Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pinoy in India - My memorable travels to Bangalore

Bangalore - Tuk tuk bwI recently traveled to Bangalore for work but I set aside time to see the city during my spare time. I was determined not to go to Bangalore and not see Bangalore.

What I saw was a neat, liveable, trendy and green city. I heart BLR!

After a gruelling 20 hour flight from the States, I finally arrived in Bangalore at 3am in the morning. The airport was surprisingly busy around that time. My first glimpses of India were smiles and happy scenes from families being reunited once again. 
Bangalore - Airport

Emirates Airlines provided a chauffeur service for me from the airport to the hotel. (Thank you, Emirates!) The airlines' chauffers were all waiting outside the arrivals area. On the sign, they put my first and middle name together which made my name look and read rather odd and very long.

The ride from the airport to the hotel was a breeze that time of the day. I was going to discover later in my trip that, although I consider traffic in Bangalore to be rather crazy, this pales in comparison to the traffic and driving conditions in Delhi.

JW Marriot Bengaluru's lobby is exquisite. Classy at night and during the day. I stayed in what is considered center of town. My boss's boss recommended the area because of the nearby restaurants and pubs. Even though my commute to our office was more or less 40 mins through Uber, I liked the hotel's location. 
Bangalore - JW Marriot lobby night 

Lots of natural light during the day. Wifi access was fast. I actually dialed in to work from the hotel lobby one day during the week I was there.
  Bangalore - JW Marriot lobby day 

 I arrived in Bangalore at 3am on a Sunday. After unpacking and taking a quick shower, it was already time to eat breakfast. 

It was a challenging decision whether to take advantage of the hotel's amenities or see the city's sites. The idea to spend the entire day lounging at the hotel was pretty tempting. However, the week was also going to be busy and this was the only day I could see the city. I decided to take a private tour of Bangalore instead.

The private tour consisted of a driver and a tour guide, Surresh and Srini respectively. I was the only one they were showing around, which had pros and cons. Pros because you get the undivided attention and time of the tour guide. For the cons, I felt I had to act upbeat and stay focused and awake even after a grueling flight across the world. 

Our first destination was the Lalbagh Botanical Garden. It is huge, around 240 hectares or less than 600 acres. It boasts to have the most diverse collection of plants. Lots of families and joggers enjoying a beautiful Sunday morning.  I was going to discover later in the trip that Bangalore is dotted with parks very much like other cities like Melbourne and London. It must be the British connection?

Bangalore - Lalbagh Botanical Garden sign
Bangalore - Lalbagh Botanical Garden geoglogical monument Bangalore - Lalbagh Botanical Garden flower clock Bangalore - Lalbagh Botanical Garden drive 

At the center of the park is a Victorian glass house. Behind that is a band stand. I didn't really get an idea how the park is laid out because I was being whisked from point A to point B without any references to where we were. There is a large reservoir next to the park. Some of the trees look like they've been there for a hundred years. Some of them are huge. The tour guide pointed out to me under which tree Buddha was born and where he got enlightened. The problem is, the trees look the same to me. All I did was nod everytime he made references to a specific tree.
   Bangalore - Lalbagh Botanical Garden glass house
Bangalore - Lalbagh Botanical Garden rose garden Bangalore - Lalbagh Botanical Garden fountain Bangalore - Lalbagh Botanical Garden big tree 

Next on the tour was the Bull temple. I'm not sure if there are other bull temples in Bangalore but judging by how much my tour guide gave emphasis to that temple, I am guessing it is 'the' bull temple in town. There were a lot of photo opportunities starting at the main gate leading to the temple but we just passed by them. I don't know why?  I wonder if I am just being a photo hog that I want to take photos of everything new and interesting.

Bangalore - Bull Temple 

Bangalore - Bull Temple gate Bangalore - Frangrant Flower

We had to take off our foot wear to get inside the temple. The first thing I noticed was the fragrant smell of the burning incense. There was a man dressed in priestly outfit chanting. I was told by my guide that the priest's entire family lives in the temple and they all serve at the temple.
Bangalore - Bull Temple shoes Bangalore - Bull Temple bull

Afterward, we drove nearby to Tipu Sultan's Summer palace. Apparently, there is another summer palace somewhere which is a much better version. Anyway, I was told that the building remained pretty much intact since it was built. The teak pillars are solid to the touch. If you've been to the Alcazar in Cordova in Spain, you'll be able to draw some similarities.
  Bangalore - Tipu Sultans Palace

At one point I was standing inside the main room and I felt a draught and that's where I understood the name summer palace. I can imagine the palace was designed so that air circulates  to cool the interior.
  Bangalore - Tipu Sultans Palace front Bangalore - Tipu Sultans Palace inside

Then we went to the Bangalore Fort. It is an old fortification with thick walls and solid spiky doors. The walls created a pocket of calm and quiet in the middle of busy city streets. I couldn't hear the traffic outside. 

