Bangaluru: Exploring the City

Mr Dahlia and I were thrilled to be invited to our friend Karan’s wedding in Bangaluru, India. Unfortunately, when we looked up the flights, we just couldn’t afford to bring the whole family, but Mr Dahlia’s mother stepped up and offered to look after our band of four children while we attended. It’s a big job, so we tried to keep the trip as short as possible as a compromise.  Just getting there proved to be more complicated than we expected when my e-tourist visa was rejected. After rocking up to the Visa office in Sydney, I discovered it was because I am a writer. I had to fill out additional forms to prove I’m not a journalist – it’s very difficult to prove you aren’t something – and do declarations that I wouldn’t work while there. Who knew that being a writer was so political? Although it’s a bit bloody obvious in hindsight, and I wonder how many journalists put writer because journalists have to fill in extra information, so their attempt at a work-around then messes up the process for all other writers. Presumably India Tourism won’t mind a happy blog post now I’m home. I certainly hope it won’t stop me going back, because India is fucking amazing and I’m so keen to return there for more visits.

Butterfly Garden at Singapore Airport

We flew out of Sydney on Thursday at lunch time, and thanks to favourable time zone changes going that way around the world, we landed at midnight on Thursday. The flight time was about seven hours from Sydney to Singapore, then a short layover, then another four and a half hours to Bangalore/Bangaluru. People we met at the wedding used both names for the city, so presumably they are interchangeable with locals?

On arrival we booked an Uber to our Airbnb. There are basically four options – a private driver, Uber, Ola, or a negotiated rate in a taxi. We tried both the Ola and Uber apps during our trip, and Uber was more reliable. The set up for Uber pick up at the airport is much more efficient than in Sydney. When booking on the app, you get given a pin, and then you get into the first uber in the rank, share the pin with the driver, and the connection is made in the app. In Sydney, it’s a shambles, as you book a driver, and they meet you in a special car park which is full of other jetlagged people staggering around trying to find the specific car they’ve booked.

At midnight, there wasn’t too much traffic, and initially the ride seemed fine, until the driver took a short cut and drove the wrong way down a one way road. He drove up on the footpath mostly out of the way of oncoming traffic! We made it to our Airbnb, having already notified them of our arrival time, and had to wake up the caretaker. The place itself was hugely oversold, but the room was clean and that’s all we needed.

We woke up on Friday morning and decided to head into the CBD for coffee, breakfast, and some exploring. The traffic is an eye-opening experience, with marked lanes being meaningless and vehicles of all types filling every inch of available space. And yet, for all the apparent chaos, there is a beauty in the way it flows. There is a delicate balance between cooperation and competition, with a constant stream of toots to remind others to keep watching. In Sydney a prolonged lean on the horn is aggressive; a dickhead sound that jars. In Bangaluru, the horns are short, quick sounds that say, “I’m here. Coming through.” The sound is informative, not angry. Most of the vehicles are small, motorbikes (helmets optional), small cars and trucks, the occasional packed bus, tractors, construction equipment, and I even saw a horse pulling a cart. Most roads are designated one way, although side roads and smaller roads through villages are both ways (often only wide enough for one car, but somehow everyone fits). The traffic moves slowly, but it keeps moving.

Cubbon Park and High Court Signage

After breakfast and coffee, we wandered around Cubbon Park where we saw the Victorian-era High Court building, many stray dogs, a woodpecker, and several squirrels. The park is laid out like an English country manor house garden, but with local trees. Falcons flew above the park, and many locals were out enjoying the public space too.

High Court with dogs sleeping on the steps

Eventually we made our way around to the Government Museum, filled mostly with ancient sculptures and artefacts including stone tools, pottery, and many swords of varying types. After that, we went to the Science Museum next door, who had an excellent display of mechanical parts, such as different types of cranks, pistons, levers, and other tools that are used in mechanical engineering. That was enough official tourist stuff for our jetlagged brains, so we walked along a street towards the town centre until we found a pub. Cheap beer, a second floor porch to watch the traffic from, and amazing local food. What better way to wile away an afternoon. Being the restless types that we are, we had a couple of beers, then decided we needed to find a grocery store to grab something for breakfast. Well, google maps sent us on a wild chase through the back streets of Bangaluru looking for shops that didn’t exist. We did, however, find several a few small pubs to rest our feet in, recover from potential dehydration, and watch the Aussie v India cricket match.

Eventually, we found a small grocery store, grabbed some supplies, and wandered back to the first pub because it had the best food we’d seen on our meanderings. It was a very relaxing end to our only day of adventuring in Bangaluru, and we enjoyed a safe, although slightly wild and entertaining, ride back to our accommodation.

Paneer fried in chilli oil with chilli dipping sauce, and paneer kebabs. Delicious!

Tomorrow, and the next few days, Karan’s wedding…

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