Thursday, July 26, 2012

Things to do in Bangalore

Bangalore, India 


Take a trip back in time to see how the royals lived. 

Only two years old, interactive audio tours in English and four foreign languages allow visitors to walk through a portion of the building which belonged to the royal family of Mysore. Opulent living rooms, high ornate ceilings, old photographs and  a pair of headphones to help you understand it all means that you walk out feeling that much closer to the Wadiyars. To complete the experience, hop on to a horse drawn chariot and go for a ride as you pretend to wave to the crowds.
Details: Every day between 10 am and 5:30 pm at The Bangalore Palace (Main Entrance). Prices: Rs. 200 per person (Indians) or Rs. 400 (non-Indians) for audio tour and Rs. 100 per person (Indians) and Rs. 200 (non-Indians) for the chariot ride.


Anyone living in Bangalore, or who has been here longer than two weeks, knows that Lalbagh and Cubbon Park are two of the greatest gifts to the city. Amid all the deafening traffic, high pollution levels and high-stress lives, these lung spaces occupying prime property come as respite. They are our answer to Hyde Park and Kew Gardens in London or Central Park in New York. In fact, Lalbagh has trees from as far off as South America and Africa, all of them growing without help in local soil. The trees are large and old, the lawns sprawling and endless. So for the minimum entry fee, you can drown out the world outside once inside either of these places. Lalbagh has a pretty rose garden and the glass house is beautiful even after all these years. Unfortunately, the annual flower show is a bit overrated. But the Puttani Express at Cubbon Park, no matter how old, is still exciting for kids in the five-year -old age group, as are the numerous smaller colourful playgrounds inside. Both these parks are thankfully still well-maintained. They are perfect for a walk, jog or just to sit around at, with well paved walkways and several benches. Maybe even a picnic on a weekend . 

A tree at Lalbagh in the early morning light.


Get in to the indoor temperature controlled pool at Zela and get in shape as an instructor guides you through some fitness moves. You don’t have to be an ace swimmer. You don’t have to be very young. You don’t even have to be in great shape when you start out. Aqua aerobics have numerous benefits meant for people of all ages.

When in water, a person only weighs about 10 percent of their actual weight. This greatly cuts down the risk of injury from impact and wear and tear of the joints. Aqua aerobics is also a form of resistance training. Water being 13 times more resistant that air helps burn more calories at about 700 per calories per hour. And the resistance comes from all directions rather than just one.

Some of the special groups that it is recommended for are expectant and new mothers, senior citizens and persons recovering from a surgery, especially orthopedic procedures like hip and knee replacement and spinal surgeries. Some of the ailments it could be used to treat are arthritis, obesity, high blood pressure and depression.

This is also a great way to cool off as being in water continually reduces the body’s temperature. There’s a greater range of movement, it’s safer than swimming because you keep your head above the water’s surface and it’s just plain fun.

Cost: Included in monthly membership plan (minimum lock-in period of six months) – Rs. 2500+ taxes per month (off peak package – 10 am to 5 pm) or Rs. 4000 per month (peak timing package – before 10 am and post 5pm
Where: Zela Luxury Health Club, Residency Road
Tel: 66817411


There are few places on earth as relaxing as this spa. Visit the flagship facility on Assaye Road near Ulsoor to be pampered. They have a mouthwatering range of services to choose from using products like almond oil and luxurious scrubs. The place is clean, efficient and well-equipped. For me it hardly gets better than this. It is an urban retreat in every sense of the term. It's also the best value for money for similar experiences in the city. But don't take my word for it. Make reservations at the number below and find out for yourself. 

Where: Body Craft, Assaye Road, Frazer Town, Bangalore.
Tel: 41573044 

As far as the concept goes, Lumbini Gardens is the city’s answer to the famed Santa Monica boardwalk. With a water body on one side and attractions on the other. If an afternoon or evening for some wholesome family entertainment is what you have in mind, this is a good option.

Located along a 1.5 km stretch of the Nagawara Lake, Lumbini Gardens has something for everyone. The view from the property is unlike another in Bangalore, with several high rise buildings lining the periphery of the water. It’s best to visit here as soon as the sun sets because there aren’t too many shaded spots on the premises. Get there before closing time to take a lazy boat ride. You might catch sight of a few ducks waddling in the water as well. Just sitting by the water side gazing out on to the expanse of blue is very calming.

Popcorn, ice gola and cotton candy vendors dot the paved stretch. There’s a children’s playground and a bouncing castle. If you’re brave enough, have a go on the back of a motorized bucking bull that promises to throw of you off its back. The highlight though is the water park with a wave pool. Soaring temperatures become a thing of the past once you splash around and get soaked with the numerous jets and sprays of cool water.

