Draft extract from my travel memoir:
Our flight to Bangalore was delayed, delayed, and delayed again, until there was clearly no hope of getting our night bus to Hampi. Bangalore traffic is famously awful and two women on the same flight that we spoke to confirmed this; in spite of what Google maps said, there was no way we were going to get from the airport to the bus pick up point in time.
As the delay passed a certain point the airline gave us little cardboard boxes of food; samosas with tomato ketchup, tiny little square white bread sandwiches, cake, and cartons of orange juice.
I didn’t find the wait at the airport annoying, although it became very tiring as the afternoon and evening wore on. I worked on my blog until I got too tired.
When we got to Bangalore my husband looked up hotels, seeing where was near the bus pick up point and also looking for areas of green, thinking it would be nice to be near a park. The Botanical Gardens was near to the bus pick up point and an affordable hotel.
The taxi from Bangalore airport to the hotel was very expensive. We knew that Bangalore was developed and expensive, home to a growing section of India’s middle class. We passed grand venues, function places for weddings, their entrances decorated with huge trails and walls of lights, with names of the newlyweds on large billboards outside.
We reached the area near our hotel. Down one street was what looked like a rickshaw repair area full of broken or upturned rickshaws, down the main street was a bus depot with travel agents and a few small shops selling drinks and snacks.
The hotel was smart and looked like an actual hotel, usually we stayed in guesthouses. ‘WiFi not working on your floor,’ the man said, but we were too tired to try to change anything at ten pm at night. Almost next door was a travel agent, we got there with minutes to spare. We sat on a little wooden bench in his office. At first he seemed a little gruff, we watched him shoo someone else out, take calls and deal with us all at the same time. He booked us onto the last two seats of the sleeper bus to Hampi for the next night. He told us how much a rickshaw should cost to our pick up point, then he said to come to him the next evening, he would get us a rickshaw and tell them where to take us.
We were both hungry but also understandably nervous about eating somewhere new before a bus journey. The hotel kitchen was closed. We asked the man at the hotel ‘where tourists go’ and he recommended a place. The kitchen staff wore hair covers, water came from a bottle, and they used filtered water in the kitchen, which were all good signs. We ordered vegetable fried rice which is usually a safe bet (it’s made hot, it’s vegetarian, rice is gentle on the tummy and helps ‘stop you up,’ as do bananas and bread).
Our room was white and clean, with its own bathroom. The bed was so comfy with fat squishy pillows and a weighty duvet that felt like a hug; I slept til 11am.
We asked a rickshaw driver for The Botanical Gardens, he said no and drove off, maybe he didn’t understand us, or maybe it was too short a fare. A friendly man came out and offered to help us; we realised it was the travel agent from the night before. Another rickshaw driver came, we asked again and he gave us a price. We looked at the travel agent. His face was completely impassive. ‘Is that an okay price?’ we asked. He didn’t say anything. It seemed people won’t interfere with other people making money. It was probably too much but we got in anyway; we intended to remember the way and walk back.
Lalbagh looked a bit like Crystal Palace with its glass houses. There was a lake and lots trees. Stalls sold fresh fruit chunks and ice cold drinks. We bought peanuts in shells wrapped in newspaper from a woman seated on the ground, she had no English, she showed me a note of money to show how me how much. Signs said beware of snakes and honey bees. It was very hot. I bought a Sprite on the way back from the lake, keeping my promise to the man on the stall at the start. We sat on a bench and very unusually for India were bothered by wasps, or perhaps they were honey bees, and we walked off down to a different bench. It felt like an English park, with benches lining the wide pathway.
We walked back. I really wanted a cup of coffee and maybe a snack. Sometimes I wanted something specific like a coffee and a pastry, but whilst travelling it made things difficult if you got stuck on wanting something that you may well not get. We went to the restaurant from the night before, they weren’t serving coffee or even chai, something to do with the time of day; like in Pondicherry, that had a menu with very strict times about when you could have certain items including hot drinks. I bought crisps and a soft drink from one of the small shops instead.
I sat downstairs in the lobby and finished my blog post for the following day. Maybe the WiFi didn’t actually work on any of the floors, as people were always in lobby. Other hotel guests were there, two well off looking Indian men, and a Western family with children playing computer games. The Indian men helped me with the password and the WiFi, and the family left.
After I had finished writing we went out again, stepping outside, it had cooled down a lot, and I felt that familiar feeling of being sorry that I’d missed it. We had been out in the day, and it had been very hot, but now it was like we’d just missed maybe the nicest part.
Over the road by the little shops there was a little chai stall open, they had paper cups which were more hygienic than glasses but a shame for the environment. When my husband was in India twenty years ago chai was served in little clay pots that afterwards were thrown on the ground and broke and went back into the earth, it was such a shame that they didn’t do that anymore.
We went back to the travel agent and waited for a rickshaw, lots went past full or without stopping; we watched a group of women struggle to get out of a packed rickshaw. I saw a cat with one kitten crossing the road, I could barely look. It was good that the man was there to help us. He agreed the price and explained to the driver where to go. The rickshaws were smaller compared to the Kerala ones, in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu they were even bigger. Maybe it was state to state, maybe it was that the ones in big cities were smaller. Once inside, we cosied up to save our knees and legs from poking outside.
We’d wondered if the bus pick up point at ten pm at night would be a bit dodgy, but it was like a city; so many buses, so many people moving about the country. There were so many agents near our hotel and we passed many more on the way. The rickshaw driver dropped us at our stand. There were various stands with offices, and some public loos. The rickshaws looked tiny like toys especially when driving along in front of the big coaches, many of which were double decker sleepers. In front of the buses before leaving they did a blessing, lighting a small fire on the road and saying prayers.
If you are interested in India check out Broken Traveller here is a link to a post Incredible India Unity in Diversity with beautiful photographs
About the author
Sold house left job decluttered almost everything else. With husband went travelling for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Now back in the UK, living on a narrowboat, and writing a personal travel memoir.
For more photographs of the trip see Instagram travelswithanthony