This weekend we went travelling to the east of Bangalore. We went to a city called Ooty which is at the top of a mountain and then to Mysore.
Ooty is a bit of a vacation spot mainly because of its cooler climate. It’s about 2700M above sea level and was much cooler than at the bottom of the mountain. The economy of the area seems mostly based on tea plantations, which was interesting to see. The tea there was obviously very good. My new favourite tea is “Masala” tea, which is standard black tea with a bunch of spices.
Mysore is much more of a tourist trap. It has several big attractions like a large palace and an old temple on the top of a hill. We also saw the palace lit up at night. It has 65,000 light bulbs strung all over it.
A few strange things happened though. At a lookout point at the top of a mountain in Ooty we were asked repeatedly to have our picture taken with some of the Indian people there. They were tourists as well, but I have no idea from where. I find it hard to believe they had never seen a white person before, so couldn’t see the point of it.
The next thing was in Mysore. The locals who peddle the crap at the tourist attractions almost ruin the experience. I had experienced this before, so knew how to deal with it somewhat, but it’s still very agitating. They make their living by being very persistent, and they are very good at it.
The basic scenario is this: You exit your car at one of these attractions and immediately there are about 5 people in front of you. They are literally putting things into your hands and then asking for money. These guys will be talking at you the entire time, pushing things into your face to smell, etc. The only way I’ve found to get through this while retaining any kind of sanity and calmness is to politely say no a few times and then ignore them. If you keep talking to them, even if you’re saying no, they will keep it up. It’s the common sales tactic: keep the person engaged as long as possible.
Now, you’ve managed to get past this first barrage. You start walking towards the attraction and you see ahead of you some vendors and generally a lot of people. They keep very close watch on the incoming people and it’s very noticable when they see a foreigner. Thus begins the second wave. This was especially bad at the temple on the hill in Mysore. At the palace the vendors aren’t allowed inside the palace grounds. At the temple the only place they can’t go is directly inside the temple. You really can’t experience this temple with any kind of peace.
Also, at the temple it suprised me who was willing to beg for money. We saw a woman who was running one of the vendor stations with her husband over by the toilets. When she walked by us she was holding her baby and saying “Money for baby?” She has a job but she’s still begging…
At the palace we had to wait about 45 minutes for it to be lit up, so we were sitting by the entrance. There were at least 20 people in this one small area selling stuff and each one came by. The frustrating part was that about 15 minutes later all the exact same people came by again. Some of them came by 3 times. It’s really frustrating to stand out so much. At most places in Bangalore we stand out in a way that the locals think we’re helpless or lazy so want to do absolutely everything for you. I realize it’s their job and they do see a lot of rude and lazy foreigners, but it’s frustrating to be treated that way when you’re not. It’s still for money, because they’d like a tip, but at least they do take no for an answer as opposed to the vendors at the attractions.