After checking in at the Nook in Madurai we ate lunch at the hotel and took tuk-tuks to a flower market that was unfortunately closing down for the day.
We walked through a wholesale rice market as well before jumping in the tuk-tuks to the Gandhi museum.
It was a really interesting museum and I could've spent a good while in there, but after an hour we were off again, stopping at a huge banana market.
We tried a couple of red bananas before walking through the vegetable market to our tuks-tuks that drove us to the cinema. We watched a new Tamil action movie set in Madurai, which was definitely something else, but entertaining none the less (and with a good portion of dancing of course).
We drove into the city center and ate a nice dinner before coming back to the hotel.
The next morning we met up for a mediocre breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant before taking tuk-tuks to the Meenakshi Amman temple. A kind woman named Sonja gave me flowers in my hair and stuck a bindi on my forehead (and later made me buy a useless little pouch, but oh well), before we met up with our guide.
He took us through the absolutely mesmerizing temple while teaching us about Tamil and Hindu religion. The details of the huge temple grounds were astonishing.
Outside we met up with Chandra again who took us through markets and streets to Thirumalai Nayakkar palace close by.
The market grounds were an interesting look into the local life and the palace was a beautiful building.
By the time we were done in the palace, it was early afternoon and so we took tuk-tuks to a nice local restaurant for lunch.
After lunch John and I took a tuk-tuk into the city centre were we walked around for a bit, mostly having fun shopping clothes for John. We took tuk-tuks back to the hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon in our day room, all relaxing together and eating an early dinner in the hotel.
At 7 pm we walked to the train station nearby and an hour later boarded the 14-hour sleeper train to Mysore. We talked for a bit with the locals we were sharing quarters with, before going to bed (I had gotten the middle bunk this time). I quickly fell asleep - as I always do on the overnight trains.
The next morning I woke up to a bit of chaos. Theresa’s computer bag had been stolen overnight on the train and so our first stop in Mysore was the police station by the platform. After a while of fighting India’s infuriating bureaucracy, we made our way to hotel Bombay Tiffanys and then quickly for a late breakfast in the city.
Theresa once again had to go to the police station so we didn’t start driving to our safari until 2 pm (an hour late). Luckily our driver had no problem with making up for lost time and we were by Bandipur Tiger Reserve and National Park in an hour, thankfully with all our limbs still attached.
Soon we were off in an open jeep on our 2.5-hour long safari, sharing the adventure with an Indian family on holiday.
The first half hour we saw some deers, monkeys, peacocks, cows and the like. Then Theresa swore she saw the back of a tiger moving quickly, but unfortunately no one else saw it.
We took a right turn and came face to face with a giant male elephant - we were half a meter from bumping into his leg. We pretty quickly backed up the jeep - as the guide informed us that it was a very aggressive and dangerous kind - and waited for him to walk away. When he had, we drove down the same path and saw a whole group of elephants as well as the aggressive elephant close by, threatening to attack another jeep in front of us.
A bus pulled up behind us and sandwiched us between the two. We had to wait for a long while for the elephant to keep moving and it was an adrenalin filled wait, trying to anticipate whether he would try to attack while we were pretty much stuck in the middle.
After that encounter it started raining quite heavily and most of the animals hid from the drops as we drove by. I didn't mind it at all though, as the fresh smell filled the air and the water transformed the forest into something almost otherworldly. With the rain came a sense of calm and the green around us seemed even more vivid in color.
It was really cold though as our drive came towards an end, with the sun setting behind the hills.
It had been an amazing drive, even without spotting any tigers and as we made our way back to the starting point we saw around 10 or 15 elephants just by the road. We drove back to Mysore and ate a really nice dinner at hotel Adeline, before walking through the city back to our own hotel.
The next morning Theresa and I met up and took a tuk-tuk to Santosha Café. Our tuk-tuk driver got a bit lost on the way, but we got there in the end and ordered a massive breakfast (a huge vegan pancake with hummus and vegetables and two smoothies).
It was delicious but I had a hard time moving for a while after. We did manage to get in the tuk-tuk again though and drive back, where we met the others in the lobby.
We walked to Mysuru Palace, but the ticket system was down, so we postponed it and walked a good while to the beautiful St. Philomena’s Church.
After visiting the church we went to see how incense is made and learned about all the different types of natural oils. I bought a little bottle of lotus oil as a natural perfume.
We took tuk-tuks back to the palace and walked through the beautiful rooms crowded by tourists (Indians have their two month break from school now).
We walked to KG Café that turned out to be surprisingly good - as in one of my favorite restaurants in the South so far - and back to the hotel to regroup.
John and I walked through the massive market in the city centre nearby, strolling by heaps of vegetables, fruits and knick-knacks, before going back.
The rest of the afternoon we spent in the lobby until 5.45 pm when we were once again off to the train station to catch the 12-hour sleeper train to Hampi at 7.
We had finally gotten tickets all together and so we sat playing Uno for a while, having fun before making our beds and falling asleep.
In the morning the train was delayed by two hours so we didn't reach Mysore until 9 am. From there we quickly got tuck-tucks to hotel Clark’s Inn, driving past wagons pulled by cows and fields of fruit trees.