So we awoke to our final morning in Bangalore with Bec heading off for her morning yoga class with the yogi master. Unfortunately somewhere in the process things must have been lost in translation as there was no class when Bec arrived. The girls awoke slowly and headed off to breakfast, again a veritable feast of everything you can imagine. Mum has made good friends with one of the young chefs who we met last time we travelled and he is keen to head to Australia to further his career. In his show of respect for Mum, the wise older chef that she is, he has privately prepared meals for mum every morning and you would think she was the queen mother the way he doted on Mum's every need. On our final morning I asked for a serve of scrambled eggs from the young chef although in his haste to bring out 4 meals for mum, a mix of eggs Benedict and several Indian specialties my eggs were nowhere to be seen. I should have told him I was a chef, maybe I too could have been served. One story I didn't share with you was at the Connemara on our first morning Indy decided she wanted to toast her croissant. The toaster was one of those conveyor belt toasters and she put in the croissant but it was too big and got caught. I was sitting back at the table just taking in the view when Indy casually walked up and said she had caught the toaster on fire. She said it with such a calmness that I thought she was either joking or had rectified the situation herself. No she assured me that the toaster was still on fire and I should probably make an inspection. Sure enough as I approached the toaster smoke, was not quite bellowing but was working up to it. Luckily for us the croissant was dislodged quite easily and all was fine. It would not have been a good start to our holiday if we had burned down the hotel. After Maggie and Maxi's track record with the microwave we have now had a couple of close calls. At breakfast in Bangalore Poppa and I headed up to finalise the account for our stay and Bec made the tactical error of leaving Maggie in charge of Gus. I returned to find Bec running around the hotel grounds calling for Maggie who had decided to be a big girl and take Gus off for a walk. A frantic 5 minutes later and we found her, she had decided to head back to the room, no harm done. Gus has found the whole Indian nappy thing a bit of a challenge. They don't quite have the huggies technology and most of the time Gus is walking around with nappies sagging down to his knees! We are pleased to report that no Gus damage was done at the Taj, thank god for that. As we were leaving out suite at the Taj the girls worked themselves up to a frenzy collecting all of the complimentary items and shoving them in their bags, it was a bit of a Kath and Kim moment. Everything went in to their bags; shampoos, body lotions, slippers, shoe shine, combs, cotton balls, pens, paper and the list goes on.
We had a quiet morning before heading off in our 5 seat car, luggage to the rafters off to the train station for our 3 hour trip to Mysore. Opening my book for a quiet read I was distracted again by the scenery that is India by train and quickly put the book down and just sat and observed. Mum being quite recycling conscious decided to take her rubbish in a bag and hand it to the train porter who promptly opened the train door and threw it outside, much to mum's horror, ah the India way! Aside from that the trip was quite uneventful and we arrived in Mysore and off to the famous Mysore institution the Green Hotel. The hotel is an old colonial hotel, only two floors high spread out around a large parade ground which in the evening comes alive with dinner guests enjoying the outside dining. The rooms are set around the grounds and there are a range of beautiful trees and shrubs surrounding the hotel. There are rooms in the main building which include the princesses room (Bec was quite surprised to find out that she didn't get given this room) and the famous writers room. Then there are also a range of rooms situated in a long two story row of single rooms overlooking the main grounds. The hotel is one where you can imagine as a writer taking a long sabbatical to write a novel. You can sit in the gardens, in the café, in the library or out on your balcony. If you can't get inspiration to write here then you might as well give up. I wasn't quite sure what rooms we were to be given as the hotel manager assured me when I booked he would sort something out for our kids. As we booked in we were told we would be given the suite and Bec promptly piped up with 'how many beds?' to which the manager promptly replied '2 madam'. So we headed up to the room and sure enough there were two beds, they were two of the smallest single beds you would ever find, probably more of a cot than a bed! So we had the largest room in the hotel, which really wasn't that large with two beds between 4 of us. Ah well, that's life on the road, at least we had beds. The green hotel was a nice change from the extravagance of the Taj west end. There was no pool, no TVs or DVDs, no mini bar and no airconditioning. The rooms were very basic and I have to admit it felt a lot more comfortable to us, I am not sure if the kids would agree but certainly Bec and I felt good to be here again. On our last trip here about 15 years ago Bec had a bad experience with an idly on the train and spent most of her time in Mysore with her head in a bucket, not a lot of fun. This time around we avoided the train food and Bec arrived in good spirits and good health. For the first time on the trip Popsy relaxed in the knowledge that the rooms were very affordable, the food was good and cheap and the beer was cold, life was looking up for Popsy! To quote Popsy "this is the happiest I have been with any of the accommodation so far" (referring to the simpleness of our lodgings).
