How to Spend a Day in Bangalore:
‘Surviving’ our first 12-hour Indian night bus, which albeit arriving 90 minutes late while we sat in the standard state of roadside confusion*, was so much easier and more comfortable than I could have ever imagined.
*And in any standard state of Indian roadside confusion there is always roadside chai. Lots and lots of sweet, milky, perfectly made chai. And chai makes every little thing alright.
Groggy-eyed and Valium-tailed, we arrived in Bangalore; India’s third largest, yet greenest city, which as well as being the sub continent’s technology capital, plays proud owner to well-kept botanical gardens and public green spaces.
Ironic then, that it was during our 13 hours in Bangalore that neither Jamie or I could find or connect to a single internet network (including Starbuck’s network – culture vultures), or that for a city that must have more cows per capita than people, these holy creatures opt to dominate the dusty roads over the ample garden space offered to them.
Nonetheless, Bangalore offers a fairly cosmopolitan charm with a helpful community and individually characteristic districts definitely worth checking out, making the city more than just a stop-gap on route to somewhere else.
Where to Start:
Ditching your Backpack and Desperately Seeking Sushi (/Breakfast):
Some quick and dirty research, with zero note taking, and a little word of mouth told me that Banaglore plays host to some deliciously healthy vegan restaurants and swish sushi bars* which I was seriously salivating for before even boarding the previous night’s bus.
Sadly, without restaurant names and addresses noted down – and due to the technology capital’s total lack of Internet, none of these places were even slightly stumbled upon during our day there.
*From reading up however, I can advise ‘Carrots‘ for amazing vegan cuisine serving the likes of Peanut Vegan Shakes and Tahini Pizzas with Tofu; or ‘Harima‘ for authentic Japanese style low-slung dining and brilliant sushi. – Gutted I missed out on these.
Instead we started our day by heading to Bangalore’s bustling national rail station to sort out our train tickets for that night’s trip to Hampi and to leave our backpacks in the Left Luggage, unburdening our backs for a day of exploring.
Banglore’s city train station is fairly easy to navigate.
Worth noting: If buying your train tickets on the day of travel then you can only buy general class (and pray and pay for an upgrade on the train), otherwise there are separate “queues” for general and AC Sleeper classes.
It’s not in the slightest bit obvious as to which line is for which ticket type so expect to line up, push, shove, re-line up somewhere else and be on the receiving end of several hundred ambiguous head wobbles. However for us, be that it was pre-7am and fairly quiet in the station when we bought our tickets, the whole operation including leaving our luggage* for safe keeping, took about half an hour.
*left luggage is about £2 a day and you have to have a lock on your backpack (which can be bought at the station) in order for them to stow your sack.
Famished, clueless and due to India’s reputation for fail-safe chai, we decided to go local for breakfast and pick a hectic looking hotspot right next to the station while we “got our bearings” (still under the delusion at this point that Internet and a quinoa salad were imminent).
Breakfast however, was out of this world delicious and consisted of 4 rounds of steaming, sweet chai, onion bahjis and (my ultimate favourite local delicacy) deep fried banana bread balls, with a spicy coconut paste for dunking the lot in.
With more than enough time on our hands and no idea how to pass it, after breakfast we whipped out a pack of cards in the hope of a few harmless rounds of sh1t head, over a couple more rounds of chai. – This is a big NO-NO.
After being frowned upon by most other diners, trying to reassure everyone that we weren’t gambling, and being asked to stop playing (and told to leave) by the local authorities*; we realised that our welcome in chai-side heaven had been outstayed and it was time to explore the city.
*A helpful local explained afterwards that custom in India is to eat and leave – not sit around doing jack sh1t, playing cards and necking their mini glasses of chai quicker than they can brew it. Noted
Post-Breakfast Places to Wander
A small saving-grace to our lack of Bangalore planning was the a screen grab of the city map on my iphone, so we had a vague idea as to how to orientate our way round the city and how much we should pay a rickshaw to get from A to B.
