We just got back from our first weekend trip. Dailey, Emma, Annie, Katie and I spent the Independence Day weekend travelling to Bengaluru and Mysore. I knew it was going to be a struggle from the second we left Tagore International House. Once we got to the “bus stop” (India doesn’t have actual bus stops, the address for our stop was “near Punjabi Rd.”-very helpful India), Annie realized that her Blackberry had fallen out of the rickshaw. We searched the street for a while but it was long gone.

Bengaluru, our first stop, is about 582 km away from Hyderabad. The overnight bus took about 9 hours. By the time we got there it was 6 am. Another struggle. Everyone reading this knows I’m not the most efficient person in the morning. But we made it to breakfast and started our day with tons of temples. Bull Horn Road was filled with Hindu temples. We all got our first bindis inside Sri Big Bull Temple. Behind the section of temples was this beautiful garden. We climbed up some rocks where we found a gazebo overlooking the jungle-like gardens. The trees were littered with the biggest bats I have ever seen. Maman, you would have freaked. My favorite temple was this one that we just happened to stumble by while walking down the street. It was inside this cave. It was very quite and dark but oddly peaceful. Next, we headed to the Lalbagh Botanical Garden. There was a special exhibition in the Glass House for Independence Day (Aug 15th). In the middle of the green house was this huge lotus flower constructed out of smaller flowers. The flowers here are so bright and colorful. After the garden it was time for some Taco Bell. I’m not a fan of Taco Bell but my friends from California were dying for some Mexican food, even if it was only fast food. But getting there turned out to be the biggest project. As I mentioned before, India does NOT have addresses. If you Google a restaurant it will usually just tell you which state it is in, so you can imagine how hard it is to find a rickshaw driver who knows what you are looking for. Fortunately for us, this group of really nice boys were willing to spend 20 minutes of their lives calling and asking countless people for directions to said Taco Bell.

The bus to Mysore was only 3 hours long and wasn’t too bad. By the time we got there we just wanted to check into our hotel and find a place to have dinner. We ate at this rooftop restaurant at a hotel near ours. It was nice to relax for a while and enjoy some Indian Chinese food, which is much better than American Chinese. The next day, Saturday Aug. 13th, we woke up real bloody early to make it to Bandipur National Park by 7am. But that was only the beginning. Once we got to the ticket window we realized that the prices were not what we expected. The guide book said that tickets would be around 250 rupees, that’s about $6. Instead the tickets FOR FOREIGNERS were 1100 rupees, almost 3x what Indians have to pay. Needless to say, we were livid. The man at the counter only added to the situation. He had no desire to even take into account that we have student id cards that should grant us the Indian price. And then the icing on the cake, we didn’t see any cool animals. There were herds of deer, a peacock and in the very far distance I saw an elephant’s ass. No tigers. As we were leaving, very disappointed, we saw two monkeys doing the dirty which cheered us all up a little bit. Yes, we are very mature.

After the failure safari, we went out to try to find this market. We ended up in Hell. On our way, this man gave us directions and we thought that was the last time we would see him. But he ended up finding us at the market and telling us to “f*** off and go die” after we insisted that he stop following us. Then a beggar proceeded to follow us around, walking way too close to me and staring way too much. When we decided that we needed to get the hell out of this market immediately, a shop keeper threw noodles at my head. That was pleasant. For the first time, I hated India.

But that didn’t last long. We got to the top of Chamundi Hill which overlooks all of Mysore and is the home to the Chamundeshwari Temple. Inside of the temple we got to see tons of Hindus praying and practicing. Hinduism may seem very foreign and exotic but the rituals are a lot like those of Catholicism.When they leave the temple they drink holy water and then pour some on top of their heads.

At the end of the day we needed some good food and more importantly good drink. We ate at the Parklane Hotel which was a hangout for all the white tourists. We met some people from Europe, Colombia and the UK.

I knew Sunday would be a lot better than Saturday. We had plans to go to Bylakuppe, a Tibetan Settlement outside of Mysore. This was by far my favorite thing we did all weekend. The Buddhist Golden Temple was one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. The walls are filled with colors and gold. The altar had three statues of the Buddha all over 45 feet tall and solid gold. When we walking outside we got to watch a bunch of monks begin their prayers. It was so cool. Down the road from the Golden Temple, is the Nyingmapa Nunnery. Since it is a little walk down the main attraction, there was no one else there except for us. This temple is much smaller than the Golden Temple but when you walk outside there is one of the most beautiful landscapes of corn stalks and palm trees, all covered in Tibetan prayer flags. We had vegetable momos (dumplings) at this little stop. They were probably the best things I have had to eat here. By the time we got back from Bylakuppe it was almost dinner time. We stopped at the Mysore Palace to see it all lit up. This Indian woman next to us turned and said “this is so much better than Disney World.” I think she was right.

Monday was our last day in Mysore and we only had a half day to finish up our final plans before we had to head back to Hyderabad. But we did a lot in a few hours. Our rickshaw driver explained to us that on their Independence Day they eat a lot of sweets while on ours we drink too much. Touche Ramesh. When we stopped at an ATM, a flag ceremony had just ended. This man saw us and immediately ran over with candy. My kind of holiday. We explained that we too are thankful for being free from the British, screw imperialism. We went to this little hole in the wall to have a tutorial on how to make incense. This woman showed us how to roll the powder onto the stick. We got to smell all the different kinds of oils used as perfumes and healing agents. The man was telling us about this one used as an aphrodisiac, he called it “man power.” We went to the Mysore Palace again but this time for a tour of inside. It was so ornate I felt like I was in Versailles again. Our last stop in Mysore was the Devaraja Market. This was where we intended to go on Friday but failed. It was worth the harassment though. It was filled with powder used for watercolors and flowers for offerings.

Sorry this is a novel. I won’t be offended if you didn’t read the whole thing.