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Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Well, it’s been great, but time to go back home. We are not flying out until the middle of the night so time for one last day. We thought we’d better check if we had enough room in our cases or would we need to buy another one. It’s amazing how much shopping Maria has managed to do.
Wilbeary and his shopping
Luckily, with the weather being so nice, we had packed light, so there was enough room. John still had to go out and pick up the silk shirts he was having made, and of course once she’d seen there was a bit of space left, Maria decided she needed some more shopping. Apart from anything else Claire had decided she needed an elephant (honestly, just ‘cos I had one.)
We saw another of John’s famous scaffolds, This one made from METAL!!! Being used in a very safe manner.
Painter perched on scaffolding
We then packed and mooched around for a while. We decided to have our meal in Stir, outside under the palm trees. The meal was lovely, they made a special lamb curry for Maria, and we will miss all the different breads. Much as we have enjoyed the food here, it will be nice to have something other than a curry for a change.
Wilbeary enjoying the food
The car picked us up in good time and we only had one near miss on the way to the airport. Now it’s just a long flight and then a short hop accross from Paris. We’re all looking forward to getting back home.

View from our window.

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

We are coming to the end of our stay, only one more day after today. Every morning when we wake up there are black kites circling outside our window. John reckons there are up to about 50 of them within sight.
Black kite
They ride the thermals, rising higher and higher. We are one side of the hotel and the view is a sort of microcosm of India. You look in one direction and you see what you would imagine a typical Indian city would look like.
Bangalore vista
The other direction you get a much more 21st century look.
Modern buildings
And then of course, straight down, you see the hidden India.
Washing day
Yesterday and today there has been a transport strike, essentially by commercial vehicles, lorries etc. but taxi cabs have joined in. They are protesting against the fixing of speed governors to their vehicles in an attempt to make them obey speed limits. This does not appear to have left roads much emptier, the auto rickshaws and bikes seem to have filled any available spaces.
Auto rickshaws
We went for a walk to Cauvery, one of John’s favourite stores, and apparently becoming one of Maria’s. Just how many sandalwood carvings, enamelled bowls and embroidered bags do we need?
John is totally fascinated by the bamboo scaffolding.
Bamboo scaffolding
Mind you, even I was impressed by this one. To think people actually work up on those platforms!
We strolled back to the hotel and had a beer and lunch in the bar and then sat out by the pool for a while. I thought about taking a dip, but I haven’t got a cossy with me.
Wilbeary at the poolside

A day (and a country) of contrasts

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

We had a late night last night and a late morning, we’re trying to start readjusting to UK time.
Maria’s mehindi has fully developed now,it is a great colour. She seems inordinately proud of it.
Mehindi developed
Mind you it does have it’s disadvantages. She can get it wet but is not supposed to get detergent on it, especially if she then rubs. So this morning John had to get in the shower and wash her hair.
Maria was a bit iffy again this morning, she is rather sensitive to strange food, water etc. So we left her in the bar, drinking lots of water, while John and I set off in an auto rickshaw to pick up some of her tops from the tailors around Commercial Street. It was ok but you do feel a lot closer to the traffic, noise, pollution and the heat than in a nice air conditioned car. Still it was an experience.
The tailors were in the side ‘streets’ off Commercial Street.
Tailor shop alleyway
They cram an awful lot into a tiny space, the man on the floor is hand embroidering a sari.
Tailor shop
All Maria’s tops were ready and they had done a good job. There are only John’s shirts to pick up now and they won’t be ready until Monday.
When we got back Maria was feeling a bit better, so John and I grabbed some lunch and we decided to stroll up to one of the malls nearby. It is just past John’s offices. As we were walking along the ‘pavement’ we noticed there seemed to be a beggar lying in the middle of it. This was not unusual, we had seen similar before. However we found this was in fact 2 babies, there was a rag in the dust and lying on it a little girl of about 12 to 18 months, curled up and apparently asleep. Next to her lying on his back and grizzling a little a baby of about 3 months. This is by the roadside, in the dirt and dust, with people rushing along and the sun starting to shine down on that area. No sign of an associated adult. What can you do? Just walking by seems so terrible. Some people had tossed some money down, but surely that just makes you complicit in the action and encourages the parent to think this is a good way to obtain money. All this within a stones throw of a sparkling modern mall! It is upsetting, I think Maria was crying. I think we may have to make a donation to the Missionaries of Charity.
We mooched around for the rest of the afternoon and decided to go down to Karavalli for our tea, this is the restaurant in the gardens of the restaurant, specialising in South Indian cuisine. John had been telling Maria how nice the food was. The ambiance was certainly good.
Karavalli
The food was lovely, I particularly liked the bananas cooked in a masala, despite Maria making so called witty comments about monkeys being fond of bananas. We were even serenaded by a frogs chorus. My word they can make a lot of noise for a small body.
Frog in Karavalli pond

