Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Bangalore Adventure, part 17: The BTC and Kampegowde Bus Station

I don't know why it seemed so surprising to find out there was horse-racing in Bangalore, after all, on the Bangalore walk, we learned that the city had been a major center of British operations in India and the Brits do like horses.

Watching the Action Through the Fence by mpries on Flickr

Anyway, in a weird twist of fate, the very next morning after Venu pointed out the track to me on the bus, the newspaper's headline story was all about the racetrack losing its lease and needing to relocate at the end of the season.

Now, this was not a running-out-of-money issue. This was a city-grabbing-land issue. That is, the city of Bangalore owns the land where the racetrack sits and the city now wants to do something different with that land, like put up a big building, so the track was notified that the lease would not be renewed. The city proposed to give the Bangalore Turf Club about 100 acres in Chikkajala outside of Bangalore and while rebuilding, the racing dates for the next few years could move to the racetrack in Mysore. But the Mysore racing community argued that their track was too small to house all of the horses that run in Bangalore.

Clearly, this was a sign that I should spend the day at the races. I decided to go straight there, all by myself. An uncomplicated rickshaw ride put me right outside the gates. There were two entrances, one for members and one for the general public. The general public entrance looked pretty seedy from the outside so I pretended I had not seen the signs and tried going in the members entrance (you have to pay admission there, too.) Nothing doing. The ticketseller waved me back to the general entrance.

The entrance fee was small, 10 Rs maybe. Once I was inside though, I began to think that going alone was not such a great idea. It probably would have been much smarter to ask around the office and get a group together or get some tips on how to get in on the members side (I'm sure the big hotels must be able to make arrangements for any guests who are interested.)

Like any racetrack, the finish line was at the members section. The members section was also the place where the horses entered the track and the place where they located the starting gates. It had better seating too. The members stands were much higher and positioned at an angle so one could really see the horses as they rounded the turn and came down the stretch.

Not a Good Day at the Track by mpries, on Flickr

The general admission stands were low bleachers that faced straight ahead so you only got about 5 seconds of horseflesh pounding past per race. Instead of sitting there, I walked down to an open area between the bleachers and track and watched the action through the fence. Of course, you could always go back behind the stands where the betting windows and food vendors were located and watch the races on closed-circuit television. But that is not my idea of a day at the track. Plus, the ratio of women to men in general admission was something like about 0%, me and I think one other lady. And none of these men looked liked they had a desk job to go to on Monday. Yes, it would have been better to go with friends.

It was interesting to see how things were done. In Chicago, there are several racetracks and they all have automated results boards and groom the track between races with machinery. In Bangalore, it's more important to employ people. The odds and results are posted by hand and men with brooms and rakes tidy up the track.

Posting the Winners by mpries, on Flickr

Because space is limited, the center of the track appears green but it is not some vacant piece of landscaping with duck ponds, ornamental trees and flower beds suggesting a gracious mansion in the country. The center of the Bangalore track is actually a warren of stables below track-level so when you look out to the backstretch, you are looking across stable roofs. This causes the horses to go out of sight when they reach the far end of the backstretch and they stay out of sight (from the general stands) until they turn the corner into the home stretch.

I didn't bet, figuring that could be a translator's nightmare. But I mentally picked a horse to show (come in third or better) as they paraded past and each one that I picked would have paid out. Ahhh, good to know I can still pick horses.

Was That a Good Bet? by mpries, on Flickr

After a few races, I was ready to move on to another adventure. I knew the track was near the big bus terminal, Kempegowda, and I wanted to figure out how that worked. It was on my mind that I could use buses to get around, especially to Bannerghatta National Park.

I could have walked but got a rickshaw ride for 15 Rs, no shopping, and that was fine. There is nothing like this bus station in Chicago. We have a few places where buses connect to a train or subway terminal but even those places only have about six or seven berths for buses and only about that many buses are ever in the station at one time. Kampegowda, on the other hand, seemed to have a hundred buses coming and going at once. It was bedlam.

There are actually about three bus stations or bus lines laid out parallel to one another. An elevated ramp leads to many islands for the city-wide BMTC buses; it was off to my right. To my left, rickety, worn-out buses without any English markings were coming in from the suburbs and villages around Bangalore. Beyond those lanes, through a low building were the state-run KSRTC buses.