We were a little hot and bothered when we arrived so we headed down to the outside restaurant for a quiet bit of lunch. A couple of very cold kingfishers (Indian Beer) hit the spot and we ordered some tandoori chicken, lamb rogan josh, butter naan, aloo mattar (peas and potatoes), palak paneer (spinach and cottage cheese) and all was well. The food here has been a definite highlight, both the outside dining room and the food quality have been exceptional. We have over the days been steadily working our way through the extensive menu and enjoyed every meal. After a long and quiet lunch we headed back to the room for a rest. Popsy and I headed out to the shops, a leisurely 1.5km walk down the street to stock up on our supplies. An interesting sight on the way to the shops was the puppies for sale on the side of the road. Not a sight I think I have seen before in India. When we returned to our rooms everyone was resting. Maggie was feeling a little hungry so she piped up with 'is it Gin hour yet?' knowing ofcourse that the practice of gin and tonics meant the chips would also be coming out. The adults didn't need any dinner that night and we were all quite tired after our day of travels. Indy and Maggie settled for chicken noodle soup and a mars bar for dinner (after the chips ofcourse) which I think they were actually quite happy with. So we all packed into bed together under the one fan in the room and hoped for the best. There was a rather bright light outside our window that meant that it felt like daytime, all night and I mean all night. Still not a bad night's sleep considering. I awoke to Mum standing at our door yelling "Nicky let me in, let me in quick!" in a high pitched voice suggesting there was a cat, no a dog, no a monkey coming straight towards her along the balcony! With each version of the story the pitch got a little higher and more intense. We quickly opened the door and sure enough a rather large and quite plum monkey casually strolled past our door. Quite a sight to be greeted with first thing in the morning. He walked to the end of the walkway and sat up on the stair fence looking none too amused with life when he was scared off by the security guard.
After the monkey incident we shared a morning cup of tea and sat and took in the Indian tranquillity. Birds quietly chirping whilst in the background the various car and bus horns bellowing into a constant hum of distant activity, you can hear the serenity! We were up and off to breakfast with Gus proceeding to eat through three whole mandarins, the girls had their scrambled eggs and we continued our tour of south Indian coffee tasting and had our usual 5 cups with breakfast. It is interesting as you travel you slowly become more relaxed about the kids. Whilst we were having breakfast Gus took a couple of his cars and proceed to the nearby garden bed to play dump trucks in the dirt. Thinking back to Timor this would have sent us diving for the antiseptic wipes and the shower and now several weeks on we are happy that Gus is happy. A boy and his dirt pile, life doesn't get much better for a near 2 year old! Meanwhile we all got to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. We organised a car for the day and decided to head out and see the sights. We stocked up at the ATM and headed off to the palace. Again Mysore is famous for its history as a kingdom and the palace is absolute opulence in its extreme. The girls were provided a set of headsets and accompanying contraption that enabled them to be guided through the palace with information about its history. It was an amazing sight to behold and even the kids were amazed, perhaps Indy more than mags with Gus continuing his reign as the little raja being carried up the steps looking very regal. As we finished at the palace we headed back to the car with the usual constant array of salespeople peddling their wares. One such young man was very dirty (physically) carrying two monkeys and followed us up to the car looking for money. Our driver was a little slow getting to us so we were politely trying to avoid his advances and hustle the kids out of sight and reach of the monkeys. As the driver arrived I quickly jumped in the front seat with Gus as he approached me with a basket, I knew what was coming but unfortunately my window was open and as the car hadn't been started I couldn't do up my window. Sure enough the top of the basket came off and up popped the cobra looking none too amused at being awoken and thrust toward the car. There was not much I could do other than keeping Gus out of reach as I am sure he would have thought it was an opportunity to play let's poke the snake as he did in Thailand. I was pressing the button and nothing was happening and the basket kept drawing closer, not to mention the monkeys that were being wound up into a bit of a frenzy. Fortunately the girls went around the other side and into the back seat and missed most of the show. With Indy's fear of snakes this would not have gone down too well. Fortunately the driver started the car, the window went up and we could again relax, or at least so I thought. The young man not be deterred followed us about 100 metres to the exit and as I opened the window to pay for the carpark sure enough up came the monkeys and the basket. I quickly closed up and off we went! Nothing like a cobra on your face first thing in the morning to get the heart pumping. Fortunately for me I had been introduced to cobras in baskets on previous trips and understood that their fangs are usually removed, or at least that is what I was told.