Timings: 11am to 7pm, every day
Cost: Rs. 30 entrance fee
Where: At Nagawara Lake near Hebbal
Tel: 65679037 

Another  fun place to take boat ride is at Ulsoor Lake. They are open only till about 5pm in the evening but hire a pedal boat for the afternoon when the sun isn't its brightest and paddle in the water as the city's traffic zips past all around you.


In a small village close to Mysore, there was a boy who would one day own one of the most loved bookstores in Bangalore. He travelled to Bangalore to train as an engineer but did not last longer than 20 days at GE where he got a job when he graduated. “I was not interested,” he says, without regret. And Mayi Gowda, 35, has every reason to feel this way considering for the past 10 years, he has made books of every kind easily available and affordable to bibliophiles in the city.

In 2002, he started Blossom in a 150 sq. ft. space in a central part of town with his personal collection of 1500 books. He had been collecting these since 1997 that he would also sell as a student to help pay his college fees. The following year, he moved to the present three floors, 4000 sq. ft. location on Church Street. And since then, the landmark bookstore dealing mostly in second-hand books, as well as brand new ones, has attracted customers in droves, with numbers reaching almost 5500 a month.

There are books lines up on the floor, on the table and in piles that reach the ceiling. Just when you think there is no space to accommodate any more, a new shipment arrives, increasing the current count of almost 2 lakh titles and about 3 lakh copies of books. Prices here are almost always lower compared to other mainstream outlets, even on the new books, and go from as low as Rs. 5 to Rs. 1,00,000 or 2,00,000 for antique books. 

Don't be intimidated by the display. Once you get lost among the shelves, you will find something you love, or at least that keeps you busy for the next few hours.

The latter kind might have been published 150 to 200 years ago and interest collectors. It’s true that with the coming of online retail, books priced competitively at Blossom could be bought for even less, and by quite a margin, through one of these websites. But customers come back for the experience of browsing through titles on packed shelves, while being offered complimentary cups of hot sweet tea two times in a day.

At a time when purists are ranting that books are on their way out, with the entrance of Kindle and the world wide web, Blossom dismisses that theory. On a random visit, walk inside, and standing in front of shelves, head cocked to one side as they read the title from the spine of a book, is usually a person who is under 30 years. Ramachandra Guha and Anita Nair are also regular patrons.

The man who loves being around books says his favourites are Animal Farm by George Orwell and Kafka at the Shore by Japanese author, Harui Marukami. This is a tough job, says Mayi Gowda, which is why he doesn’t have plans of creating branches. 

Where: Church Street, opposite Three Quarter Chinese


Empire used to be the midnight darling that everyone in the city could rely on for a great meal post regular working hours of most establishments a.k.a 11 pm. But the food doesn't taste as great as it once used to and the party seems to have moved to Savoury in Frazer Town. They have some of the best sheek kebabs, moist and flavourful. Their Al-Fahem chicken is legendary and the biryani is the real crowning glory. I'm salivating just think about the fare. Be part of this gourmet goodness.

Where: Savoury, 56, Mosque Road, Frazer Town
Ph: 41487066


Lend an ear to poetic talent as you sip on iced tea or munch on a sandwich. Doing away with the stifling upper lip that characterizes most events of this kind, a poetry reading at Urban Solace is refreshingly casual. Upcoming talent as well as established poets are welcomed to the stage each week for what is known as ‘Tuesday with the Bard.’ Friends and family of the main act usually form most of the audience in the cozy space, creating a warm, familiar atmosphere. The Open Mic segments in between allow amateurs to discover the poet in them. Sometimes, these sessions help in deciding who will take center stage the following week. 

Where: Urban Solace, Ulsoor, Bangalore. Ph: 25553656/7


There’s something wonderful about rollercoasters and water slides. No matter what age, discover the child in you when at Wonderla as you risk disorientation on one of the more advanced dry rides or get soaked from head to toe at the water park.

Located on the Mysore highway, Wonderla is a short drive from the city. Most high-thrill rides are for children above a certain height, and presumably persons with health problems are discouraged from riding. But there’s plenty for all age groups, including excellent changing and shower areas as well as plenty of food and drink options.

Don’t miss the beach when the wave pool operates at fixed times during the day. For those who like their feet firmly on the ground, there’s the Rain Disco. With separate dancing areas for men and families, everyone is guaranteed a safe and enjoyable time as you groove to popular Bollywood numbers under a powerful rain shower.

