Saturday 17 August 2019

August update

July - We had guests

Max and Milo enjoyed their summer holiday and it was mainly spent playing with their friends who had stayed here in Bangalore. In mid July, their cousins came.( Freddie, 6, Amy, 9, their mum Claire, and her mum, Diane (Granny)
After a few days of recovering from the jet lag, as they went a night without sleep, we spent time by the pool and exploring the local area. 

We went on a tuk tuk tour around the city centre. 

We had to be in the city centre for 8am which meant leaving the house at 7am. There were 5 very smart tuk tuks waiting for us at a rendezvous.

The first stop was the Tipu Sultan's Palace. Guru, our guide, was a knowledgeable young man and he gave us a quick lesson in India history and how the palace came to be built .

Then we went to the temple next door. On the way in, the ladies got a small basket that contained a coconut, bananas, flowers, sweet basil and incense. You also have to remove your shoes and walk barefoot. At this point you mustn't sniff the flowers or basil because they will lose their power!

Inside the temple there were lots of gods and goddesses all over the place and the children were sent off on a mission to count them all.
Meanwhile, Guru explained as simply as he could how and why Hindus worship so many different deities. The children returned with different totals which was quite amusing. 

We then moved inside the temple to join in with a blessing. We gave our baskets to the priest who gave the coconut and bananas to the statue of the God ( I can't remember which one it was). He cracked the coconut open and poured the milk as an offering. We stood in two lines, girls on one side and boys on the other facing each other, each line behind a string line. The priest can then move freely up and down. 
The priest then started chanting and moved along the line of people (about 15 of us at that point) and asked each person their name. He chanted a "song" including the name given. Then he moved to the next person and repeated the chant but with their name. We were all proud of Amy, who is painfully shy, because she volunteered her name by herself. It was quite unnerving in this temple because it was very ornate with silver cladding and idols and with a strong of incense.
The priest then got a silver plate that has a small lit diva candle on it. As it comes to you, you waft the flame towards you and cover your face with a sweeping motion. you then put money on the plate and then you leave. 
As all this is going other people join in or leave. It seems very chaotic but at the same time ordered because this is how Hindus pray. They don't spend a long time in services. We then got the basket back with blessed bananas and opened coconut, which is put in a bag to take home.

Outside the Tipu Sultan's Palace.

Our next stop was the market. Oh my goodness me! We knew it was going to be challenging when Guru said, "whatever you do, don't let go of the children!"
We had one child each and walked into the fruit and vegetable market. There were lots and lots of vegetables and fruit in measured portions laid out in bowls on the floor.  There are no stalls as such, just the floor and the vendors sit crossed legged. It was rather smelly, busy and loud and the dead rat in the middle of one of the alleyways was rather off-putting, to say the least. But the market was colourful and interesting to see.

The fruit market leads inside to the flower market. Claire is a florist in the UK and so she was fascinated and so were we all. The smell was wonderful. There was a central area with sacks and sacks of flower heads that are sold by weight. 
Here, women sit weaving flowers into hair clips (that can be seen being worn by Indian women in their pony tails). All the ladies had flowers put into our hair and the jasmine was very strong and sweet.

Off the central area are lots of small corridors and down each corridor are booths with benches in. The sacks of flowers are taken to the booths and there are men ( no women ) weaving flowers for weddings and temple displays. The men sit crossed legged on the benches and so they are at eye level as you walk along. Luckily, it was not too hot ( 29) but in the height of summer, I dread to think what it is like with no air circulation and only standing fans. Claire was fascinated about how they managed to keep the flowers looking so fresh in the heat. 

Above the flower market, there were other levels where pots, pans, candles, coloured powder, and all kinds of spices can be bought. We decided that holding on to the children was becoming too much for them and so skipped this bit of the market. Our friend Joeline and her sister in law had come with us too and she often goes to this market as everything is such good value. So, we need to return....

We jumped back into the tuk tuks and sped off again. This time we were dropped off in a busy street to go and see how silk is produced for sarees. We walked in single file and it was a real road awareness test because the road was narrow and there are no traffic rules. There motorbikes, tuk tuks and cars all trying to go up and down the one way!

