I never made it to Mahabalipuram. Putting together travel plans off the cuff had finally caught up to me: there were no trains from Chennai to Mysore for a few more days unless I took off that evening. The beach would have to wait.
Mysore wasn’t the elegant city someone once described to me. It was definitely less crowded. Less dodging, more moving. Less stray dogs and ambulant cows eating the trash off the side of the road. You could absorb the landscape without being overwhelmed by the smells, the noise, the fumes and the bodies. But elegant is not the word I would use. Mysore was like other Indian cities I’ve been to but more available and less intense. Less filthy. And it had a pretty palace right in the midst of unmadness.
There were far more women on the streets and the city was much more navigable. I jumped in and out of local buses and auto-rickshaws with ease and walked around a lot, but other than the Ambas Vilas Palace, there was not much to do. Every foreigner I met was disillusioned with the place. It seemed like we’d all read one too many grandiose guide book depictions of this little city and everyone wanted out.
I was slightly let down but not entirely disenchanted. The town might not have had much to offer the camera-toting, adventure-seeking traveler but the food was delicious and cheap. And I couldn’t get enough of it. The street food. The little corner fast (indian) food joint food. The fancy hotel restaurant food. The ‘western friendly’ restaurant food. The samosas, the dosas, the hot chai, the milky sweets, the barfi… Thus far, Mysore has been at the top of my food experience in India. (With the exception of the one meal in Jhalawar back in 2009.) A hot and spicy bowl of crushed potato samosa masala topped with spices and herbs for 20 rupees (about $0.35) is hard to beat pricewise anywhere, let alone tastewise.
Still, man does not live off delicious crushed samosa masalas alone and I really wanted to get to Hampi. So after a couple of days, I was gone.