Saturday, 21 February 2009

Itinerary for a weekend getaway to Mysore

The delay since the last post was caused by a debilitating bout of chicken pox which kept me completely out of action for almost two weeks. There are several posts which are long overdue. The first of these is a "what to do on a weekend in Mysore" post.

First, I am assuming a two day weekend where you reach Mysore late Friday evening or early Saturday morning. (If you are arriving early Friday evening, try to catch the Dariya Daulat in Srirangapatna which is on the way from Bangalore. Won't take you too much time but this means you will have to come by your own means of transport)

First place I would recommend for your Saturday morning would be the Mysore Zoo. Now several tourists have bypassed this thinking they've seen zoos in their hometowns and they would rather see something that is unique to Mysore. But let me tell you that this is easily THE best maintained zoo I've seen anywhere and the most animal friendly one too. (I must admit I'm biased in favor of the zoo. Member of the Zoo Youth Cub for two years) It will take you all morning and if you spend a fair amount of time in front of each enclosure, it will take you a good part of the afternoon too.

If you finish a little after lunch time, you can go to the Palace,(There are several palaces in Mysore, but Mysore palace usually refers to Amba Vilas Palace) This will take between an hour and a half to two hours. Apart from an interesting style of architecture and imposing royal grandeur it has several portraits and paintings on the walls. (Those who nurture an interest in the culture and practices of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries will find the annotations to the paintings very useful. It is something i haven't seen anywhere else and serves as a veritable textbook for those who get their kicks out of such things). However if you finish the zoo around 3:30 or 4:00 I would recommend that you go to the Art gallery at Jaganmohana palace which will take you lesser time than the palace.

Now, if you have your own transport and are done with the palace or art gallery by 5:00 you may proceed to the Brindavan gardens at KRSagar which is a short distance from Mysore. The dancing fountain used to be a novelty in India a few years ago. But now I see them in several small random parks also. But the brindavan gardens at KRS are still worth a visit.

If you are relying on autorickshaw's inside the city, you would do well to utilize this time to visit Karanji lake which is right behind the zoo. The butterfly park and the aviary here are really beautiful.

Though there is purple haze, planet x etc. nightlife has never been considered to be a part of the Mysore experience by most tourists. The city shuts really early compared to any other. Early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise ;-).

On Sunday morning, try climbing the Chamundi hill on foot by the stairs. There is a road and there are regular AC buses from the bus stand but climbing in the morning either gives you a high that keeps you energised for the rest of the day or gives you a knee ache that puts you out of action. Also the view you get while climbing is priceless. The view from the top is good but I still prefer the view from the stairway. Takes a better part of an hour for a city dwelling desk jockey of average fitness.

Though there are instances when I have decided that I can do without the blessings of mother Chamundeshwari, I make it a point to see the iconic Mahishasura statue. (I can swear it shrinks everytime I see it) This is the demon our city gets its name from. Quick descent - back in the city.

An alternative for those who don't want to go to a temple early in the morning is the Kukkarhalli lake. Lots of birds and good compensation for missing the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary which everyone else seems to be telling you about but I will advise against. Reasons later.

If you went to the Art gallery on Sunday go to the Palace(Amba Vilas) now and vice versa. One must see in the Art gallery at Jaganmohana Palace is the clock. Time yourself such that you are near the clock at the change of the hour. The elaborate ritual it performs is captivating.

The palace museum offers further insight into the lives of the royals and you get to see some really grand things. It doesn't take much time and is located within the palace premises so it's best to club it with the palace. If you are impressed by the palace, let me tell you that you haven't seen the best yet.

For the Sunday afternoon you have a choice between 1)Rail museum (Nice, several relics but nothing unique to Mysore) 2)Regional Museum of Natural History (Must go if you have school going children with you. adults get bored very quickly here. Try to catch the short documentary they show at four or so.) 3)Folklore museum (Funky stuff from all over Karnataka). If you are quick about it you can squeeze in all three in the same afternoon.

Whatever you do, make sure you're at the palace at 7:00 PM on Sunday because thats when they light up the palace. Now I haven't seen the new light and sound show but even without it the lit up palace is one sight which impresses me every time though I have seen it hundreds of times. During Dasara they light it up every day but normally they light it up only on Sundays. After this you head back to Bangalore tormented with the knowledge that you will have to go back to office/college on Monday morning.

There are a lot of places in Mysore which I have ignored due to my personal preferences. The places I have mentioned here are the places I take my friends and relatives to when they visit Mysore.

