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Day 9 from Bangalore

It is Day 9 of this long trip in Bangalore, India.  I am ready to go home…in two days, Yay!

Someone asked me today what do I like Bangalore the most.  It’s a tought question and I am not sure how to answer it.  This is not my first trip to India but it is the first time to Bangalore.  The people here are very nice, as in Mumbai or New Delhi.

Bangalore is called the “Garden State” because there are a lot of greenery, trees and plants everywhere, especially outside of the city center.  The climate here is very mild and nice year around I was told.  As I am here during July/August and everyday the temperature is about 82 high and 65 low, not humid.

Just like everywhere else in India, Bangalore has a lot of construction and the roads are in bad shape with a lot of potholes.  There are hardly any traffic lights and people just drive where they can.  Crossing the street is a big challenge and it is a major health hazard as in you may get hit by a car or motorbike.

Bangalore is a big city and if I have more time to explore, I think I may really like it.  However, since I only have half day to see the city (although I am staying at Bangalore for almost 10 days), I didn’t fall in love with it as I did with Mumbai.  I felt like there was not much to do or see in Bangalore.

Weekend in Bangalore – Mysore

I planned a full day trip for Sunday to visit Mysore.  We left the hotel a little after 6:30 in the morning to get a head start.

Mysore is the second largest city in the state of Karnataka after Bangalore.  It is located at the base of the Chamundi Hills about 146 km (91 mi) southwest of the state capital Bangalore with population of more than 880,000.

Our fist stop is the Jamia Masjid, a mosque in Srinagar, in the middle of the old city.  We didn’t go inside the mosque but only walked around and outside.  Our next stop was The Ranganatha Swamy Temple.  The temple has fort like walls and an intricately carved Gopura in Vijayanagar style of architecture, a mixture of the Hoysala and Vijayanagar styles. The main entrance has Chaturvimsati (four) pillars has the cravings of the 24 forms of Vishnu.

Then we visited the St. Philomena’s Church, a Roman Catholic Church built in AD 1840.  The twin towers of the church stand at 175 feet in a gothic design with stained glass windows.  Next stop was the Chamundi Hills.  The hill is 3,489 ft above sea levels and is only 12 km from Mysore city center.  The drive up the hill was fun with lots of turns and our driver was going fast with confidence (I had the seatbelt on).  On top of the hill, there are great views of the city below.

The last stop and highlight of the trip is the Mysore palace, the Maharaja’s Palace.  The palace was designed by an English Architect named Henry Irwin and it was surprising only built between 1897-1912.  It was a huge palace and a very grand one.  I can only imagine what it was like living in it.  Unfortunately no picture is allowed inside the palace but I did take this picture from the outside with the big cloud on the sky.  Soon after this picture, the sky opened up and downpour the rain.

Maharaja’s Palace (Mysore Palace)

The way home was a long drive with traffic not moving.  We left the Palace around 5:30 and didn’t get back to the hotel until past 11.  We were so hungary and tired that we needed to stop for a quick late night snack at A2B, a very popular restaurant chain that serves very affordable and good south indian food.  My first meal in a local Indian restaurant that’s not in a hotel and I really enjoyed.

Day 6 from Bangalore

Shiva Statue

Bangalore Palace

Today is Saturday and I left the office after 3 in the morning but have the weekend off.  The plan for today is get a bit of sleep then go into Bangalore city center in the afternoon.

Got up around 10 and went for breakfast at the usual place around 10:30.  I was surprised by how busy it was in the hotel and restaurant today.  It seems during the week days the people in the hotel are mostly business people staying for work.  The weekend seems to have more local people coming in for a little treat for the weekend perhaps…more kids and more ladies, almost all indians except me and another gentleman.

The hotel has a travel desk that can provide a driver and car to take people for sightseeing trips for a fee.  I booked one for 8 hours today to see the city.  Two people from my company’s supplier are also in Bangalore helping me on the project.  It is their first time to Bangalore even though they are Indians and both from Mumbai.  I thought it would be nice to invite them on my trip.  Good for them to see the city and good for the company.

