Friday, the 13th of April 2007 Mysore, Karnataka Hans and I had a fight. Well, I’m not sure whether I would call it a fight exactly, but I was angry, so was he and we yelled at each other. It does sound like a fight though or maybe a loud discussion. I guess all of us were tired from the long bus and train trip. We arrived in Bangalore early this morning. From the bus stand we immediately wanted to take a rickshaw to the train station, because we wanted to get out of Bangalore as fast as we could. Of course Hans and Christian made a big deal out of haggling about the fare to the station and again I was too tired for that sort of thing. I just wanted to get to the station as fast as possible in order to not miss the first train. They decided I was stressing, I felt they were making a fuss. Either way; not half an hour later we were at the train station. Since I am usually the one in charge of Tristan when we move from one place to another, I took him on my arm and pushed myself through the crowd towards one of the counters to gain information on trains to Mysore. A woman with a baby on her arm often gives herself the right to skip queues in India, so I greedily took the opportunity! We had missed the first AC train which was at 7am. The next one was to go at 11am. It would take two hours to get to Mysore and would cost us a few hundreds per person. There was another train going, non-AC, 3rd class, which could take us to Mysore for 23Rs each, which is basically nothing. The duration was to be four to five hours. I shared my facts with the guys and added there was no way I was going to take the non-AC train with Tristan the way in which all of us were exhausted. As if my gaining weren’t enough, Hans stumbled over to another counter and after a few minutes he called for Christian. Another few minutes passed without me knowing what was going on, but it seemed that they found a third option. Before I could say anything they had purchased tickets for 69Rs each and the train was about to leave within the next fifteen minutes. A little bit upset because I didn’t get any saying into this I followed them to the platform. We had to run, which was not easy with all the luggage and Tristan on one arm. Up on the platform the guys realised they had gotten the wrong information, so we had to run down and up again to another platform. Now my patience was being tested. They sprinted towards the whole end of the train, which was waiting to leave. Staggering behind them I was wondering why they wouldn’t get on the train instead of going to the far end of the platform, but they were too far ahead to hear me yell. When they finally boarded I realised this was the 23Rs train coach! This is the kind of train which is crowded with people, most of them not even getting seat, sitting in between sacks of potatoes and live chickens. The seats are wooden benches and it is usually so overcrowded that you can see arms and legs sticking out of the windows and open doors. I asked them whether they were out of their minds! I told them to get off immediately and follow me along to another coach. While I had been sprinting towards the back of the train, I had passed 2nd class sleeper, all to well known by myself since I once had spent more than twenty-four hours on one several years ago, on a trip from Agra to Varanasi. If we were going to be on the train I didn’t want to be on with Tristan in the first place, we might as well be in the class we paid for. When I tried to board the sleeper coach the guys hesitated and told me they didn’t have tickets for this. I trusted them they sure did, and otherwise, there’s always baksheesh (bribe money – apparently, bribing the conductor is daily routine in India)! But there was no way that Tristan and I were going to sit in “chicken- and-potato-coach” that day. Second class non-AC sleeper is not as fancy as it sounds like. It is a simple looking coach with iron bars in front of the windows. There are no reserved or numbered seats, so you better fight for a good spot when you board. There are no luggage compartments, unless you use one of the top bunks, which are often already taken by a sleeping Indian chap. These trains are almost always delayed, so three hours easily become five or six. We arrived in Mysore four and a half hours later. By then I had managed to become even more tired and especially upset towards the guys. Tristan was not a happy camper. The poor kid had just travelled eight hours on a sleeper bus and now more than half that much on a train. He was annoyed and tired. We were annoyed and tired. Why didn’t they listen to me in the first place? Why do they always need to know better? I hated men at that moment. The bomb burst when we got of the train and when Hans and I started yelling at each other. Actually he over-yelled me, but I guess that didn’t matter; he always shouts over others. The truth is: if all of us would have been less exhausted we probably would have discussed it in a more civilized way. That doesn’t take away the fact that I belief that neither of them cared much for my opinion at the station and that that had been the last time I boarded a non-AC train with Tristan. Deep inside I knew that that wasn’t going to be the case, but it would do for now. Hans and I made up very quickly afterwards. So now we are in Mysore. First impression: another hot, smelly city, with lots of traffic and noise and exhaustion fumes. Yes my friends, this is where I was going to spend my thirtieth birthday. I had expected something different for that event, I must admit. It even put me in a worse mood. When it turned out it was really hard to find any hotel with a decent room under a thousand rupees, I had had it. I wasn’t looking forward to staying in a crappy place and I decided that I was going to find a suitable place for us to stay even if it took me until dusk. We dragged our luggage into a local restaurant and ate lunch. Hans wasn’t feeling too well and stuck with some tomato soup which was un-eatable; it looked and tasted like sweet liquid ketchup. When you’re in India, stick to Indian food. That’s what the Indians are best at. Tristan had some plain dosa – a big pancake which is normally stuffed with masala veggies and served with spicy coconut- and chilli sauce (Tristan just eats the pancake), and Christian and I managed to eat a thali, a full Indian meal consisting of masala vegetables, spicy