So John and I have been trapped indoors pretty much all day. Madikeri, where we spent today and yesterday is one of the rainiest cities in India, and it's pretty hard to enjoy the city when it's pouring rain. As a result, I finally got caught up on my journal entries, so I've posted two or three in the past day or so. If you're interested, you'll probably have to check the archive type thing to read 'em.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, let's backtrack to where I left off last time. We arrived in Mysore late, and stayed up watching part of Independence Day, with Will Smith on TV. I think it came out sometime around 1999, and I didn't realize at the time, but it was pretty ridiculous. For those of you who don’t know, the premise is that aliens are invading the planet and exterminating everyone, and it's pretty much up to Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum to save the world. I only mention it now because throughout the movie, the American military is the only one doing any fighting. All the other countries are sitting around on their asses worrying and waiting for the Americans to come up with a solution. Of course, Jeff Goldblum comes through, just as the rest of the world hoped he would. It's one of those little things, but especially being in another country, you start to notice how Americans have a general mentality that we are the only ones capable of doing anything worthwhile. I'm not saying that all Americans think that way, but it seems like there are a whole lot of little things like that which find their way into our movies and TV shows.
Anyway, we woke up late in Mysore and figured we'd spend some time exploring the city before getting back on another bus. Our hotel was near a big palace of some sort, so we figured we'd head over and spend an hour or so checking it out before heading to Madikeri. We ended up at the north gate instead of the south gate, and ended up walking around for a while trying to make our way to the south side. Mysore is a much more touristy town, and it was immediately apparent from the tenacity of the hawkers and rickshaw drivers. They would follow us farther than usual, and completely ignored our assurances that we weren't interested in anything they had to offer. I often wonder how frequently people change their mind after a barrage of constant badgering. If I don't need an autorickshaw ride now, what are the chances that 45 seconds later I'll find myself urgently needed to get somewhere for an exorbitant price? I dunno, maybe it works for these guys.
Anyway, during our aimless wandering, we ran into Jack, who assured us that he wanted no money, just to show us around. We asked him to point us to a decent restaurant, and he headed off across the street and told us to follow him. After about ten minutes of walking, we ended up at his uncle's shop. He was an Ayurvedic doctor (It's interesting stuff. Check it out on wikipedia), and he also sold various oils, which he gave us a lengthy demonstration of. He explained about fifteen to twenty different oils, and their uses. We then realized why Jack hadn't wanted any money. He knew that once someone went into the shop and saw uncle doc's demonstration, they would buy some oils. I hadn't planned on buying, but the good doctor was a great salesman, and I respect that. These oils are kind of a specialty of India, especially sandalwood, and I figured they would make a good souvenir, so I didn't feel too bad about purchasing a bit.
After our little oil demonstration, Jack and his older brother shoved us into a rickshaw and took us off to see some handicrafts at the government emporium. I was a bit surprised that they took us to the government handicraft shop, as I knew that the government run places didn't pay commission to touts like Jack. All the same, Jack was very insistent that we bought some handicrafts and stuff so we agreed to have a look. Now in general, I'm not a big shopper, especially after some strange man has just convinced me to buy some oils that I'm fairly sure I'll never use. However, I was pretty impressed with the stuff they had for sale. In the Philippines and Thailand, I visited the handicraft shops, and have never been that impressed. Of course, there are always some things that are pretty cool, but overpriced, and wouldn't serve much of purpose other than as a conversation piece or reminder that I actually did travel to these places. India was a different story. I don’t know much about woodworking, but the inlay work on most of the items was truly unbelievable, and as far as I could tell, everything was pretty reasonably priced. On top of all that, the crafts in Mysore were nice enough that they didn't even need to serve some functional purpose. All these things had to do was exist, and that was enough for me. John and I immediately decided that when we were rich, we were coming back to Mysore to buy some tables and chairs and stuff like that and having 'India' rooms in our houses.
Long story short, I ended up buying a small little trinket and then fled the store so I wouldn't be tempted to buy anything else. Jack offered to take us around town a bit more, but we refused and told him we'd take him and his brother to lunch. They took us to a restaurant where we had a good, but expensive meal, and then dropped us off at the hotel. At least I got my souvenir shopping done.
We finally left Mysore, much later than expected, and made the five hour bus ride to Madikeri. I don't really have too much to report from Madikeri. The weather has been pretty miserable, and the hiking that we were so excited to do hasn't been that great. Hopefully we'll get some more chances before we hit Mumbai. Wow, I think this is the first time since I left home that I've been totally caught up with my travel journal stuff. There's nothing that I've done and haven’t written about. It’s a good feeling. With that, I'll end, and update sometime soon. Take care out there.