There are a thousand and one interesting things to do in Bangalore. It all depends on your areas of interest — are you an adventurer, a shopper, a spiritual person, or an art enthusiast? I have put this list together specifically designed for my expat friends who want to experience something meaningful and unique in Bangalore. This is also dedicated to my Indian friends who would like to re-discover the beauty of their country.
1) Take the Bangalore Walks— If you only have half a day for a tour of Bangalore and you want to absorb the history and discover the hidden beauty of this city, this tour is a must. I don’t think I have ever understood the Indian culture and appreciated Bangalore as much before I took this tour with the very passionate and insightful tour expert and company owner, Arun Pai. Come with a camera and an open mind for three hours of informative, stimulating fun. They have customised tours on foot or you can hop on and off a tour bus. Temples and techparks, coffee and churches, markets and mayhem, they make sense of it all. For tour descriptions and schedules, check out www.bangalorewalks.com
2) Hop on the “Art of Bicycle Trips” — The Art of Bicycle Trips offers simple and unique ways to intimately experience the real India. Enjoy a biking and hiking holiday through beautiful landscapes at your own pace, engage with communities along the trip and indulge in unique regional cuisine. Their well-researched, handcrafted itineraries are designed to reveal India’s diverse culture, heritage and countryside. They also have bespoke bicycle trips which are ideal for families with kids, couples and group of friends. Select any existing classic itinerary or design your own adventure. Check them out at www.artofbicycletrips.com
3) Learn how to cook Indian food — The first time I have seenan Indian housewife’s kitchen, I was overwhelmed by the numerous jars of colourful spices she uses — ingredients I only used to read in exotic recipe books. Now is your chance to discover all these spices and their distinct flavours and learn how to cook a few of your favourite Indian dishes.
4) Enrol for a meditation course — Register for the Art of Breathing course from the Art of Living. Learn the Sudarshan Kriya, a technique taught in the Art of Living which takes you to the “deepest meditation where body, mind and breath become one rhythm, connecting to the source of life within.” This allows us to dissolve stress and negative emotions, calm the mind, and uplift our energy. This is one of the best things I have learned in Bangalore and I really hope everyone will get the chance to experience this. Look for a workshop near you at http://www.artofliving.org/in-en
5) Watch a Bollywood movie with Indian friends — If you truly want to understand the Indian culture and way of life, I highly recommend watching a three-hour Bollywood movie with Indian friends. This is one of the most entertaining experience you can have in India. Don’t worry if you don’t understand Hindi, your friends will be there for you to translate the gist of the important scenes. Trust me, you will understand it because 25% of the movie is song and dance. I must have watched at least 20 Hindi movies by now and I understood them perfectly well.
6) Eat dosa with bare hands — Ahh, the mere thought of this makes me crave for this famous South Indian food. My favourite is the masala dosa (with potato fillings inside). I like it crispy and orange-brown in colour on the outside.
7) Shop at Commercial Street — It’s like you have not been to Bangalore if you have not been here. I find this place more charming at night. Come in comfortable footwear and be ready to haggle. Try to learn a few Kannada or Hindi words so the vendors think you have been in India for some time and you could probably get better prices. You can also explore Chikpet, Shivajinagar and the Tibetan shops on Brigade Road.
8) Have lunch at Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) near Lal Bagh — This has been one of my most interesting and satisfying lunch experience in Bangalore. Served by Indian waiters wearing lungi (a sarong-like garment wrapped around the waist and extending to the ankles), I ate a delicious pure vegetarian thali, a complete meal made up of a selection of various dishes served in small bowls, called katori, placed on a round tray. This cost me Rs.150 and I could eat as much as I could. There are different branches of MTR now, but this particular outlet is the original one and is a historical landmark in Bangalore.
