In 2001 I travelled to Bangalore on business, and spent a week in this fantastic country, being especially fortunate to have arrived during the Ganesha Festival. Travelling here gave me a zest for overseas travel, especially throughout the Asian region.
Phil and I arrived late at night at Bangalore airport, the air filled with mossies. We changed some money, but had nothing small to tip the guy who offered to carry our luggage, I'm sure he made a very decent living that way.
The car was waiting outside and took us straight to the hotel. We were staying at the Taj West End which is a beautiful hotel with magnificent gardens.
Mark and Cathy picked us up early the next morning and we set off. We were driving to Mysore, and as we drove through Bangalore I got my first real taste of being in another country with a different culture.
We drove along the crowded streets of Bangalore, past shops selling granite slabs and small shanty towns. Soon though we were into the country side, passing many villages and road side stops; the road busy with buses, cars and oxen carts.
We paused on the bridge over the Cauvery River, taking a break from the drive to watch the women washing their clothes in the river, and the kids playing cricket in the fields.
Our first tourist stop was the Summer Palace of Tipu Sultan, Dariya Daulath Bagh at Srirangapatnum. The gardens were superbly kept with the paths geometrically laid out. The teak palace walls were ornately decorated with detailed paintings of Tipu Sultans many victories, protected from the sun and weather by green shades which also protected them from photography.
Next stop was the Gumbaz of Tipu Sultan, his mausoleum where he and his parents are interned. Again it was surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens and lawns, divided symmetrically by wide paths
We explored around the old fort where Tipu held off the British before finally being mortally wounded. We also visited the mosque Masjid-e-aksa adjacent to the mausoleum.
We continued along the road to Mysore, passing a truck loaded with coconut husks. The drivers of the truck were quite proud of their loading skills.
We stopped for lunch at Lalitha Mahal Palace with views over Mysore. We were ushered into a huge dining room with high decorated coloured ceilings and a regal setting. Lunch was absolutely delicious (I do love Indian food). We ventured into another hall were a large group of people were singing and dancing as we had stumbled across a film in production.
Next stop was the Maharaja's Palace, and palatial it was. Inside the huge gates we walked past the Sri Shevta Varahaswami Temple and through large rose gardens being fastidiously tended. We spent ages exploring through the palace, with its grand halls, walls of paintings, the Golden Throne and Silver Door.
We walked around the back of the palace past some palace police who insisted on having their photo taken with us, for a price. Kids played cricket out the front of nearby houses, and came running up to greet us as we passed.
We stayed at The Village, which was very nice, eating dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Next morning we visited Mysore Market exploring around all of the many different food, craft and spice stalls. Inside the entrance was a small shop that sold many varieties of carvings and I picked up a highly detailed teak elephant, complete with white tusks.
As we neared the end of our market visit, a small boy (not the one pictured left!) offered to show us his family's fragrance and oils shop in the old Market section of town. We followed him through the streets of Mysore, as he spoke to us in very fluent English. We politely declined the offer to enter the shop, and made our way to Chamundi Hill.
We visited the Chamundeeswari Temple at the top of the hill, fending off very persistant sellers of soapstone carvings and other trinkets near the gawdy statue of Chamundeeswari. The temple was undergoing renovations, and we didn't venture inside given the long queues, but rather watched the monkeys clamber up the scaffolding.
We continued around the hill, walking down the back steps finally arriving at the Nandi Bull, a huge black stone statue of Nandi.
A flat tyre held us up for a little while, every passer-by offering to help as we had a little trouble working out how to get the spare tyre out of the TaTa. The tyre was soon repaired at one of the many tyre shops and we continued on, passing many heavily worked rice paddies on our way to Somnathpur.
We stopped to take photos of a group working one large rice paddy. We were spotted, and they made their way to our car asking for some small gift.
The Keshava temple was intricately carved and laid out in the shape of a crucifix on a star shaped platform. The walls are carved in rows of high detail; elephants on the lowest layer carrying the weight of those rows above including horses, and men all carved with no repetition. Ganeshas, Shivas and other gods adorned the walls at head height.
Outside the temple are lovely green gardens and some shops where I bought some decorated pillow cases as souviners.
Returning back to our hotel, we stopped at the Golf Course for dinner, arriving in Bangalore at dusk; the sky filled with black crows.
Armed with a packed lunch from the hotel, Mark, Cathy, Earl, Phil and myself all crammed into the Tata for a day trip into the surrounds of Bangalore. First stop was Sravanabelagola.
We climbed the steps up Indragiri Hill, not taking the offer to be carried up. The views were fantastic back across the town and tank to the other huge granite hill enclosing the town.
Gomateshvara stood tall and naked overlooking the temple and the people within; the priest giving out blessings, and the women and children arranging lunch.
Back at the bottom of the mountain I stopped in at a little shop and picked up some small Ganesha statues, whilst a group of men nearby played a game looking very similar to our two-up.
Continuing on through the lovely green countryside we passed many tanks, as well as a natural carwash.
Heavily laden oxen carts became a more common site as we approached the busy little town of Belur. We walked in through the gates of the Channekeshava Temple, closely followed by two young calves.
We paid for a guide to explain the various sites at the temple, which included many intricate carvings of elephants, horses, Ganeshas, Shiva and other dieties.
Inside the temples were huge turned stone columns and carved ceilings. We also found a seven headed golden cobra, wearing lipstick!
Travelling back through town we came across a Ganesha parade, including a real elephant followed by a tractor pulled float with a decorated Ganesha surrounded by kids.
Next stop was the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebeedu which had in addition to the detailed carvings throughout, two huge Nandi Bull stone statues in separate rooms to the side of the temple.
A young Indian family happily posed by the Nandi.
The rest of my week was spent working, with a few ventures out into Bangalore in the evenings. On my last day I did some shopping at the Government run Cauvery, as well as visiting some department stores and some smaller shops throughout town.