Your first trip to Bangalore

My travel buddy Durward is joining me on my next trip to India. While I’ve had the opportunity to visit Bangalore many times, this is his first trip to India. I’ve been collecting some tips and thought I’d share them. Please note, this is not a travel list for all of India, rather more specifically for those working for American companies that have an office in Bangalore.
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Memoirs of a Visitor to India, pt. 3

The Temples

Bull Temple in Bangalore
I built several mini-sites devoted to the San Diego Museum of Art’s large collection of South Asian art: The Binney Collection I got to know Rama, Hanuman, Vishnu, Sita, Nandi, and was looking forward to seeing how these deities were worshipped in the temples.

My hotel taxi driver, Paul, took me to the Bull Temple/Hanuman temple. The Bull Temple is one of the largest Nandi sculptures in India. It is solid granite and worshippers come to praise Krishna and are blessed with good luck. One of the temple’s hosts spent some time with me to describe the importance of the temple. I was given a flower and a thumb full of powder on my forehead for prosperity. It was a very peaceful visit.

Hanuman temple
The Hanuman temple sits next to the Bull Temple. Hanuman is one of the most loved deities in India. He is a monkey figure that has shape-changing powers and helped Rama find his kidnapped wife Sita.

This temple was much busier. People lined up to have their blessings delivered into the shrine. Afterwards, they would walk around a corridor that surrounded this internal shrine. This seems to be a common procedure as it was similar in another temple I visited.

Paul then took me to a craft emporium, Sultania Arts Emporium, where I spent way too much money on bronze sculptures, silk, and silver jewelry. The salesman was a bit of a huckster, but the merchandise was top quality. It sold itself. I hate to bargain. If they list a good price, I’ll pay it. If not, I’ll walk away. This shop let me bargain a little and I was happy overall.

Hindu Temple in Bangalore

We then went to one of the most amazing religious areas I’ve ever seen. It was a large temple just behind the hotel. A tourist would never find it. It was old, well-used, and honest.

I’m agnostic. I don’t believe in any religion. However, I appreciate the architecture and art of various churches. The only church that gave me a similar feeling of warmth and awe was Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This temple’s power wasn’t in sheer size and architecture. It was the personal level of the many shrines, the age of the buildings, the massive bronze Nandi, the potpourri of scents from fires and offerings, the friendly people, and the overall feeling of comfort.

Hindu Temple in Bangalore

If you come to Bangalore, you must visit this shrine. I regret that I didn’t write down the name. It’s not far from MG Road; hidden amongst small market streets behind the Lido mall/Ista hotel.

Traffic

I loved the traffic in Bangalore. There. I’ve said it. Its anarchy combined with civility and a ton of honking. Painted lanes are a mere suggestion as the traffic swells to 4-5 lanes on small roads. Rickshaws, bikes, scooters, cars, and people jostle back and forth, keeping an eye on each other, a hand on the horn, and a prayer to Hanuman for safe journey.

to cross the road, just run like crazy
I even enjoyed crossing the streets. In fact, I was down right disappointed when an intersection had a cross walk. You stand on the sidewalk and wait for some hesitation or break in the traffic. As soon as it happens, you step into the street and move a few feet, dodge left or right, wait for a break, run a few more feet, stand in the middle of the road, recover, and then continue this frogger routine until you reach the other side.

I’m in Munich now and it’s just flat out boring to have all of these pesky traffic rules and boring cross walks. I want to run free and jostle with the best of them.

P1030787
The traffic is also a whir of colors and shapes. I became obsessed with the rickshaws; small motorized carriages on a motorcycle chassis. They zip in and out of traffic, the drivers are often bored looking at any stop, the passengers hold on for dear life, and the windshields have any number of religious figures stuck to them.

I also watched an oxen cart move down the street, dogs that defied traffic, women riding side-saddle on scooters, and rickshaw repairs in situ. I wish I could have bottled the traffic. I’d have a sip of it whenever I’m on the 101 and bored to tears.

Memoirs of a visitor to India, part 2

Yahoo! Bangalore

lightning talks at the bangalore front end engineering conference
I was in Bangalore for business. I gave two lectures at the Bangalore Front End Engineering Summit and met with various properties about Yahoo! platforms and coding. The lectures were at the new office, situated in a cluster of high tech companies.

The Bangalore Yahoo’s are a fun group. We all seem to know each other already from the many email threads and conferences. There’s a fraternity-like connection between the veteran Yahoos and a similar freshman mentality of the new hires. Ted Drake speaking at conferenceIt reminded me of college in many ways.