9) Buy and wear a saree or a sherwani — Feel like a princess as the saree vendor wraps around you the most colourful textiles and luxurious silks you would ever see and feel in your life. Getting your sexy blouse stitched, wearing the accessories that go with your saree (bangles, bindi and tikka) having the saree draped by skillful Indian hands and the initial fear and excitement you feel when you first wear a saree, feeling anxious that it would all fall on the floor… These are beautiful memories of India I would forever cherish. My male friends told me wearing a sherwani makes them feel like royalty.
10) Have a fresh beer at one of the microbreweries — There are currently only two cities in India that can issue licenses for the operation of independent microbreweries, and Bangalore is one of them. These microbreweries have their own interesting blends and concoctions which are quite tasty and some are unique in India.
11) Do Temple Tours — “You must visit the 10th century Chola Dynasty temple in Domlur. They open in the evening at six. Go there for blessings and to see the offerings done. It’s a small temple with original small statues of the 11th-12th century and the inside is original stone and it looks ancient! Then go to the Gurudwara Temple on Ulsoor Road during lunch time and get served free meals, communal style. On Ulsoor Lake, visit the Ganapathy (lake view) temple. It has lots of deities on the first floor too. Look carefully and you will find detailed symbolic clusters of gods. This is opposite the Kodak store. Durga Temple (North Bangalore) Sri Kalika Durga Parameshwari Temple located in Vidyaranyapura, Bangalore is without doubt one of the outstanding temples of Bangalore. The temple is dedicated to goddess Kalika Durga Parameshwari.” (Contributed by Geetu Singh)
12) Watch a cricket game — Your Indian experience will not be complete without experiencing a live cricket game. I find the IPL (Indian Premiere League), the Twenty20 cricket championship league in India, to be an easier format to watch because it is shorter. This happens in the month of April and May.
13) Watch a Bharatanatyam dance performance — Bharatanatyam is a beautiful and colourful classical South Indian dance form that originated from the temples of Tamil Nadu. Read the newspapers for listings of performances in various parts of Bangalore.
14) Watch an ethnic Indian musical concert — I have once seen a concert of sitar and tabla masters at Chowdaiah Memorial Hall. If you love world music and when you hear this live from Indian musical geniuses, this could be a heavenly experience (at least that’s how I felt about it)
15) Get mehendi art applied on your hands — Ladies, you should experience this at least once in your life. One expat friend shared with me that having a mehendi is like falling in love with an Indian man. The first hour it’s applied, it’s not as clear. On the second and third day that’s when the colour gets more intense. It takes a long time to fade. The image stays in your mind even when it’s erased.
16) Attend an Indian wedding — First time I have been to an Indian wedding, I was overwhelmed by the thousands of people attending the wedding, where most of the guests were even unknown to the couple. Experience the colours, the flavours and the sounds which you can only have in an Indian wedding. I was told that a Punjabi wedding is the most festive of all.
17) Have an Ayurvedic massage — Though it’s supposedly therapeutic, I found this awfully oily. Two therapists worked on me vigorously with a boisterous Indian music in the background. I was so scared I would slip out of the leather-covered massage bed like a wet fish. It took me three days and six shampoos to totally wash out all the oil from my hair. The best and relaxing part was when they steamed me in that enclosed ayurvedic chair where only my head was sticking out. It’s an interesting experience.
18) Go to KR Market and check out the flower sale taking place early morning — Flowers here are unbelievably cheap being a wholesale market. It’s a visual feast if you are into photography.
19) Have dinner with an Indian family — The most satisfying Indian dining experience you can have is experiencing the hospitality of an Indian family. Eat like them with your bare hands. They are one of the most if not the most hospitable people in the world. They treat their guest as king or queen.
20) Visit one of the orphanages or grant a child’s wish — This is one of the most heartwarming and meaningful things you can experience in India. Play with the kids, read them a story, teach them English. Celebrate your birthday or eat with them. In December, participate in ExpatLife India’s initiative of granting a poor Indian child’s wish (http://expatlifeindia.com/wish.html). There are no exact words to describe the experience. The joy in your heart just overflows.
(If you have any questions on this topic, you may email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org)