Mysore really is a gem of a city. It was on our list of potential places to visit but it seemed out of the way and we only ended up going because train availability routed us through nearby Bangalore. I’m glad we visited. There are a lot of varied sights to see, traffic isn’t that bad, and the weather is really pleasant.
In many ways it had everything we expected to find in Pondicherry but didn’t – grand buildings, broad tree-lined boulevards, thriving markets, busy street vendors, beautiful parks, and a zoo.
We were in Mysore on a weekend and it was packed with Indian tourists. Everywhere we went we had to compete with hundreds of school kids, families, and pilgrims. The “lineups” to get into tourist attractions were nuts. Sometimes there were queues but often it was just a shoving match. On Monday, it was a lot more calm and crowds were manageable.
The main attraction is the opulent and stunning Mysore Maharaja’s Palace. Unlike many of the sights we’ve visited in India, it was well maintained and wasn’t run down at all – probably because it is only 100 years old. As we shuffled around the interior (barefoot), packed in with the other tourists, we saw ballrooms with crystal chandeliers, marble columns, and stained glass – most of it imported from Europe. It reminder me of Versailles. Every Sunday night they illuminate the palace and the buildings around the main square with thousands of white lights and let the public in for free.
On Sunday we took a bus to the top of Chamundi Hill and then walked down the thousand steps past temples and a giant Nandi (bull) statue. The top of the hill was packed with thousands of pilgrims trying to get into the temple at the top and monkeys trying to steal their food. The walk down was blissfully quiet (except for the boy dressed up as the monkey god Hanuman who followed us for 10 minutes asking us to pay him for a picture), with great views of the city.
We were reluctant to visit the Mysore Zoo, expecting to find sad animals kept in small, dilapidated cages. The reviews we found reassured us it was one of the best zoos in India, and met international standards. We agree. It’s remarkably well maintained and most of the animals had big, open areas to roam. It’s still a bit sad to see some of the larger mammals in captivity, but wild animals in India aren’t exactly thriving with human encroachment and poaching. We do hope our time at the zoo was just a taste of what we hope to see in one of the National Parks later in our trip.