Rickshaws in Bangalore are dirt cheap! We quickly realised just how much we’d been getting ripped off in Varkala for the past 2 months! £3 (300IRS) for the 15k ride from bus station to train station so expect any inner city trips to cost £1 (100IRS) at most. I can only imagine it’s cheaper further north…
As mentioned, Bangalore takes an element of pride in its green credentials, and unlike anywhere else we’d visited, seems to have some kind of rubbish removing (and recycling!) system in place.
Predominantly, this rubbish removal seems to take thanks from the largest cows that I have ever seen in my life, who roam the streets as though they own them, devouring piles of another man’s waste; but the cows are as adorable as they are adored, and it does make for a cleaner city, closer to nature.
After a 12 hour night bus and with a 12 hour night train ahead of us, we kept the morning chilled out with a long walk through Bangalore’s botanical gardens. Like a lot of what you will see in India, the botanical gardens are very beautiful and very strange. Strangely beautiful.
Through ornate, wrought iron gates, tourists will pay an entrance fee of £1 (plus an additional 50p) if carrying a camera. Somehow India’s technology capital neglected to remember that since the invention of Smart Phones, we all carry a camera around, but my beloved Canon is more than worth the 50p entrance fee.
So through painted white gates, like a tropical emerald city within a city, Sunday strollers will quickly reach the garden’s proudest feature; a clock tower surrounded by slightly incorrectly designed and vey weather-worn statues of random Disney characters. Quite something.
Besides the badly designed 7 dwarfs and off-point Bambi, the botanical gardens are a beautiful shaded space with tropical flower filled greenhouses, picturesque pathways, picnic spots and a large lake to sit and gaze at. Families, friends, and still only a handful of tourists seem to visit this beauty spot and it’s definitely worth the serene solitude you will find – as though not smack bang in a thriving city.
Serene solitude broken only by a local drunk who seems to have designated himself the role of leading ad-hoc daily performances with the garden’s resident chimps. During which he’d fill his empty whisky bottles with water and had taught the chimps how to open these miniatures and guzzle the contents to ‘please’ the crowd. Then he would stumble around asking for money. I’d recommend swerving this “attraction” – or having the monkeys rescued…
Anyone who knows me well enough will be fully aware that I made my absolute contempt for this animal abusing piss-head as clear to him as to any tourist stupid enough to be sucked in.
Looking for Lunch:
Ideally we’d have lunched at ‘Carrots,’ and wondered the green city fuelled by equally green sustenance; however, having been told that the Brigade Road was a good place to have lunch, we headed in that direction.
What I’d imagined as quiet, quirky and pedestrianised place for a slightly stylish lunch, was actually as close to Leicester Square as Bangalore probably gets.
Nike shop. Adidas shop. United Colours of Bennetton. Hugo Boss. Dunken Doughnuts. Pizza Hut. Starbuck’s. NAFF!
I think my envisaged, cute artsy neighbourhoods do exist, so check before visiting; otherwise the Weatherspoons-esque diner, ‘Le Rock’ serves a decent burger, huge piles of good hummus with crudités….and ice cold Corona. Definitely a winner.
Trippling our daily budget on sacred Coronas – the only beer we’d drunk so far in India that wasn’t a 3-month out of date Kingfisher, we sank a few Coronas at Le Rock and killed some more time.
Loitering permitted. Wifi non existent.
If (unfortunately) like us, you find yourself on the Brigade Road and are feeling slightly more classy than us, you might want to try a steak at The Grill House. Or if you’re up for downgrading even further, then The Guzzler’s Inn Pub says it all really…
Having had a fun day, but still slightly disillusioned and in the dark about how to pass our time; we made our way back to the station for more chai and to curl up in our blankets on the platform to wait for our train to Hampi.
For some reason we had been told by many travellers on similar trips to ensure to arrive 2 hours early for a train that was, inevitably, 1:30 hours late – but killing time on a platform with your gorgeous man (and ultimate travel buddy) strumming the guitar, eating more deep fried banana balls and drinking bottomless sugary chai is no bad way to pass FOUR HOURS…