Mysore started off like most other cities: getting off a train with our bags on our backs and no hotel booked. Turning down all the cab drivers along the way, we trekked towards the strip of budget hotels. Along this stretch a seemingly harmless man approached us…and didn’t leave. It is often very hard to tell in India who is being genuinely nice and who is trying to part you from your money. In my opinion, the ratio is about 99 to 1 in favour of the truly nice and hospitable. This 99% will talk to you, take pictures with you, invite you over for dinner to meet their whole family. Honest, genuine, and nice people. However, this other 1% can be so bizarrely persistent even after you say no a hundred times that it is mind boggling. This man insisted on following us to no end, never trying to sell us anything or saying what he was after (which confused us), just following us and chatting away, refusing to let us out of his sight. We took our time, stopping for food, consulting the guide books, seeing to what end this man was prepared to hang around even though we made it clear we did not need nor want any help or services of any kind. As I left Cam and Emer in the cafe with our gear, I set out to find us a hotel and this man insisted on coming with me. I was weary of this because we had a guy in Mumbai do the same thing, only later to realize he wanted to talk to each hotel first in Hindi so they would inflate our rates and give him a cut. With this in my mind, I went out of my way to make sure I talked first at every and made sure they were dealing with me. Knowing that Cam had planned on conducting his own search after I drew this guy away from our group, I went on searching every hotel in what felt like a five mile radius. Even after checking out about a dozen places, this guy was still stuck to my side smiling. At times I even looked for a back entrance in hopes of giving him the slip, but to no avail. By the time this wild-goose chase ended and I returned, Cam had not only found a suitable place, but bargained them down 100 rupees too (he learned so fast!). As we trotted off to Cam’s find, we learned what this guy’s plan was: to sell us on a one hour tour of Mysore markets for 20 rupees. I could not believe that this man would put in hours of looking at hotels for an end game of 20 rupees (less than 50 cents) nor that he didn’t mention it earlier! I was left with the feeling that he may very well have been part of that 99% and I had misjudged him due to the previous bad encounters I had had.
But by morn the previous day was behind us and we woke up extra early to walk over to the main market in Mysore. The market is divided into fruits and vegetables, flowers, clothes, and the most interesting and also somewhat disturbing meat section. The entire thing was quite the spectacle, especially being there early enough to watch the restaurateurs negotiate their daily deals and then hire a porter to cart off their goods.
After the market we were in need of some food of our own so stopped into a nearby diner for some breakfast. Still not entirely sure what the different items on the menu were (plain dosa, paper dosa, masala dosa, Mysore dosa….so many dosas!), what I ended up getting this morning was hilarious in its own right. The owner brought out the smallest coffee I had ever seen followed by a massive dosa that was bigger than my arm, I was sure I was being pranked by the locals. Emer compared it to the absurdly large meat from The Flinstones. As I plowed into this delicious meal, the whole time I had a strange feeling that someone was going to jump out at any moment and yell “Got ya!” But to my surprise, I was left to finish my meal in peace…and I did…all of it!
It was after breakfast that we found another rickshaw driver who we believed was that 99%, but afterwards felt he may be the cream of that 1% crop. He convinced us that the Palace, where we were looking to go first, was free later in the day, so we should postpone our trip there. He then took us to what he sold as a “festival/carnival/incense rolling competition”, but which turned out to be one lady rolling incense in a store as the other lady was on lunch break. Clearly just a stop at his buddy’s shop. He then took us to a “museum” that turned out to just be an expensive store with “museum quality” pieces for sale. He assured us that these things were just lost in translation, and we assured him it was time for us to just walk the rest of the way.
After lunch, we made it to the palace, which turned out to be the same price at all hours of operation. I realized my character gauge was off and I was misjudging people all over the place. As we entered the palace with images of grandeur and opulance that adorn the pages of guide books in our minds – what we found was actually a lot of lines, vast crowds, and a narrow path one must follow around a designated area of the interior. What we saw was interesting…but not enough to fill our expectations.
The disappointment of the palace left room for the true highlight of the city: High Park. A revolving rooftop restaurant with a buffet, cheap pitchers, Indian MTV projected on a jumbo screen, and tactacular decor that included a wacky waving inflatable arm tube man! Nothing like a cold pint and gulab jamun to unwind and put everything back in perspective.