Bangalore to Mysore

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

We were up early today, at breakfast by 6.30. That is only just after midnight in the UK so we were getting up as Claire was going to bed. We needed to make an early start so that we could beat the Bangalore traffic.
Being on the road is a terrifying experience. Cars overtake on both sides, usually at the same time. If the road is marked as 3 lanes they try to put at least 5 lanes in. If it is quicker to go the wrong way up a dual carriage way, they do. If one carriage way gets blocked by an accident everyone just transfers to the other carriage way, so without warning the road becomes 2 way.
In an attempt to slow the traffic down there are some really vicious sleeping policemen, no warning of course. Also unexpectedly you come across staggered barriers, so you have to slalom across the lanes, (together with everyone else, some possibly going in the opposite direction). And then of course, despite the fact that it is rush hour, there are women with brushes sweeping the road. We saw 3 or 4 accidents which seems an awful lot for a trip of this length. our record for the number of people on a motorbike is still 5 although we have been assured you can get 8 on. Today we saw a new best for a 2/3 seater auto rickshaw, 8!!
As well as terrifying the journey was fascinating. India is a country of contrasts. There are beautiful mosques, temples, shopping malls and houses. Right next to people living in hovels, tents made from banana leaves, selling a few bits of produce from a mat on the ground.
We saw people working in the rice paddies, ploughing with oxen and planting by hand. It looked back breaking work. We went through a sugar producing area, there were ox carts piled high with sugar cane, (an interesting addition to the already crowded road) delivering to the factory.
Anyway, the first stop was at Tipu Sultans summer palace.
Tipu Sultan Summer Palace gateway
He built it as a retreat from the cares of ruling. Very nice, in much better repair than the remains of his fort in Bangalore. Still made predominantly of wood, but every surface was painted. The painting is getting rather fragile so screens have been put up to protect it from the sun. This rather takes away from the cool, open look it must once have had, but it was still well worth seeing.
We then went onto his mausoleum, He built it when his father died and he and his mother are also buried there. Together with other members of his family and some of his best generals.
Tipu Sultan Summer mausoleum
He was a Muslim and so there is also a mosque on the site. Both are truly beautiful. Almost totally white stone but so detailed.
detail of mausoleum
Mosque minaret mausoleum
We then went to a temple at the top of India’s eighth holiest mountain. It is dedicated to the great earth goddess. We were rather surprised at the amount of commerce going on in the area around the temple. There were understandably temple offerings being sold.
Offerings for sale
There were also a lot of beggars, I suppose their best chance of receiving something is near a temple. But there were also LOADS of stalls selling all sorts of things, VERY persistently.
in the temple grounds
It gets very wearing after a while, especially when they won’t take no for an answer. Maria got pretty shirty at one point.
Maria had said we might see some of my distant relations today, so I was pretty intrigued, and then insulted when I realised she meant this fellow.
Monkey in the temple grounds
She thought it pretty funny, I just kept a dignified silence.
After a stop for some cold beer and snacks in a hotels cool lounge, (much needed) and a bit more shopping (not needed), it was onto the main reason we came to Mysore. The Maharajahs palace. Well worth the trip. You are not allowed to photograph inside, a shame. I assure you it was beautiful.
Mysore Palace
Mind you Maria and John had plenty to whinge about. They are not used to walking around barefoot, and shoes have to be removed at the temple and the palace. Maria moaned about the odd small pebble, while John went on and on about how hot the ground was where the sun had been shinning on it. The should have tried spending the day wearing a fur coat.
It was 7.00pm before we got back, shattered. I think a quiet day is called for tomorrow.

