The Flybus from Bangalore took four hours and we were picked up in Mysore at the bus station. The parking area was underground and we were amazed at the number of motorbikes in the parking area. We couldn’t imagine how anyone could find their bike ever again.
We decided to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary early and in style so we stayed for three nights in the Dupleix suite at the Lalitha Mahal Palace hotel, a beautiful turn of the century palace built exclusively for the then Viceroy of India. In 1974 it was turned into a hotel. We had an enormous lounge dining area and a large bedroom, balcony and bathroom upstairs. It was a pity we didn’t have anyone to come for a party. It was slightly on the outskirts of Mysore so very quiet except for the lavish wedding which took place for a day and a half while we were there. It was an incredible affair with the whole place transformed with a large platform in front of the hotel adorned with thousands of flowers and the gardens were taken over with fairy lights,large tents serving food cooked in another large tent and seating for about 500 people in front of the platform and at tables and chairs dotted throughout the garden. The saturday night reception took place outside. Inside the hotel there were more floral displays along the staircase and at the entrance to the hotel. About 7pm the guests started to arrive and they lined up to meet the couple who stood in front of the cameras and as each group were greeted they had their photo taken with the bride and groom before adjourning to the gardens to have their meal. We watched some of the proceedings but went to the beautiful dining room for a quiet dinner.
The very loud Indian band started up the next morning at 7am for the preparations for the wedding ceremony in the banqueting hall which was directly below us.
They started the proceedings about 9am and these went on for a few hours with the groom then ushered outside to a small temple set up with priests and onlookers and even a drone taking pictures while the bride was involved in a ceremony with one of the hindu priests. She then joined her husband on the altar inside and the final wedding rites took place. There were many photographers and a professional video company presiding over the entire ceremony. By mid afternoon we were surprised to hear that the couple had already left to have more celebrations at home in Bangalore which was a four hour drive away and a lot of the decorations were already coming down. By Monday morning the entire palace and gardens were back to normal and you wouldn’t have known anything had taken place. It was quite amazing to experience the wedding from the sidelines.
We lazed by the pool on the Sunday for a couple of hours and were the only guests there which was lovely. Back in our suite the reception called and asked us to close the balcony doors as there were monkeys around and they were afraid that one would come into the room.
Mysore Palace was only lit up on a Sunday night for 2hours so we took a rickshaw and walked around the carneval like atmosphere with thousands of locals to see the lights and listen to the brass band. We then went to dinner at ‘Gufha’ restaurant at the ‘Pai Vista’ hotel which we had been to once before and enjoyed immensely. It is like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Several rooms have been transformed into caves with African like statues and the seating is done in zebra motifs as are the plates. The little Indian waiters are dressed as hunters complete with pith helmets and bandana and look quite strange. The food there was excellent and very reasonable.
After another lazy day we booked a car for 4pm and drove out to the Brindavan Botanical gardens about an hour away. The gardens are divided by a dam where you could take a short boat ride to the other side or walk across the connecting bridge. The Royal Orchid hotel on one side was also a former palace. The musical fountains which were the highlight, started after sunset on the other side of the dam in the gardens and it was fun to watch them to Indian music with thousands of other Indians.
We were the only foreign tourists there. We unfortunately were stuck in a traffic jam on the bridge leading out of the gardens for an hour and we had left early but in true Indian style there was no one directing traffic with half of the bridge ripped up. We had a late dinner back at the hotel and a leisurely morning on Monday 29th November before being picked up at 12noon for the three hour ride up to our Ayurvedic retreat in the mountains at Udayagiri in Wayanad.
We were surprised to see the horse and carriage outside the hotel on the Monday morning as we thought it was brought in for the wedding but it belonged to the Lalitha Palace hotel and was from the turn of the century. For $2 each we decided to have a ride around the grounds never having been in a carriage before and surprisingly it was quite a comfortable ride as the carriage was well sprung.
