Bangalore has a slight traffic problem. The city has turned into an Indian powerhouse, and is the hub of the IT and telcoms explosion that is driving unprecedented growth in southern India. However, I'm sure the founding fathers never imagined their native town would become a major city on the subcontinent. As such, the streets of Bangalore weren't designed on a grid, and the city centre is a mishmash of one way streets that wend their way around town like a sinuous snake. The traffic is the worst I've experienced in India, and the inevitable result of the chaos makes for some prodigious traffic jams. So what does an Indian do when their car or bike has their progress impeded, yes you guessed it, it's time to lean on the horn. Bangalore is a cacophony of noise and traffic, but the centre of the city based around Cubbin park is pleasantly clean and modern.
Let's perform a quick reboot, constant reader , to bring you up to speed. We left off in Goa, with your humble correspondent feeling sick as a dog in a Goa resort town. It's not an ideal situation, to be sure, but it is the situation
nevertheless. I farewelled the staff and travellers from the guest house, and jumped a taxi for the hour long drive back to Dabolim airport. From there I hopped on a Go Air jet for the one hour flight to Bangalore, and then jumped a further taxi for the long drive into town. I booked into the recommended Sumanjay homestay in the heart of the city, and had a few days to explore this excellent city. There's a long term guest from Switzerland staying at the homestay, and the friendly Indian owners made me feel very welcome. I'm still feeling quite fragile, but am well enough to get out and about to explore the sights.
It's amazing how illness dents one's confidence, and my first morning in Bangalore I was nervous as a racehorse before heading out. However, it's simply a matter of getting back on the bike, and as soon as I left the guesthouse to negotiate with auto (tuk tuk) drivers it all started to come together. I spent the first day exploring Cubbin park, and the famous monuments in the vicinity. It's likely you will become hopelessly lost in this city of one way streets, but once
I gave in to the situation and just asked the locals for directions at crucial intersections I was able to find my way eventually. The parliament and high court buildings are impressive, and Cubbin park itself is great for walking around.
There's one daily ritual I seem to go through on the subcontinent, where I say something slowly and clearly to an English speaker. They reply with something weird, sometimes not even related to the topic as far as I can discern. I look confused, then repeat myself and get the answer I was seeking first time around. But the important thing is that Indians are an engaging and friendly nation of people, who will do what they can to help travellers get by in this complex country. I spent a pleasant first evening over dinner with the Swiss guy from the homestay, where we traded stories about India over a beer and an excellent meal. It was great to get out to a quality restaurant in the heart of the entertainment district.
I set out next morning to explore Lalbagh botanical gardens, which is around five kilometres further out from the city centre. The park
is super impressive, featuring a vast variety of species set in luscious grounds. The gardens are so big I spent over two hours exploring the park, and bumped into several friendly Indian people who were happy to stop and chat. It's hard to believe you are in a bustling Indian city when strolling within the grounds of Lalbagh, and the park is highly recommended as a tourist destination. At the end of the day my auto driver was driving me back to the guesthouse when we got stuck in a traffic jam ... again! Anyways, a tout was selling genuine rayban sunglasses, and I beat him down to 200 rupees. That's incredible, I thought, only four dollars for the genuine article when they cost a fortune in Australia. My driver scolded me after the transaction, and said I should only have paid 100 rupees. Come on, I thought, two dollars for genuine raybans surely cannot be possible? So I handed over my old pair to placate him, and he sported them with pride while driving me home, often taking the time to style it up in the mirror.
During my final evening in India I packed up, farewelled the
owners, and jumped a taxi back to the airport. I had a flight booked to Colombo, and the only way to get there is to fly north to Mumbai, and link up with an international flight. I arrived at Mumbai domestic terminal around midnight with the plane thirty minutes late, feeling pressed for time, tired and sick. It was left to our friend's from Mumbai's unregistered taxi industry to administer a final kick up the arse before leaving the country, and they didn't miss! I was surprised there was noone around to help, and the sharks starting circling within an instant. I tried to fend them off, stating this wasn't a licensed taxi, where is the meter, why are there two of you in the car, how much etc but they were just too good for me. I was worried about my connecting flight, and they kept pressing the issue with rapid fire talking. Before I knew it I was in the car, they drove me a little, then stopped and produced some ridiculous brochure with prices on it. I was up for the equivalent of $65 to get to the international terminal, and had no idea how far it
was. The only 'facts' I knew were the non stop lies spewing from their mouths. I had less than $40 cash in total, which they relieved me of in a flash, then fobbed me off to some poor sap who had the unpleasant task of driving me the 15 minutes to the airport. The sharks told me the international airport was 45 minutes away, and even a fare for that distance costs less than $10 dollars in India. On arrival we queued with tuk tuks, which the shysters swore were not allowed at the international terminal. I was furious, and told my driver in no uncertain terms how displeased I was with the unethical, exploitative and immoral behaviour of his associates. I think the guy was genuinely uncomfortable with the situation, as he's just a pawn in this well organised criminal racket!
Anyways, I maintained my rage all the way to Colombo, but eventually cooled off for the final day staying at Marine Tourist Guest House on Negombo beach. I was pleased to greet the friendly staff again, and gratefully climbed into a bed for several hours to have a kip. I took the opportunity to go for a
long walk along the beach in the afternoon, and dive in the water for a final swim before my flight home tonight. My trip to the Indian subcontinent has been unforgettable, including it's fair share of trials and tribulations. But what else can one expect visiting this unique region in the world, basically all of you should be here now!
We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made." Albert Einstein
It's home time, so until next time I'm signing off for now
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The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world, dates back at least 5,000 years. Aryan tribes from the northwest invaded about 1500 B.C.; their merger with the earlier Dravidian inhabitants created the classical Indian culture. Arab in...more info