Bangalore - Fort gate
It was quite and peaceful inside. While walking around the Fort, I saw locals eating lunch or reading a book. Some of them seemed like they found solace within the walls and were just hanging out.
Bangalore - Fort walls Bangalore - Fort wall Bangalore - Fort entry

The tour took me to a place called Imperial for lunch. Apparently, they servce the best biryani in town. Though I love Indian food and I've eaten in a lot of Indian restaurants in San Francisco, the thing is, I don't consider myself a connoiseur of India food. So a good biryani by Indian standards is probably already the best tasting for me. The restaurant was packed on a Sunday lunch hour. My guide was right though. Everyone there was ordering biryani. My guide was right again when he said the place serves the best biryani in town because what I tasted was super delicious.  Later in my trip to Delhi, I will discover yet another style of biryani and it is equally delicious.
Bangalore - Imperial biryani

The last part of the tour is a drive by the old part of town. It was only a drive by so I didn't get out of the car. The area is not like the areas we visited earlier where there are hints of Victorian era design. The place is in fact the opposite. We passed by markets selling produce and flowers. This was also the part of town where I saw cows, monkeys and other wildlife to be close to the local people. It was the most colorful part of the tour and the one I can easy romanticize.
Bangalore - Flower market  Bangalore - Street scene

I asked my tour guide about a building we passed by on our way back to the hotel.  The building is called Vindhana Soudha. He must have noticed my interest so we made a quick stop for a photo.
Bangalore - Vidhana Soudha State Govt building 

The city tour finished early so I had some time in the afternoon to check out more sights near the hotel. I took the tuk tuk to get around the hotel area.
  Bangalore - Tuk tuk

Bangalore may not have renowned sites like the Taj Mahal but Bangalore has parks and it has lots of it.  The hotel is across a big park called Cubbon Park. The park was named after the area's longest serving commissioner Sir Mark Cubbon. Bangalore - Cubbon Park drive 

Lots of locals walking and jogging around the park. In the middle of the park is a Victorian style building painted in red called the State Central Library. There are a couple of museums on Katsurba Road but they were closed on Sundays.
Bangalore - Cubbon Park library Bangalore - Cubbon Park way 

Another nearby attraction is the modern and hip UB City. It is an upscale mall where Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and other designer brands have set up shops.

Bangalore - JW Marriot

At night, this area transforms into a place where the young, the monied and the beautiful go and play.
Bangalore - UB City outdoor

My commute from the hotel to the office took more or less 40 minutes. During the work week, I didn't have time to check out other sites in Bangalore. I made use of the week nights to enjoy JW Marriot Bengaluru's amenities.

Bangalore - JW Marriot welcome goodies 

And this Masala infused Spice Market Old Fashioned cocktail.
Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen Spice Market Old Fashioned

I also enjoyed the pool, yoga room and the sauna. The gym looked great too but I forgot to bring my gym shoes.
Bangalore - JW Marriot yoga room Bangalore - JW Marriot pool  

Breakfast was also something that I looked forward to every morning. It was great the JW Marriot's JW Kitchen serves Indian food. The breakfast displays were sumptuous. Lots of food to choose from. Western breakfast, Continental, Indian style, Asian style, etc. I didn't have to venture outside in the morning to eat good Indian food. Plus, this saved me a great deal of time. 
 Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen pastries Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen chutneys 

  I love Indian food. While in Bangalore, I made it a point to eat only Indian food. The good thing about being in India, the variety of dishes is so much more compared to what is available in San Francisco. Just take for example, Indian breakfast. Eating Indian food for breakfast was a first for me. One word - Dosa. 

Here are the different tasty Dosas I ate while I stayed in Bangalore. All of these dosas were prepared for me at JW Marriot's JW Kitchen. Special thanks to the staff at JW Kitchen. How they made sure that I ate different dosas everyday was beyond me.
 Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen Dosa 6 Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen Dosa 4 Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen Dosa 3 Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen Dosa 2 Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen Dosa 1 

I also discovered a dish called Paratha and Poori. They were also served for breakfast.

Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen views Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen Paratha

Here are the rest of the food I ate at JW Kitchen. The biryani was spiced with Rose water. So fragrant. So tasty. I would later learn in this trip that there are many varieties of biryani.

 Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen samosa  Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen Lentil soup Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen lamb kebabs 
Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen biryani

I also enjoyed and loved their Indian coffee and spiced chai masala.

Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen Indian coffee chai masala Bangalore - JW Marriot JW Kitchen Gulab Jamun 
One time during the week, my co workers also took me for lunch at Barbecue Nation. The place is across the street from the office in the Mahadevapura part of town. It is a buffet place. They serve one of the tastiest grilled meats I've ever had. The grilled meat and veggies on skewers are placed on the grill on the table to keep the food warm. They will keep on serving food until you tell them to stop. That is the appetizer.
Bangalore - Barbeque Nation grill

 The main dishes and desserts are in the main hall. Biryani, stir fry, soups, nan, curries, veggies, and lots more food. It was tough to go back to work after this lunch.
Bangalore - Barbeque Nation crowd Bangalore - Barbeque Nation biryani Bangalore - Barbeque Nation fried corn Bangalore - Barbeque Nation desserts  

 A local coffee chain dots Bangalore. Cafe Coffee Day is almost everywhere. There is one at the building where our office is at. There is another one across the street from the hotel.
Bangalore - Cafe Coffee Day WTC 
I've had a cup of Americano at both locations and they're good. I've also had chicken masala chicken sandwich with fries and they were good as well.
Bangalore - Cafe Coffee Day The Square Bangalore - Cafe Coffee Day sandwich Bangalore - Cafe Coffee Day brownies Bangalore - Cafe Coffee Day americano
I even brought two cans of cookies back to San Francisco.
Bangalore - Cafe Coffee Day cookies 

 Pubs. Pubs dots the area where JW Marriot is at. I was able to go to a couple of pubs after work. The ones I liked was The Bierre Club, which is a micro brewery; and The Pub World.
Bangalore - The Bierre Club Bangalore - The Bierre Club beer food Bangalore - The Pub World Bangalore - The Pub World pakora

Overall, I liked and enjoyed my stay in Bangalore. Although this was a work trip and my time while at work was hectic, I was able to experience a lot in a week. It was a great introduction to India for me.

Namaste, Bangalore!