Mysore was the only place from my 2001 trip that I had chosen to revisit (I don’t count the night I’d need to spend in Chennai before catching a plane to Colombo), but I planned a couple of stops on the way. Although I’d really like to visit Dharamsala, headquarters of the Dalai Lama, this shaped up as a south Indian trip, and I was saving the whole north west for a separate visit (wouldn’t want that ten-year visa to go to waste), but I discovered a Tibetan refugee settlement, Bylakuppe, on the northern route from Coorg. Then I remembered a brief glimpse of the illuminated fountains at Brindavan Gardens, 20 kms outside Mysore, at the end of an exhausting day tour arranged by the local Tourist Development Corporation, and wanted a longer look.
Dilip organized a car and driver for me, although after we set off I had to insist that we were going via Madikeri and Bylakuppe, instead of taking the direct route – why do I keep having trouble with Indian drivers??? Lonely Planet had been dismissive of Madikeri, the largest town in Coorg, and I agreed with the author – not a place to spend longer than it takes to admire the view from the Raja Seat. The main temple at Bylakuppe, on the other hand, is quite impressive, although, obviously, new.
Commandingly sited at the end of an avenue, with a huge picture of the Dalai Lama dominating the facade, it’s surrounded by accommodation for the monks. The frescoes are crisp, the Buddha statues golden, the decorations elaborate and the marble floors a pleasure to walk on barefoot. The cafe where I ate lunch proved rather less clean and bright, but at least I didn’t get sick. I was interested to see a group of young women in blue saris, escorted by white-clad nuns, also visiting the temple and eating in the same cafe.
After lunch we sped towards Mysore on a four-lane divided highway (where I noticed that, just as in North Carolina, slow-moving traffic hogged the fast lane) before turning off onto bad back roads to reach the Royal Orchid Brindavan Gardens. This was a splurge, although less of a one than I feared thanks to an internet special rate. I was very amused by the hotel, where it seemed only two other rooms were taken, and which was all faded elegance and colonial grandeur. I thoroughly enjoyed my balcony overlooking the gardens, my big bed and easy chair, and my well-equipped bathroom, although I was less than happy with the pricey wifi and disastrous breakfast.
The hotel’s Elephant Bar had plenty of elephant heads (not real ones), but was quite unable to provide me with a gin and tonic. All they had was gin premixed with some kind of orange drink! I took a look at the fountains from the bar, before going down to enjoy them close up. Good thing I hadn’t waited any longer, as the lights were turned off quite early. I suspect that there is a more elaborate display on weekends, which explained my cheap hotel rate, but I was quite happy and feel no need to go back again.