Just a day after our successful morning at Nandi Hills, Lauren (another Leave UR Mark volunteer) and I ventured off on another day trip – this time to Mysore. We knew there were several buses a day from Bangalore so without any planning, we took an auto rickshaw to the bus station to buy tickets. Communication was tough at the ticket window so we weren’t sure if we had the correct tickets or bus until a man standing outside the bus started to yell “Mysore, Mysore, Mysore” in a sing-song voice for the next 15 minutes. The ride took 3 hours and we arrived just in time for lunch.
We walked over to Cafe Aramane from the bus station. About twenty autos stopped to ask if we wanted a ride, and some even followed us down the street, continuing to call out to us. Some people walking around offered us private tours, but they weren’t tourguides, just regular people who had been on their way elsewhere. It was definitely a different feel than in Bangalore, which seemed like less a place for tourists and more a place people lived.
The reason we’d picked Cafe Aramane was because of our intense obsession with dosas, a pancake-like buttery dish sometimes filled with a spicy potato mixture. My guidebook had advertised “specialty dosas each day of the week.” When we arrived at 12:30, we noticed the menu said dosas were only available until 12. “Let’s play dumb,” we decided and casually ordered dosas anyway. The waiter told us we had to pick something else, we pleaded with him, smiled widely, and offered to pay double, but he claimed there was nothing he could do. I took one last chance when he reviewed our eventual order and said, “oh, and one masala dosa,” but he just laughed and brought Lauren and me our other standard order when we ate together – veg noodles and fried rice.
The main attraction in Mysore is Mysore Palace. You’re not allowed to take pictures inside, which is always sad for a blogger, BUT this restriction also helps you enjoy a place more, because you’re not worried about getting the perfect shot for Instagram. We skipped the audio tour but I heard later that it’s a good one. You could definitely spend a few hours in the palace and we had other things to see, so we walked through at our own pace.
If I had been able to take pictures, I would have Instagram material for weeks, because it was absolutely stunning. The inside was so ornate and decorated beautifully on every inch of free space. My favorite area was the Marriage Pavilion, where I assume they held weddings, though I’d know if I had listened to the audio tour. It was at least three stories high, open-air, with beautiful teal columns, a stained-glass dome, Islamic arches, balconies, and more.
After we walked around inside the palace, we wandered around quite a bit outside the palace. Here, we were allowed to take pictures. We’d heard from different sources that there was an elephant show at 2:30, then someone told us it was at 3, and then someone told us there were no elephants, so we wanted to find out the truth. The first signs of wildlife were two camels that were tied up in a tiny park. There was no gate and no one watching the camels, so presumably, anyone could come up to them and set them free. They looked pretty miserable and made us sad, but we couldn’t think of a way to get them back on the bus to Bangalore with us so we continued on our way. We saw some cows eating garbage and then a smarter cow eating grass instead. We turned a few more corners, explored some gardens, found a spiral staircase, and then in the distance, I spied, with my little eye, an elephant.
We walked over to where we’d seen them from afar and were pretty weirded out by the view. The elephants, just like the camels, were tied up with a rope that didn’t seem long enough to allow much movement. There were also tons of cows in this area, one painted from head-to-toe with florescent yellow paint. We “played dumb” again and tried to walk by a security guard to get a closer look at everything but he stopped us and also wouldn’t tell us why the cow was painted yellow. Watching these animals also made us sad, so we decided to leave the palace grounds.
Devaraja Market was our next stop. We mostly looked, but did get a few souvenirs in the end. I was impressed with the colorful cones of kumkum (powder that can be applied to the forehead, like a bindi) and wanted to run my fingers through the piles but thought that would be looked down upon. We were also bewildered a little that the people who sold bananas were all confined to the same row and seemingly had the exact same product. I’m not sure how you differentiate your product from someone else’s in this market and I hope that they eat a lot of bananas in this town to sustain everyone’s businesses.
At that point, we were still craving the dosa that we’d been previously denied so we went to K.R. Circle and found a spot that would serve it to us. While I don’t remember and can’t find the name of this place, if you want the same experience, look for a place with a second level and no bathroom. We enjoyed our dosa and chai, wandered around the circle a bit longer, and caught a bus back home to Bangalore where we continued to wonder about the cow who had been highlighted yellow. If you have any information about this cow or others, please let us know.
This post was written about my time with Leave UR Mark, a social enterprise in Bangalore, Goa, and Mumbai that connects travelers with local internships and volunteer opportunities in India. Opinions are always my own.
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