Hurray for Bollywood

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Wednesday dawned another warm and sunny day, with John going off to work and Maria and I getting up at our leisure. Still we didn’t feel too sorry for him, he was only going to do half a day.
Maria and I joined him at the office just after lunch and everyone headed off to the cinema. Maria says she is no longer happy with cinemas at home. We were in the gold class auditorium and the seats were a wonder to behold, big, soft, reclining and with waiter service!!
The film was FANTASTIC, a real visual treat, the scenery, palaces, clothing, jewellery…..all stunning to look at.
Jodhaa Akbar movie picture
We managed to follow the story pretty well, but we are looking forward to the DVD coming out with English subtitles. The story is based on history but there has been a lot of controversy about it’s accuracy. I think you just have to accept that it is 25% and 75% entertainment and just enjoy it. Much the same way as we like the 2 Elizabeth films, despite their inaccuracies.
After the cinema we all went out for a meal at a nearby restaurant.
SA team meal
I tried lots of new food but my favourite was chat ( think that is what it was called) a rather tangy snack. But the pappod was pretty good too.
Wilbeary eyeing up papads
As usual everyone wanted to talk to me and I had my photo taken with Safeena and Pauline.
Wilbeary with Pauline and Safeena
We were all pretty tired by the time we got home (well the hotel) but we’d had a good day.
Thursday, John had to work again. Maria and I were going to do a bit of shopping in the morning and then join John at work during lunchtime, so I could post on my blog (John had left his laptop at work so he wouldn’t need to try and cope with it at the cinema and the restaurant). THen in the afternoon Maria had an appointment to have a mehendi (henna tattoo) done on at least one of her hands. In the event Maria was not too well and so we stayed in until it was time to go for the mehendi. I asked if I could have one too, but I was told I would have to be shaved first, so I decided to give it a miss. I’m glad I did, it is quite complex. First you have to keep your hands still while the pattern in drawn on, and not giggle or jerk when it tickles. Then you can’t touch anything while it dries. When it dries it starts to flake off, so you’re shedding flakes of henna everywhere, almost as if you’ve got the ‘lurgy’, finnally the last bits are pretty hard to get off. The end result is pretty good though.
Maria's henna hands
Apparently it will continue to get darker for about a day and then if Maria looks after it, it will last 3/4 weeks. She can get water on it but no detergents, so she’ll have to shower and wash her hair wearing rubber gloves!!
Tomorrow we’re off to Mysore so it’s an early start.

Sound, sight and smell of India.

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Today was set up to be a shopping and photographing day. Our hired car was a little early, so we set off about 9.30. The traffic was already building up, although many shops don’t open until 10.30 – 11.00 ish. We first visited a silk warehouse, Karnataka, the state we are in is famous for silk. Maria had one problem, – what to choose – John another, – how to stop her choosing everything. In the end we came away with 3 lengths of silk for tops for Maria, and 2 for shirts for John.
Onto another silk warehouse, this one selling Mysore silk, the best in Karnataka, only government shops are allowed to sell Mysore silk. It took a long time for Maria to decide, she was only going to have one length from here (it is pretty expensive) so she chose a beautiful piece with embroidery on it. The shop has a master tailor who will make it up for her and deliver the finished top to the hotel on Thursday.
We had a few other things to buy, and we needed to find a ladies and a gentlemans tailor to make up the earlier pieces of silk. The place to go was Commercial Street. As the name suggests this street is full of shops.
Commercial street
and cars…and people…
Commercial street again
As usual you have to shout to be heard, and be pretty nifty at getting out of the way of cars and bikes. We bought a couple more lengths of fabric, cotton this time. We were also told there were many tailors down the side streets (even narrower, fuller and busier than Commercial Street)
Commercial street, third cross
Maria decided she wanted to take one of the silks back with her, the rest we split between 3 tailors, we will go back on Saturday to pick up the finished garments. The charge is 150 – 200 rupees to make a shirt or a top ( there are 80 rupees to £1)
The last thing we wanted was a leather jacket for Robert. This was a bit more difficult, this is not a leather working area so it is not easy to find shops selling leather goods. We managed to find one we hope will be OK.
Shopping out of the way, John was keen to take some photos, so we asked our driver to take us to a market. This is the market he took us to.
Street outside market
The area seemed to be mostly Muslim with a mosque off to one side of the square.
Mosque
The market hall was a veritable warren, and some people just had their goods spread out in the street.
Market scene
Street scene outside market
There were some familiar fruits and vegetables and many unfamiliar ones.
Vegetables on market stall
The most incongruous sight was the cow wandering around among the traffic, right next to the beef butchers.
Bullock outside market
Maria got John to buy me a jasmin and rose garland, to help me smell sweet. Cheek! As if I didn’t smell sweet already. Mind you it did help to mask the smell of the drains. Then back to the hotel and a nice cooling Kingfisher.
Wilbeary with jasmine garland

It’s as hard life (for some)!!

