02 February 2013

India Revisited - October 2012

Well, I had great plans to blog, blog, blog while I was travelling this trip.  2 weeks in India, a lot of time in the evenings, stories to catch up on.  Not so much.  Combine 14-16 hour days for 7 out of 8 days and 5 days of nonexistent internet connection and blogging didn't happen.  I did, however take pictures and collect more stories, so here is a review.

Of course all travel like this begins at the airport.  I love how I go to check in for my flight and my first flight, Indy to Chicago, is cancelled because of bad weather in Chicago.  Great.  Ended up not that big a deal, rerouted through Philadelphia to Frankfurt, Germany and I can still catch my flight to Bangalore.  Not much to report but my first flight on Lufthansa, my new favorite airline!  I land in Bangalore at 12:30 AM and get to the hotel around 2 by the time I get my luggage and get a ride to the hotel.  Any hotel looks good 2 AM but the next morning I did make note of this interesting feature:

That's right, a window in the shower, into the room.  I am not sure why, or how, or anything.  But I think I like it!  Of course, in a room by yourself the use of said window is rather... limited.  Oh well.  The bed was very comfortable though!  And of course, the omnipresent ceiling shower head.

From there we drove to Mysore, to the Royal Orchid Hotel.  It overlooks the Brindavan Gardens.  Now this was in late October, and I knew it would be warm, but it was HOT, 90s everyday.  And I sweat... a lot.

Here are some pictures of my room there.  The bed was very firm, very comfortable.  But right in the middle of the room?  That just seemed... odd.  And no internet access.  Just the start of my struggles to get connected online.  And I was within 140 miles of Bangalore, tech support headquarters I thought!  Maybe that explains some of the support issues I've experienced.

The water heater for the shower.  I hadn't seen this before, and it was not a fast cycle water heater!  No prolonged showers here... about 5 minutes max was my experience.
This is a view from the walkway right outside my door.

That Wednesday was the last day of Dasara, much better explained here than I could ever do.  The last day has a huge parade with many floats and the last part of the parade is the king riding an elephant with a big gold... whatever it's called, on top of it.  The crowds were... well by US standards they were crazy.  By Indian standards, at Dasara, apparently they were the norm.  Look at that picture below, the guy in uniform on the left... he is not conducting a band, or an orchestra, he is a policeman and that is a large stick they wave around to make the crowd back up and sit down so people could see, apparently.  Also, not just waving it around but tapping, or whacking, people with it, sometimes on the head.  And people just laughed and backed up then surged forward... WTF?!  He didn't get too close to me, maybe 3-4 people away but i remember telling myself to not react like i normally would if a guy whacked me in the head with a stick.

Further evidence of the crowds... there were at least 12 people on that limb alone.  I remember thinking i did NOT want to be below them.

As soon as the parade passed everyone started dispersing, I made sure I kept my eye on Saurabh.  While a 6' 2" white guy stands out there were a LOT of Indians around...

On look back to make sure the tree limb had not fallen.

Now, I know this picture is kind of blurry but look at the guy in the white shirt in the center of the picture.  I wish I could have gotten a clearer picture.  He had the most ear hair I have ever seen in my life.  Click on the picture to make it bigger and look more closely.  WTF?!  Does he not have a mirror?  Does he not have a wife?  Maybe ear hair is a sign or wealth or virility.  All I know is I got back to the hotel and immediately checked my ears for any signs of some rogue Indian bug that makes ear hair grow like crazy.  I am happy to report some 2 months later I have not sprouted such a growth.

From there we went to Mysore Palace, it was too late to go into the palace but we walked around the grounds and looked around.  It is pretty amazing.  You can read more about it here.  WOW!  According to that it is one of the most famous tourist attractions in India after the Taj Mahal.  I had no idea when I was there.

Obligatory picture of me standing like a dork in front of some landmark.

What do Indian policemen do after a long day of parade watching and whacking people on the head with a stick?  Check their phones and relax on plastic deck furniture of course!

The next hotel in Mysore.  This used to be the guesthouse built by the Maharaja of Mysore in 1920.  

The outside dining area.  

The lobby...

I didn't sit in this but it was impressive to look at

Here is my room in Mysore.  A couple of things to notice about this room:  1 - The ceilings are ~15 ft high.  WOW!  The I remembered, high ceilings where it's hot to try and keep that hot rising air away from the people and low ceilings where it's cold to try and use all that heat.  2 - 2 twin beds that are approximately 6' long.  I'm 6' 2".  Yeah, not much stretching out in that bed.

