After visiting Madurai we'd been given a good idea of what big south Indian cities could be like. There was no getting away from the hustle and bustle so we thought we might as well join them. Since our rather disastrous cycle tour in Bangkok we were hesitant to do another one based in a city, especially one with Indian levels of traffic.
Thankfully Steve and MYcycle were there to put our minds at rest. To find a down to earth Yorkshireman in the middle of Southern India came as a bit of a shock. His sense of humour put us at ease and made us think of home. His knowledge of Mysore was first class and we learnt about the history and ways of life within the city.
Cycling on the roads although initially confusing started to make sense once you followed a couple of simple rules. Firstly be aware that other traffic could pull out on your without any notice and be assertive and don't hesitate as this could lead to problems. Basically there's an assumed way of being on the road and once you act that way you'll be fine. In fact the drivers in India seem to be incredibly skilled and to a certain degree quite safe.
The way they second guess situations is incredible and I'm sure there are times with this all goes horribly wrong but so far we are yet to witness this. It took Bee a couple of attempts to get the hang of it but Steve's calm yet authoritative voice meant she was pulling out into traffic like a pro within no time.
The tour took most of the morning and when we stopped for lunch we were both ravenous. A well earned Dosa or Indian Pancake with spicy chutney fixed us right up. We then had the afternoon to look around the city.
We made our way to the bustling Devaraja market a real local highlight. The narrow alleyways were packed as the hundreads of locals went about their day. The fruit and veg stalls were at the start of the market and the array of unknown produce on offer was incredible. One stall specialized only in bananas but offered a wide variety of different kinds. There were other stalls selling conical rainbows of different Kum Kum (powder) used in Puja ( local offerings).
It was the flower production line that impressed the most though. Everyone had a job to do whether it be unloading the flowers, picking of the stalks or threading the flowers onto lines of string ready to be sold for more Puja's. From the outside it felt like a crazy mess of colour and smells but like everything in India underneath you knew there was an incredible skill and organization to what was going on.
The city is famous for the Palace of Mysore, a stunning building which has been the home to various Maharajas over the years and stands as one of the most impressive buildings in all of India alongside the Taj Mahal. After travelling for so long it was getting harder and harder for things to impress us. The Palace totally blew us both away though! Firstly the intricately detailed paintings on the walls illustrated the various Rajas over the years and offered the perfect insight into what life must have been like. The central wedding room featured beautiful stained glass windows and an ornate large chandelier. There must have been some very impressive weddings held here in the past.
The other rooms offered similar levels of majestic eye candy. Even the doors connecting the various rooms featured incredible hand finished lacquered panels made from ivory. The front of the palace features a grand open viewed assembly room overlooking the main courtyard. Rows and rows of seats lead up to the ceiling allowing people the best view of the performers down below. The pillars in the room were a beautiful blue and pink colour and only added to the grandeur.
I guess it was the way you could feel yourself being pulled back into the past that really impressed us the most. We returned in the evening to see the palace lit up by thousands of bright bulbs, for half an hour every Sunday the palace shines and the electricity bill goes through the roof. Mysore somehow manages to balance a large hectic Indian city with a culturally rich background. It was definitely our favourite city in India so far.