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Clare’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 13 Jan 2008

Location: Hyderabad, India

MapI know I only blogged yesterday but I'm a bit behind - some of you eagle eyed readers may have noticed that I backdated the last entry as there was too much to write to get me up to date.

So... I was in Mysore, which I went to despite recommendations not to bother from some travellers in Varkala. I don't know which bit of Mysore they went to but I really, really liked it. As far as Indian towns go its really quite quaint and cute and is small which means you can walk and escape the stupid Rickshaw drivers... though that doesn't stop them driving veeerrryyyy slowly along the road next you calling "madam, madam, rickshaw?" at one point I had two gawking men, a rickshaw and dog all following or staring me... its amazing how travel in India allows to selectively tune out annoyances!

Mysore was the seat of the Wodeyar Maharajahs so there is a pretty impressive palace in the centre of the city which on sunday nights is illuminated by thousands of lights and a Brass band plays in the grounds... its all quite Disney-esque really and I found the whole thing quite amusing, the grounds are full of literally thousands of (Indian) tourists and its a real carnvial atmosphere.

While in Mysore I met another English girl called Helen and we spent a brilliant couple of days together in Mysore 'doing the sights'. We had a great day where we escaped the city and went to the little Island town of Sriringapatnam which was the capital of Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore and scourge of the British in the late 1700s. There are a bunch of historic sights spread out over the island and we had a lovely day wandering around, nattering and laughing. We also took a ride in a Coracle at the confluence of the Sangam and Cauvery rivers - a place of Hindu pilgrimage (thought pretty much everywhere seems to be if you ask me!). It was a little adventure watched by a full crowd of Indians on the ghats wondering why we westerners were going out to the Shivalingam statue on the rocks in the middle of the river. We also explored the market where the fruit and Veg is sold and bought some Sandalwood incense (Mysore is famous for Sandalwood) and some perfume oils which are the same smells as things like Issey Miyake and Calvin Klein Eternity, but without the brand names and about a 50th of the cost! The market is brilliant, there are piles of brighty colured paints for sale in amongst the perfume, incense and fruit and Veg, not to mention whole aisles which sell jasmine and marigold flowers strung together in massive coils for women to put in their hair or for the front of vehicles. For once its somewhere which does smell nice in India!

Bangalore and Hyderabad seem to be pretty similar as far as I can see, except that Hyderabad is more Muslim (until 40 years ago it was the personal fiefdom of the Nizam). Both are cities changing fast but Bangalore has a head start of 10 yrs or so. Both are caught up in the IT boom and are becoming more western. From my point of view they've allowed me to have a little bit of western comfort, I went to a Multiplex cinema in Bangalore to see 'The Golden Compass' - very disappointing compared to the book in my opinion and here in Hyderabad I have a hotel room with a TV (it has English channels!) AND a real proper shower which has hot water and everything!

I've been through an interesting jounrey with regards toilet facilities since I left the Uk... I realised yesterday that this is the first hot shower I've had since South Africa. The sort of rooms I'm staying in provide two buckets, 1 big, 1 small. You fill the big one and use the small to pour water over yourself - it works fine once you are used to it. Also generally hot water is only available in the mornings and you ask the place to provide you with a bucket. Obviously on the coast no-one ever wants hot water cos its so hot all day - so an actual shower with 24 hr hot water is a real novelty. I've also pretty much adjusted to squat toilets - they were the norm in Africa too. I still have some misgivings about train toilets - they do leave a little to be desired after 10 hour journeys but you have to just get on with it if you know what I mean! Obviously no toilet roll is ever provided as Indians don't use it - hence you only eat with your right hand, but as time goes on these are the little oddities you adjust to. I'm quite proud of my ability to eat a Thali or Masala Dosa with only my right hand!

As I go more north I see more and more beggars on the streets.. I think the trend will continue, everyone says the South is more affluent than the Northern states and the hassle level increases - hard to imagine now but I'm sure I'll have somehting to say about it later in the trip!

As some of you may know I'm going to a meditation retreat next week for 10 days. Its pretty strict, no talking, no reading or writing, you get up at 4.30am and there's no solid food after lunch...hmmm. Should be interesting so I'll update you all on my new level of mental clarity when I can at the end of January.

Hope you are all enjoying those January floods - did I mention its a balmy 30 degrees over here?