Saturday, 19 April 2014

Miss posting

The latest posting of Cochin is hidden under Mysore. To see it please scroll to the bottom of the Mysore posting and select Older Posts, on the right hand side, hopefully you will then be able to view it.

Sunday, 6 April 2014


I was pleased to arrive in Mysore, which is situated at 2,000 feet altitude. Cooler than Goa and Hampi. It is known as the City of Palaces, which lends it a quaint charm, but also enchants. Famous festivals, a major yoga centre, pilgrimages. A very well-endowed area with large public gardens and particularly attractive to me because of the large number of huge, shady trees. When it became really hot after lunch. I used to go and lie in the shade of some of these trees and cool in lush green grass. The Kingdom of Mysore was ruled by the same dynasty for 500 years. They were great patrons of the arts and culture. Famous for the introduction of the silk sari, the area is also the world capital of silk and sandalwood. Masala dosa serves with chutney is a popular breakfast here, served with chutney. Filter coffee is the preferred beverage here, most of India put up with Nescafé.Rice is the staple food and like so much of the country brown rice cannot be found. Betel leave are chewed after lunch. Tourism zips the major industry, followed by sandalwood carving, weaving and bronze work. When I was last here, in 1970, I bought a box made from sandalwood and it still has that wonderful scent. 20 % of the population is Moslem. One is made awarded of this by the number of shops that sell meat and restaurants that have meat on the menu. There has also been a major growth in the information industry of recent.

The world famous palace, second only to the Taj Mahal, was a disappointment on my daytime visit owing to having to walk around it in bare feet, photographs were also not supposed to be taken. Foreigners pay 10 times the price for entry. My feet got blistered from walking on the hot concrete. Once again it was designed by a British architect. The opulence was astonishing, with lots of Ivory, a collection of silver thrones, massive pillars in many of the massive rooms, covered in gold leaved and painted in what to us may seem garish colours.  

Stained glass roof panels in one of the pillared chambers of Mysore Palace

A pillared room in the Palace at Mysore

Ornate painted and fluted pillars in a huge room of the Palace

More pillars holding up the stained glass ceiling dome at the Palace

Very ornate Throne Room

Dried fish in Mysore Market

One of the many palaces that dot the city

sacks of different varieties of chillies in the market

spices delicately displayed

St Philomena's Basilica, Mysore 

North Gate of the Palace

One of the many silk emporiums in Mysore

Night light display of Mysore Palace

Front view of the Palace

North Gate at night

Side view

                                                             70 pence thali meal

Islamic Mosque in the multi-cultured city

Genial Shia patriarch 

A place to chill out on a hot afternoon

                                               Muslim meat shop in a vegetarian city     

Cochin and Kuzhuppilli Beach

Kerala has many claims. The first one is the earliest traces of DNA outside of Africa have been found here, dating from more than 15,000 years ago, according to Michael Wood's book, "the Story of India", also seen as a BBC TV series. It's second claim to fame is that it has had a communist government for many years and has the highest level of general education in India, this has resulted in the least amount of disparity in wealth of any part of India. Also, I found them to be the most placid, helpful and kind within the continent. The Kerala coastline is very susceptible to change, with new shores out of sandbars, which over time become long strands of dry land, with tranquil backwaters forming behind, where locals fish daily just before dawn for their evening meal. There is a Jewish community which dates from at least Roman times, coming from the Basra region of Iraq. Pepper, a weed, was what first enticed the Romans and Greeks here. Hence the start of the Spice Route to Europe (pepper and rice are Tamil words). The cost of importing spices was a huge drain on the Roman economy.

Lungi country, this is a sort of long skirt that tucks in at the waist when not around the ankles. Big black bikes, bare feet and no obesity. I was back on an old Hercules, one of which I had as a lad. I stayed in the fishing village of Kuzupilly, which turned out to be the most relaxing time that I can ever remember. Sitting on the beach watching and hearing the waves touch the shore and hear the undertow of the retreating water. After fishing for the day the boats were hauled up and beached to dry out. Most houses seemed to have a small wooden canoe which were used on the backwaters to catchy he evening meal. Kuzhuppilly is set on a long sandbank next to the Arabian Sea.