Frist we visited the Shiva Temple in the city center.  When we drove past the front entrance, I couldn’t tell that there was a temple anywhere.  All I saw was construction and building materials on some store front.  Then we went through a parking garage and paid a small fees to go inside.  Took off our shoes and walked through some narrow and dim tunnels.  We walked pass a lot of glass cases on the wall and small statue of various forms of Shiva.  Then we got to the outside and there it is…a very large statue of Shiva.  This is a very popular temple, especially on the weekends where people come for prayers and pray for their wishes to come true.  I can’t remember what I wished for.

After some fun shopping and nice lunch at the Tandor Restaurant, we headed to the Bangalore Palace.  It is 350 Rps to go inside the Palace but it’s free to see it from the outside.  I started to take some pictures but the security guard right away told us “no picture” unless we buy tickets to go inside the Palace.  Our guide and driver told us it is not worth it to go in as we will be going to Mysore where there is a much bigger and grander palace built by and for the same family with virtually the same architecture design.  We took his advice and settled to just sit and admired the palace from the outside.  I did take a couple of pictures before the guard stopped us.

Today is the best day of this trip so far.  I got to see the city of Bangalore, visited some nice places, and more importantly, I did some mandatory shopping and brought some very nice silk stuff for myself and the girl.

Day 5 in Bangalore

It is Friday night at 11:30 PM and it is day 5 of my trip to Bangalore.  It’s been a long week and I am so glad it will be over and the weekend starts soon.

I am still trying to finalize and firm up my plan for the weekend.  I love to go into city center for a short visit and shopping tomorrow.  Since I am getting out of work Saturday morning around 2am, I plan to start the short trip around noon.  Then plan a full day trip for Sunday.

There is a city called Mysore not too far from Bangalore.  It is the second biggest city for the state of Karnataka, after Bangalore.  It is said to have some of the best palaces and produces some of the best silk products in India.  It is a two hours drive from Bangalore so it will be a full day trip if I go.

I am hoping to meet up with a couple of people from work to go together.  They are from Mumbai so it’s also their first time to the city.  I will be better if I can go with someone I know on such a long trip just in case.

I hope the weather is nice tomorrow and Sunday.  It is forecast to rain tomorrow but cloudy for Sunday.  It is hard to believe that India is actually cooler than NYC.  It is only about 82 high and 65 low.  I have not use the hotel pool yet because the water is too cold.  I love hot weather and much prefer Mumbai’s temperature.

Day 3 in Bangalore

It is day 3 in Bangalore and I am slowly getting into a routine.  I was at work at 7 AM EST for both yesterday and today.  That’s 4:30 in the afternoon local time.  Yesterday was a long day.  When I got back to the hotel around 4 in the morning, I went straight to bed.  Then I got up a little after 9 (about 5 hours later) and made it to breakfast before they closed at 10:30.

I took a two-hour nap and went to the gym for an hour.  Then I went to work.  I can’t wait for the weekend.  It is a good thing that I only have to stay for another week.  Everyday just going between office and hotel and sleep is not fun.  Then have to work the grave yard shift makes it so much worst.

Two more days until weekend!!! Then it will be shopping and sightseeing!!!

Hello from Bangalore

I landed at the airport yesterday around 5 in the morning and checked into the hotel Vivanta by Taj at Whitefield.  My first impression coming out of the airport was it is cool (as in not too hot temperature) in Bangalore in July.  I learned that unlike Mumbai or Delhi, Bangalore has much milder weather and mostly pleasant year round.  And the new airport is about one hour from city center or much anything else.

This will be my longest stay in India so far for a total of 13 days, including travel time.  Plus I will be working (or trying to) the 9 to 5 U.S. hours.  I really hope this will be the last trip to India for a while.

