If you have grown up in the capital city which has been plagued by increasing levels of pollution, a breath of fresh air would be a welcome change any time. And if it is accompanied by lush green gardens overlooking your room, all the better. I revelled in this joyous change of scenery, sipping on a fresh filter kaapi, from the balcony of my King room at the Royal Orchid Brindavan Garden in Mysuru.
The journey had been arduous, with a change of flights and then, travel by road. And I had been up quite early. But the thought of the piping hot kaapi kept me going. When I finally reached the rather majestic palace, away from the bustle of the main city of Mysuru, I didn’t think my weariness would wear off so easily after a refreshing welcome drink. Twelve hours of travel time is rather strenuous after all, and I was sure I’d want to snuggle under the covers for a bit, at least.
My fascination with the southern part of India began during the one year I spent pursuing my higher education in Chennai. I don’t say it lightly when I state that I fell in love with the city, the masala dosas, the beach, the people. I couldn’t have been more delighted when I was assigned a trip to Mysuru. It was a chance to go back south, to a different location, but I could barely contain my excitement.
The Royal Orchid Brindavan Garden, located an hour away from the main city, is often the first choice for locals looking to escape the daily grind, albeit for a few days.
Frequented equally by bird-watchers and photographers, the property provides an unmatched view of the gardens as well as the KRS (Krishna Raja Sagar) dam. All the rooms face the gardens, so you can cherish their stunning symmetry from the comfort of your room, with a cup of kaapi in your hands. The heritage property features 24 select spacious rooms with a private balcony. The canopy beds, wooden flooring and the colossal doors, all exude an old-world vintage charm. The property is also equipped with a spa, in case you want to unwind.
Mysuru’s weather, much like close-by neighbour Bengaluru, is pleasant for most part of the day, the evenings are undeniably better. To further strengthen my belief, a quiet dinner at the open-air Elephant Bar was enough. Over a scrumptious meal, I was told of the many films that had been shot at the property, including massive hits like Linga and KGF.
Rejuvenated, I headed back towards the city the next afternoon. If one doesn’t pay attention, one can easily pass off the Royal Orchid Metropole as just another white-walled property instead of a state-of-art, historic hotel. Just a 200-meter walk from the entrance will bring you face-to-face with the royal facade of one of the finest hotels in Mysuru, right in the heart of the city.
The heritage hotel has preserved a significant part of its royal past, right from the century-old wooden staircase to the paintings in the rooms. The hallways are adorned with antiques and memorabilia. The property features 30 grand suites and luxurious rooms with private balconies, nooks and corners reflecting Rajput architecture, and a swimming pool as well as a gymnasium.
If you delve into the history of the city, it throws up many gems, such as the Mysore Palace, Jaganmohan Palace, and Chamundi Hills. A short drive away is the late author R.K Narayan’s home. Mysore, often referred to as Karnataka’s cultural capital, is a multifold city. This pre-Independence royal city boasts of rich culture, history, tradition, customs and cuisine. The balanced ties with nature give it an added advantage.
Post lunch, which was an impressive spread of Indian and Continental dishes courtesy Chef Sam David, I squealed in glee (internally) when told where I was going next. The majestic Mysore Palace is on everyone’s bucket list. We’ve all seen the lit-up pictures and opulence and I was excited to experience it first-hand. Walking through its immense rooms, exploring its intricate decorations, the stunning hallways and embellishments—I was transported back to my school history books. Built in 1912 by the Wodeyars, the palace boasts of a mix of Mughal and Rajput design. The Indo-Saracenic structure is complimented by the curved arches, well defined canopies, bay windows, and a whopping 145-feet-gold plated dome. It is indeed a sight to behold. And as an added bonus, I got to peak inside the hunting room.
Back at the hotel, Chef David had created an utterly scrumptious dinner on the grill and I enjoyed the wholesome North-Indian meal followed by dessert, ice cream fritters, for which I readily made some space in my stomach. It’s dessert, after all.
I was given the Maharaja suite and as the name suggests, it was grand. I’ve always had a soft spot for canopy beds and with this one all to myself (and an ever-so-soft mattress), I could have curled up in a ball immediately. Instead, I took a steaming hot shower in the vintage-style bathroom, read a few pages of a classic P.G Wodehouse from the comfort of the seating area, before gulping down the Mysore pak piece left by room service as a sweet night treat.
Built a century earlier by the original architects of the royal family, this property was then used as a guest house for the Maharaja’s British guests. Today, it welcomes everyone from all over the world in the guise of a heritage hotel. I couldn’t have had a better introduction to Mysuru, that’s for sure.