Volumes have already been recorded about the magnificence of Mysore, the land of spices, silk and sandalwood, as the word goes, and should you want to plan a quick trip to this lovely little town just about 150 kms from Bangalore, the internet will indubitably offer an overdose of information. Yet, there is something so magical about the place that it warranted a log of sorts in our little nook here.
Mysore is a small town that is a perfect mix of old world charm and green-thumbed innovation, an ideal weekend getaway when the city life gets too much with you. If you’re driving, make sure you’ve stocked up on a variety of pickings and plenty of water for the road, and also be prepared for heavy traffic up until Bidadi if you leave home after 8 am and especially if it’s a long weekend, which could feel cumbersome as you worm your way out at a snail’s pace. The standard eating pit-stops are Kamat Lokaruchi a little past Ramanagara, MTR after Channapatna and Adiga’s near Maddur. Maddur vada is a hot favourite that will manifest in almost all the eateries.
If, however, you prefer to sit back and bury yourself into the folds of gripping page-turners or lose yourself in day dreams, then the train – the Shatabdi in particular – is your life line. Just hop on board and thumb through your books or take a little nap, and you’ll be in Mysore before you know it. The Shatabdi gets you there in just two hours!
Where to stay:
There are numerous stay options in Mysore, and while the plush interiors of star hotels might seem alluring to some, some others would prefer low-key homestays, known for their simplicity and unpretentious bearing. We, on the other hand, chose a heritage hotel, an erstwhile palace – Chittaranjan palace (can’t beat that when in Mysore, can you?) called The Green Hotel, which was worth every penny in the wallet, especially given that all profits go to charities and environmental initiatives. A charming, quaint hotel with Victorian undertones in every pillar and post, it is dotted with antique furniture, well-tended green alcoves both inside and outside to take refuge in, and houses a well-appointed library at the back, too. The sprawling garden with white furniture and exquisite, paisley-printed table linen is the perfect spot to sit and enjoy your morning coffee and breakfast spread, which is a lovely combination of South Indian fare and Continental bites, or evening cup of tea, with a comely line of fresh-off-the-oven nibbles from the bakery tucked into the back of the hotel, which is also the face of the delightful Malgudi Cafe.
What to see:
The sights of Mysore are many, and they’re bound to enthrall you from the word go. If you intend to squeeze as many of them in during your visit, your itinerary would probably be a round up of all the standard places of interest spelled out in the books. If you’d rather have a leisurely visit and soak in the culture of the city, here’s a list that could be useful:
Jaganmohan Palace & Art Gallery
A big collection of musical instruments used by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV.
(Photography is prohibited inside the gallery)
The Mysore Palace
A golf cart tour of the palace grounds and the spectacular sound and light show in the evening, recounting the stories that broke and made the kingdom, complemented by the dazzle of a thousand lights.
A panoramic view of the city.
St. Philomena’s Cathedral
The Gothic architectural magnificence of the cathedral is a highlight all on its own, not to mention the tall twin spires that scrape against the sky.
We definitely squealed over the lions and cheetahs, the too-tall giraffe and the peculiar sleep-standing birds, like the Sarus Crane, for one.
Highlight: Winged friends, especially the peacocks, in the walk-through aviary.
R.K. Narayan’s House
Everything about R.K. Narayan’s house is a significant part of the overall experience, right from the photographs to the accoutrements on display..which tell many stories about the greatness of the writer and the humility of the human being that was R.K. Narayan. It was a surreal experience to get a glimpse into his life and to go down memory lane with snippets of Malgudi Days adorning the walls that once housed its creator. A wonderful initiative by the City Corporation..and it gets a big thumbs up from us!
Mysore offers an eclectic mix of traditional food halls and fancy hole-in-the-wall cafés. Here’s the Tadka hot list of eats and eateries you must try when in Mysore:
Hotel Original Vinayaka Mylari:
Benne Masala Dosa and filter coffee – no second thoughts about this one!
Depth ‘n Green:
Choose from a range of pastas, smoothies and vegan desserts, or just opt for the homely vegetarian thali that comes with a delicious Indian sweet – we had gasa-gase payasa or poppy seed/ khus khus kheer in coconut cream, which was lapped up to the last drop.
Sandwiches are a surefire hit here, if you ask us, and so is the caramel custard, which is curiously unique.
The Old House:
With delectable wood-fired pizzas and desserts, this is a favourite that scores big for both ambience and service.
The Green Hotel/ Malgudi Cafe:
The Green Hotel serves a kingly breakfast on the house, and the a la carte menu for lunch and dinner is rather comprehensive, too. A special recommendation would be the pastries and breads from Malgudi Cafe, particularly the carrot cake.
It’s hard to say good bye to this beautiful little town, which bears the seductive seal of romanticism in its laid-back appeal, offering a rich tapestry of sights, sounds and smells, to the weary-eyed city slicker. As the refrain goes..”Nammooru Mysuru,” everyone feels at home in Mysore and no one can just visit once.
Go to Mysore to experience the magical world of Maharajas. A world that comes alive every step of the way, in the streets and walls that house big monuments. And in the way you get treated by the locals, if you were to stop and ask a question, or just listen as they tell you stories of a glorious past, and hum a notable tune or two, set to the rhythm of regal, Godly yesterdays.
If you want to experience Mysore Dasara in all its chaotic liveliness, you should probably plan at least a month ahead. But there’s nothing quite like clocking into this fascinating little town before the frenzy takes over (or perhaps after it has died down), when you can have all the serenity and space that you possibly can, with visitors that are few and far between.