Unfortunately the silk dying rooms were not working. They use wood fired huge "cooking pots" to put the silk into. We looked inside and stared at all the silks that had been already dyed in their bright vivd colours. The sarees production looms were closed too and so we will need to go again to see this. After this, we followed Guru down a tiny side street where traffic couldn't go and hidden behind some very tiny houses was a dosa restaurant. Dosa is like a pancake but made from rice flour. Properly made they are very moorish. This little dosa place was amazing and the dosas were excellent. 

The  busy street. You can see Claire and Amy with the flowers in their hair.

All of us waiting for our dosas. You sit on the benches not at tables.

After our snacks, we set off walking again to find the tuk tuks. 
The next stop was St. Andrew's Kirk ( it was a church of Scotland church until 1959) The organist and a violinist were still there and played their instruments for us. 

We then went to a cemetery for another blessing. Usually Hindus are cremated but there is a section of society that are discriminated against because of the caste system. These people, known as Dalits, or untouchables have to buried and not cremated ( I hope I"m getting this information correct it was told to us quite quickly ....)
Amongst the graves is a temple and (I think..) the Dalits are only allowed to be associated with one goddess. We went into the temple and walked around the Goddess whose statue was in a lying position. There were lots of locks that had been locked onto a frame and the keys taken. People lock their fears or curses (?) into the locks and take the key so it can't be unlocked. 

We then went outside to be blessed. This involved a lady with very long unwashed and uncombed hair waving a courgette/ cucumber over our heads. She then passed an egg over our bodies and then broke the egg on a spike. The smell in this area was awful ..... there were some goats and chickens at the side ready for sacrifice too... but we went before we could see any of this.

While we there lots of the local people came to shake our hands.

This was nearly the end of the tour and it was now 2 o'clock! We were truly puffed out. We went back to where the cars were which were parked next to the Hard rock Cafe. Chips, burgers and ice cold drinks all round...

We finally got home at 6 after our meal and the traffic filled journey home. 


Kevin the teenager (Max) was not happy the next morning when we all had to get up at 5 to set off for Mysore. The problem with Bangalore is that it is so big (12.5 million)  and to get across the city it can take at least 2 hours. Then you have to start the next part of the journey.
We had two cars and another driver, Arjun's friend, Dayalan, because there were 8 of us and the car can accommodate 8 (but including the driver). This meant we had a quiet car and a noisy one. Poor Arjun was allocated the noisy one. Milo insisted on singing nearly all the way. He made up songs with Amy and Freddie about mosquitoes and played music. Although Arjun said the songs did keep him entertained. ( but for 4 hours though?! )

A temple we visited near Mysore to break the journey and let Arjun have some peace and quiet.

We stopped at the Radisson Blu in Mysore. After checking in our rooms at about 11.30, we had a family picnic in one of the rooms ( laughing cow sandwiches, wraps and crisps. Yum!) 

Then we were off to see Mysore Palace. It is a very ornate and fancy palace.

The Maharajah, who still lives in the palace, keeps elephants that are used for a procession every year in October. They also work in the forest. They were loosely chained. This was a bit concerning but the mahout said that the elephants are on display for a short time and were just about to go for their bath and to be set free to roam and the chains mean they don't wander off into public places. He said would we like to get on an elephant ? Claire said she would. I'm so pleased she had trousers on! The elephant puts its leg out so that the person climbing can start to climb up but these elephants are very big and very powerful because of the weight they have to carry for the procession. Claire was struggling to climb up so the mahout quickly shoved her unceremoniously up by her bottom so she could get on. The mahout then grabbed Freddie and kind of threw him up on the elephant. After a few photos it was time to come down. It was easy for Freddie but not for Claire. Another touchy, feely session and she was down!

While we were at the palace, several people stopped us to ask us where we were from. I think we were the only people there from outside India. This meant we had lots of photos taken and you can see in the above photo some ladies showering Freddie and Milo with kisses. They were with their family from Delhi and Milo and Freddie got to meet them all. It really is strange all the photo taking that goes on when they seem "white" people. 


