If you happen to be in Bangalore, India for work, a situation I once found myself in. To court the Indian technology companies such as the IT or radiology centres.
1. Definitely stay at the Oberoi Hotel.
There’re many great hotels in Bangalore, but the Oberoi is for me – the only one. I love plants and nature. Its tagline is “an oasis of calm”. The calm from the traffic. I postponed my trip once because the room rate was too high. Book in advance and avoid wedding months when the whole community come from different parts of the world and descend here, jacking up prices to close to US$1000 per night. The Indian diaspora is rich and powerful, so not an impossibility, as I waited fruitlessly for the prices to come down, thinking it was an IT glitch. [Hence, I don’t stay in Bangalore for too many nights, certainly not to extend for sightseeing.]
2. Go for the spa.
Go for the Ayurvedic indigenous oil treatment. Don’t do it on a full stomach, wait for at least 30 mins. Suggest that you do it in the evening, marinate in the oil for one hour, and then go to bed. Some, like himself, fall asleep during the massage.
3. Lalbagh Park in Bangalore
There was a garden festival on whilst we were there, and locals were thronging the place, buying plants. Bangalore has beautiful weather, cool and plant friendly. Bangalore has vineyards, but so does Australia, Italy, France. So my recommendation is visit a hillside tea station in Oooty instead, read 266km away.
Its the traffic conditions. Get a local driver. When we were staying there, an Indian driver offered himself at the hotel compounds. He’s really good, getting me to all my meetings on time (ironically, sometimes its the host who is late.) His car though, is quite broken down.
4. Find an excuse to visit the Infosys campus
Its like a mini Singapore. The compound is huge and very well maintained. My appointment with the campus recruiter was 10am. She probably didn’t realise that I have lived in India before, and am aware of the horrific road conditions. So, I had planned for 1 and a half hour journey time, even though the Oberoi is not too far away. She was one hour late.
Bring lots of reading materials, if you’re meeting anyone. Bring audio materials if you plan to spend time on the road.
5. Have the local Biryani. I live in a country with a vibrant South Indian community. But Bangalore Biryani and Hyderabad – no time to talk. Basmati rice is so fluffly, beautifully colored, I can eat that every meal, except that my body will not be able to take all that richness. I have a heavy breakfast – Oberoi has a fantastic breakfast spread. Munch a sandwich for lunch, and eat at the hotel or a nearby hotel for dinner.
Speaking of food, I’ve no problems in Bangalore and Hyerabad. In Delhi, I always get a bloated belly, Delhi belly, even though I don’t eat in the streets and only drink bottled water. It sounds pampered to eat in hotels, but if you’re having a work trip in Bangalore, you don’t want to live as the locals do, because your stomach hasn’t acclimatised to the local bacteria.
Unfortunately, I cannot stand heavy traffic – spoilt by my government (Thank you!). So I didn’t check out the best restaurants. If you have a host in India, and Indians as with most Asians are very hospitable, they’ll bring you to the best. Be aware though, of traffic conditions, and that traditionally, Indian dinners start at 9pm. On some days, they may be vegetarian, for religious reasons, so check with your host.
Go to #1. Stay at the Oberoi hotel, its worth every cent of “saved traffic time”.
Have a dosa masala for breakfast washed down with a pulled tea (teh tarik), a biryani for dinner with a mango lassi (yogurt drink).
A wonderful website for things to do, if you’re staying longer and you want to hunt for the best café, best breakfast, best restaurants and places to visit.
6. Buy a Punjabi outfit or a Pashmina shawl.
That’s the only shopping I will do. I asked the driver to send me to where I can buy good quality outfits. I bought two, which were pricey (this is subjective), but done in a modern way (maybe because I wasn’t sure you could bargain). You can’t count the numerous appreciative glances I get when I turn up for Deepavali with my Punjabi pants. Actually, I now regret I didn’t get more, because for such designs, they are quite expensive in my home country.
If someone happens to sell you a shatoush, which is worth its weight in gold. Don’t buy. Likely to be fake. In any case, its illegal. A genuine shahtoosh can be threaded through a wedding ring. So fine, yet it can keep you warm in winter and cold in summer. This photo shows a Mughal wearing a shawl with a Mughal garden design weaving.
I got the photos from this website which has excellent photos of how Pashmina shawls came to Europe through the British. But it was widely worn by the Mughals in India. It mentioned Kashimiri shawls but I wonder if the author meant cashmere shawls which is the wool used rather than Kashmir which now represents a place of contention between Pakistan and India. I missed going to Kashmir because we were diplomats living in India, and not allowed to enter. But Indian friends tell us that its like Switzerland, snow-capped mountains and lakes. Now its possible to go.
Go for good quality shawls, don’t go for the Chinese imitation ones. The Indian ones can keep you warm in Autumn and filled with Indian garden designs from the days of the Mughal. I think the Indians invented shawls and scarfs. [Years ago, when we lived in New Delhi, we would buy carpets, semi-precious stones which are polished in India. But unless you’ve a local contact, you need to bargain, and I don’t think its cheap. For the locals, the established salesmen still go from house to house to sell the best stuff. I remember my Indian friends telling me they don’t go to the gym but engage Indian aerobic instructor to come to their house, where 3 or 4 ladies would congregate, and have classes together. Then have tea and get a carpet salesman over. That’s why the traffic doesn’t bother them too much. Malls are American concept.]
Discuss your itinerary with the driver, so he can squeeze in time for you to do your shopping. Hence, engage the same driver for the entire stay. Tip him handsomely after the journey. Ask one of the companies you’re visiting for a recommendation. Don’t bother flagging taxis on the road. Remember to release him for lunch. In major cities like China, flagging taxis is fine. [If you got him on the compound of the hotel its fine, check his credentials, and make sure its bona fide. As long as its cheaper than the hotel driver, its fine.]
India is a protectionist country, so you may find shopping expensive. I didn’t find shopping too exciting. Possibly get cashew nuts, although Goa is best for that. I don’t like crowds, if you’re just like me, then shopping must be strategic. Go for what you need, discuss with your driver. Even if he’s bringing me to a pricey place or his friends’ shop, as long as the price is within my expectation, I’ll go for it. Driver is my best friend in Bangalore. [Get one you trust, or recommended by local contacts. Many foreign company reps visit Bangalore, so the larger IT companies will have a contact base of reliable drivers you can engage.]
Otherwise Mustafa in Singapore has everything I need, except Punjabi suits.