Wildlife Excursions Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary–Nagarhole Sanctuary
Mysore is the most convenient jumping-off point for two of India’s best wildlife sanctuaries, and is well-connected to them by regular buses. Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary (80 km; 50 miles south) is 690 sq km (266 sq miles) of mixed deciduous forest notable for its Indian bison, elephants, chital and spotted deer, macaques and numerous birds. Best seen between September and April. Elephant safaris can be arranged, along with all internal transport, via the Forest Lodge and Guest House officers. Accommodation must be advance-booked, via the Director of Project Tiger, Government House Complex, Mysore (tel 20901).
Nagarhole Sanctuary (74 km; 46 1/4 miles south-west) is 573 sq km (221 sq miles) of tropical and moist deciduous forests with a few swampy areas around the Kabini Lake shore, with tigers, elephants, leopards, sloth bears, wild boar and even more birds than Bandipur, visits to Heballa Elephant Camp, jeep and coracle trips and accommodation (forest lodges) can all be booked from the Asst Conservator of Forestry (tel Mysore 21159). The beautifully located Kabini River Lodge on the edge of the park has good rooms and a tariff that includes all meals and game-viewing from Rsl000 per person. Book through Jungle Lodges and Resorts, Shrungar Shopping Centre, Bangalore (tel 575195).
There’s a good racecourse below Chamundi Hill, with popular meets on Wednesdays and at weekends (September to November only). Several cinemas, notably the Woodlands and the Ritz, show English films as matinees. Others, like the Shalimar and Sterling, show English films all day. Newspapers like the Deccan Herald and Mofiissil Diary carry full details of current events and entertainments.
Mysore is famous for its incense and its sandalwood, and these are the best buys. Other popular purchases are silk saris, printed silk, inlay work and jewellery. To see the full range, visit Kaveri Arts and Crafts Emporium (tel 21258), Sayaji Rao Rd (closed Thursday), but avoid badly joined furniture and overpriced sandalwood. The best buys here are incense (agarbathi), rosewood (inlaid with deerbone, not ivory) and silk. For quality silks, catch a No. 4 or 5 bus out to the Government Silk Weaving Factory and Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation Workshop, both on Mananthody Rd. For pure 100% sandalwood; carvings, powder, paste, dust, oil, incense and even soap visit the small row of shops opposite the Zoo. Biggest and best is the Handicraft Sales Emporium (tel 23669), where you can buy small sandalwood Buddhas or Indian deities from Rs1300 to 150, sandalwood oil by the vial or bottle, and sandalwood paste and powder by the gramme. The upstairs section does a fine line in gems and jewellery. Apart from Jaipur, Mysore is the best place to buy semi-precious stones and precious gems. The rubies, garnets and lapis lazuli are of particularly high quality. But take care when buying a ‘line’ stone; the orientation is all-important. With moonstones, sapphires and rubies alike, the line must be central.
Mysore’s Devaraja Market is probably the best fruit and vegetable market in India. It’s certainly one of the largest, running all the way down Sayaji Rao Rd from Dhanvantri Rd to New Statue Square. There’s one section devoted exclusively to bananas and their many varieties. You can wander round here all day, and not get bored. Nobody returns empty-handed. Good purchases here include colourful bangles, lacquerwork and crafted silver jewellery. Marvellous little souvenirs are the packs of 10 assorted incenses, sold for around Rs30. But pack these carefully.