Everybody appeared to know where to catch their bus and they were going there pretty fast. That was a surprise since information like timings, prices, and where to find the bus you wanted didn't seem to exist. I walked around the whole place twice to figure it out. Passing under the ramp, near what might have been a ticket vending office, I found a large map of the Bangalore system on a wall. I could see that buses numbered in the 330 range ran parallel to MG Road and then out along Airport Road, and I noted down a few other useful routes and numbers, too. Now I knew how to use the bus to get downtown and back.

I Found My Bus by mpries on Flickr

I found a brown 333 bus, told the driver I was going to the Domlur stop (another passenger re-translated) and he charged me 10 Rs. When the bus got close to my stop, about three passengers let me know. It was so very nice.

Later, looking for a photo of the bus station, I discovered that it used to be a lake. I also discovered that I could never successfully access that transit map on the BMTC site.

At the moment, a Supreme Court court decision has revoked Bangalore's right to give up the land in Chikkajala and the Bangalore Turf Club has no alternative land to rebuild. Click here for details.

Then click here to learn more about the racetrack's history, get the current schedule, and see more pictures.

My Bangalore Adventure, part 16: An Outing to Mascal

Our third weekend outing with the TWU students was a trip to Mascal. At the time, June 2009, nobody could really say what Mascal was, except that it was an outdoor adventure day at a super-secret village that didn't show up on any map. If we googled it, all we got were two links from other TWers blogging about their TWU experience with a few photos. But today, a Google search turns up a little bit more - a guy from another company went on a company outing there in July and wrote about it, and my co-trainer and friend Sharlene also wrote about it and posted photos.

Mascal landscape 20  by mpries, on Flickr

So I will totally spill the beans. The outing was arranged through Cox & Kings, which is an Indian travel and event service founded in 1758 (I think they must have evolved their business model a few times since then). Here is the description straight from the brochure circulated among the TWU organizers:

Mascal is a small village in the lap of Mother Nature having the world famous monolithic Savandurga opposite it with backwaters of Manchinbele Dam built on River Arkawati for fantastic Aqua recreation. It is around 45 kms from Bangalore towards the town of Magadi. The safe water body and terrestrial surroundings make it the best location around Bangalore for a perfect Adventure experience.

According to the preceding TWU lore, we were in for a long day of kayaking, rock-climbing, and team-building games. I was pretty cool with that as I really like outdoorsy stuff. And the views of the farm fields and hills on the hike in were magnificent. But it was also a little disturbing. It's not exactly clear where public and private land begins. We followed a narrow footpath through a carefully plowed and planted field and the farmer, poor man, was quite upset that these casual city people (Indians and foreigners alike) were trampling the new shoots. I was pretty bugged too.

Hiking out 2 by mpries, on Flickr

My relatives were farmers and I have spent a lot of childhood days on farms; walking between, not on or over the rows, is a natural for me but much of our group seemed totally oblivious until I and some others called it out. The tour guides could have handled that better and given us a heads-up before we started. On the other hand, maybe there's a payoff to the farmer included in the deal, in which case, then the farmer was just maximizing his interest.

But again, looking at the plowed fields, the cattle, sheep and goats rambling about the slopes near the village, I wondered about agriculture encroaching into former wilderness and the soil and water degradation that follows. Not to mention the disturbance and loss of native plants and wildlife. These are valid concerns, too. Maybe it is not an issue with this one village but certainly these are issues elsewhere and that farmer's tensions about his crops are echoes of other tensions in India (and everywhere) about rivers and dams, heritage and progress, natural lands and urban space, water, food, pollution.

Mascal landscape 2 by mpries, on Flickr

Anyway, the hiking was great, breakfast and lunch were ported over to the campsite by kayak and we trekked further into the rough to do some paddling, swimming and rappelling off a cliff. Except for me. When I packed for India, I carefully searched online for etiquette and clothing advice and came to the conclusion that I could survive the three-month assignment with one pair of jeans, several pairs of business-casual khakis and no shorts. So when the kayaks paddled up with about six inches of brown water sloshing around inside, there was no way I was going to sit down in that in my only change of clothes.

Instead, while the others swam or kayaked over to the opposite side where the cliff was waiting, I explored deeper into the near-side brush for some David Sibley-style birding. David Allen Sibley is a famous birder and bird illustrator who advocates finding a likely spot and sitting still for about two hours. I discovered this method myself when I was about 11 years old. It really works for high-quality nature experiences of all sorts, not just birds. But I had a great time watching a Pied Cuckoo, a Common Iora and a Little Spiderhunter get their morning meals.