A nice, porcelain covered, cast iron tub with a nice rounded bottom that almost got me several times as I showered with my eyes and mouth clamped shut in the shower.  

On Sunday we went to Chamundi Hills.  There was a temple and a nice chance to walk around.

Well where else are you going to keep your fancy wooden trailer?  In a fancy wooden trailer garage!

Nice to know there are still playgrounds like when I was a kid!  Of course they are in India...

Okay... how come nobody ever told me this RED Eddie Bauer shirt now looks practically hot pink?  WTF? I loved this shirt!  And I have not worn it since I saw these pictures...

Saurabh Tijare, the engineer I was with in Mysore.

Another picture of me and that God awful shirt...

HA!  Now THAT is funny!  I wonder just what constitutes rash driving in India?  It truly has to be experienced to be believed.

I like taking pictures of my food, and I love Indian food.  But I have no idea what dishes are called.

My last night in Mysore we went to see the palace all lit up.

There were 1000's of people there to see it.

Nope, not any better at night...

A small band there playing military marches...

That night we took the omnipresent auto rickshaw.  Saurabh and I sat in the back.  After 8 days in Mysore I was pretty numb to the traffic and the driving, I enjoyed it.  If that would have been my first day ever in India... YIKES!

As Saurabh called it, an Indian taco...

On the plane home.  Lufthansa and Warsteiner.  'nuf said...

I love Indian food, but the duck and potato dumplings with the Warsteiner?  Yum!

And I saw this as I left the hotel in Pune for the airport.  Just a dad driving his son (I assume dad/son) to school.  Reminds me that although so many things are different between India and home, many things are the same...

I have another story to tell but I don't have any pictures to go along with this one.  Those of you that know George know that she's become quite the knitter.  Teaching/leading a knitting class at the local library, knitting Christmas stockings and sweaters, she loves it and people love getting her hand knit presents.  I started looking for yarn for her when I travelled years ago.  I've looked in Japan and China, no luck, either in trying to explain yarn, or knitting, and never found any to buy.  In 2005 I went to Belarus and had a couple of nights in Minsk, beautiful city, but I digress.  I walked miles 1 day, in and out of stores, asking and looking for yarn, finally finding some in a department store.  After much pointing and pantomiming I paid for and walked out with genuine Belorussian yarn to present to George!  I was so proud when I gave it to her!  Look what I found!  Yarn from Belarus!  And then we noticed the label, below a lot of Cyrillic letters:  Made in China.  Shit.

So I kept looking, hoping to find something worth bringing home to George.  I asked in India and was told the store to go to on MG road in Pune.  Yikes!  It was okay, I was a world traveller, I was brave, I was bigger than everybody else!  So I had the driver take me to MG road and we arranged where he would be waiting for me.  And I went looking for the store, and of course, it was closed on Sundays.  Shit.  So I went up and down MG road looking for yarn and finally went into a small shop.  Did they have yarn?  "Yarn?  No, we have no yarn, but perhaps you like silk scarves?  Don't I know you?  Weren't you here last year?  Here sit, would you like some tea?  My brother will get you some tea..."  I patiently explain that no, I have silk scarves, "but not like these!", I'm just looking for yarn...  "How about pillow covers?  We have lovely pillow covers!  Pashminas?  I'll take you to find yarn but please, look at these!"  20 minutes later I walk out with a huge bag full of stuff I got for ~$30 as we set out to find yarn.  "I'll go ask my cousin, follow me!" and we took an alley off of MG road and started walking... narrower and narrower, no westerners in sight.  I'm wondering in the back of my mind, is this really a good idea?  I mean I know I'm twice as big as he is, but where the hell are we going?  Then he's talking to his cousin.... would I like to look at his items?  For helping us?  No, thanks, I really just need yarn...  10 minutes later we're walking into a small shop and he talks to him then turns to me and says "He will help you now, he will show you yarn.  Can I go back to my shop now?  Please remember how I helped you!  Please come back to see me next time in Pune!"  He brings out 4 huge bags of yarn, all colors.  He says to pick out what I want, I pay by weight.  So I picked out 12 skeins of yarn, I would have looked on the label for "Made in China" but there were no labels, just bulk yarn.  $7.  For all that yarn.  My little friend did okay by me.  And George checked it when I got home, it was even wool!  Score!

Some of my prizes from this trip...


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