Another day in India! And this one didn’t involve arriving very late (or very early, depending on your point of view) or getting up for work, which was a welcome relief after yesterday. My very nice driver, Chandra, offered to take me around to a few local sights today, which was great because, although I’m staying in Bangalore for nearly two weeks, between working during the week and taking side trips on the weekends, I actually don’t have a ton of available time to explore it. It’s also extremely helpful to have someone who can drive me around because, as I mentioned yesterday, traffic is kind of crazy here. Between buses, taxis, and the metro, there are certainly public transit options, but there is just so much congestion that being with someone who can navigate it for you makes life a lot easier. Chandra said it’s very normal for tourists to hire drivers like him to take them around, so don’t assume they’re only for business travelers. After just a day here, I would highly recommend looking into it when you come here! I also asked him about the rickshaws I kept seeing on the road – they’re everywhere! He said the tuktuks, as they’re known here, are widely used by locals, but aren’t recommended for tourists. As you can see here, they’re not particularly secure and they zip in and out of traffic pretty quickly (though not as much as the motorbikes do!), so I will happily accept his recommendation. He also said that many companies who bring business travelers here actually tell their employees that they can only use tuktuks at their own risk, so use your own discretion if you opt to try them out. The good news is that, compared to the US at least, traffic moves so slowly (because the roads are SO congested) that I assume accidents are generally less dangerous. If anything, I would assume simply crossing the roads is more dangerous than driving on them because crosswalks don’t seem to be a thing here (I saw exactly one today), so you just have to make your own path. We only had to cross roads twice today and Chandra grabbed my wrist both times because he said he knows I’m safe if he’s holding onto me – so considerate! Long story short – make wise transit decisions when you’re here, both on foot and in any kind of vehicle.
Today’s outing consisted of a few different stops. First up was a silk factory and I was surprised to find it was just a few minutes from the hotel. When Chandra said it was a factory, I assumed it would be a large building further out of the city, but it was really more of a workshop at the back of store than a factory. I was first taken to the back to see the workshop area where they make silks, which was neat, and then into the shop for some opportunities to buy a variety of silks, clothing, etc. The employees are very nice, but very persistent – they’ll try to keep selling you lots of stuff! I did buy two things that will likely end up being gifts, but I definitely had to make it clear at a certain point that I didn’t need anything else. To be fair, that’s kind of what I was expecting, so just know that you’re likely to have a similar experience when you visit these shops here (and certainly in other countries as well as this isn’t the place I’ve experienced this myself).
Not being much of a shopper in general, I was happy to move on to our next destination, the Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace. I always love visiting buildings like this and it was great having Chandra with me to explain some of the history of the palace and the sultan himself. The entrance fee is ₹200 (~$3 USD, though it’s only ₹15 for Indians) and is definitely worth it. A section of the ground floor is used as a small museum about the sultan and includes information in English, so even without a guide, you’ll learn something. As soon as you get your ticket and walk through the gate, you’re likely to be approached by someone offering to be your guide, so feel free to accept that if you want to. Of course, it’s not free, but the man who came up to us only asked for ₹100, so it won’t break the bank. Whether you get a guide or not, pay the palace a visit, wander around, and take lots of photos (though be sure not to take photos in the museum part of the palace as they aren’t allowed there).
Next up was another interesting stop, the Bull Temple (Basavanagudi). I had never been to a Hindu temple before, but it was a cool experience. Having never been to one before, I was expecting it to be more like the many churches I’ve visited on my travels, but it was actually quite small. Most of the temple is dominated by the huge statue of the Nandi Bull, which is especially impressive because it’s said the bull is carved from one piece of stone. Everyone must remove their shoes and socks before entering the temple, so don’t forget to do that! At this temple (and, I assume, at others), you’ll see where everyone is taking their shoes off, so just follow their lead. Upon entering, we were given a blessing on our foreheads and then walked around the Nandi Bull while Chandra provided some history of the temple. I know very little about Hinduism, so it was fascinating to learn about it. Again, I highly recommend having a local guide with you when visiting places like this as you’ll learn so much more about the culture. There’s another temple, Dodda Ganesha Temple, just down the hill from the Bull Temple, but it was just closing when we walked by it, so we were only able to peek in.
From the temple, we went to Bangalore Palace, which is owned by the Mysore royal family. From what Chandra told me, the Mysore Palace (which I believe I’ll be seeing tomorrow) is much larger, but Bangalore Palace sits on a larger plot of land. And just last week, visitors weren’t even allowed in Bangalore Palace due to a royal wedding, so I’m glad I was able to go today. The entrance fee for non-Indians is ₹460 (~$7 USD), so another inexpensive one, but like many places, they only accept cash, so plan accordingly with your ATM trips. The entrance fee does include an audio guide, but the process for getting one is not well-organized – you buy the entrance ticket from one person and then walk over to another person on the other side of the room, but there’s no line, just a mass of people waiting to get their guides. And then they ran out of headphones, so I gave up and just explored on my own. There was a group with their own English tour guide in front of me, so I picked up a few bits and pieces as I walked through. If I could do it again, I would have just waited for the audio guide as it would have been nice to know more about what I was looking at, so when you visit, wade through the group and get your audio guide! Note that the entrance fee doesn’t technically include the use of a camera (that costs an extra ₹250), but it didn’t seem like anyone was monitoring who could and couldn’t take pictures, so I was a rebel and took them anyway. 😉
After Bangalore Palace, we made one more quick stop at a handicraft store, where the employees there were just as determined to make a sale as the ones at the silk shop. Although they’ll keep pressing you, hold your ground and buy only what you want (if you even want anything). I did buy two small pieces, one of which is made from sandalwood, which is something Bangalore is known for. Again, they may end up being gifts, so I think they were worth it (I spent ₹3000/~$45 USD) and the employees were open to haggling, so you can get a pretty good price if you work at it.
Enough reading – on with the pictures!
Me with some of the colorful chandeliers, complete with my blessing from the Bull Temple in the palace
Somehow I never think it’s going to take me long to write these posts, but it always does! After the luxury of sleeping in today, I’ll be up early again tomorrow for the trip to Mysore with my co-worker, so I have to put a bow on this post. Be on the lookout for a new post about Mysore soon!