Team shot 7 by mpries, on Flickr

Meanwhile, everyone else spent about as much time sitting around on top of the cliff waiting to get roped up and go over, or sitting around at the bottom of the cliff, waiting for a free kayak to paddle back. Except for the tough guys and gals who decided to swim instead of paddle. I shared my binoculars with them and we watched the cliff action for awhile - someone got their ropes askew and ended up hanging upside down for awhile. Another person turned out to have a fairly serious phobia and never stopped screaming until they were back on their feet at the landing spot. Everyone else who tried it went down the face smoothly and reported it was a great experience.

Later, on the hike back to camp, I was dive-bombed by a red-wattled lapwing guarding its nest. And at the campsite, there were many looks at oriental skylarks, laughing doves, a great gray heron and the lovely purple heron. Venu (TW IS guy) and I watched it through the binoculars for a long time. Venu also was the first to spot the little shrine or marker on the top of Savandurga . With binoculars, we could even see the visitors coming and going up there.

All in all, it was a fun day. After lunch, we hung out at the campsite and played games - frisbee, cricket, and team competitions like trying to guide the most blind-folded teammates through a maze. Team Biju rocked!

And then, the icing on the cake, on the bus ride back to the Diamond District, as we came into Bangalore, Venu pointed out the window to a dark patch in the night-time cityscape. "That is the racetrack," he said. "It's beautiful."

What! There's horse-racing in Bangalore? I had no idea! Now there's an idea for a new adventure!

You can find pictures of all of the birds mentioned here at this Birds of India website.

Click here to read Sharlene's post.

And click here to see what that other guy wrote.

My Bangalore Adventure, part 15: Shopping with the Students

In my last post, I talked about visiting the Bangalore Palace. But actually, before that happened, I did a little Saturday revist of MG Road and Commercial Street with the TWU (ThoughtWorks University) students.

At the time, TWU was heading into its second week. After the first week of classes, we held a retrospective (an essential feature of agile software projects) and the students decided they could really improve their classroom experience by going shopping on the weekend. So they organized a Saturday outing and invited me. It was good to go along. I ended up doing some things I would not have done on my own and made some discoveries that really improved my stay.

For one, I finally got to Total Mall (not Mahal!) on Old Airport Road, which was the shopping center the Royal Orchid clerk had recommended to me before I had my rickshaw adventures. It was a good place to shop, including groceries, beer and wine, and less than a mile from the Diamond District. I also had my first Indian McDonald's meal there. I would never have gone into a McDonald's in India on my own but surprises can happen when you go with the flow in a group decision.

McDonald's at Total Mahal 2

It looked just like an American McDonald's except of course there were no hambugers on the menu. Just chicken sandwiches, filet-o-fish, and veggie items. But the most notable thing about this McDonald's is that, when they saw that we were one big group, they arranged separate seating for us, took our orders at the table, and brought the food out to us. I cannot imagine that EVER happening in the USA (so be prepared, Indians traveling abroad). I also really liked the veggie burger, even though I'm a serious meat eater. It had an tasty balance of mild seasonings (almost but not quite Mexican) and a southern USA "chicken-fried" texture that any meat-eating guy could appreciate without feeling he was eating weirdo veggie food.

As far as I know, this sandwich is not available anywhere in the USA. At least, I've never seen it in Chicago, but if it were available close to the Chicago ThoughtWorks office, I would have one at least once a week (so pay attention McDonald's franchisers and see if you can diversify!)

McDonald's at Total Mahal 3

After lunch, we all got into rickshaws and drove to Bangalore Central which was also another OK place to shop. We had passed it on our "Bangalore Walk" down MG Road but hadn't gone in then. It felt like a shopping mall but was really more like one of those Marks & Spencer's type department stores that has a contiguous flow of floor space (no obvious separate shops) but still may be leasing parts of their operation to other firms. In Chicago, several of the original department stores that dated back to the 1800s - Marshall Field's, and Carson Pirie Scott especially - tried this in the 1980s and '90s as a survival tactic but I don't think it was very effective for them.

Anyway, this was the place where I found the frozen lamb kifta kabobs that I wrote about earlier and a reasonable selection of fairly priced wines in half bottles. Just the thing for dining alone.

After that, more rickshaws and a stop at Commercial Street. I had been in this area before but not to walk up and down the little side streets that intersected and ran parallel to the main road. One minute, you're on a paved, two-lane street with modern, name brand stores and then you turn a corner or two and you are on a tiny mud-filled lane clogged with pushcarts, street vendors, shoppers and merchandise hung out in the open. So many colors, so many patterns, so many textures - silks, sarees, cheap jewelry, leather goods, plastic things. I just run into all sorts of cliches trying to put into words how much of India is a visual frenzy and a visual meditation.

