to Mysore to join the convent. On reaching a cafe we said out goodbyes. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I quite fancied sitting outside with my coffee. Although it seemed that perhaps cafe culture didn't exist in Mysore. So I decided to grab a take away coffee and find a seat somewhere. I crossed the road and discovered I was outside the centuries old Devaraji market. I took a pew and smiled as I gazed at the amazing sights all around. People selling their wares in the blazing sun, some protected by umbrellas. I reluctantly went into my bag to take out a cigarette. This reluctance was mirrored by seeing no-one else smoking; anywhere! I was later to learn it was illegal to smoke in public. Yes, in India, where 'Keep Smiling' recognised you can piss, but not kiss in public! So here you can piss, but not kiss or smoke!

My previous travel experience of local markets are that they are hustling bustling places. So I braced myself prior to entering Devaraji market, only to find it almost absent of customers. I considered it was probably busy during mornings, by afternoon people had most likely bought ingredients for meals and were already cooking. The stall holders were selling their wares - fruit, sandalwood, silk, vegetables, flowers, coloured powder for tikkas, garlic etc. All an explosion of colour and aromas. They have so many varieties of banana's they have their own section in the market. Surprisingly, the stall holders were quite conservative in their approach since nobody tried to entice you to buy their goods. After all this was more of an everday market as opposed to a tourist trap.

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This having distinct districts for different services or consumer items could be unique to India. During my time in Mysore, I remember walking through what can only be described as the 'recycled cardboard' district, then the 'engineering' district, followed by the pungent but eye-opening 'fish' market and an area that sold only electrical household items. It means that consumers can save time by shopping for an item in a concentrated area. Near the bus station, I passed through an area that I found amusing. A row of men sat behind typewriters, waiting for customers.

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Basically anything can be bought in Mysore!

After spending a good few hours roaming round the city, I decided to go back to base camp and check it out. So armed with my 5 rupees, I headed to the bus station. Going back, the bus was very busy with school children heading home and I was quite the star attraction! On reaching my stop, I spotted a little roadside cafe with men scattered around on plastic stools, bent over chatting and smoking. Yes smoking! I approached what was to become my regular 'coffee spot' and met Ravi, the owner. On perching on a stool, I was again the main attraction, being white but mainly, since women never frequented such places. They are in the kitchen cooking. I soon got chatting with Krishna and Raj, two friendly ex-policemen who were to become my coffee buddies.

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On asking if I had anything from Scotland, I pulled out some work pens and lollipops! They were greatly received! They recommended the 'Dosa Place' for dinner and off I went for spinach dosa's and pineapple juice.

Back at base camp, I met Cari and he informed I was off to yoga at 6.30am the next morning. He would take me round to a local class. I had also mentioned this morning that I was keen to visit an NGO, especially one who supported women; being in line with my work and interests. He had arranged for me to visit an orphange and his friend Mumta would put me in touch with other organisations. Ganga also knew I was interested in getting a massage and recommended the 'Ayurveda Hospital' who I would contact tomorrow. Some of the benefits of staying with local people, is dipping into their knowledge and contacts. As I was heading up to my quarters, Ganga handed me the 'Mysore Star' newspaper and pointed out the section that lists local events today and tomorrow. This was going to be a very busy three weeks................................

Posted by katieshevlin62 23:05 Archived in India

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Comments

The long-awaited tale of Mysore. Hooray!

Don't you just love Indian homestays? I enjoy the comfort, facilities and anonimity of hotels, but they'll certainly never beat a good homestay. I've stayed in quite a few - some have been simpler than simple, but the people have always been welcoming, helpful and genuinely interested in you as a person. This one in Mysore must have been the bee's knees for you to forego the wonders of Kerala! I shall look forward to the next chapter to learn what kept you there.

By the way: I gave up smoking more than 40 years ago and, being British, I've never pissed in public - even in India!

by Keep Smiling

Sounds like the start of a fascinating account. I love the everyday buzz of Indian cities, or even the smaller towns there for that matter :)

But I don't agree that having distinct districts for different services or consumer items is unique to India. I have seen the same in other countries too. In Oman recently all the streets around our hotel in Salalah were full of auto repair shops - there must have been 300 or more! I found myself wondering how anyone would decide where to go, as my choice of garage has always been very influenced by convenience of location ;)

by ToonSarah

It as the timing Mike. I only had three weeks and like to get a good flavour of a place. It had crossed my mind to visit Kerala before I arrived but felt I would enjoy Mysore a lot. It was really all about the people I met. Yes of course you've never pissed in the street but I bet you have kissed lol!

Sarah yeah I'm sure you're right! It was just something I hadn't seen apart from India.

But thanks for the comments, appreciated.

by katieshevlin62

Katie, I think you and I are slightly different in our travelling style.You seem to go with the flow while I tend to stick to a plan (something to do with my travel industry background I guess).

Kerala is quite different to much of India - take a look at my blog of a tour I did with the young man who has been such a strong influence in my knowledge and understanding of India - https://keralawithpintu.travellerspoint.com/.

And no, I have never kissed in public - at least not in India, where that would be frowned upon. I've held hands with another man once or twice however (but don't tell my wife!) :)

by Keep Smiling

Mike you make me laugh so much! I love your humour! Ok I;m going to read your Kerala post.

by katieshevlin62

I am really start to enjoy your witty writing. I have never been to India although it is high on my list of countries to visit. I am so looking forward how the yoga classes went. I hope when I have more time (without counting the current one we have because of the pandemic) I want to take some classes as well. People make fun of me because I want to do it, but I hope to find a certain peace when I do this especially with the heavy workload I sometimes have ... because now of course! :)

by Ils1976

Oh thank you Ils, yes the yoga classes were good. I've also written about my experience of a massage in Mysore! Think you'll like that one. Thanks for all your other comments too.

by katieshevlin62

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