The plan was to take the 8:10am train from Ernakulum Junction in Kerala to Calicut, which was supposed to be a four hour ride, arriving around noon. Then we would hop on a bus from Calicut to Mysore and spend one night in Mysore, leaving the next evening on another train north. But plans change, and especially in India, its best to expect the unexpected.
As George described in the previous post, our train ride didn’t go as expected. Our train finally showed up at Ernakulum Junction fours hours late, and departed from the station an hour later. At that point we already knew we wouldn’t make our connection to Mysore. The bus route between Calicut and Mysore goes through a Nature Reserve, and for the safety of the wild animals traffic is only allowed through during the daylight hours.
As it turned out, our train arrived in Calicut 12 hours later than expected, around midnight. We had looked in the guide book for some possible hotels to stay at, but we didn’t know if they would be open (unlike in the US, many hotels don’t have someone at the reception 24hrs) and didn’t want to waste money having a taxi drive us from place to place. George’s new friend, Joseph, offered that we could stay at the same hotel he was staying at. It sounded nice, but it was around $50/night! We normally pay that amount for a week’s worth of accommodations. So we thanked him and decided instead to check if there were any rooms available at the train station. We found the rooms and a board with various peoples names, but couldn’t find an attendant. It appeared from the board that all the rooms were taken. So what now? We found a rickshaw and went to the expensive hotel. It was a lot of money for us at the time, but the room was clean, had fluffy comforters, AC, and was up to the standards we’d find back home. The next morning we ran into Joseph on our way back from the breakfast buffet, and he was able to get us a discount on the room rate, since he pays a discounted price. What a nice guy!
From the map it looked like we could easily walk from the hotel to the bus stop to catch the bus to Mysore, but when I asked at the reception we were told that the public bus station was closed for renovations and we would have to get a ride to the private bus station, even though we would be taking a public bus. By the time we got to the station we were able to take an 11am bus. I thought that the bus ride was supposed to be four hours, and that would get us to Mysore around 3pm, but I should have known by then to never trust a travel agent in India when they tell you how long a bus ride is ;). I asked how long the trip was as soon as we boarded and found out it was actually 5 hours- oooh, that would be cutting it close! We’d arrive around 4pm, and the palace we were going to Mysore to see is only open until until 5:30pm. Well, that’s why we call it an adventure!
We enjoyed the portion of the bus ride that passed through the Nature Reserve. We saw deer along the road, and then while the bus was stopped at a check point the driver pointed and gleefully yelled, “elephant, elephant!” We got to see wild elephants! There were three of them, but they were hiding behind trees and the bus began to move again once we got the camera out, but you can kind of make them out in the photos below:
When we finally entered the city limits of Mysore it was a little after 4pm. George had already given up on seeing the palace and thought we’d just wait for our train. But I saw a sign indicating that we were headed toward the palace. I was tired of staying on buses until the last stop, just to get dropped off who-knows-where, so I suggested that if the bus went by the palace we just get off at the palace. We almost missed our chance, but as the bus went around a round-about we got a glimpse of the palace and asked the driver to let us off. There was no time to take a rickshaw to the train station, leave our big backpack in the cloak room, and take a rickshaw back to the palace. If we wanted to see the Mysore Palace, we had to see it now.
As George purchased the tickets I asked one of the guards if my big backpack was okay and he nodded and waived me in. We entered the grounds at 4:30pm. First we took some photos of the palace grounds and then we deposited our cameras, since they are not allowed inside the palace. We asked if there was somewhere to leave our backpacks, but they said, “No, take them with you.” They let us leave g’s camera bag, since it had his camera gear in it, but the big backpack and my little day pack were going with us. It seemed strange that they’d let me take in my backpack, since most sights make to check your bags, but at least they let me in with it! This was one of the times on the trip that I was so thankful we had packed light! If we’d had big bulky suitcases we probably wouldn’t have been able to see the palace. Thank goodness it all worked out, because Mysore Palace was one of our favorite sights in India! It’s a shame they don’t allow photography inside, because the decadence of the interior is the truly spectacular part of the palace.
After viewing the amazing palace we headed to a nearby Indian restaurant that was recommended in Lonely Planet for a late lunch/early dinner. The food was delicious!
I had a puri dish that resembled a tostada in looks, but not in taste, but I was hungry, so I ate it instead of taking a photo :). We had some free time after our meal, so we walked around the market place for a while and I bought some jasmine flowers. Does anyone know if women wearing jasmine flowers in their hair in India has religious significance, or if they wear them just because they look and smell pretty?
Then it was time to wait for yet another night train…