Commercial Street 1by mpries, on Flickr

It's hard to take pictures in these streets, there are too many choices to focus on; especially when you are walking with friends. That's all that we did, just walked and looked. And bought some treats from the fruit vendors. Here was a new thing for me, a hard green mango sliced and dipped in chili salt. Yow! But good. Guavas with chili salt, too. Better yet, Vinkesh bought a bag of guavas for not too many rupees and I took some home. They were small and green, about the size of small peaches and I let them sit on my kitchen counter for several days.

There are five basic tastes the tongue can distinguish: sweet, sour, salt, bitter, and something called umami, which means savoryness or meatiness, like the flavor mushrooms add. MSG is one source of this flavor. As these guavas began to yellow up on my kitchen counter, they filled the room with the richest, most unusual aroma - not a bad smell, not a beautiful smell-but something that I can only say was "fruity umami". Probably, these guavas were over-ripe by Indian standards but I thought they were delicious.

You can see and read more about guavas in Bangalore here.

You can learn more about project retrospectives at Agile Retrospectives Resource wiki.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Bangalore Adventure, part 14: The Bangalore Palace

It just occurred to me that, although it's very comfortable to write one of these posts once a week or so, at this rate I'm still going to be writing about Bangalore at Christmastime (December). There is just so much to say and share about India. So I better start blocking out some writing-time every evening until I finally unload all my best memories.

For example, thinking about Cariappa Park and how quickly it went downhill from its apparently glorious renovation in 1996, reminds me of a spot in Lal Bagh that I didn't write about.

If you go through the main entrance on Lal Bagh Road and head to your right, you will come across something that looks like a fenced-in field of short-cut grass and weeds. In the center of this field appears to be a flat pavilion with some type of marker or memorial. It's actually a pillar and plaque surrounded by fountains (no water here now) dedicated to a major Indian botanist who used to run the operations at Lal Bagh. The date on the plaque? 1954. Hey, I know people who were born before 1954! They're not obsolete - yet. But this part of the park is practically ready for the archeologists.

Dead memorial to a gardener: 1954-Lal Bagh, by mpries, on Flickr

Anyway, the next weekend after Cariappa Park, I decided to try for the Bangalore Palace again. This time, I didn't have to go through the agony of shopping suggestions from the rickshaw driver, but I did have to tell him he had taken the wrong turn. Rickshaw drivers in Bangalore and taxi drivers in Chicago have a lot in common. Many drivers in Chicago are immigrants from Africa; in Bangalore, the drivers are often young men from small villages. Both are trying to make it in a big city and both are likely to be weak on reading and speaking in English. Places or directions that might seem obvious if you live in the area or have studied your guidebook carefully may be totally new and unknown to the random driver. You just have to take a deep breath and be nice about it; whenever I did, I got pretty good service in return (if shopping was not involved).

Eventually, we got to the Bangalore Palace - another interesting place from the colonial attic of discards. The Bangalore Palace used to be a royal residence and it sits on a lot of land. A large part of that land is now used for public events in much the same way that counties in the USA have a public fairgrounds. Temporary circuses, rock concerts, sporting events, flea markets, religious rallies, etc. might lease this space and there is also a horse stable and riding park but these entrances are around the back from where the palace sits.

Bangalore Palace, Inner Courtyard 1 by mpries, on Flickr

The Palace itself is quite a fantastical structure, inspired by Windsor Castle and pre-WWII English country manors. If you like to take architectural photos - interiors and exteriors - then you really want to come here and try your luck. If you are a designer or an interior decorator looking for ideas or laughs, then you really want to come here and look around. If you're a tourist who just likes to take photos that illustrate excessive wealth from days-gone-by, then you'll want to take some shots here. But if you're looking to learn anything useful about the history of Bangalore and India, forget it. The p[a]lace is mostly a major pocket-lining venture.

The first thing I noticed was the difference between Indian and foreigner rates. A lot of tourist attractions charge a higher rate for non-Indian visitors and, given global economics, that seems fair. It's not that they are taking advantage of outsiders but making sure that local citizens who usually earn and have far less, can enjoy their country's heritage at a competitive rate. But at Bangalore Palace, the difference in rates seems huge.

While most places only mark up foreign admissions by ten rupees or so, at most maybe 100 vs. 10 or 20 rupees; at the Bangalore Palace, it was either 500 rupees for foreigners (forangi) plus another 200 for carrying a camera; or it was the opposite. Either way, I paid a total of 700 Rs. to get in and take pictures.

