Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On to Mumbai































We got up early and headed out to see Sri Chamundeswari Temple, located on the top of a sacred hill looking out over Mysore. When we arrived there was a wonderful mantra being played over speakers. I bought a cd of the music and look forward to playing it. There were the usual accompaniment of postcard sellers and other hawkers. There were also lots of cows wondering around the area. Monkeys were everywhere climbing up the sides of the temple and having a great time doing monkey business.

The tower which is the first gate of a Hindu Temple is called a Gopuram. This one was magnificent. The doors of the temple were silver. To enter the Temple you walk through a narrow entrance. There were monkeys blocking our way and we could see the Indians who had come weren’t going to walk thru the doorway while the monkeys were there. They finally shooed them away and we went in to the inner sanctum. The priests blessed up and applied markings to our forehead.

We have been discussing coconuts a lot on this trip. They are a major source of food and the fiber is used to make rope etc. Coconuts are also play a role in Hindu worship with people bringing them to the priests to break them open as a sacrifice to the gods. We bought a coconut and the priest cracked it perfectly in half. We were returned the broken coconuts and offered them to the monkeys. Monkeys don’t like coconuts. Monkeys love bananas. One monkey stole the banana from us while we were trying to offer it coconut.

We left the hill and headed back to another of the Maharaja’s palaces. This is his main one. We are talking Buckingham palace size. We couldn’t take our cameras or wear our shoes inside. At the front of the palace is an open air seating gallery from which hundreds of guests would view processions of elephants at the various festivals. We then returned to his other palace at which we were staying, checked out and started our journey back to Bangalore. We really liked Mysore.

From there we went to the farmer’s market. It is on a piece of land owned by the Maharaja (it is fun to type the word), and he only allows the farmers to use it for selling there produce. It is just like the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, if the Hollywood Farmers Market had a large amount of cows walking thru it nibbling on food and pooping wherever they please.

On the journey we stopped at a sugar cane processor. This was a tiny operation but a great stop. The sugar cane is fed by hand into a weird contraption that squeezes out the juice and ejects the pulp. The juice flows thru open tubes to a giant pan looks like a paella pan but is probably about 12 feet across and about 1 foot deep. A very old lady feeds the pulp into a fire below the pan, boiling the syrup to thicken it. When it is done it is poured into molds. The finished product is called jaggery. We are going to look for it at our local Indian Market.

We then went to lunch at a dhaba vegetarian restaurant on the higway. The food tasted good. I continued to eat with my hands Indian style. I had the most expensive dish on the menu (naturally) it was called the Executive Meal. It had many different small dishes, rice, yogurt, sauces etc. It cost 40 rupees. There are 37 rupees to the dollar! Do the math.

We then arrived in Bangalore to some of the worst traffic yet. We arrived at the airport and said goodbye to our incredible guide: Lakuma. She made our first visit to India memorable. We would never have been able to learn so much about India and its culture without her. We then boarded a Kingfisher flight to be on our own in Mumbai (Bombay) for the next few days. The flight was great, we will try to take Kingfisher from now on while in India. The planes are new and the whole attitude is very hip.

We arrived in Mumbai and were met at the airport by a representative from the Taj Mahal Palace. It is the hotel we are staying at and it has to be among the best hotels in the world. The representative guided us to a livered chauffeur who drove us to the Hotel. We were met by a representative of the hotel who took us directly to our room. A butler them came in and took our passport numbers, credit card details and other info. The room is in the original wing of the hotel and is opulent with lots of marble etc. with out being the slightest bit tacky. It looks out on the Arabian Sea towards the west directly at the Gateway of India, the most famous landmark in India other than the Taj Mahal. We were then confronted with choices. We were given a menu of 7 different pillows to choose from. What papers did we want in the morning? The butler is available 24 hours a day for anything. We ate in the hotel at an Indian restaurant. It was delicious. After the constant early morning wake-up calls, this is the first night we haven’t requested one.