We stopped in the same hotel as we did last year and it is right next to the river. After a 2 hour journey from Mysore we checked in and went swimming. We decide that would go on the boat safari in the afternoon at 3:30pm.  The boat trip is tranquil and calm. We saw lots of birds, 3 enormous crocodiles ( we got really close) and some wild elephants. One tusker (boy) was washing his food in the river at the water's edge .

After 3 hours we came back and had a welcome cup of coffee and a biscuit before we changed for our evening meal .

We were up early again the next day ( at 5) to get the jeep and then the open sided bus to go on the jungle safari. This is the safari that's a bit like wacky races. The drivers drive like maniacs and there are no seat belts. Also the seats are made from a slippery fake leather so with each fast corner you slide around. The only way to keep in your seat is to try and grip the back of the seat in front. The other downside is that are no toilets and its bumpy and 3 hours long!

Once in the tiger reserve, the drivers like to bump everyone down the uneven tracks, their only aim in life is finding a tiger.

We also went on another safari in the afternoon so I'll just combine what we saw. We came across a mother and a young baby and another female elephant. The mother was not pleased to see us and raised her trunk, stamped her feet and made an incredibly loud noise to warn us off. At this point, Milo started crying. We were about 20 feet away in an open sided bus. We had to just tell Milo to cry quietly. 

Coincidently, a few days after we got back, there was a video clip of the tiger reserve across the river where an elephant charged one of the buses and smashed the windscreen as it charged so I think we were rather naive as we were watching thinking nothing could go wrong. 

Luckily, it didn't and it was magical watching the baby suckle milk from its mother . After this encounter, we set off searching for tigers when we came across a wild sloth bear. The guides were so excited as these are very difficult to see. The bear was quite startled by us and ran back into the forest.

We had stopped to look for the bear when the driver got a message on his walkie talkie that 4 tigers had been spotted round the corner from us. He quickly put the bus in reverse, the guide yelled for everyone to hold on, and we drove backwards down the road. ( we back on the reserve main road) Then, still in reverse, we went over a huge speed bump. Freddie went up into the air and fell on the floor. I managed to pull him back on his seat and held on to him while the driver spun the bus so that we could go forwards. 
Meanwhile, Milo had stopped crying and was now laughing at the excitement of the journey.
Unfortunately, we just missed the tigers as they had disappeared back into the jungle. By now it was raining and as there are no windows we were getting soaking wet as the rain rolled off the roof and in.
By the time we returned we were really tired but elated at seeing the animals.

Dubare Elephant camp

The next day, we  travelled to the next place where the elephant camp is based.

It is the monsoon season and it decided to rain but not too heavily. We crossed the river in a small boat and we were greeted by our guide . The elephants had been in the forest and because it was raining they were very muddy. The guide couldn't wait for us to get in to the water to wash the elephants. 

Th elephants are amazingly gentle considering some of them have previously killed people. They were wild elephants that had gone "rogue". They are captured and brought to the elephant camp to be trained. If there was no camp the elephants would be destroyed. A few days go, a wild elephant had killed a forest worker fairly close by and other forest rangers took some of the elephants from the camp to capture the killer elephant and he was taken to the camp to be trained.

At one point there were 11 elephants being washed or waiting to be washed . We were surrounded by them. 

It really is a wonderful experience to do this and what is more wonderful is the fact that the elephant's come first. If they want to go they can. While we were waiting in the river for them, the first two had decided to stop for some food, no one rushed them - we had to wait for them. They really are respected animals at the camp.

After 2 hours, the elephants go back into the forest to forage on their own and to be free so we went to get changed ( we were covered in elephant water and pooh!)

We had some lunch ( very nice chips and mild Indian food) and then we faced the 6 hour journey home. Fine for the quiet car - poor Arjun again....

After all our travelling, our guests decided that stopping by the pool in Palm Meadows was the best way forward. 
Their two week stay was over too quickly and we said we'd see them soon ..... We had a wonderful time together .

Update ! April 2024

  20 people sharing 2 menus! When we go to a restaurant, we seem to spend a lot of time trying to keep a straight face so that we do not ups...