Bangalore is the capital of Karnataka state in India and is commonly known abroad as the "silicon valley" of India. A large number of IT companies and service industries are located in Bangalore. The average elevation of the city from sea level is about 1000 Metres and hence the climate here is very comfortable compared to many other places in India.
Last month I visited Bangalore city for the first time. Our tour party was big (16 including children) and we spent 3 days in Bangalore. On the second day we took a package tour from Karnataka Tourist Development Corporation (KSTDC). It was named "New Bangalore Sight Seeing" and the promise was a one day round up of all major tourist attractions in Bangalore. It was a one day program from 7AM to 8PM and we paid over Rs. 300 per person for the tour. This article is my review of KSTDC’s New Bangalore conducted tour.
The New Bangalore sightseeing trip starts at the KSTDC central reservation counter at Badami house near Corporation circle. One problem with KSTDC is that the trip route changes frequently and you will have to check at the office to confirm about the tour details and also on the exact fare. Our tour party strength was 16 and when we asked at the counter, they promised to drop us at the place we were staying. But soon it turned out that the driver and tour guide were given no instructions and they said we needed to get it endorsed on the ticket! In India you have to very careful when you deal with government departments!
Since we checked out from the hotel, we had a lot of luggage and we didn’t want to carry it inside the bus. When we asked the driver to open the storage area of the bus, he refused to open it. It took some amount of forceful persuasion to get it opened! Now that is what I call customer service for Rs. 5000!
I think majority of tour buses start at 7AM which includes multi day trips to Mysore and Tirupati. So there is usually good crowd around this place and you can get your morning newspaper and tea from here!
The New Bangalore buses are not Volvo, but since you don’t spend too much time in the bus it is ok. We started at around 7:15 from Badami house.
Our tour guide gave interesting trivia and info on Bangalore throughout the trip. At times he "threatened" that he will abandon us if we don’t return to the bus on time. In India I think "threatening" is the only way to ensure that everyone sticks to the tour schedule!
Our first stop was at the beautiful and well managed ISKCON temple. Located on a small hill top (on Chord road near Mahalakshmi layout), this place is ideal for meditation. There is a lot of security at this place and cameras and mobile phones are not allowed inside. Also you need to leave your footwear either at the entrance or in the bus (Note: Never enter a temple with footwear on!).
Inaugurated in 1997, this temple is a stunning piece of architectural beauty and attracts a lot of visitors. It is always better to visit this place early in the morning (as we did). Temple has good facilities and we had tasty breakfast from the temple restaurant. You can also buy "Prasadam" and other religious handicraft items from here.
The main temple hall is huge (10000 sq.ft) and can accommodate a large number of devotees. Just standing inside this structure itself is a memorable experience!
After spending about 30 minutes at ISKCON temple, we headed straight to Veeranjaneya temple.This temple is not far from ISKCON and is located in a residential area. The hanuman deity is 22 feet and is carved out of a single stone! We spent about 10 minutes here.
Unfortunately some of us forgot to leave the footwear at the entrance and soon we got a good lesson on temple manners.
It appears pickpockets are very active in Bangalore. Wherever we went in Bangalore, we found huge display boards warning about pickpockets. This temple was also no exception and we spotted multiple boards here. Later in our Bangalore city bus travel, some of us lost mobile phones to pickpockets.
This was the last temple in our tour plan. This temple is being renovated and a lot of work is happening there. A complete miniature model of the temple is installed near the front gate.
We had our tea from the hotel across the road and brought some guava fruits to keep us filled till lunch time.
Cauvery Handicrafts Emporium
Our next stop on the way to Bannerghatta park was at Cauvery Handicraft Emporium run by KSHDC. Almost everything costs above Rs.1000 and I guess it is targeted at foreign tourists. Of course, there is a lot of sandal wood stuff to see here. We bought some sandal wood soaps and perfumes from here. Everything else appeared too costly!
Bannerghatta National Park
A visit to Bennerghatta national park (about 30 Kilometres from Bangalore city) was the only high point of the new Bangalore conducted tour. The "Jurassic park" type bus ride was exciting and seeing wild animals so close in their natural state is unforgettable. Of course the entire place is a giant cage, but you get a feeling that you are in natural forest. The roles are reversed – you are now in a cage (bus) and they (animals) are watching you! –
When we reached, there was a huge queue at the ticket counters. Fortunately since we came as part of KSTDC tour, our guide got tickets easily and we got a single safari bus for KSTDC tour party alone! The bus driver and conductor was very helpful and they helped me a lot in taking photos from the bus. The ticket for the zoo entrance and bus safari is Rs. 125 during weekends and holidays. Also note that the KSTDC conducted tour fee is just for the bus and the tour guide and for everything else you will have to pay separately.
Check out some of the photos below to get a glimpse of this exciting jungle safari (click on the photo for a larger version). There are over 30 different animal species at the national park and to see them all the bus ride is not enough. You will have to stay inside the jungle cottages for that!
As we entered the Bannerghatta park, everybody was excited with the "Jurassic Park" type ride. We first noticed a deer and then we came across a group of bears. Beware of bears as they can quickly attack even through the grilled windows of the bus. At the white tiger exit, the bus had to wait since a couple of tigers were trying to get out along with us!
There is a zoo also near the national park. We got about 10 minutes to visit the entire zoo! If you have time, don’t forget to visit the audio visual show running on frequent intervals. Here is the route map of Zoological garden (click for larger version),
The following are from the hall adjacent to audio visual show inside the Zoo and it shows the distinct types of birds and animals found in the forest.
Plastics are banned at the park and the staff at the park even repack any stuff you have in plastic bags in paper bags!
We had our lunch at around 2PM while returning from the national park. The food was good, but we had to hurry through the lunch since the tour guide has "threatened" that the bus will leave within 20 minutes! Even on a holiday the Bangalore traffic is so high that you end up spending 2-3 hours on the road!
Planetarium has regular sky-theatre shows at 3:30PM and 4:30PM. We reached around 3:45 and we got tickets around 4PM. We spent about 30 minutes at the science park in front of the planetarium. You can experiment with the devices in the park and learn a bit of science along the way!
The sky-theatre show was ok and explained about planets, stars and stuff like that. The guy who prepared the show definitely has a sense of humor as in one of the slides he puts number of scams in India along with number of planets and galaxies!
You can also get a "planet weight chart" printed from here which indicates your weight in various planets.
By the time the sky show was over it was 5:30PM and almost everyone in our group was tired. Nobody was interested in seeing the art gallery and musical fountain. So we took our luggage and got out of the KSTDC bus and then took autos to the where we were staying for the night.
Art Gallery & Musical Fountain
Unfortunately we were too tired to visit these places. For the art lover, I guess it is a must see place.
At over Rs. 300 per person, the new Bangalore tour is a bit costly. Another problem obviously is that in order to cover all these places in a single day you need to have a lot of energy. But KSTDC has immediate access to many places (Bannerghatta park for example) and I think that alone makes the trip worthwhile!
September 17, 2008 | Posted in Travel Reviews No Comments » | By Jayson Joseph