Journal -- Day 12

December 30th

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We hadn't heard any fireworks in Cochin as yet, a failing remedied at 4am. Fortunately after a while you get used to them and we were able to get back to sleep in preparation for a long travel day. First, an hour-long drive to the Cochin airport. Then an hour-long flight to Bangalore (on an ATR - eek! - though at least there's no sign of ice). Then a 3-hour drive to Mysore, arriving in the late afternoon. Phew.

We stopped several times on our drive across Karnataka, fortunately. We didn't get to see much of Bangalore, India's fastest growing city. The climate is cool and comfortable, and it has become a center for IT, medical, and other high-tech industries. Apparently over the last 10 years the rapid growth has made the city unrecognizable and the pollution certainly affects its reputation as a garden city. On our drive through the outskirts, I regret to say that it looked like every other urban sprawl.

We took lunch along the road at a very nice local restaurant featuring excellent vegetarian food served on banana leaves while we sit on a porch. In the afternoon, we visit one of the Hoysala temples, a completely different style than the Chola temples of Tamil Nadu and dedicated to Vishnu rather than Shiva. The delicate soapstone carving reminds me of Angkor Wat. This shrine has a wonderful carved ceiling, each coffer unique but echoing the lotus motif. There are three Hoysala templates in Karnataka, but other than these sites little survives of this period. The columns here seem to have been carved on a lathe, a prodigious undertaking for granite.

Our hotel in Mysore is one of the old royal buildings, this one a guesthouse on a hill overlooking the city. It's a huge white building with ornate plaster decoration and definitely looks like a palace. Our room has 20 foot ceilings and a four-poster bed with curtains! Unfortunately the hotel was renovated in perhaps 1950 and hasn't seen much maintenance since. There are new wooden floors, but the plumbing is entertaining, the cable cuts out every 20 minutes, and the power is definitely flaky. In general the service is almost laughably bad. There are probably twice as many waiters as tables in the restaurant, but you have to run up to them to get their attention and then ask three or four times to get whatever it is you may want. As with many hotels, this one has some shops selling local handicraft, postcards, films, etc. Unlike most hotels, the shop owners call out to you as you walk by as if they were on the street. Very offputting. Still, a wonderful building and a lovely setting from which to base the next several days.

Mysore was a capital city for many years, and the descendants of the last maharaja of Mysore still live in a piece of the palace and in fact the current family head has a Parliament seat. The Mysore rulers were well-liked and the transition from ruler to representative seems to have gone smoothly. The city itself is relatively small, situated high enough to be cool and verdant all year.

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