Food in Bangalore

I’ve traveled to many countries and there are meals that I will always remember. I have vivid memories of cherry tomatoes at my friend Jacque’s restaurant in Paris, Gnocchi in Barcelona, more tomatoes stuffed with feta in Vancouver, Chai tea in Seattle, Belgian waffles in Brussels, Ice cream sundae in Vienna, pizza in Florence….

Overall, I would have to say Bangalore had the best food overall (it was also very cheap!). There were so many dishes that surprised me with explosive, unique flavors. The service was great and the company warm. View from Dining TableI especially enjoyed dining on the 13th floor balcony of the EclipseEbony restaurant.

The Yahoo! cafeteria has a small hole in the wall, about 2 feet by 2 feet. It’s a mysterious chasm that swallows dirty dishes and takes requests for coffee and chai. It reminds me of the lady that makes tortillas inside the San Diego Museum of Man, she sits in a broom closet surrounded by mummies, skulls, and a large Aztec god.

Your request is fulfilled a few minutes later as a tray appears with a small cup of hot divinity. This chai is nothing like the stuff we get in the states. It’s thick, spicy, and has a hint of roasted flavor. lunch at Yahoo! BangaloreI could have subsisted on chai alone.

Aside from the chai, here are some other foods I will remember:

  • Warm carrot pudding with vanilla ice-cream
  • Fluffy rice thingys in a sweet lemon liquid
  • Spicy shish-ka-bob mushrooms
  • Pizza with a thin crust that reminded me of Mama’s Bakery and Lebanese Deli in San Diego
  • Did I mention the chai?
  • Egg curry at the Yahoo! office
  • The spicy, but not hot, mint chutney…

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Memoirs of a Visitor to India, Pt. 1

Ted and penguin trash can in Bangalore
It was a hot balmy night as the plane hit the tarmac. The smooth decent lulled the passengers into a sense of security; only to be jostled at the last minute when the plane jumped before touching the ground. Could this be a warning of other surprises in Bangalore?

I have always wanted to visit India and its temples. There’s a certain mystery to this enormous country and plenty of expectations to live up to. I’ve known several people that have vacationed here. Each said they were happy they went but were in no hurry to return.

What mysteries will this country hold?

Over the years, I was told to expect the following issues

  • Dying and dead bodies in the street
  • Extreme poverty and malnutrition
  • Food that gives you explosive diarrhea
  • Cows walking along the streets
  • Misquitos that attack mercilessly, spreading malaria along the way
  • Dry, Hot, Humid, Blistering weather full of Monsoons and drought
  • Strange smells
  • Everything is extremely cheap
  • Terrorism in the streets due to Kashmir and Pakistan
  • Wild ceremonies and festivals
  • Eunichs, men standing on one leg, silent monks, self-flagellation, and other religious extremes
  • Children grabbing you and begging for money
  • Pickpockets
  • The list goes on.

rickshawWhy has this country gotten such a bad reputation over the years? How could it be the source of such beauty and pain all at once? I prepared myself as much as possible. I got pills to fight malaria, mosquito repellent, lots of underwear, long sleeve shirts, pants, comfortable shoes, and extra rupees to give to the children as they hung tirelessly to my leg.

Bangalore, the city of exceeded expectations

I’m in the Bangalore airport waiting to leave for Germany. I am happy to say that the only expectation from above that was met was the cows in the street. The city was absolutely lovely.

First Impressions

I was a bit surprised by the small airport and lack of signs. I just followed people and hoped for the best. It wasn’t long before I made it through customs and waited forever for the luggage to arrive. You arrive and depart very late in Bangalore. Most International flights arrive and depart around mid-night.

The hotel sent a taxi for me and my journey began. My first impressions: it looked like Tijuana, the weather was lovely, holy shit there are big dogs everywhere and they just sit in the road ignoring cars.
Tableau in Bangalore temple

The Ista Hotel was lovely. I usually cringe at paying more than $125/night for a hotel. I would highly recommend the extra cost for a luxury hotel in India. You need a place to relax in air conditioned comfort. My personal taxi guide, Paul, was also wonderful. They even have a lovely café, pool, and spa. It was a bit odd having people wait on me hand and foot. I don’t think I’d ever feel comfortable being one of the pretty people who expect such service.

Save a space for me

Forget those preconceived, stereotypical views that I came to India with. I had a great time and will certainly return. Follow along as I recall more of the memories packed into just a few short days.

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