The picture with the four instruments are mouth harps, also known as Jew's harp and jaws harp. He had help to organise a festival for the instruments. He was a virtuoso and he put me onto other players on YouTube. Later I was to meet a Brazillian who has been travelling around the world over the past four years on a Cannondale with disc brakes. When travelling I seem to meet the most amazing and interesting people. All sit around at night entertaining each other with stories. It is great to be accepted by these young folks. Brits are the worst for "blanking" me.

Sunrise over Kuzhuppilly

My guest house, Sand Castle, run by a German-Indian 

The therapy of a lazy sea

Sand Castle

Beached fishing boats between outings

Sunset and time for a sundowner (tea for me)

Shaded social area to doze and socialise at

Four different design of mouth harps

Lazy relaxation to waving palm fronds

Lungi wearers

Thes spiders web nets are used in the backwaters and were introduced by Chinese 
Immigrants centuries ago

My hammock and net beautiful in the night breeze in the 

Eating in the local cafe. I have never perfected the hand to mouth route, I am far better at the foot in the mouth manner

Small fish being sun dried for preservation

The cool scene outside the village cafe, restaurant

Ooty and the Nilgiri Hills

Ooty (Ootamacund) also known as Udagamandalam in the local language, Tamil. It is situated in the Nilgiri Hills  at over 7,000 feet in Southern India. It is a bustling small town of Indian scruffiness, temples and in its outskirts it has charming parks and gardens and large bungalows which were built in the time of the Raj, when it was established as the summer headquarters of the Madras Government (now Chennai). In the early 19 century. It is famous for its narrow gauge mountain railway which ascends from the coast. There have been changes since my last visit here more than 40 years ago. Then it consisted of just two carriages and a steam engine, this has now given away to 6 carriages and a Diesel engine. It is a hair raising ride. Embankments and bridges drop away from the edge of the rail without rails, or walls. 

I ascended the Nilgiris on a bus from the plains on its west. The bus driver gave a master class in driving skills up through the numerous hairpin bends. His deft handling and judgment was a a pleasure to observe as I sat behind him.

Ooty is also referred to as the "Queen of the Hill Stations", and also "Blue Heaven", owing to the blue haze, which rises from the blue gum trees (eucalyptus). There is the remains of a racecourse, there also used to be a pack of hounds used for hunting.

A Brit brought some tea seeds from China in the 1830's. This has resulted in the only significant local industry, tea growing, which is a major employer and export business for India. The tea is mainly green, which is crushed, torn and curled by machine and then chopped, to end up in tea bags. I managed to acquire some choice first flush, single estate, hand selected, white tea on a visit to an estate.

Probably as a reaction to supermarket packaged and plastic wrapped food in the UK that I love to wander around local markets, which also allow local enterprise. To choose ones own food, in the UK one is not allowed to touch, and inspect in spite of the "choice" mantra, there is not real choice.

Looking west after ascending the Nilgiri Hills

A car had just crashed on the corner in the foreground, brake failure. 

One of the massive tea processing machines

Yet another 70 pence vegetarian thali

One of my favourite trees, whose night time aroma I remember from living in Lusaka, 
The jacaranda which has a most attractive colour

View of a tea estate plantation

One of the old steam trains used on the Mountain Railway from the coast

A lovely, friendly fruit and vegetable retailer near to my hotel

Railway sign for Ooty

Ooty Market

This is the bus I left on with the door taped open. When I am reincarnated
I want to come back to India as a health and safety officer in order to make
A fortune taking bribes.

View from the train window of eucalyptus trees

Ooty perched on the side of a hill. Lovely painted houses