Second week in Mysore!
I wish I could write more often, but my days start at 5.30 am, and as usual, I managed to pack my schedule with so many courses that usually I don’t come back home before 4 pm. But I have to say I’m loving every single second of it!
Today I want to share with you a short collection of tips, little wisdoms and basic information about Mysore that I wish I could have found before my adventure began.
Bangalore? It’s around the corner!!!
That is what I thought when I landed in India after 12 hours traveling with a short stop in Dubai.
I landed in Dubai at round midnight and my flight to Bangalore was at 3.40 in the morning. This big airport works through all night long so you’ll find food, shops, lights, people running around like it was 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Super safe and comfortable. From Dubai to Bangalore there are less than 4 hours flight, just the time to fall asleep and being served breakfast while you have the feeling you are the middle of the night. Oh well I was!
Anyhow, I passively ate the breakfast that they administered me and filled in the sheet for the immigration they gave me on the plane.
I know that you have a Visa, but do fill in the form; otherwise you’ll have to do it in front of the immigration officer!
You have probably read about the new online Visa system, right? The only official website to apply for the e-Visa is this one.
Check whether your country is in the list of eligible countries, prepare a pass photo that meets the requirements, a scan of your passport (which has to be valid at least for 6 months after the date of your arrival in India) and fill in the online form. You’ll probably receive, like me, a positive answer within 48 hours. Print out the email with “Application status: granted” (this is your Visa!) and show it to the officer when it’s the moment, together with the immigration form you get on the plane or right before you reach the immigration counters.
At Bangalore airport there are dedicated counters for the e-Visa (follow the signs): when I arrived only two of them where open and the officers where quite slow, but I managed to get out of the building within 45 minutes from the landing, including the baggage claim.
FROM BANGALORE TO MYSORE
To reach Mysore I used Fly Bus, a very comfortable and cheap service that for 800 rupees brings you directly to Mysore bus terminal in exactly 4 hours. The ticket can be bought online here, where you’ll find also the timetable. Watch out, if you book online the ticket is valid only for that bus at that time, not before, not later. If you miss your bus you’ll need to buy a new ticket. I decided to buy it there and it worked totally fine, except for the broken card machine at the ticket office. In case you, like me, haven’t found rupees in your home country, there is an ATM under the airport’s canopy and two currency exchange counters inside, before you exit.
You might think that Fly Bus is a service used mainly by tourists; in fact, you’ll find principally Indians on it, which is a great start!
The alternative to Fly Bus is a fast train from Bangalore main station to Mysore (it takes around 2 hours) but if you count the time to reach the train station from the airport, it’s probably going to take you much longer than 4 hours.
A maximum of 20 thousand rupees is allowed to be imported in the country.
I live in Switzerland, land of banks, …. and neither my bank nor the exchange counters at the airport had Indian rupees. So I landed in Bangalore without a single rupee in my pocket!
Another thing you need to know is that the ATM (as far as I could see) allow you to withdraw only a maximum of 10 thousand rupees per operation. In case you, for whichever reason, need abundant cash (to pay a landlord, for example), you’ll need to exchange your money, either in your home country or at Bangalore airport.
GETTING AROUND MYSORE
Once you are at Mysore Railway Station you’ll easily get a cab or a rikshaw….or…., better said, they’ll get you! Same thing will happen during your stay, every time you walk on the street. The rikshaw drivers are fine observers! They will catch your lost eyes and smile at you while they break and ask you where you want to go. It’s very relaxing to know that there is an army of rikshaws ready to bring you back home. They can be overwhelming though. They will ask you where you come from and what you do in Mysore, how long you stay. They’ll try to become your personal driver. So unless you want to pay one, don’t give them too much information and don’t accept neither city tours nor shopping tours (mainly to tourist traps). They are basically harmless though, once they understand that with you there cannot be any bigger business for them, they’ll let you be.
And once you understand the average price of a ride, it’ll be all much easier! You can agree upon the price in advance or, if you do the same way every day and you know how much it costs, just hand out the money without saying anything. Your driver will probably smile, wobble his head and wish you a good day!
It is always broken!
Anyhow to give you an idea, the minimum price for a ride should be 25 rupees, then consider about 13 rupees for each further km. For a 2 Km ride, a fair price is between 40 and 50 rupees, which is incredibly cheap.