We detoured to a ‘Cafe Coffee Day’ to have my last coffee for a month and they could not change my 2000ruppee note and nor could the hotel or restaurant nearby. Luckily a tour operator overheard me and changed my note for 100rupee notes. We went further along the road and managed to get 2000rupees (the maximum that you could get in one transaction) Most Indians and tourists were complaining because many businesses did not accept credit cards and most did also not have change for the 2000rupee note which was all that most of the ATM’s were issuing. They all had signs advising that you could only take out 2000rupees at a time but I found one ATM without a queue where I could insert my card several times to get some more cash. Indians in general were not happy with Prime Minister Modi’s demonetization which took place overnight by refusing to accept any 500 or 1000 rupee note. This was in his view a way to stop black money and many very rich people who had bags of the notes even burnt them to save prosecution. The ordinary people with little cash could go to a bank and exchange their money for 100rupee notes or coin but those with vast sums that didn’t equate to their earnings were up for prosecution. One politician was found with over 9,000,000rupees in bags in his car. We were glad that we were going to be in the Ayurvedic centre for a month and not have the problems of getting change. In the demonetisation move the 1000 and 500 rupee notes were no longer going to be used or issued. They had to be changed at a bank before the 30th December.
Only a new 500 rupee note was going to replace the old one and the 1000 rupee note was abolished.
We left for Udayagiri on the 29th November for one months’s treatment and we were looking forward to it. Maurice for the maintenance for his Rheumatoid Arthritis and me the usual weight management. The retreat has grown since we started going there five years ago and some changes are good but we both feel it was nicer with a smaller group of people. When we arrived there were fourteen people here, 3 from Alaska, 2 Germans, 2 French, 1 Slovakian, 2 Dutch, a guy from Mumbai, Sarah from England (who was my walking partner) and us. They were a pretty good bunch.
The staff had also grown but there were many familiar faces and they gave us a lovely surpise party for our 25th wedding anniversary on the 7th December, complete with an eggless black forest cake and we danced around a lovely fire. The manager even gave us a fun mug with our pictures and one of his family.
The biggest surprise was getting a lovely note and flowers from Craig, Maurice’s son and Yuko his lovely wife.
Our daily schedule was the same starting with yoga but earlier at 6am which was a bit of a struggle especially for the couple of days that it was raining and very dark. We had an hour’s treatment – usually pounding with medicated pouches or medicated powder rubs and some not so pleasant procedures to rid the body of toxins but it worked for us so we don’t complain.
I went for my daily walks down and up the mountain shedding 7kilos in the process about which I was very happy. The retreat’s cows were always out and about with their keepers and they were docile enough to be patted. They have such lovely faces. Some giant squirrels made a lot of noise flying from one tree to another and eating the wild figs. The monkeys were also around but scattered as soon as anyone approached. The locals were also about taking their goats to feed or collecting wood for the night. Life is very simple there for many people.
I had always admired one of the plantation owner’s house and garden from his driveway and happened to meet him outside one day. He invited two of us to come and see his garden. We went the next day and admired his amazing garden where he had every type of flower and fruit tree and luckily his property had a spring so he had plenty of water.
We decided to go to midnight mass, a very lengthy affair and all in Malayalam, the local language. Maurice was given a chair as were many of the oldies! but I sat cross legged, getting up and down from the rough coir matting floor. Most of the congregation brought presents which were then distributed to the children after the mass and the cakes that many brought were cut up and shared with cups of tea.
We will miss the staff especially the ones we have got close to like Martha, the only older cleaning ladies who brought us flowers from her garden every day. She was sobbing the day we left which was very touching but we assured her that we would see her again.
We left heavy hearted on the 29th December for the 3hour pleasant drive to Mysore, had a delicious vegetarian lunch at the quirky ‘Gufha’ restaurant and then caught the ‘Flybus’ to Bangalore for the night staying at the ‘Tranzotel’ before flying to Chennai the next day. Our flight was delayed due to thick fog for two hours.