Then, as soon as I got past the admissions desk, a person attached himself to me in the same way the leeches glommed on to Humphrey Bogart while he was pulling the boat through the shallows in the "African Queen".*

I suppose I could have thrown a temper tantrum and chased him off but who wants to cause a scene on a Sunday afternoon in a tourist attraction? India is a country with a bajillion people and something far less than a bajillion formal jobs. Everybody seems to have some kind of angle for survival - an entreprenuerial stewpot far beyond anything you'll see in the USA. It seems to me, the only way to really avoid "tourist guides" is to show up with an Indian friend.

I had no friend with me so off we went. He directed me through the public parts of the Palace - there's really only one route you can take - and I made him stop and wait while I took photos, or adjusted my shutterspeed and backtracked. I got some good photos but not too many I was happy with and I would have preferred to linger longer without him fidgeting behind my back. It probably would not have made much difference in my photos but it would have reduced the self-deceptions and regrets I have about my abilities.

Bangalore Palace, Wedding Hall by mpries, on FlickrP1010085

Meanwhile, my guide's contribution mainly went like this: "Come now," point at the only door out of the room. Point at a painting, "Painting." Point at an elephant head on the wall or an elephant foot used an an umbrella stand, "Elephant." Point at the indoor plumbing (Titanic-era plumbing), "Hot and cold shower."

After I had gotten a look at the hangar-like space used for weddings and what-not; seen the entrance hall, gone up the front flight of steps to the drawing room and down the hall to the first bedroom, had a close look at the inner courtyard from above and below, and examined the building exterior plus garden (on minimal life support), I had had the very best of the tour. The rest was an amazing and amusing peek into somebody's poor taste, especially the very bad nude paintings on the back stairway (or maybe that's why so many pay the admission price).

At the end, I gave my guide 100 Rs. He told me I was cheap. I gave him another 100 Rs. The rickshaw drivers out there are all vultures. There isn't anything else nearby worth walking to, so any forangi is fair game. You don't have to go "shopping" but it's likely they won't have change for anything less than 100 Rs no matter how close your next destination, so be sure to have lots of small bills.**

Someone at Bangalore Palace Liked Golfing, by mpries, on Flic

* Trailer for the movie The AfricanQueen on YouTube.

** A ride to Bangalore Central mall near MG Road should only be about 40-50 Rs.

You can get all the historical information worth having on the Bangalore Palace, plus more illustrations, on wikipedia.

Monday, August 3, 2009

My Bangalore Adventure, part 13: Cariappa Park

As I mentioned in my last post, Cariappa Park turned out to be a little bit different from Lal Bagh or Cubbon Park. The guidebooks list it and you can see it on some maps, too, but it really didn't get my attention until I rode past it in a rickshaw. It looked really wild and green, like a forest not a park. Interesting. I put it in the mental files to investigate.

The next weekend turned out to be the first weekend of ThoughtWorks University. We had 16 students, a few from the Bangalore area but most of them from other parts of India and some from China. They had had a Thursday and Friday of orientation in the office with official TWU starting on Monday after the weekend. The plan was to do a some sort of Bangalore tour with the trainers on Saturday as an icebreaker.

BangaloreWALKS is a walking tour service that offers a variety of public and private outings around different themes. Maybe we should have gone for the Beer Walk, but instead, for a Saturday morning, we arranged a Victorian History tour on MG Road (MG stands for Mahatma Ghandi).

There was a lot of standing around listening to stories but that was OK for me because I really didn't know any of the history of how England came to power in India and the role the French and Sultan Tipu played. I also learned why Bangalore had so much real estate devoted to the Indian Army and Air Force and why Bangalore is a technology center for India today. For a little flavor of this walk, click here.

If you clicked that link, then you would have seen an inviting view of people having brunch on the balcony of a tall building (13th Floor). From here, our guide pointed out a band of greenery that started at one end of the army parade grounds (just visible in the photo). These were Cariappa and Cubbon Parks. I decided to check out Cariappa Park that afternoon.

The park is owned by the Army and only open to the public from 6-9 AM and 4-7 PM. A little bit odd but a lot of places in Bangalore and elsewhere have split hours like this. I figure maybe the Army wants to make sure they get some private time (pun intended) in there.

The guidebooks point out that a major feature of this park is a planned series of exercise stations installed along the paths. But some of the other references mention that this park has pretty much been left alone to grow wild and that is exactly what I found. In fact, it can feel just plain scary in spots.

