Bengaluru is the third largest city in India, located in the middle of the Deccan Plateau in South India. I was in Bengaluru on the way to somewhere else. I visited Bengaluru in 2007 during my first trip to India, so I would have preferred to visit a new city. 13 years between visits is long enough to warrant a revisit, so instead of flying straight through I made a stopover here.
With a population of over 10 million people Bengaluru qualifies as a megacity, and that qualifies me to have another look. If I am to visit India more often then I am ok with revisiting the hub cities of Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata.
My style of travel has changed a lot over the preceding 13 years as well, so I ended up having a completely different experience to my first trip.
My first visit mainly saw the grand administrative buildings and historic temples as marked out on the Lonely Planet map. That trip was a few months before the first iPhone was released, so the way people travel has changed substantially since then.
If you are visiting India for the first time I still highly recommend getting a Lonely Planet and seeing the main sites. For this trip I was more interested in seeing how Bengaluru is evolving as a city.
This post doesn’t contain things to see and do. Instead it’s my notes and observation on the ground.
I hadn’t been to India since 2013 so I was excited to be back as soon as was at the airport. After checking in to my hotel I went for an unguided wander, and I soon found myself in the mayhem of old Bangalore.
I had wandered into the Chickpet area, and on my Google map you could see the roads were narrower and more labyrinthian.
Everywhere you look there is something interesting to see.
Even the advertising is interesting here.
[Was this astrologer the inspiration for Iron Man’s hand rockets?}
I had forgotten how vibrant and intense street life in India is.
There are lots of colonial-era buildings that are waiting to be restored.
I didn’t go to any temples or museums as I was enjoying my street wanders.
The Garden City of India
Bangalore (as it was once known and still referred as) earned the title as the garden city of India for its public parks and wide tree-lined streets.
In all of my travels in Asia I would rank Bengaluru up with the French Concession in Shanghai in terms of the best tree-lined streets.
As with every big city though, Bengaluru faces a continual battle to preserve its green cover while development slowly eats away at green space.
One great street I went to was 100 Feet Road.
There are lots of nice apartment buildings among the urban forest.
As usual it was let down with broken footpaths everywhere. If they better landscaped this street it would be world-famous.
Bengaluru reminds me of Madrid in terms of its geographic location and use of trees. Madrid is planted in the centre of the Iberian peninsula, and it has made an urban paradise for itself by lining the streets with trees. Bengaluru is similarly in the middle of a great land mass (of Southern India), and it too has filled the city with greenery to make this hot location more habitable.
On my previous visit the first metro line was under construction, and it impressed me enough to have taken a photo of the plan. I recall having a dispute with a tuk-tuk driver, so perhaps I had already started dreaming of an alternative form of transport by then.
[Photo from 2007.]
There are now two lines of the Namma Metro that form an X shape, with the interchange station being at the central bus station.
It’s a bit of an understatement to say it’s a game changer for getting around.
With the availability of the metro, I planned my exploration around sites near stations. I still walked a lot, but I used to metro to fill in the gaps between neighbourhoods.
Phase II is now under construction, which will extend the current two lines and add another three to the system.
Bengaluru is known as the “Silicon Valley of India”, with some of the biggest tech companies in the world basing their India operations from here (including Google).
As such I saw some different app-based companies developing transport options to complement the metro.
At Indiranagar metro station there are some bicycle and electric bikes by yulu.bike that can be used for last mile transport. Being based in Saigon (the city of 10 million bikes) I’m interested in seeing an electric bike revolution, so I am pleased to see this is being thought of in India.
At Majestic Station (the junction station of the two lines) Bounce offer dockless scooter sharing. The scooters (petrol and electric) can be hired by the hour or used overnight to get you home.
I saw a sign that listed some of the landmark years in the history of Bangalore/Bengaluru. 1850 was a particularly momentous year, as Bengaluru citizens started the habit of drinking coffee.
Despite this habit I didn’t find any places that would be considered as third wave. If there were any cool cafes they weren’t well known online. The cafes I found looked more like cafe-restaurants, so if there there are places that serve “real coffee” let me know!
The main coffee chain in India is Cafe Coffee Day (“The Starbucks of India”). They were founded in Bangalore in 1993, and they are now all across India and some locations worldwide.
I didn’t buy a SIM card for this trip so I marked out some branches on my Google map as places for possible sanctuary during my wanders (ie a good place for a toilet break).
Starbucks has also arrived, known here as Starbucks “A Tata Alliance” (not that anyone would say the whole name). They opened in India in 19 October 2012, which happened to be just a few months before the first branch opened in Vietnam.
Another thing that wasn’t a thing when I was last here is the new airport, replacing the old HAL Airport.
There is a planned metro station for the airport, but for now there is a bus service to the main bus station in the city. I was impressed with the designated Uber Zone.
The first terminal is a beautiful and spacious building, and unlike most airports there are places to sit outside with a food court.
I had lunch here before checking in.
Keeping with Bengaluru’s tech culture, it appears they will be introducing facial recognition technology here.
Inside the terminal you can download an app and have food delivered to your boarding gate.
[New Garden Terminal at Kempegowda International Airport.]
If I’m hubbing through Bangalore again on my future India travels I look forward to seeing this new terminal and catching the extended metro into the city.