I didn’t do too much on my first day here other than checked into the hotel and went to the office until 1 in the morning.  I did had breakfast/lunch at the hotel around 3 in the afternoon before heading out to the office.  I checked out the pool and spa facility and plan to use them during my stay.

I plan to do some sightseeing on the weekend.  Stay tuned.

Going to India again!

In a few days, I will be going to India again for business.  This time, I am going to Bangalore, the silicon valley for India where most international tech companies have presence in the area.  I will be staying longer this time too, 13 days including travel time.

This will be my third visit to India so there shouldn’t be any surprises.  Since it will be the first time to Bangalore, I plan to have time for some sightseeing and be a tourist on the weekends.

I hope it is not a bad omen that I am having issue to get an international phone before the trip even started.  I currently have the iPhone 4 from Verizon and it is not compatible for international use.  So I have to request an international loaner phone.  I followed the company procedure and filled out the request more than 8 business days ago.  I asked to have the phone to be delivered to me by Wednesday and today is Tuesday.  I finally got a confirmation after 6pm that a phone will be fedex from Chicago to me by tomorrow.  I hope I will get it tomorrow.  Good thing I deliberately put in one extra day just in case.  My last day in the office is actually Thursday, not Wednesday.  So if necessary, I can still receive the phone on Thursday.

Let’s hope all will be fine for the trip and the project is successful.

 

Last Day in Mumbai

It is Day 9 in Mumbai and I am ready to go home.  This is and will be a long day for me.  I started my day to the office at 11 in the morning.  My flight doesn’t leave Mumbai until 3 in the morning on Tuesday.  The good news is I will be back in NY at 1 in the afternoon.  The bad news is I have to go to work Wednesday for an important meeting.

Because I stayed in Mumbai for over a week this time, I have more time to explore the city and get to see and enjoy it better.  My impression of Mumbai is better and I can see why so many people love it.  Mumbai is almost like New York City but dirtier and more crowded, if you can imagine that!  Mumbai has the high-end stuff such as hotels, shops, etc. and it is relatively safe for travelers (although it may not seem that way since everyone seems to be staring at you on the streets and/or trying to sell you something).  It is definitely very dirty, dusty, and hot/humid.  If you love NYC, you will like Mumbai.

To me, Mumbai is like NYC and Hong Kong combine.  It has the familiarity and excitement of a big city, and also the exotic and aroma of a foreign country.  It certainly helps with the currency exchange rate of $1 to 50 rupees.  Mumbai’s infrastructure definitely can use some badly needed upgrade.  The streets are in bad shape, public transportation is not convenience if existed, and traffic is a nightmare but most people own a car if they can afford one.

I would love to visit Mumbai again if I have the opportunity.  There are many places to see and things to do still.  But, no place beats home when home is NY.  I am glad to be going home at last!!!

Day 8 in Mumbai

Today is Sunday and I don’t have to work…well almost.  I am staying at the Taj for the weekend and I planned to do some more shopping today.

Since I don’t have to go to work, my plan was to sleep until 7 or 8 in the morning and then breakfast and some fun activities.  Great plan but didn’t quite work out that way.  I was awakened at around 3 in the morning by my cell phone.  One of my colleagues was to leave NY and come join me in Mumbai on Monday.  He had trouble with his airline booking confirmation and they couldn’t find his reservation.  We went back and forth for a couple of hours.  It certainly didn’t help that the first guy behind the airline counter had no clue what he was doing.  My colleague had to get the manager after 45 minutes with no result.  At the end, my colleague had to take a later flight and a longer layover in London and will arrive in Mumbai 7-8 hours later than initially planned.

It was 6 by the time we were done and I went back to bed.  I forgot that I had a wake up call at 7 with hot tea deliver to my room.  Woke up at 7 but didn’t bother with drinking the tea and went back to bed.  I got up at 9:15 with great difficulty.  Couldn’t remember if Buffet breakfast open until 10 or 10:30 so I rushed to make sure I get there before 10.