Spooky Path in Cariappa by mpries, on Flickr

I showed up about 4:30 PM and took the walk to my right, figuring it would circle the park and let me get a feel for whether I wanted to try any of the interior paths. After passing a rusted jungle gym type of structure, the walk became very overgrown and trashy with food leftovers and wrappers. It looked to me like a few homeless people had been making camp there. And a trio of wild dogs were quite assertive about one part of the path; maybe they win more times than lose. Anyway, I told them where to go and they agreed and disappeared.

The only good part about this section was finding an Eurasian Sparrowhawk in a nearby tree. We looked at each other for a minute or two and then it took off towards the Parade Grounds. I was past the spookiest part now and could see the walls that separated the park from more mundane military activities. The landscaping was a little more open here and soon I could see other paths with named markers. I could also see a few ordinary-looking people; middle-aged men taking a brisk walk, lovers sitting in shady spots.

The path looped back toward the entrance in sort of a figure-eight or butterfly pattern and the central lane took me past a very large fountain with, no-surprise, no water in it. Too bad. It looked like it was meant to simulate a large waterfall.

Cariappa former waterfall by mpries, on Flickr

Not far from there was a memorial to Field Marshal Cariappa, a ground-breaking figure in modern-day Indian military history.

The memorial was dated 1996. Continuing on, I began to notice other signs pointing out structures or memorials from the same year, except the structures were either in ruins or, remarkably, in the case of an entire bandstand pavilion, completely gone. For the first time, I noticed that the paths were lined with broken light fixtures. The story was obvious and amazing. Here was a park, designed and laid out by the army in 1996 to honor this military man, and in less than 15 years it was completely neglected and abandoned to the elements.

You can read more about it here.

Cariappa of Karnataka by mpries, on Flickr

My Bangalore Adventure, part 12: Cubbon Park

Before I forget anything about them, there were two other large public parks in Bangalore that I visited. Cubbon Park was a recommendation from my friend Jake, another trainer. Cariappa Park was mentioned in a guidebook but forgotten by me until I passed it on an auto-rickshaw ride to Cubbon Park.

Unlike Lal Bagh, Cubbon Park is not promoted as anything but a public greenspace inside the city. No in-your-face pre-colonial history, geological wonders, or must-see exhibits; just a big green park with a few bordering museums and government buildings, where one can walk around and feel a bit of escape from big city life. A lot about it feels like Lincoln Park in Chicago.

Birds of Cubben Park

The main entrance has a very nice hand-painted sign advertising the birds of Cubbon Park, but since I showed up around 1 PM, the only birds were the usual crows, pigeons, and mynas. If you really want to do birding, you have to get going early in the morning.

At 1 PM, on a Sunday, the main observations were vendors touting snacks or games of chance, children taking pony rides, older kids jumping bikes off rocks, parents standing in line with children at a little amusement park, young couples having serious conversations in very bushy areas, a cow resting in the grass, a smouldering pile of leaves and trash (burning is one of the more effective garbage solutions available here), domestic ducks chasing hand-outs on the obligatory scummy pond, and a nice bit of formal garden leading to the backsides of the Karnataka High Court building and the world's largest cricket stadium.

There is an aquarium there, too. I didn't go inside and I guess it's just as well because later, another friend Biju told me that he had visited the aquarium and there weren't any fish in there. About that same time, I read something in the local paper that renovations were going on to add new exhibits so I guess that explains it. My recommendation, wait until next year to visit the Bangalore Aquarium.

Gazebo and High Court

But otherwise, if you're in Bangalore and fed up with street traffic and mud streets and no sidewalks because food and merchandise vendors are taking up all the paved spots for their stalls, then Cubbon Park is a great place to come for an hour or two of walking around in greenery. Adjacent to Cubbon Park is a long narrow rectangle of a park called Queen's Park. It has a statue of Queen Victoria at one end and King Edward at the other. In between are two long narrow alleys shaded by large trees. The names are English but the atmosphere is French. Bangalore is so cosmopolitan in that way.

Plus, Cubbon Park is at the far end of MG Road. A quick walk or rickshaw ride down MG Road, near a landmark building that used to be the headquarters of the [Bible] Tract and Book Society but is now a Hard Rock Cafe (this is true, for real), puts you at a gourmet food shop where the homesick American or European can find spanish ham, black forest sausage, avocados (called "butter fruit" here), cheddar cheese and other imported goodies, just like home.

Cubbon Park is tame and domestic. Cariappa Park (my next post), turned out to be quite different....