Our taxi driver took us from Bannerghatta to the Shiva temple, then to our hotel in the Kormangala section of Bangalore. Here MB had to work for a few days because it was exam time for the students learning to be Montessori teachers.
I was told repeatedly that Bangalore is not a tourist place, but rather it is a corporate city with many IT companies. Looking online, the things to do here are heavy on team building i.e. Escape Rooms, ropes courses and the like. There are also, of course, several spots of interest to the traveler such as myself. The state sponsored KTSDC tour boasted that all the Bangalore hot spots could be visited in a day in their air-conditioned bus for about $6 USD. The pickup point was an hour from our hotel, per the internet. I would find me a tuktuk and get myself to the Kempegowda bus station and join the tourist brigade. What could go wrong?
Hindu statues outside the cave temple
There are many bad reviews online about this company, but damn the torpedoes, I thought, how bad can it be? For one thing, I just can’t go wrong with the story. I either have fantastic material for an entertaining cautionary tale, or I have a great time and enjoy it again while writing. For another thing, MB was teaching for 3 days in Bangalore and I was being a solo tourist by day and hanging out with her in the evening.
I am pleased to report, dear reader, that it was awesome!! I saw the best of Bangalore, and I met people and had such a great day. I was the only foreigner on the bus, rather make that the only European descended foreigner because we were all visitors to Bangalore. I met two families with children and an older couple. I saw at least seven places during the eight-hour day, much more than I would likely have managed on my own. I felt I had enough time at each place. The guide made announcements in English for me. We stopped at an affordable diner type of restaurant for lunch and my fellow travelers helped me get back to the bus each time we stopped.
Lunch above, free food from the Krishnas (Dahl in a leaf bowl with yellow jalebi I bought) below
Back to Kormangala. It’s a rather affluent neighborhood with the Montessori school, many restaurants and large mansions. There were street cleaners whisking litter into piles with a branch broom in each hand.
It was cleaner than Chennai and, as everyone liked to point out, cooler with less humidity. I would miss MB as she worked but I was quite happy traveling on my own.
First stop the ISKCON temple above, bus with our guide (standing) below.
My first day in Bangalore I joined KSTDC on their day-long tour of Bangalore sites. This excursion looked promising; I would be taken around the city in an air conditioned bus to major sites on a full day tour over about eight hours. Online reviews were grim, but it sounded great to me, and how bad could it be? The price was low and I had a couple of days afterwards to see the sights on my own if I didn’t like it. I made plans to get up early and go.
Japanese garden with sculpture and bonsai trees
I found a tuktuk and went to the Kempegowda bus station. This took close to an hour from Kormangala. I loved seeing the city from the back of the tuktuk as people went through their morning routines: kids going to school, street sweepers with their two brooms each, prayers and offerings at roadside shrines, the jumble and color of people and traffic.
The bus station was enormous. The driver seemed to know where I was going, though, since I had told him KSTDC. I got out and wandered, eschewing the advice given to me by a local guy to go ‘that way’. Turned out he was right as he directed me to an air conditioned waiting room for the bus tour. I paid and waited and watched a nature program that was on TV and happened to be in English.
So what do you do on a whistle stop tour of Bangalore? The modern ISCKON temple was first. ISKCON, built in 1997, is the International Society Krishna Consciousness. We left our shoes on the bus as advised and followed a circuitous route past different information posters, donation areas, and places to leave shoes. It felt like a line for a roller coaster. Then we ascended the stairs into the temple. It was very large and had beautiful wooden doors and a very high ceiling. There were robed men near an altar at the front of the temple, and people lined up for blessings. A carpeted central space had many people sitting, praying, and enjoying the place. They gave us rice and dahl. No photos were allowed in the massive, modern temple, but here are a few of the door and outside.
Next we went to Sultan palace. The foreigners price was over 12x the locals price, which we all agreed was exhorbitant since there wasn’t much to see and we would only be there a few minutes. Here is the view from behind the gate:The guide apologized and showed me the historic Vishnu temple next door. I wandered around. A monk gave me flowers. There were people lined up at a rail for blessings and a Chinatown style Hindi gate inside. I have seen these gates in Bangalore streets as well. I bought a coconut to drink. I did this as often as I could on this trip because they are so good. The vendors will slice them for you after you drink the water so that you can eat the tender juicy coconut meat inside. They thoughtfully cut you a spoon from the coconut shell as well!
Next was the Cave temple. Sra Gavigangadharashwariswaml Temple, to be precise. It is an underground, rock cut temple going back to the 9th century. After descending the steps into the damp dimly lit cave, I joined the other able-bodied in walking the full circular path to the left in a statue laden tunnel behind the altar. It came out on the right side of the altar. It was damp and musty for sure but what an extraordinary place! Over a thousand years old and full of magic. I had to bend over to fit in places, passing statues with red powder on their faces from all the faithful experiencing this place.
This post is getting too long, I’ll continue next post!