Getting a taste of boomtown Bangalore
If you’ve never heard of the term “being Bangalored”, consider yourself old school – or lucky perhaps. The title given to India’s IT city down south, means your job has moved overseas without you – and it’s an expression formally recognised by wordsmiths around the world.
But in the city that inspired the slightly ominous title, once a sleepy, countrified British army base, now a technology boomtown, things move so fast neologisms expire faster than you can cross its busy roads.
Proof of this is in its rechristening. Pending approval of the central government, Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka, will soon become the fourth major Indian city, after Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta) and Chennai (Madras) to officially shake off its colonial-inspired moniker, and became Bengaluru – literally the town of baked beans.
So what could you possibly want to do in a city with such an unsavoury inspiration for a name? For the most part, Bangalore has to be experienced to be believed. The city, with its ever-surging offshoring industry, apparent from the glass and concrete façades, is at the heart of a resurgent new India – a dynamic city unapologetically tenacious and self-assuredly English-speaking.
From the glossy tech-parks that house some of the biggest multi-national companies from around the world (you name it, Bangalore’s got it) to quaint 18th Century parks (Lalbagh Botanical Garden) and very English suburbs (Cook Town, Fraser Town anyone?), there is a lot to do in this city once called the Pensioner’s Paradise.
And the epithets do not end there. There is also Garden City, Pub City and of course, the Silicon Valley of India. In fact, as soon as you step out of the airport, you’ll realise how differently this city takes itself from the rest of the country: taxi drivers will greet you in a dozen different Indian languages, and languages India has aplenty.
But it is not all technology in Bangalore, the city has a rich history. You could start at the Bangalore Palace (below), a 110-year-old monument built by King Wodeyar and one of the most visited tourist spots in the city. Don’t miss the Kempe Gowda Fort, a stone and teak structure built by the city’s founder Kempe Gowde in the 16th century. The fort, as it exists today, was rebuilt some 200 years later by a Muslim ruler Haider Ali, whose son, Tipu Sultan, built the palace that faces the fort. In 1789, it temporarily became the headquarters of the East India Company.
There is also a great tradition of theatre. Rangashankara, a state-of-the-art purpose-built facility, is the city’s pride and hosts performances in English, among other languages. But the theatre management has no patience for tardiness – they won’t let you in even if you are a minute late, no matter what your excuse.
Thanks to its amiable climate, spa retreats in Bangalore are in high demand. The best escapes, like the Golden Palms Hotel and Spa and Angsana Oasis Spa and Resort, are those located well out of the city, offering weeklong packages.
And then there are the shopping malls. Big, flashy and crowded in the weekends, landmarks such as Forum Mall and Bangalore Central are great places to window shop. The legendary Mahatma Gandhi Road (popularly called MG Road) is also a good place to shop for silk and sandalwood products.
Nightclubs in Bangalore match up to any big city in the world, although the 11.30pm legal closing time could be a dampener for many. But if you chat to some locals, they might know a place or two to go to the next “secret” party.
And similar to the great Dubai tradition, the Bangalore Race Course is a perfect day out for racing enthusiasts. You might even get to rub shoulders with members of the erstwhile royal families and local celebrities.
Because of its location, many important tourist destinations of South India are easily accessible from here. The palace city of Mysore, Bandipur National Park and the Unesco World Heritage Sites of Hampi are only a few hours away by road.
Yet, thanks to the breakneck speed it is growing at, the city’s notorious traffic jams will begin to baffle you. Apparently town planners and authorities have simply not prepared for its growth. Water shortages and power cuts are regular occurrences and the political instability is not helping.
But despite it all, Bangalore, for many who have already fallen in love with it, represents a city on the move, that is unlike anywhere in India. Still, there is already a sneaking feeling among some of them that it will soon be Bangalored by China.
The ultra-luxurious Leela Palace Kempinski Hotel and its award-winning spa is a tourist attraction in itself (theleela.com). Some locals will even tell you it is a seven-star hotel. The Oberoi, located on MG Road – Bangalore’s answer to Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road – is another great place to stay right in the heart of the city (oberoihotels.com). Standard double rooms at both hotels average at Dh1,000 per night. For a full list of other hotels and rates, visit www.hotelsbangalore.com.
Emirates (emirates.com) and Air Arabia (airarabia.com) fly daily to Bangalore from Dubai and Sharjah respectively.
From fish and chips (Koshy’s) to traditional south Indian fare (Nandhini), the city is cosmopolitan enough to please all palates.
The Golden Palms Hotels and Spa (goldenpalmsspa.com) and Angsana Oasis Spa and Resort (angsana.com) are award-winning spa resorts located outside the city and offer attractive packages.
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