Monday, February 18th, 2008

John had to get up in good time this morning because he was going to work. Maria and I on the other hand are on holiday. So we watched him get ready and go, and then got up at our own Leisurely pace, and I mean leisurely. John had suggested we visit him at his office around 12-ish, we made it, just.
John was in a meeting, but we were well looked after by 3 ladies Hari, Jothi and Vatsala (and one gentleman, Sudarshan). The ladies do wear some beautiful clothes, and Maria was soon asking about the best places to buy clothes (like she needs any more shops to visit), she also wants to get a henna tattoo (I wonder if I could get one?).
It was generally agreed that Safeena was the best person to ask. After lunch John introduced me to the rest of the team and I had my photo taken with most of them. The lady holding me is called Rachna.
Wilbeary and the System Architect team
Don’t the ladies look great? Safeena suggested we should take the photo on Wednesday when everyone is going to be wearing their nice clothes because we are all going to the cinema and then a meal. John is taking everyone out to celebrate the release of the latest version of System Architect (something to do with his work, software or something. I don’t know much about it, but I know he’s been like a bear with a sore head recently, but apparently it’s all done and dusted.) We are going to see Jodhaa Akbar, the latest big block buster, apparently it is quite long, ie. over 3 hours. It is a historical film all about the Mughal Emperor Akbar and the Rajput princess Jodhaabai, so it should be excellent.
Maria and I then headed off shopping (again) to a mall Saffena recommended. It was enormous!! Even Maria could only manage 2 floors (out of 6) before she ran out of steam (and money). At the entrance there was a rather nice shrine.
Shrine in Guranda Mall
And a lot of security, bags etc were being searched on the way in . I don’t know if it is always like this or if there was a particular alert.
We walked back through the heat, and the crowds, and the traffic… It is on the streets we particularly notice the difference from England. For example we walked past what would best be described as a bus station.. but not as we would know it.
Waiting for a bus Bus has arrived
Safeena has suggested a couple of places to try for Maria to have a Salwar Kamees made, (one in Mysore Silk!!!) so we’re off shopping again, plus John saw a market yesterday that he is keen to take some photos of.

A thing of beauty and a joy for ever

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Well the alarm this morning wasn’t very welcome, we’re still not adjusted to India time.
We had booked a car for the day and it was ready and waiting for us when we came out of the hotel at 10.00am.
Traffic here is positively frightening. You decide where you wan’t to be and aim for it, irrespective of what evryone else is doing. At several points both Maria and I had our eyes closed. 2 buses were both aiming for the same lane and we were in the middle. Motorbikes in particular are a menace, they squeeze into the smallest space, it is compulsory for motorbike drivers to wear crash helmets, but ONLY the driver. So you see a rider with a helmet, behind him riding (side saddle) a lady in a beautiful sari, carrying a baby, neither of them with a helmet, there may also be another child, either in front of the driver, or the lady, or both. So far the most number of people we’ve seen on a bike is 5, we are on the lookout for 6.
The first place we stooped at was the remains of the Tipu Sultan Fort. There is not a lot of it left, but what there is gives some indication of it’s original splendour.
Inside Tipu Sultan Fort
There were several kids groups going round, the children seemed very interested in us and kept asking our names and where we were from. Next to the Fort there is a temple and while we were there a ceremony was taking place. Very colourful, there are some beautiful saris and shalwar khamizes around.
Temple at Tipu Sultan Fort
From there we went onto the Bull temple, this is famous, there is a VERY large statue of a bull made out of white granite, it was painted black every month. It is very old and was originaly carved and placed in the temple to appease the bull the lord Shiva rode on because a bull was ravaging the countriside around there.
Temple roof
Maria and John had to take their shoes off to go into the temple and they got some blessing blossom and a red bindi spot on their foreheads for good luck. They looked a bit strange to me.
We then moved onto the Botanical Gardens which are enormous, but luckily there is a tour in an electric car. It was fascinating, I’ve always wanted to know what a banyan tree looks like. Even the benches were beautiful.
Wilbeary in Botanical gardens
Some of the pavilions dotted around were being renovated. The scaffolding and ladders are a wonder to behold
Wonky ladders in Botanical gardens
Our last landmark to visit was the summer palace of the Maharaja of Mysore. A beautful place in need of a lot of restoration. Apparently the Maharaja who built it saw Winsor castle and was very influenced by it.
Bangalore Palace
There were preparations for a wedding, including covering the gateway with flowers, truly fantastic.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a Kashmiri collective shop. John wishes we hadn’t. He didn’t mind the painted eggs or the soapstone elephant but Maria fell in love with a silk embroidered throw, apparently ‘A thing of beauty and a joy for ever’. John reckons at that price it had better last for ever. He still bought it for her of course. As he says it’s a good job he’s off to work tomorrow, at least Maria won’t be able to persuade him to buy anything and enable him to earn some money.

