Monday, June 22, 2009

Tourism

IMG_1234During my trip to India, I had one weekend there, and since the days during the week tended to be long and filled with work, that was my only opportunity to do some sight-seeing.

On Saturday we drove up to Mysore from Bangalore, which is about 140km but thanks to crazy India traffic and roads takes around 3.5 hours to travel to (that's averaging about 25mph, for those keeping score at home). The route takes you through Bangalore, through the outlying towns and into some relatively rural villages compared to the city. Suddenly oxen-draw carts filled with granite and people carrying large bushels filled with silk or plants became common.

The trip to Mysore was to see the Palace, which was pretty cool. It is 97 years old (we were corrected by our tour guide after we said it was 100 years old. No, he said, it is 97 years old. Ok then, 97). The original palace was made of wood and burned down in an accident. They rebuilt the current palace made out of stone and mostly imported materials (Italian marble floors, English stained glass, etc).

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Cameras weren't allowed inside the palace, but it was pretty elaborate. There were all sorts of intricately carved teak doors and ceilings, silver-smithed doors and a huge open reception area where the king sat to watch the parade of elephants and musicians during festivals. There were also 3D Indian paintings decorating the walls, which is an interesting way of painting such that when you look at a painting from one angle objects in the painting will appear to be facing one way, and then when you look from the opposite direction things are facing differently. It is hard to describe, but very unique.

The drive back to Bangalore from Mysore ended up being quite a bit longer then 3.5 hours as there was all sorts of traffic in the city that added a lot of time to the trip.

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On Sunday I went to a 1000 year-old temple in Bangalore, got a crash course in Hinduism, and blessed a random couple getting married. That was extremely awkward, but everyone present seemed to think it was just fine. From there my driver and I went to the Bannerghatta Zoo.

The Zoo was kind of interesting, although pretty much like normal Zoos. I went on the 'safari', and saw the lions, tigers (both white and regular), elephants and some baby black bears. The safari was again embarrassing as they made me sit up front in the assistant driver's seat, waited to drive around until I had taken pictures, and took pictures for me when animals were on the opposite side of the truck.

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After the safari we went and checked out the snakes and monkeys, including the Russel Viper. The Russel Viper was interesting because it was the only snake labeled "Dangerously Venomous". As opposed to "Venomous" or "Not Venomous", despite the fact that for the King Cobra they don't even have anti-venom available in India. That was still only "Venomous".

After the Zoo it was getting late, so I wanted to get something to eat but had spent all my cash, so we ended up going to a random small traditional Indian restaurant to eat lunch. They served meals on banana leafs, and without silverware so you ate with your hand. None of the wait staff spoke English, so my driver did all of the ordering and as far as I could tell spent most of the time saying the equivalent to 'no spice'.

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Eating with one hand was quite the new experience, and if you have ever watched me fastidiously try to keep my food getting all over, you'd have been shocked to watch me eat off a banana leaf with no silverware. The food was delicious, if a bit difficult to eat. Most difficult was tearing the stuffed naan, and eating the rice and gravy.

The entire wait staff stood behind me and more-or-less stared while I ate my meal, as did the random people who sat down at our four person table halfway through the meal (despite the fact that there were other open tables available). In fact, the guy diagonal to me didn't more-or-less stare, he just stared. That was again awkward, but everyone was at least polite enough not to laugh while I was trying to eat.

The meal was one of the better ones that I ate during my stay, and it was ridiculously cheap. My driver and I ate a huge three course lunch, with two bottles of water and a bottle of Pepsi and the bill came to about 5 or 6 bucks before tip.

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving around Bangalore seeing miscellaneous sights like the capital building, trees filled with sleeping bats, the military base, etc. The weekend ended up being just as busy as the normal week, but I did get to see a lot of things and experience authentic Indian dining (which everyone both at work and at home seems to think was just hilarious).

2 comments:

McBrideFarm said...

So fun! I'm glad you had a chance to get out and do some sightseeing. The staring and your stories of the zoo safari bring back memories. :)

Sri said...

Great write up... did a good laugh on the things happened..
when you a writing a Hilarious book ?