If staying dry is your idea of fun, try Drop Zone, which simulates a bungee jumping-like experience. You’ll be sitting upright but will be taken to a height of 17 metres and then left at the mercy of gravity. Pneumatic cushion dampeners will ensure you land safely. The more ominous Mixer, as the name suggests, gives you the feeling of being in a blender. Just make sure you attempt this one on an empty stomach.

Other highlights include the indoor musical fountain and laser show, the cine magic show in 3D and the chance to hand feed some hungry but harmless fish.

Summer only gets better at Wonderla.

Get there by 11 am when the park opens to make the most of the day since it shuts promptly at 6pm on weekdays and 7pm on the weekend. Different admission rates also apply depending on the day of the week or if it is a public holiday.

Where: 17th Mile, Mysore Highway


We all dream of utopia. And although a distant dream, places like Claytopia help bring it just a little bit closer. Started five years ago by two friends who went to university in the United States where they came across paint-your-own pottery classes, kids can come to Claytopia to spend time painting bisque ware, or pre-moulded clay. Options include little Buddha heads, teapots and kissing frogs. They choose their shape and are set up on a table with sponges, stencils, four shades of paint of their choice, paintbrushes and water.

Then it’s anyone’s guess when the little hands will be done with their masterpiece. Parents don’t get bored waiting around because they can join their little ones in this fun activity which is also a great way of bonding. Make it an event to remember when you celebrate your child’s birthday party here, with all their friends. Multiple pricing options including food are available for some attractive packages.

Located in a home in Indiranagar, the white exteriors contrasted with the blue shutters and main door give the place a very Californian feel. There are chairs and tables outside as well, so you can opt to soak in some sunshine or just watch the traffic goes by on the street outside as your child turns in to Picasso. There’s a fun bistro on the premises as well that serves some great continental food. Pasta, burgers, milkshakes and other favourites that kids devour.

The painted pieces need to be left at Claytopia for 10 days as they undergo a long finishing procedure.  They will be coated with a layer of liquid glaze and fired at more than 1100 degrees in an electric kiln to lock in the colours permanently. Prices start at abour Rs. 250 and go up to around Rs. 1000 per piece.

P.S. This is one of my favourite ideas of things to do in the city. 

Where: 318, 6th Main, 2nd Stage, Off 100 Feet Road, Indiranagar
Ph:  41323394


This joyous event comes but once a year but it is so worth the wait. As soon as Muslims break their day-long fast at sunset, these stalls open up with goodies for everyone. Samosas, cutlets, biryani - basically all things good that the community is synonymous for. There isn't much for the vegetarian unfortunately because this is a predominantly a carnivorous lot. But for those who love their meat - they'll have to pinch themselves because it will feel like heaven. Imagine an entire prawn, intact from head to toe, complete with feet, spiced, skewered and deep fried. So unhealthy but so so good.

Where: During the month of Ramadan each year along MM Road in Frazer Town


For an entirely different kind of eating which is thankfully available through the year,  is the evening eating at VV Puram, expecially on Sundays. A bunch of pavement kitchens churn out some of the best dosas and assorted South Indian fare in the hear of old Bangalore. There's also gulkhand and ice cream available with cut fruit for dessert. If you don't mind being jostled slightly as you eat because of the crowd and the traffic that does come dangerously close to your toes, make this the next choice for a weekend dinner. Despite the chaos, it is worth the experience.

Where: VV Puram. Just ask around


I can't comment on whether this happens in other cities but this is something that Bangaloreans definitely take pride in. Done the traditional way, they’ll serve you your meal on banana leaves. Prepare to get your hands dirty for some great eating. Most popular as a lunch time option, ‘meals’ at Nandini or Nagarjuna, as they are known, re ladled on to your leaf from steel bucket-like vessels. The unlimited South Indian fare consists of steamed rice, dals, poriyals, rasam and sambar with pickle, papad, buttermilk and yoghurt are served in plenty making the common man’s food fit for a king.  The courses keep coming until you ask the waiter to stop. But personally, I like the Andhra-style chicken biryani. They Hyderabadi-style biryani at Nandini isn't half bad either. Meat lovers can ask for the chilli chicken at Nagarjuna or chicken sholay kebab. Another great place to try out although the slightly more expensive of the three is Sunehri at Woodlands Hotel. They have a great system going so you can pretty much always expect you rice to be piping hot and the sabzis to be super fresh. This is also what wholesome traditional Karnataka food tastes like.

Where: Nandini – multiple branches, Nagarjuna – Residency Road, Sunehri - Woodlands Hotel, opposite Mallya Hospital


The part of it that is functional now is really just a joyride. So before the whole length of it is put in place, which we've been told will be soon (but then again, we've been told that for a while) why not cruise down MG Road in the latest addition to the landscape of the central business district.


