This year's escape from winter's tentacles takes us to the sub-continent where we shall visit India, Sri Lanka and The Maldives. We need no encouragement, however, driving to Heathrow through light snow, seals the deal.
India is one stop in Bangalore, the silicon valley and call centre capital of India. It was the only destination for which we could use our BA points and partner ticket! It's a strange flight, leaving at 2.00pm and arriving, +5 1/2 hours, at 4.30 am. In effect you are trying to go to sleep at 6.00 in the evening, which, in my case, is never going to work. Flying over Dubai at night is quite spectacular, Palm Island is very visible, as is The Burj Al Arab hotel and the tallest building in the world, which looks like a needle sticking out from the earth!
We have decided that rather than go to bed we will put in a full day. Mysore is a 2/3 hour journey by car, it is the world capital of yoga, you need it to be on your CV to be a teacher of note, plus Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow have added to its status!
We had a tour which involved learning about Sultan Tipo, the man who had a huge influence in the world, for three reasons. Firstly, his painting adorns NASA's head office as he was the first man to build a rocket, he befriended Napolean whom he convinced to come to India to kick out the Brits.... and thirdly, we cannot recall, we were very tired! He entertained guests in his summer palace, which was fascinating, the early 19th Century was wuite an era. We also visited the market, which is a sensory overload of noise, colour, aromas and hustle, treading on herbs and flowers as you go, releases heady aromas, and Mysore Palace which reminded us, in its splendour of the Amber Fort in Jaipur. It's truly magnificent on the eye, ornate, opulent and steeped in history. It was built in the early 1900's, so it has all mod cons, however it's decoration owes much to the cultural history, a huge, painted frieze depicts an annual procession each October of royalty, nobility, the great and the good, watched nowadays by 2 million people. The final call is a yoga retreat. They normally have a minimum course for a week but, Angelka has somehow talked us in to a 90 minute class! Bear in mind, at this point, we've been up for 28 hours and I'm stiff, coughing and knackered. 90 minutes later, we are both energised and, if I'm honest, quite proud of our effort! A 3 hour crawl back to Bangalore is not what the doctor ordered, but, what a day! After 34 hours on the go, neither of us can remember going to bed! Don't forget, our driver had done 17 hours with us, poor guy was knackered!
Bangalore is not the prettiest of cities, nor is it abundant in architectural ikons! We are not the obvious tourists and therefore our guide for the day is Rohan, an ex accountant who considers himself an Eco travel agent, e.g.taking a party of architects to learn how to build with bamboo. We had a fabulous day together visiting all manner of places and doing things with the locals, rather than the tourists! These included the flower market, an Indian specialist coffee shop, a church service, a huge outdoor laundering service, an awesome Kerala cuisine restaurant for lunch, a black magic temple, an art gallery featuring Bangalore sites, Thief's Alley, ANU, a women's project and a world famous ashram, a walk down embroidery street and, finally, parliament, where a huge building stands empty next to it. After finishing its building they found out the Feng Sui was all wrong, doh! Of these, the most interesting was ANU and the black magic temple! There is a huge problem in India with working class men and alcohol. They get paid their daily rate and then drink it! The project empowers the women left to feed and raise a family with no money. There are 26 families there, they produce all manner of bags, covers etc from recycled Tetra Pak and cement bags, all of which are great. They sell these to whoever, this in turn pays them as well as providing a crèche and accommodation. Very cool! The black magic temple is interesting, you drive through a cemetary, to be avoided at night. The temple is a female Goddess and the meandering goats and chickens are plucked for sacrifice on a regular basis! Why black magic? This is because you come here to put a curse on someone, you bring a possession of theirs, wrap it in ribbons, hang it from a tree and then place a padlock, which seals the curse, around the god within the temple. See pictures for how this works!
We had expected Bangalore to be more modern, perhaps that's the outskirts where there are tech parks. The people are gorgeous, courteous, educated... and it continues to develop. It's an awesome country!