|For a slice of Southern hospitality, head to Bangalore where the streets are narrow, walkways are clean, people are friendly and sightseeing is abundant. Guide books and locals will tell you there is little to see in the city that technology built. But I beg to differ. My travel partner and I flew into the relatively new, beautifully built glass enclosed airport early one morning after nearly 40 hours of traveling. We wanted a hot shower, comfortable bed and late wake up call. But by 7 A.M., we were ready to hit the ground running. Which we did a few times, literally.
How to Reach
All roads lead to Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. Growth in the city has outpaced the construction of a practical infrastructure causing rush hour traffic delays to last for several hours. Fortunately most of the city’s streets are walkable so tourists can easily hop on and off tuk tuk’s to reach major destinations while relying on their feet to cover the remaining distances.
Auto: Car & Driver services are numerous. Bangalore is home to hundreds of travel agencies offering many types of vehicles for your comfort and budget levels. From simple airport pick-ups to all day tours, this is a terrific way to explore Bangalore on a tight schedule.
For local service, regular bus service throughout the city is available via BMTC.
Train: Bangalore City Railway Station is the main stop for the heart of the city. There are multiple stops prior to this station so be sure you inquire while on board for the correct stop to avoid departing too soon. Taxis, tuk tuks and car/driver services are available for hire if reservations in advance have not been made.
Plane: Bengaluru International Airport supports non-stop flights intra-India (Jet Airways, SpiceJet, Air India and Kingfisher) as well as many international flights. Airlines offering non-stop service into Bangalore include Air France, Air China, Air India, British Airways, Emirates, Qatar, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines to name a few.
From here, use the available prepaid taxis (Rs 1200 BLR to downtown) to reach your destination. Travel time from the airport to downtown is approximately 50 minutes in good traffic as the new airport is located on the far outskirts of the city.
Metro: Currently under construction. Eventually there will be 4 routes bleeding into the city’s hub.
Lalbagh Gardens: The Lalbagh (Red Garden) of Bangalore is a must-see for any tourist to this city. Large expanses of foliage, walking trails and monuments remedy the claustrophobic feeling this southern city’s narrow, bustling streets can induce. Entry is ridiculously low at Rs 10 per person but for an even better deal, arrive between 6 – 8 AM daily when a “free walk” period is in place. Travelers are smart to arrive early in the day to avoid the heat or during the early evening “free walk” period after the cooler temps return.
Big Bull Temple: The Bull Temple is adjacent from Dodda Ganesha Temple, a short walk up the hill. Tourists traveling by car & driver are smart to leave their shoes in the car as they exit given both temples require you to remove your shoes. If traveling by bus or walking, bring a cheap pair of sandals that can be left at the entrance to the temple(s). Both are easily reachable by walking along the paved sidewalks though be sure to look out for the high volume of bird poo. There are no feet washing stations so you might think to bring wet wipes if you’re bothered by the dirt.
Vidhana Soudha Parliament Building: Sri K. Hanumanthaiya, who was Chief Minister of the then Mysore from 1951 to 1956, will be long remembered in the annals of the History of the State for his administration and achievements built this imposing edifice. The sprawling building and its surroundings occupy 60 acres. Sri Hanumanthaiya wanted “Vidhana Soudha” to symbolise the legislative sovereignty of the people like the capital in Washington or The House of Commons in London. The then Prime Minister Sri Pandit Jawaharalal Nehru laid the foundation on 13th July 1951. It was completed in the year 1956 as a result of relentless work of thousands workers with an expenditure of Rs 1.84 crores ($400,000).
Shop MG Road & Brigade Road: After a few hours of crossing Bangalore in a car, darting from one tourist sight to another, stretching your legs on MG & Brigade Road is a welcome find. Travel guides will certainly point you in this direction given the access to Western and Indian shops as well as hotels, cafes and numerous restaurants. My travel companion and I had plenty of freedom to roam as our room was well within walking distance from here. Western clothing dons nearly every shopper here making the high number of foreign tourists fit right in. Everything from McDonald’s to KFC to Benneton is at your fingertips.
Tipu Sultan’s Palace: Our driver, tour guide, and travel agency owner all waved off this destination as a worthwhile stop. For Rs 100 what you saw from the road was what you saw up close. Our driver stopped long enough to drop us off for a quick photo snap before hailing us back inside. The summer palace in Srirangapatnam is much more interesting and widespread.
Bengaluru Palace: Years ago one can imagine how grand and opulent this palace must have been. But now, sitting in nothing more than a dusty field surrounded by decaying landscape someone forgot to maintain, this shell of a royal residence is still used as a private residence. Just a few rooms are roped off for the remaining relatives of the former Maharaja’s family. Locals use the property grounds and palace as a majestic backdrop for lavish marriages. Tourists are regaled with as much interest as monkeys. Guides long overdue for retirement mumble and shuffle through the dated hallways pointing at a non-stop cavalcade of Mysore Palace photos. In the end, this short tour is rather interesting if for no reason than to see the contrast between what was, and what tech has built.
Full Stop India on YouTube
Where to Stay
Accommodations on all budget levels exist in this sprawling metropolis. Both properties mentioned below were book through a travel agency and thus, cater to a business clientele. Backpackers, budget travelers and other visitors seeking lower end rooms should consult their trusty travel guides.
Where to Eat
Like any burgeoning city in India, new restaurants are popping up weekly. My limited time here only allowed a brief sampling of what the city offers. Two choices satisfy the high-end traveler while the remaining two choices are perfect for budget weary or anyone who wants a decent Indian meal at a fair price.
What to Skip
Shiv Mandir: Open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day for your scalping pleasure. Shiv Mandir, located on old airport road in Bangalore, is the epitome of crass tourist traps. My travel bud and I had a few extra hours to burn before leaving for the airport, we’d already done the city tour and partaken of the sights we were interested in. In a local guide book we found a very well written review for what looked like a historic temple devoted to Lord Shiva. Upon mentioning our interest in this destination, our driver, Raghu, tried to dissuade us. This is a classic case of why you should listen to your driver.
Churches of Bangalore
Walking the streets of Bangalore proved fruitful on two occasions when my travel partner and I discovered to gorgeous churches. Both were wide open to the public allowing us to poke around. More than 100 churches can be found in Bangalore Metro which could be a whole trip theme to itself.
Sacred Heart Church