Bangalore International Airport

Go because you need to wait until you pick up a loved one or go just because. There isn't the most variety but there is coffee, some Chinese food, Subway and Kaati Zone. The drive used to be better before construction for the Metro started and the road is busy through the night because of many flights that operate at those unearthly hours. But there's something fun about sitting outdoors to enjoy Bangalore at that time and watch the expressions of people as they break into smiles, squeals, hugs and some tears as they watch friend and family emerge from the arrivals terminal.


If you don’t mind people breathing down your neck as you eat while they wait for you to clear a table or even half of one  you’re in for a treat. Ignore the waiters that practically run between the kitchen and the tables trying to get the orders right and served quickly. Most people stick to the specialty of benne, or butter, masala dosas. And you won’t get sambar here unless you ask for it. But focus on the food here and you won’t be disappointed. CTR which stands for Central Tiffin Room, has been serving legendary masala dosas drenched in ghee for years. You might have your elbows knocked as you finish your meal or you might be sharing the table with other hungry customers  but that’s a testimony to the fact that this place is worth it. 

Another great place is also Shanti Sagar in Ulsoor which can be considered a close cousin of these golden fried pancakes. And unfortunately, I don't know how to get here on my own but there is another great place in the back lanes of Commercial Street. If I'm not mistaken, it's called Dosa Camp. Look for a large crowd outside, some backless benches to rest your feet as you wait and super bright tube lights on inside. The guy behind the dosa stove is deft to say the least and the red chutney they serve alongside your order is pretty darn awesome too.  Order the plain dosa only if you don't mind attracting some attention because of its sheer size. Carry water with you and ignore the slightly soaring spice levels.

Where: CTR, Malleshwaram

*At this point I should disclose that some people who read this post might disagree with some of the content here or wonder how I left out certain obvious picks like Koshy's. The idea is not to state the obvious but instead recommend what most people tend to miss because they're so busy following what they think they are supposed to.


Do it the old fashioned way when you shop at the indoor Russell Market. With supermarkets mushrooming at every corner, Russell Market has become relegated to wholesale buyers like caterers and restaurant owners. But take the trouble of getting there when the day is still young and you’ll find some of the freshest produce the city has to offer. Built in 1927, it is housed in a charming old building that always looks like it could use a fresh coat of paint.  But don’t let that deter you. Green veggies freshly sprayed with water, colourful fruits, fish that still smells of the ocean and flowers that look good enough to eat are just some of the excellent quality products on offer. And you won't have to stress about where to find exotic produce like leeks and thyme. They are in plenty here and the vendors easily recognize them by their English names. 

Before the fire
The market suffered a terrible fire recently where most of it was gutted. So the charming old-British look is gone and now it just looks like a series of tiny makeshift garages. But don't let that stop you. Encourage shopping here so that there is motivation to restore the place. 

Where: Russell Market, Shivajinagar


One of the best ways to spend Sunday in Bangalore is to go for brunch. Everyone sleeps in, rises late, gets dressed int he best and goes to one of the many wonderful places in the city with family and friends to gorge on great food and drinks.  Olive Beach is popular as is Sunny's. The Leela spread is mindboggling. Most restaurants do a buffet and you're bound to find something to suit your budget and palate. 


It's high above the city and the floor is lit up in different colours. It's also expensive but going by it's success, this is an experience worth paying for. There will be music, there will be drinks and food and there will be a view of sleepy Bangalore as though it has been laid like a carpet at your feet. 

Where: 16th Floor, UB City
Ph: 49090000


Bangalore Walks – Like most busy people, many of us haven’t really explored the city we live in. Sign up for one of the Bangalore Walks conducted by Arun Pai and his team every Sunday which make sure that you see various parts of Bangalore in a whole new light. This is not meant to be a sightseeing tour so expect to see several commonplace sights, just differently. For example, you might be shown someone's house or a statue that you never paid attention to earlier. But accompanied with a story, these sights gain greater significance.

The Lalbagh walk by nature enthusiast Vijay Thiruvady is particularly good. He knows his trees and by the end of the walk so do you.

Set out on foot with a passionate guide, maybe a camera and a keen eye for the sights around you. A water bottle, some sunscreen and comfortable pair of shoes are recommended. Each walk lasts for about 3-4 hours. Finish with a much-deserved breakfast which is included in the per head cost. Rs. 500 per person. Rs. 300 for seniors/kids. Make prior bookings at the website below.

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