I was planning to hangout with people from work today but since I didn’t get a call to confirm, I didn’t wait and set out on my own at 11am.  (Turned out the guy and his wife had some family emergency and didn’t call me until late afternoon).  I went to the Prince of Wales Museum.  The entry fee is 300 rupees for foreginers that includes an audio tour.  I didn’t take any pictures inside the museum but took a few outside.  The museum has very good selection of arts and historic artifacts and worth the visit.

Then I went to the Colaba Causeway market again for some shopping.  I stumbled upon an arts, crafts, and jewels store and spent many hours in there looking at so many different things.  I ended up spending quite a bit of money for some very nice looking semi precious stone jewelery and crafts.  The prices are not the cheapest but reasonable I believe.  This store usually closes on Sunday but kept it open today because there is a cruise ship docked at the bay and they expected many tourists to come.  My lucky day (or the store owners’ lucky day depending on how you look at it)!

Then, I went to McDonald’s for late lunch at 5pm.  There are many restaurants and street vendors selling foods but I am not sure how clean they are or if I may get sick so I stick to the familiar foods.  I saw McDonald’s and Subways, but have not seen Starbucks yet.  I ordered 9-piece chicken nuggets and one-scope sundae for 140 rupees, that’s less than $3 with current conversion rate of $1 to 50 rupees.

I love to bargain even thought the price on most everything is very cheap when converted to US dollar.  One vendor offers to sell me 1 pashamina or 1 large silk scarf for 500 rupees and 1 small silk scarf for 250 rupees.  I ended up getting 4 pashaminas, 1 large and 2 small silk scarfs for 1700 rupees, and I gave an extra 100 rupees for good measure.  That’s a total of $36!!  I spent at least 10 minutes trying to get him to lower the price by a few bucks then I gave him more than what we agreed to.  It’s the fun and satisfaction you get from what you want, not the money.

Now that I brought more stuff (although small in size), I have to figure out how to pack them all in my suitcase tomorrow because I am going home at last!!

Weekend in Mumbai

It’s Day 6 in Mumbai and today is Saturday.  The Hyatt I stayed at is close to the airport and office in Andheri, convenient to get to the office but nothing else to do if you don’t have a car.  Since I don’t have to go into the office for the weekend, I moved to the Taj Mahal Palace in central Mumbai.

The Taj is a very nice hotel, old world charm.  The location is great and it has a nice view.  My room was upgraded to a partial sea view room with balcony on the 16th floor.  The room is a bit smaller compare to the Hyatt and furnishing a little older but comfortable.  From my room and balcony, I can see part of the plaza and Gateway of India.

I didn’t bother to unpack since I am only staying for two nights.  My one piece luggage is so full I have to expand it in order to close it.  I don’t think I have room to fit more stuff in if I shop more.  I only brough a silk hand embroidered and hand painted king size bed spread, sarees for me and the girl, few pashmina shawls and a marble chess set.  Since I was rushed to pack in less than 2 hours, I have too much cloths and shoes that I don’t need.  Next time I have to start packing sooner so don’t bring unnecessary stuff.

I went for a walk after settle down for 30 minutes.  It was a short walk to the famous Colaba Causeway shopping street where lots and lots of street vendors setup shop on the sidewalk.  It’s sort of like Hong Kong’s Ladies market except it is not a dedicated market where the streets are close to auto traffic.  In Mumbai, all the shops are just on the sidewalk street where people walk and shop and there are many of them selling mostly the same things such as clothing, sandals, handbags, crafts, and cheap jewelry.  The price various greatly from shop to shop so bargain is absolutely necessary.

I was very good today and didn’t buy anything because I remembered the packing job I did this morning and there is no room for more stuff in the luggage.  But if I can find a way or maybe buy a bag, then I can get more stuff?!!  Humm…I have to check this out tomorrow.

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