Bangalore

Apr. 24th, 2010 04:44 pm
marjorieinchina: (Default)
[personal profile] marjorieinchina
Bangalore (officially Bengaluru, but I never heard anyone call it that) was my last stop in India. We flew down there from Delhi, a relatively short flight (and a direct one, which was a relief after some of the traveling I'd been doing recently).

Delhi is part of north India and Bangalore is part of south India. Stating this probably has some of you rolling your eyes, but I didn't know this sort of thing before traveling to India, and the distinction is important. In Delhi, the predominant language besides English is Hindi; in Bangalore, it's Tamil and also Kannada, which are written in entirely different alphabets. The food was spicier in the south, too, which is something that seems to hold true in most places.

We spent our first day in Bangalore (this was Monday, February 1, for those of you keeping score at home) doing not too much besides hanging out. Sam had to take care of some business, so she gave me some books to read while she was out, and I happily browsed on a biography of an ancestor of hers, and a book about the Kaveri River, and a gigantic book about Hinduism, and a book of Girish Karnad plays, until she came back, and then we had lunch out with an aunt. (Sam has a preponderance of aunts.) We also went to visit the family's ancestral home, which is no longer in the family and no longer a home. The ancestors once tried to bury their treasures under the tile floor, but it turned out everyone knew they were doing this, so they gave up on the attempt, and the tiles are still in disarray in that spot. I know this only because I was told; we just looked at the outside of the house, mostly from outside the gate.

CIMG1038

Then we visited a different aunt and drank some more coffee. I went to sleep early that night, despite the coffee, in anticipation of getting up at 5 the next morning. Getting up at 5 was more a theme of this journey than I really wanted it to be. But it was worth it! Because the next day I went all over the place with a bus tour, chiefly to Mysore and Srirangapatna. (Note: This word is spelled in many different ways. I'm sticking with this spelling but not for any particular reason.)

This was one of those bus tours where you try to see way more things than you really can within the space of a day. We squeezed in:

  • Dosas for breakfast

  • 2-3 hours driving

  • Stops to look out the window, as we approached Srirangapatna, at the fort walls and the place where Tipu Sultan's body was found after the battle with the British in 1799

  • Ranganatha Temple at Srirangapatna. This was actually cool. It was quiet and old inside, almost a maze of stone pillars and stone under bare feet, brief chambers where gods were carved from the stone and priests put the blessing powder on people's foreheads.

  • CIMG1044

    CIMG1049

  • The mosque near Srirangapatna. There was very little to see here, and the worshippers seemed annoyed that we were there.

  • Tipu's summer palace, the Darya Daulat. This was awesome. We had far too short a time there, but the building was stunning: not that big and covered with wonderful, lively paintings. Sam kept saying, in Delhi, that Mughal architecture like the Red Fort was less alive than the stuff down south, and now that I was here I could see what she meant. Tipu Sultan was everywhere in the paintings, smelling roses while his enemies fled, living leisurely with his courtiers. The exhibits inside were nice, but secondary.

    Darya Daulat palace at Srirangapatna
    Darya Daulat from the outside. I couldn't take pictures inside, unfortunately.

  • Then on to Mysore! St. Philomina's Church is apparently one of the most beautiful Christian churches in India, but I don't actually have anything to say about it. It was nice, I guess.

  • Chamundi Hills. Okay, here was a funny story. The tour group kind of dissolved at this point, and I followed what people I could spot until we reached the temple. I checked my shoes and joined the pressing queue going in. I almost tripped over a monkey on the way into the first sanctuary, and when I looked up, a man was pressing a marigold garland into my hands. "For the temple," he said, and then the line was moving on and the man was left behind. In the next room another man saw the garland in my hands and pulled me out of line--"here, this way"--and led me over to put the garland on the altar, got a new garland from somewhere and put it around my neck, smeared powder on my forehead, and told me to give the priest a hundred rupees, which I didn't see any way not to do. (Rs 100 is equivalent to about two dollars, for the record.) Then he led me out again to point up at the big carving over the entrance to the temple and tell me about it. I broke away at this point--"I want to stay with my group," I said--and exited the temple to see a cow standing before me, one of the cows who wander around unmolested in this kind of place in India. "Hi, cow," I said. The cow looked at me for a moment with its big brown cow eyes, and then it stretched its neck out and bit into the garland I was wearing. The garland broke easily, and the cow ate it.
    Garland-eating sacred cow
    This struck me as something I needed a picture of, and I got my camera out and took this one. As I was doing this, I was rediscovered by my close personal friend who'd led me around the temple, and he followed me around saying "you give me money!", with me protesting "I didn't ask for a tour!", as I retrieved my shoes and put them on--he crouched down to keep arguing with me while I tied my shoes. Finally I said, simply, "Please leave me alone," and he left.

  • There was a Godly Museum on that same hill.
    CIMG1069

  • Also at Chamundi Hills, we drove past the third largest stone bull in South India. Be impressed! We...didn't actually stop the bus. Just drove past slowly and looked.

  • CIMG1072

  • Then we had lunch, and then we looked at an art museum where I saw my favorite random thing, a candelabrum of a turbaned man standing next to an ostrich that was sort of vomiting up a candlestick. It was much more interesting than the "Glow of Hope" painting that was the most famous thing in the museum.

  • Mysore Palace was unbelievably grand, especially the stained-glass ceilings. No pictures were allowed but you can see some here.

  • A long drive to Brindavan Gardens, which get all lit up at night. This was pretty but, frankly, boring; either that, or I was very tired. Or both.

  • Dinner in the same place as breakfast.


We got back to Bangalore late, late at night. I woke up that night with food poisoning and was weak and tired much of the following day. This was about the time it occurred to me that I had made zero preparation for the health risks of traveling in India. It could have been worse; food poisoning is nasty, but the body is pretty good at getting rid of the problem. I did go to two temples with Sam that day and we met her cousin for the Indian version of Chinese food; I didn't eat much, but it was interesting. After lunch we went home to rest and I didn't make it back out that day, but I did have a rather pleasant afternoon sitting in the apartment, vaguely listening to the sounds from the street outside, and reading someone's yellowing hardcover copy of archy and mehitabel.

Thursday was my last day in India. In the morning, Sam and I went to the botanic gardens in Bangalore, because I had spotted them in a guidebook and I love botanic gardens and so I had to make us go there. It was mostly a park, rather than the more educational kind of botanic garden, but it was a pleasant park. When we left the gardens we took a rickshaw in the general direction of the place where we intended to eat lunch, and then got out and walked farther in the same general direction, and finally we found the restaurant, which was a place that served food on banana leaves. It was really good--sort of at the spicy end of what I can tolerate, but not beyond it. I ate clumsily with my hands. We wandered, after that, into a vast shopping area that seemed like it should be set aside for pedestrians but had cars, bikes, and rickshaws squeezing through the tiny lanes. I wanted to take pictures of it all, the crowds and the rows of stall after stall selling shoes, and the men in white lace caps who said "Yes madam!" as soon as we approached; but it was too crowded and close for photography. And then we left, and I had to get ready to leave. Packing again, and a last cup of chai in the apartment, and then it was a rickshaw to the bus station, a long wait for the bus, hug goodbye, bus to airport, plane to Mumbai and thence to Hong Kong.

I had two weeks in India but this was barely enough to scratch the surface. I need to make a list of places to visit, so that I can put "back to India" on the list. But the trip wasn't over yet! Hong Kong was actually better than I expected it to be, and I'll be back to tell you about that sometime next week.
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July 2010

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