LANDMARKS (GIVING INSTRUCTION TO RIKSHAW DRIVERS)
So you have to reach a place in Mysore, and you decide to get a taxi or a rikshaw.
You get ready, write down the complete address . . . are you sure you do have the full address?
Do you have a street name, a house number, and a postcode??!!
Not good! Abandon hope all ye who enter here!!
Here the streets have truly no name: often the street names are in Hindi, and much more often there aren’t at all. So spend some time looking for the closest monument, public building, square or another landmark close to your destination and tell your driver.
If you don’t get prepared, this is what you’ll get through:
– The rikshaw driver will welcome you on board and ask you where you want to go. After you say the address, which 90% of the times he has absolutely no idea of where it is, he will wobble his head and start the ride.
– After a few meters he will stop at a crossroad or square and a very important figure will appear: the rikshaw driver’s oracle.
This mythological figure pops up suddenly and is usually a man who speaks decent English and will ask you some questions. He will eventually address the unprepared driver to the right direction.
Examples of well known landmarks here in Mysore are: “double water tank” or “RTO circle” or “chocolate man shop”.
But please at least once in your life let pop up the oracle!!! You’ll have fun.
CROSSING A ROAD
In your home country you would probably look for the closest zebra crossing where there is often also a traffic light and you would peacefully cross the road.
In India you have to reset this habit. Here the vehicles are like flocks of birds: they fly freely and so close, but rigorously never touch each others! If a new bird suddenly wants to join the flock they just make some space and keep flying within this sort of intelligent chaos.
You’ll see cars, buses, rikshaws, and scooters driving and changing directions in a crazy but miraculously well working and harmonic chaos, hooting at each other every second to communicate. Get out of my way! I’m turning left! I’m overtaking you, don’t move! To make it more interesting, there are also the well known Indian holy cows, that pacifically stroll in the middle of super busy roads, maybe munching some grass from a traffic island.
So… Do you want to cross the road?
Do trust the harmonic chaos. Have faith in the well trained Indian reflexes.
Step slowly on the road and take a position.
Make small steps and wait for their reactions. Many will just continue driving and avoid you, like you were a cow (which is a compliment here). Many will hoot at you. A few will slow down. Base your reactions on their reactions, look right and left continuously and before you realise it you’ll have crossed the road.
Only the braves!!
Yes, it’s true, there are cows in India! They are holy, so holy that sometimes a lucky holy cow gets a complete, well presented meal served on a banana leaf. The true reality of these urban cows is that they eat polluted grass growing on the sides of the roads or in the middle of roundabouts and random leftovers found in the rubbish. I saw often thirsty cows, drooling, under the hot Indian sun. Meaning that if they find easily something to munch, it’s much more difficult for them to find water. They are often thin and undernourished but they remain beautiful and fascinating presences in the Indian daily life.
I’ll miss them.
Ok, Mysore is not the rest of India, and vice-versa.
But what I can tell you for sure is: people here in Mysore are curious and happy to interact.
So far I have met wonderful, respectful people. If I think of the comments of some of my friends while I was planning my itinerary (thinks like: “Oh, do you really want to go alone? how are you going to deal with the dangers of being attacked, raped”)…. omg, if I look back, I really need to laugh! Sure, I don’t walk around in my yoga pants and always cover legs and arms.
In a nutshell: I respect the local mentality.
And I always got back the same respect.
To tell you the truth I get more aggressive (verbal) attentions from unknown men when I’m in my home town, in South Italy!
Here I see everyday men and women simply fascinated by my being different, so white, so tall and with curly, red hair. It even happened that they wanted to take a picture with me (and both of the times they were women!). Yes, men turn around, look at me. But I never felt in danger.
I’ll tell you more, I feel home here!
Unknown people smile at me, say Namaste putting a hand on their heart, ask me what I think of local food, whether I had breakfast and what I ate, they laugh when I pronounce “paratha”, they are proud of the local touristic attractions and ask me whether I have already visited this or that temple.
I’m here alone, but I never felt truly lonely!
Being used to a society where everyone goes around with the blinkers, this colourful, earthy and warm Indian crowd just melts my heart every day a bit more.
Tons of human warmth at every corner: what a blessing.