A pleasant afternoon strolling through Mysore Zoo, which we found by accident.

A pleasant afternoon strolling through Mysore Zoo, which we found by accident.

Mysore


Massive row on the bus between Jay and Amigo. A parting of the ways. Jay to return to Mumbai and Amigo to stay with me. Apart from that, I enjoyed the journey to Mysore. Wonderful of views reminiscent of the Peak District and then Switzerland. Nighttime through a tiger reserve where the bus’s lights picked out deer and wild elephants. 


Mysore itself is lovely although some streets curiously devoid of eating places. Maharajah’s palace was spectacular. Sorry, no photos inside allowed. 
Visited the Maharajah’s place in Mysore. Just what you would expect a very rich man to build in India in 1912. All in the best possible taste?

Visited the Maharajah’s place in Mysore. Just what you would expect a very rich man to build in India in 1912. All in the best possible taste?

India. Then and now.


My second trip to India feels very different from when I visited for the first time nearly three years ago.  Then I was travelling on my own, but was rarely lonely because I was meeting lots of people on the way.  The Couchsurfing website - which brings together those offering and those seeking hospitality in people’s homes - was especially helpful in getting to know people.  Indeed, it was why I went to India in the first place: Hima from Hyderabad, whom I hosted when she was in London, invited me to her brother’s wedding there.  After that, I met many other wonderful hosts throughout my travels.  I was also struck by the friendliness of Indians in casual encounters, whether it was being photographed with them at tourist attractions or chatting from armchairs at the various clubs with which I had reciprocal arrangements, from Secunderabad to Calcutta.  And I am everlastingly grateful to Jay from Mumbai and Manish from Hyderabad who rescued me when the ATM swallowed my only card.


India was also different then because it was so new to me.  My expectations were constantly being confounded: from the Golconda fort to the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi. Nothing in what I had read fully prepared me from what I encountered, mostly in a good way, although I was conscious of making gaffes„ I also had the luxury of time, I could travel up to six months with no fixed date of departure.  I was more a traveller than a tourist, and could try to emulate the principles of Paul Theroux’s The Tao Of Travel.

I then felt unconstrained.  I am now much more hemmed in, by people and time. I am now travelling with two other people: Amigo from Korea and Jay from Mumbai, and a strange trio we seem to India (monkey in zoo, as Amigo says).  This has some advantages in terms of companionship, safety, organisation and sharing resources.  But I feel I have lost the spontaneity and contact with lots of people which I previously had: I especially miss Couchsurfing, which is pretty much impossible with three people.  And all the time we are having to compromise with each other’s different travel expectations and there are Sarteaian  tensions within the group.

I was also forced this time to buy an onward air ticket, so I no longer have the freedom to leave early to later.  Not that I resent the obligation to fly to NZ to visit family on 14 November. But this and the other constraints mean that I now fell more of a tourist and less of a traveller.


Going out for an English: goodness gracious me!


Chatted to my father on Sype this morning.  He asked me an mportant question: is the Indian food in India different from the Indian food you eat in England?  Not sure I know the answer. I don’t think I’ve come across anything in India which you couldn’t find somewhere in London, which now has specialist restaurants from all over India, as indeed does India. And many of the staples of Indian restaurants in the UK are also available in India, even came across chicken tikka massala. I suspect you would have to be Indian to notice the differences, just as I could spot that the British-style roast lamb at the British-style King’s Cliff hotel wasn’t quite what you would expect in a good British restaurant or at the Elfenbeins.  Perhaps it was because it was halal and lacked the rosy pinkness that a splattering of blood would give. 


The major differences between eaitng out in India and London is that you don’t get cutlery (so have to learn the skill of eating rice and gravy with your fingers) or a heart attack after seeing the bill.  We have regularity eaten out for about £2 per head. And the food has mostly been pretty damn good. 
Today we managed to get inside St Stephen’s Church, beautiful decorated for harvest festival

Today we managed to get inside St Stephen’s Church, beautiful decorated for harvest festival

Inside the Victorian interior of the King’s Cliff.

Inside the Victorian interior of the King’s Cliff.

Strolled down to Ooty after lunch

Strolled down to Ooty after lunch

European-style lunch at an old British establishment in the hills above Ooty.

European-style lunch at an old British establishment in the hills above Ooty.

Missing Southern Railway

Missing Southern Railway