Slept in this morning

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

We woke up at about 11:30 in the morning – well it is only 6:00 am at home. Maria dragged me out for a stroll in the midday heat – she had a hat but did she think of me? John took some ‘arty’ photos from a street barrow.
Fruit stall
We’ve no idea what the fruit is, but John bought one ‘to be polite’. We tried it later and we still have no idea what it is. A bit bland with VERY hard seeds.
Maria then spent ages looking at materials in a store – you would have thought she had never seen dress material before!! John took us to a shop he usually uses ‘Cauvery’ – where various crafts people sell their wares. Maria bought a wall hanging, some bags, some sandelwood things and some metal bowls – John spent the whole time muttering about not spending all of our money at the first place we can find (and then bought himself a walking stick). All I got was an elephant. After all of this I was a bit tired so I asked if we could go back to the hotel. There was no pavement so we walked in the road and through a petrol station. Apparently pavement are ‘optional’. Maria kept panicking about the motorbikes, only a couple of them actually brushed against her. Mind you, you do take your life in your hands whenever you cross the road. John spotted some scaffolding – wooden!!!
Scaffolding
When we got back to the hotel John collapsed in a chair in the bar and ordered a beer, so Maria and I joined him and I had a very cold Kingfisher beer and some nuts. Bliss.
Wilbear enjoys a beer
Tomorrow we’re hiring a car for the day and going sightseeing. Only £17 a day for a driver and air conditioned car.

Blimey, it’s a long way

Friday, February 15th, 2008

So, it was up at some ungodly hour in the morning, I didn’t get my eyes open until we were on the plane to Paris, Maria kept passing comments about ‘It’s OK for those who get carried everywhere’. She got even more whingey in Paris, our flight to Paris was delayed but our flight to Bangalore was on time, and the 2 gates were miles apart, so it was a bit of a rush. I just happened to remark I didn’t realise she could walk so fast and for so long. You should have heard what she said to me, luckily she was pretty out of breath.
We got to check in on time, where we were told we had been given an upgrade, only one, not 2. I was obviously going to travel business class, but who to choose to accompany me? Maria put some heavy pressure on John together with the check in lady, who suggested he should led ‘madame’ travel business class, it being so close to Valentines. So we were off down the special corridor for special people while John headed for ‘cattle’ class. Wonder how long he’ll keep reminding us about it.
A very pleasant journey, well looked after and comfy, the only way to travel.
We eventually arrived in Bangalore in the middle of the night (blimey, it’s a long way), from the noise and the crowds you’d have thought it was the middle of the day. We had to fight off (literally) the porters who desperately wanted to help (in the expectation of a tip) and find our way out of the airport. Every time John comes here they have added something extra to the airport. He’d told us they now had 2 skyways before we came, this was fine until Claire suggested that while one end would be connected to the plane, the other end would just have a ladder. Maria is not good with ladders (and that’s a BIG understatement), luckily there was an escalator. The whole airport does rather have the look of a place being bought bit by bit at bankruptcy auctions, it mostly works but is cobbled together from bits.
The taxi ride was ‘interesting’, red lights are purely decorative and cars and motorbikes don’t work unless you’re pressing the horn. Maria and I had to close our eyes and pray a few times. But we made it to the hotel. It seems lovely, very friendly staff and nice rooms. We loved the gateman and doorman’s uniform.
Doorman at Gateway hotel
Now for some sleep and some serious shopping tomorrow.