There are a lot of places near Mysore which are brilliant for tourists but not part of this itinerary as I have made this with a view to minimize travel. If you have your own vehicle then the places you can visit expands ten fold but this is still a good guide to follow.

I have stopped recommending Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary to people. It is really beautiful and though there are bird sanctuaries all over the world this one is actually special for the amazing variety of birds one may see here. The serenity and the natural beauty for which my mother loved this place is a thing of the past. Of late it is overcrowded beyond its capacity especially on weekends.

St. Philomena's Church is another interesting place that I haven't included. I didn't think too much of it and doesn't have much to offer other than the Neo-Gothic architecture.

If you decide to ditch one day's (ditch the Zoo and the Art Gallery) activities, you can do a tour of Byalakuppe(Tibetan Monastery), Cauvery Nisarga Dhama (Nature reserve) and Dubare Elephant Camp (Some kind of training place for tame elephants) which are all situated on the same road fifty to seventy kilometers from Mysore. (Go to the elephant camp early in the morning, they let you bathe the elephants)

I've ignored Shivanasamudra, Talakad, Somanathpura in this one because that qualifies as a separate weekend getaway from Bangalore.

Also not including Bandipur, Nagarahole, Kabini each of which deserve a weekend in their own right.

Some lists extend this around Mysore thing to Belur, Halebid, Shravanbelagola which is a bit too much. Some rightly include B.R.Hills, Madikeri, Kokkare Bellur. But anyway going to any of these will mean you will have to drop at least one of the items in Mysore.

I am not at all qualified to comment on the accommodation in Mysore though I can name a couple of hotels for each Budget range. You see I have never had to stay in a hotel in Mysore :).

Similarly handicapped when it comes to the eating places. Especially after I started living in Bangalore, the only place I eat in Mysore is home (that includes the homes of the several aunts, uncles and cousins). Some collegemates liked Edelweiss, an austrian cafe just off Kalidasa road and there are several other places which are supposed to be good near the bus stand but I haven't been to any of those in a long time. And none of these places have "authentic mysore food" in fact they don't even claim to.

I hope a fan finds this useful and informative. Though colored by my personal preferences, I have taken care to keep in mind the places that most tourists to Mysore I took around liked. I have also made this for a non dasara time. During Dasara all these places will be crowded and there are several other attractions that spring up all around(even apart from the parade and the torchlight parade). There are also annual theater fests and food fests which happen now and then which will give you more things to do.

That was quite a long a post. Excuse the verbosity, Heart is where the Home is. The next post will come up by tomorrow and being law related will probably come up first on the LSC blog which has gone postless for a long time.


a fan said...

Thanks for such a detailed post :)
It's useful and very informative.

There is nothing comparable to getting first hand information :)
Once i visit Mysore, will post my thoughts. But most probably, i guess, it might be inline with yours :) (even i like Zoo, Arts to watch and never saw anybody else having an real interest)

One doubt. How will be the climate in March/April? Will it be ok for the roaming of places mentioned here?

vikramhegde said...

March and April are summer in Mysore as elsewhere in India. It doesn't get that unbearable. The walking around in the zoo might drain you a bit but if you're used to a bit of heat and have a cap it isn't really that much of a problem. The other places are mostly indoors. And big airy halls all of them so it isn't that bad at all.

Come to think of it, it is highly improbable that the palace and the museums will be uncomfortable at any point of the year. They were built for kings:)

Divya said...

Eating places suggestions:
1. Dasa prakash
2. Southern Star (or whatever it's new name is)
3. Lalit Mahal Palace (if you are very rich)
I always used to stay in my Dad's guesthouse, so can't think of any places to stay either!
But this was excellent, really makes me want to go back to Mysore sometime. And yeah, Mysore Zoo rocks!

vikramhegde said...

@ DV
Lets go during the Dasara time. Exams will hopefully end just before Vijayadashami. Assuming we have fewer exams. We'll be in fifth year by then. :D

Dr vengojayaprassad said...

I incidentally dropped in your blog, while searching for best itinary in mysore..good one thanks. may find it usefull. will soon follow up after my visit to mysore next week

vikramhegde said...

Thank you for visiting sir. Hopefully the information will come handy for you.

Nishitha KM said...

hii..nice post.Thanks for sharing with us.I liked the way you put up the information.I am visited br hills resort and also bandipur resorts last weekend with my family. really enjoyed a lot.Do visit once its really awesome..

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