Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Flower shows and tea museums in Ooty

The 16th was a wonderful morning, since it was the first day in several where we weren’t ill and didn’t have to move. We ate breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, which was tough because the only fresh items tended to be Indian and, while I love Indian food, I can’t deal with it for breakfast.

We spent some time in the morning online, then we decided to visit the Ooty flower show. I had read that it was the highlight of the year in Ooty and the hotel’s city guide said that it was one of the best flower shows in the world. While I really don’t care that much about gardening, visiting one of the world’s best flower shows seemed like an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

We caught a cab to the botanical centre and we could already see that it was going to be chaos. We bought our tickets and headed in. It was a mess. There was a solid line of people moving very slowly past about 100 meters of stalls of some of the saddest flowers you've ever seen. Everyone was jammed in, pushing past one another, to see flowers that looked like they were grabbed from the bin behind the local florists. We had to wait 15 minutes to just get past the first line and then we were into open space, but there wasn’t much to see. More stalls of sad wilted flowers, a few installations of flowers stuck onto statues and buildings, and a map of India made of flowers.

Colleen was not amused. She was tired of being shoved and pushed around at a really rather awful flower show, with nothing to see beyond flowers that we get at our local florists at home. On the other hand, I was enjoying the irony of the whole thing and was rather amused by the badness of it all. To be honest, this was probably not the best mix of perspectives, and we decided to get out of there.

Colleen, not feeling well, headed back to the hotel. I wanted to see a bit more of touristy Ooty, so I negotiated with a rickshaw driver to take me to the tea museum. A point to note – I’ve discovered that in India, any time I think I’ve won a negotiation, I’ve actually lost.

I went to the tea museum with low expectations, and they were exceeded. The big sign on the building said Tea Museum and Tea Factory. The reality was that it was much more the latter, but that was OK. I got to walk through the process that tea goes through, getting from foliage to packaged product. It was a good demonstration, as the machines that were there were in action and tea was being bagged. And the place smelled great. I had gone all the way through the factory demonstration, had fought my way through the gift area that seemed to focus on products having nothing to do with tea, and found myself in the parking area again having completely missed the so-called “museum” part. I went back in the main entrance and found the museum hidden off to one side. It wasn't a museum but rather a series of posters explaining the history of tea. I realized that I could probably get a better history of tea just by looking it up on Wikipedia, but it was interesting to read the posters and see the history of the main industry of the region written from a local perspective. I was amused when I got to the section on the life of the plantation manager, where it mentioned him golfing at the Ooty Golf Club in his spare time.

My rickshaw driver had waited for me while I was in the museum. I jumped in and he took me back into town, to the Kebab Corner. I grabbed a late lunch / early supper and went for a wander around town. Being the off season for foreigners but the high season for Indian tourism I found it interesting being the only non-Indian person in a sea of people. I’m sure there was another white tourist somewhere in town, but I didn’t see anyone not Indian through thousands of people. It’s a strange feeling, coming from a place like Vancouver where even at the ethnic-specific festivals there’s a huge mix of cultures, to be here where there doesn’t seem to be a visible minority population. (Colleen pointed out that there’s probably a visible minority population within the Indian population that we just can’t see, which is probably a good point.)

I wandered through town, up to St. Stephen’s church, which dates back to the 1820s but was closed that afternoon (Sunday?), and made my way up to our hotel. Our bus out of town the next morning was an early one, so we were going to make it a fairly early night. I dealt with some blogging and e-mails and headed up to our room. I flicked on the TV and caught the finals of the world cricket championship – the World 20 Twenty – England vs. Australia. I watched about 60% of it, then decided to go to sleep. But I couldn’t get to sleep not knowing the final result, so I got up and watched with the volume off until the wee hours of the morning. Who knew cricket could be so engaging. England beat the Aussies easily, after some rather poor Aussie batting and an amazing performance by England's Pietersen and his partner, whose name escapes me.


classiccarbase said...

Ooty is the greenest place in India... Visit Hotels in Ooty

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