Love it when those last minute opportunities to travel arise.
OK, it was for business and most of the week I was stuck in the basement of the hotel in the “business center” and worked crazy hours until the sun had risen again, but still I managed to escape for a few day trips and strolls in the hotel’s gardens.
The Leela Palace… mmm
I am booked again in the Leela Palace. Love to come back to this place, love everything about it, the rooms, the facilities, the staff, the food,… the pampering. I never get pampered like that at home. How great is it to arrive here, smiling faces… “Miss #####?” “Let me handle the payment of the cab for you” “we will bring the bags to your room” Some more smiling faces “let me escort you to your room” That’s new! “We have given you a tripple upgrade” Really? They shouldn’t have… NOT. Omg! It’s a ballroom! This is going to be a fun week. I can’t wait to test out that bath…
First day trip to Lepakshi
I have been to Bangalore several times, but never explored the surroundings or took any day trips. So, I figured to break that bad habit today and who would be a better companion than my dear colleague and Bangalore resident Mono? I hadn’t seen him for close to 4 years, since I was diagnosed with Acro and had to quit the role I had. The role for which I traveled Norway, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and again and again. Great memories :)
It is quite a drive to Lipakshi. Enough time to catch up. But then… STOP!!!! My eyes have scanned big yellowish green prickly things next to the road… could it be true? would it?… are these JACKFRUIT????!!?!?!?!?!??? Haaaaaaallleeeeelluuuuujjaaaaaaaa… the gates of heaven have opened up and I am holding my little golden fork already in my hands… I cannot resist Jackfruit… sssssssoooooooo delicooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuus.
With a filled stomach we arrive at Lepakshi. We first go visit the Nandi bull up close. When I look around and behind me, I notice, as the only white person around, I seem to attract the necessary attention. We continue our walk through the main street and in the blistering heat to the Sunday market. I can’t resist markets, I need to go have a look. I see a lot of strange vegetables I never encountered throughout my travels. Seem to be very local… I continue to feel the hundreds of eyes checking me out. My attempt to be incognito with my Indian attire didn’t help. Where is my blonde-with-blue-eyed friend and travel companion when I need her to distract everyone?
Eventually we get to the Veerabhadra Swamy Temple build in the 16th century. A bit weird to find a huge and ancient Hindu temple in the midst of a clearly Muslim dominated village. The temple is impressive. The architecture confuses me for multiple reasons: there is no real symmetry, the walls are not straight, I recognize features from the Mugal style I found in Rajasthan as well as the great temples in Cambodia and Sri Lanka, even the pillars are floating in the air. Actually, the whole place puzzles me… it is really special and beautiful, yet it seems to be hidden somewhere in the middle of nowhere, away from the herds of (non-Indian) tourists. I love these places, it calms me down to wander around, observe everyone and everything. I was finally done doing so and made my way to the exit, when I notice some shy teenagers giggling nervously while looking at me. I didn’t understand them, but understood they wanted to ask something. An older, non-related teenager, volunteered to act as interpreter on their behalf and told me they would want a picture with me. :) How easy it is sometimes to bring some fun in someone’s day. Meanwhile I have one aswell.
This day trip turned out just great. My brains are back in zen modus, zooming in balance. On the way back I fall asleep in the car – I hadn’t slept during the night flights, as I thought the discussion with the passenger next to me was far more interesting – and thank God I don’t snore anymore… apparently. It completely escapes me that we were blocked by the flood resulting from the heavy rains. I woke up just in time to see we were back in motion. I seem to have taken on Maharani manners again. That was quick. I continue the trend by ordering the Lobster Kadhai when I arrive at the hotel.
Second day trip to the Nandi Hills
The second weekend we are on the road again, again heading North, again stopping to buy jackfruit at the same stall. The lady recognizes me… not difficult, probably the only white female jumping up and down from joy to see jackfruit. This is an area where they grow a lot of grapes. Never would have imagined it, but sure enough they sell lots of them next to the road. When we return we try some, but the taste doesn’t agree with me.
We first stop at a very nice temple: Bhoga Nandishwara tempel. I just can’t get enough of visiting temples. They do NOT look alike for me. We are not even inside the temple when we see a large wooden chariot, with huge wheels and nicely decorated. I hear a lot of action in the trees and am looking in the sky to see what is going on and what I am missing out on. The trees are full of those green ring parakeets. The females cosy in the holes in the trees and the males making sure they have everything they need. Although some strange encounters make me think that some males have multiple females, and some females seem to attract multiple males… I am so thrilled: one of the pictures I really wanted to take one day was a parakeet or parrot peeping out from a hole in the tree… and here it is!
The temple itself is again beautiful and reminds me of some temples we saw in Jaisalmer… sculptures all over the place. Families are relaxing on the temple grounds… we are being blessed by fire and water… monkeys hopping around with newborns. We are being gently approached again for selfies, which we obviously say yes to. A bit further, a mum and grandma assemble their kids around our blonde colleague for a nice picture. The boy is not sure, probably thinking that she looks too pale to be healthy. Brilliant. I was already happy with what we had seen and thought that was it, until we turn a corner and pass through an arch leading to a stepwell. We have seen some of these in Rajasthan, but were never allowed into the water, or the water looked too suspicious we didn’t even feel for it. This time we can! And again, we are only a few of us here. How relaxing. Another hidden paradise. While the little fish nibble at my feet, I get a phone call from my husband. Couldn’t be a better moment for him, I said yes, but don’t remember to what.
The Nandi Hills themselves are much more congested. Clearly a place to be with friends, family and lovers on a Saturday afternoon. Or colleagues in our case. Everyone is dressed up in colorful and sparkly dresses. The views are awesome. What a nice way to close out a hectic but fruitful week at work.
Bangalore itself has changed a lot over the years, the traffic is more like Dhaka traffic… congested and unimaginable. So much building still going on. Nothing like I remember from 2004 when I first got here. It was a much more relaxed place where you landed in an old, all blinged up airport with only one hall and a few shops. We eventually make it to one of the big malls, where I find some stuff for my kids and husband (and myself) and we have our last Indian dinner: lobster Tandoori…
If all works out fine, I will you soon Bangalore…