sauces, curries, gravy, roti or chapatti and rice. “Thali” – a tradition Indian meal… eat it with your hands or don’t eat it at all! After that Hans and I – we had let go of the hard feelings from before – went out hotel- scouting. After five minutes or so walking in the hot afternoon, Hans took a step aside started vomiting in the middle of the street. Then he took a few more steps and started all over; he almost literally puked his guts out. People on the street stopped and looked and I heard them commenting on the very sick-looking “ferangi” (white guy). It was a terrible sight and I stood by, helplessly. I couldn’t do more than give a pat on the shoulder and ask whether he was feeling better. I didn’t have money to buy him some bottled water and he didn’t bother. We continued our search but found nothing but a few shabby places with over-priced rooms or very expensive hotels we couldn’t afford. All that time an Indian had been following us along, annoying us and telling us he knew a good place to stay for us. I told him to scram. In India you will always have some local guy wanting to bring you his uncle’s hotel where get gets a fine commission for bringing in tourists. That commission will then gladly be added on your hotel bill. The guy didn’t want to leave though, so I just ignored him at first, but after the tenth disappointed I tiredly decided to just follow him to where ever he wanted to take us. When we arrived there I was not let down though. Bombay Tiffany’s appeared to be the best deal in town. The fellow who brought us there was just a rickshaw driver who wanted to drive use around afterwards. They had fine, clean “deluxe”-rooms for 500Rs a night. And that’s where we are staying now. Hans found it a bit too pricey, so he lives in the “shoebox” across the street, a terribly shabby place, with unfriendly staff. But for 175Rs a night it would have to do. And that’s that then. Tomorrow it’s my birthday and until then I guess I have no more to say. Sunday, 15th of April 2007 A stroller, a guidebook, incense and oils, dinner with cocktails and red wine and roof top dessert with dark rum, that’s sums up my birthday yesterday. And it was nice! The guys really did their best to surprise me and offered me an very enjoyable day. Dinner we had planned ahead, you see, but how to keep Tristan busy while having dinner, that was the question. The initial idea was to hire a nanny that evening. But I didn’t like it that much; I wasn’t ready to leave Tristan into a total stranger’s care, especially not here. So the way out was to buy a stroller. We had originally decided against bringing a stroller to India. The roads are bumpy and people simply don’t use strollers here. Everybody carries their baby everywhere. So we brought a bearing scarf – purchased in Sweden – which was very handy and we used it well. Nevertheless, without a stroller, we always had to be inside our room when Tristan wanted to sleep, which was at least two hours at noon and as from 8pm. Hard to do anything fun during the evenings. And so we bought a stroller for my birthday, to make life easier on me, but also for Tristan and Christian. The second gift I received from Christian was the newest Lonely Planet India. I had been nagging about it for a while; travelling without a guide book is doable, more exciting and these days much “cooler”, but no one can deny that it wasn’t handy to have one at hand. Whenever we spotted one in a book store we always decided to wait and buy it later, preferably in a second hand book shop. This time I got a brand new one! Hans overloaded me with incense and scented oils, a specialty of Mysore in particular. The latest Lonely Planet India Towards the evening we headed for one of the finer hotels in Mysore, to have a more exquisite dinner than we are used to, testing the stroller while we were at it. It was quite a relief having Tristan in it. Not having to carry him, while he could sit and watch the scene from his little wheeled seat was well worth the buy. He fell asleep fifteen minutes after our arrival in the restaurant, and the three of us could enjoy a delicious meal at the Park Lane Hotel. The place had a life band and was decorated as if you were sitting in a jungle with spotlights. We had cocktails and red wine and ate chicken for the first time since our departure from Belgium. Hans was still feeling sick and had a hard time getting anything down his throat. Tough luck though, since we were buying! Having birthday cocktails – yummy… piña colada! After dinner we headed back for the hotel, where Hans and Christian had yet another surprise for me. I was lead to the hotel rooftop where they had a table set up with a birthday cake and rum. It was kind of like you see in the movies; all that was missing was musician playing a birthday tune. The hotel boys, who had received a fat tip, were walking rounds with the stroller to keep Tristan sleeping. It was great fun and sweet and romantic. Admitted, I was a bit pessimistic about celebrating my 30th in Mysore, but the guys really did their best to make the best out of it. Thanks guys! No matter how sick, Hans is always up for some rum! Today, after have woken up with only a slight hangover, we visited the palace of the Maharashtra. I don’t have much to say about it, besides that it was another one of those beautiful gems of constructions, which you walk through while trying to imagine the life those royalties must have lived a thousand years ago. I have done my share of visiting palaces (the Royal Palace in Bangkok is not too bad either), and they all give you the same feeling of overwhelming richness, power and well being. In that way they are all the same and not so interesting to talk about. That doesn’t take away the fact I enjoyed visiting the palace and its majestic halls and paintings, royal doorways and arches and so on. The funniest part is that we could do it in the middle of the day, since Tristan now did his nap in the stroller. Entrance to the Maharashtra’s palace The famous stroller (a really good buy for 1600 Rs – 30€ Fruit wallahs outside the palace The palace by night And that is about all I need to see in Mysore. I have had it with big cities, and the only reason our next stop will be in yet another big city is because I happen to know someone there. So tomorrow we are taking an AC-bus to Bangalore and from there on a sleeper bus to Hyderabad.