Our day continued with far less excitement as we proceeded to venture around Mysore visiting a couple of shops (yes one more trip to Fabindia), the famous market, and a couple of bookshops. The market in Mysore is quite spectacular. It is a spice and vegetable market with the most incredible array of fresh fruit and vegetables on offer in rows and rows of stalls. Vendors yelling out information to customers and a general buzz of activity. If you close your eyes for a minute, take a deep breath you could almost imagine standing in the middle of the central market in Adelaide. There are also stalls with the most amazing ground up chalk like material, mounds of brightly coloured towers which you can imagine leaving Gus with for a couple of minutes what would happen. Ofcourse this caught Maggie's eye and the man in the stall was kind enough to demonstrate how the chalk mixed with water turned into a paint for your skin. The girls wanted to buy an anklet each so Bec went in to negotiate with the young man who had been following her around for some time. Starting at around 400 rupees for the two Bec haggled the young man down to 250. Interestingly the same young man approached Mumj with the same two anklets minutes later and offered her the two for 150! Ah Bec, can always drive a hard bargain! Everywhere we went people wanted to reach in and touch Gus, they were relentless. I am not sure what it was but he is like a magnet to people, everyone wants to know him and give him a pinch on the cheeks. Needless to say there is a lot of hand and face cleaning happening throughout the day. We returned to the hotel for lunch (Gus enjoying several more mandarins on the trip) and a rest before one last venture out into the streets of Mysore. For those who are interested lunch consisted of tandoori chicken, pakodas (deep fried vegetables), chicken marsala, cucumber and onion raita and garlic naan (with each piece containing massive chunks of garlic, I am sure there must have been about 8 cloves in each slice!) Lunch again was a highlight. Unfortunately we were all too tired that evening to head back to the palace which apparently included a very good light show in the evening. Anyway we retired to the outside dining room, with candles on tables and it was quite a magical sight. Gus had his bottle and went to sleep and we played scopa (Italian card game) by candlelight. People came from everywhere (expats mostly) and it was a beautiful final evening in Mysore. It was a clear and starry night, there was the buzz of the Indian traffic humming in the background and we just sat and relaxed and shared some highlights of our trip. It was one of those unforgettable moments on our trip and reinforced the reputation of this beautiful old hotel in Mysore. The girls are getting quite experimental with their eating and enjoyed some mild tandoori chicken and butter naan, washed down with Pepsi ofcourse. Poppa entertained the girls with monkey talk for most of the evening and it was a very special way to end our time here.
We awoke today on our final day with the monkeys usual welcome. Apparently this time mum was out in her pyjamas (with no bra on) being chased along the balcony by the monkeys. Poppa ofcourse deciding not to come to the rescue, instead capture all this on film. Mum suggested it was not her finest hour but we can refer to the video to decide. We enjoyed our morning ritual of tea on our balcony while the Girls slept and about to head down for breakfast. Gus after his 6 mandarins and several bananas the day before was clearly working up to a bit of a crescendo in his nappy so Bec and I sat out on the balcony with Jen and Nick having our cup of tea. Some time later Gus arrived at the door, no nappy on and a very pasty concoction all down his leg, Vesuvius had clearly erupted. He had taken off this nappy, left this next to Indy's head on the bed (girls were still sleeping) and headed out to announce to us that he was a happy boy having shed a couple of kilos in the process. Again no harm done and fortunately no finger painting of the walls this time around!
We plan to leave by train this morning to Chennai, this time we have about 7 hours on the train before our final evening and the long trip home. Mysore has been fun and well worth the trip. Back to Chennai we go!