What, exactly, are we doing in Bangalore?
We arrived in Bangalore late Wednesday night. As soon as we stepped outside the airport, we breathed a sigh of relief – Delhi’s oppressive heat was gone! The temperature was somewhere in the low to mid 80s – temperatures we probably had not seen since starting the trip! Bangalore got off to a good start!
Our first excursion was first thing Thursday morning when, enticed by some free time and the proximity of government emporiums, we walked up the street from our hotel to Cauvery – the place to shop when in town. As usual, as soon as we left our hotel we were greeted by honking horns, crazy traffic, dust and street merchants.
When we made it to Cauvery, we shopped for traditional Indian clothing such as kurtas (long shirts worn by both men and women), sarees (the strip of clothing that Indian women wear wrapped around the waist and then draped over the shoulder), silk and pashmina scarves (pashmina is a type of cashmere wool that comes from the pashmina goat, a high-altitude goat indigenous to Nepal, Pakistan and Northern India) and all types of souvenirs. Luckily, we didn’t have too much time since we had a city tour at 1 pm – my wallet was spared for the time being. 🙂
At 1 pm, we embarked on a city tour of Bangalore, which made us wonder why this specific city was our second stop in India. The tour guide started off by saying that everything closed at 11 pm – restaurants, bars, clubs, everything! Ok. Weird, but Ok. The actual city tour consisted of us driving by some government buildings, which, albeit pretty, were not exactly tourist attractions. Finally, we stopped for 30 minutes at the Lalbagh Botanical Garden, where we learned that Bangalore and its home state of Karnataka are the source of much of the granite that ends up in high-end kitchens.
We had exactly 15 minutes to walk around and take some photos, after which we were en route to Alliance University where we were supposed to have an expert panel and dinner. The entire tour lasted just over an hour! The lack of things to do and see combined with the fact that outside of IT, Bangalore was not the place to be in India for most industries, we started wondering why our second stop in India was not Mumbai.
The lack of sightseeing options actually allowed me to get some downtime in Bangalore. After an interview at Citibank on Friday morning, I took the afternoon off for spa time.
The spa at our hotel was quite luxurious and I booked a two-hour block that included an Ayurvedic massage (a traditional Indian massage) and a facial. It was one of the most relaxing spa experiences I’ve ever had (not that I’ve had that many, but still) and it was much needed!!!
After the spa treatment, it was time for more shopping. Again, a simple thing in India turned out to be a complicated drama in no time at all. We decided to go back to Cauvery, the government emporium we visited the day before. In India, tourists seek out government emporium because the prices are low and fixed (thus no need for haggling) and the quality is great. Since we didn’t want to walk in the dust and heat, we decided to take an auto-rickshaw to Cauvery. But instead of taking us to the real Cauvery, the tuk tuk driver took us to another place nearby called Cavery – “same place”, he claimed, “the road is closed where the other one is.” This was an obvious scam to get us into a “fake” government emporium where prices were likely much higher and the quality questionable. After he refused to take us to the real Cauvery, we left without paying and ended up walking anyway. This was our second to last day in India and we were all starting to get exasperated with such experiences.
In the evening, about 20 of us went to dinner at Samarkand – a must-try if you are ever in Bangalore. We went for the set menu, which included a certain number of appetizers, main courses and desserts served family style. Beware – only go if you are super hungry! We were so full just from the appetizers that we left most of the main course untouched. I cannot name any of the things we ate but I can only say they were all DELICIOUS!!! There was something interesting, too – the first course included lamb and chicken meat that had little silver specks on it. It almost looked like melted foil! When we asked Ryno, our Indian friend, what it was, he explained it was small amounts of silver that symbolize the fact that we are eating a high-quality, premium dish. I personally think the amazing taste was enough proof but I guess a little silver foil never killed anyone, did it?
Samarkand was a great way to end our visit to Bangalore – the next day we were to embark on our last day-trip to The Amazing Race India Luxury Style, the cultural capital of Karnataka, before we boarded a red-eye flight to Hong Kong.