India for Beginners – Visiting Bangalore (Bengaluru) continued
Hotel limousine cars have a uniformed driver and are the most expensive option, but it will still be affordable, compared to back home. Bangalore has too much traffic for the size of the population (11 million) and at times it is gridlocked. Avoid the morning and evening rush hour and learn to do everything in Indian time (ie eventually).
Bangalore now has many air-conditioned American style malls. Most of them contain international brands you would find anywhere, but there are a few Indian brands worth seeking out, such as Fab India and some contain food courts, that are often brilliant. For around a pound you can have your fill from a choice of cuisines with a drink. If you want souvenirs, the Cauvery in MG Road is the most well known, but personally I am not interested in silks and wooden carvings, so best avoid if that’s you as well. What is a good buy are the cotton goods and scarves, found around Commercial Street. Also here, you’ll find tailors happy to measure you up for a suit or dress and deliver it to your hotel the next day. Books, especially non fiction are cheap here. Try Gangarams in MG Road. Your hotel will have a good spa for massages and facials but for salon services, it’s cheaper to find one outside. I liked Lakme near Trinity Circle (and the Oberoi) where I had a manicure, pedicure and foot massage for less than £20. And Mad Lillies (owned by a BA cabin crew member) in the Prestige Centre, Cunningham Road was similar. For a food treat, go to Foodhall, also at Trinity Circle. They sell 70 varieties of bread, including foccacia as well as Indian delicacies.
Visiting notable attractions can be tiring; fortunately there are not too many in Bangalore. I’d suggest a stroll in Cubbon Park in the centre (300 acres) and Lalbach Gardens, to the south, if only to enjoy some peace and quiet. Near Cubbon Park is St Mark’s Cathedral, built along the lines of St Paul’s in London but obviously much smaller. There is a wonderful organ, donated by the Cowdrey cricketing family and hand made Italian stained glass windows, dating from the early 19th century. There are many temples to visit, but all are working places of worship and not smartened up for tourists. You often have to remove your shoes and the floors are not too clean, so avoid if this is likely to be a problem.
I’d recommend the direct flight to Bangalore with British Airways – booking five months ahead can cost as little as £400 return with luggage included – but breaking your journey may be even cheaper. Step out from the airport into the warm Indian morning, jump into your waiting hotel car and just imagine your gentle Bangalore adventure is about to begin. Maybe like me, you’ll return again and again.
Olivia Greenway December 2016
Food in Bangalore is generally good and it’s not all curry. The rising middle classes and visiting Europeans and Americans demand excellent Italian, Thai, Japanese, Chinese and other cuisines. Maybe only ten years ago, the best restaurants were in the five star hotels. Now there are stand alone ones too. In the centre of town near MG Road, try Church Street and surrounding area for decent, inexpensive restaurants. Out of town east a bit, along Hundred Foot Road, you’ll find scores of restaurants and shops, all vying to have the brightest neon lighting, so it’s fun to visit at night. One of the oldest restaurants is MTR near Lalbach Gardens, serving delicious south Indian fare. Try a potato dosa and steaming hot coffee, served in a silver mug, for the price of a daily newspaper. Imported wines are expensive. Stick to excellent Indian beers or their own wines that have improved massively in recent years.
Walking in Bangalore is difficult as pavements are often uneven and pedestrian crossings are few and far between. For short distances, take an auto rick. They are everywhere putt-putting along. Negotiate the fare before you travel and make sure the guy knows where he is going. Taxis (usually air-conditioned) can be arranged by your hotel.