Since last year October, it was in my mind. I had won this luxury stay in Hotel Gardenia in Bangalore. For a long time I wanted to change it and take somewhere north i.e Jaipur/Delhi ( though I had been to both the places ). But as fate would have it ~ Bangalore it was to be! The validity of the prize was till 31st Mar, so I kept postponing, till I could no longer. It was March already. So, I tried booking the dates. For prizes they have check-in only on Fri-Sat, so accordingly 28 was the fateful day :-) I did lot of research on net about places to see and things to do while in Bangalore and nearby ( making notes and all ).
Since Bangalore takes atleast 24 hours, my ticket was on 27th. Reservations done, I was all set.
On 27th early morning I set off to Kalyan to board my train. It took a while to search the correct platform for Uydaan Express. By 9am, I was inside the train and within a few minutes the journey started. The train was filled with mullahs and burkha clad people, so I just ignored everything. I sat on my side window seat, and looked at the view outside instead. We passed through many tunnels ( both small and long ) - I lost count of them. Longest one was near Khandala.
Next morning, we entered Bangalore. The train was late. First thing I noticed was the colourful houses Bangalore had, and all mostly of 3-4 storeys only, not more than that ( except maybe a few and many are bungalows ). This is so unlike Bombay. The greenery too! And yes, I started spotting 'Nandini' milk-stalls rightaway; it being a famous one in Bangalore. We entered Bangalore-East first. I had earlier thought of getting down at Bangalore Cantonment station, but at the last minute after a conversation with a lady passenger I changed my mind to get down at Bangalore City Junction instead. She had told me it was in the main city and it'd be easier to catch a bus to Nandi Hills from there. Yes, my plan was to go up there. Since the KSRTC bus goes early morning at 8:30 am itself, and I reached around 11:30, I had missed the bus. But many other buses go to Chikballapur from the Majestic Bus Stop ( near station ), so I headed to the bus stop after buying some puri-bhaji to eat on the way. Since, there are monkeys in Nandi Hills, it is advised not to take food up there - so, I ate mine in the bus itself in the 1 hour journey. The Chikballapur bus stop is the last one, a long line of bus stands ( with buses going to Mysore/Hyderabad from there etc ). The road journey to Chikballabur was a long, straight one and alas reached there, just in time to board the bus to Nandi Hills. Once, inside the bus though - it waited till more passengers came in. The bus-conductor was female, which was interesting to see. So, finally nearly noon-time now, I was on my way to Nandi-Hills. Its a half-hour journey, and from plain fields to hill, the landscape changes dramatically. The best part is going up the hill. The height of Nandi Hills is 4,849 ft, hence the air becomes cooler as you go up. Best time to visit is before sun-rise, to view the sun-rise from up there and clouds floating below. My luck, I reached so late. But still I loved it.
There's whole lot to see in the hills. But, not alone, due to lot of suicide cases. Yes, since I was alone, they didn't let me in at first. I tried to bribe the ticket-guy. But he wouldn't budge. Atlast, I asked him to send his assistant as a guide with me. On promise of Rs.100, the man agreed and finally I went in. I saw Tipu's summer palace, old tank etc. All that travelling had left me exhausted, so after sometime of strolling about the premises I decided to head back.
Some attractions in the hills : ( wiki info )
1. Tipu's Drop - the famous place from where Tippu Sultan threw his condemned prisoners to death
2. Tipu's Summer Palace and Fort
3. Horse Way - A stone doorway in the fort on the North-eastern side.
4. Secret Escape Route - A secret passage on the west.
5. Temples - Sri Bhoga Narasimha, Sri Ugra Narasimha & Sri Yoga Narasimha.
6. Gavi Veerbhadra Swamy temple: on top of the hill, natural formation of huge boulders has been transformed into a magnificent temple.
7. Children's Playground
8. Nehru Nilaya - where Jawaharlal Nehru used to stay.
9. Gandhi House, where the Mahatma himself stayed.
10. A vegetarian / non-vegetarian restaurant "MAYURA" run by The Horticulture Department & the Karnataka Tourism Department.
11. Rivers - Source of the rivers Pennar, Palar and Arkavati and Amruth Sarovar - a beautiful water lake brimming with lucid water all the year round.
12. Brahmashram - Sage Ramakrishna meditated here.
13. Paragliding - Unique place of Karnataka offering paragliding activity.
14. Cycling/biking - A cyclists paradise.
There is a wash room which one can use for Rs.5/- For travelling down-hill ( not Chikballapur ), with the bus gone, I had to wait a while till an auto-rickshaw got filled. Tired, carrying my backpack whole day, I sat down to eat an ice-cream when a monkey nearly grabbed it from me. I threw the ice-cream with a shriek, but it didn't pick it up. So, my ice-cream got wasted, grrr. Finally, on an auto rickshaw I went down the hills, which surprisingly got over quicker than our way up. I paid almost 250 for normal Rs.30 fare, as I didn't want to wait for other passengers. The auto-driver left us near the bus-stop that would take me to Chikballapur. One traveller stopped his car offering me to drop to Lanka. I was shocked. Much later, I realized its a place near Bangalore itself. While waiting for the bus, I decided to check out some food in the nearby dhaba. I bought some lemon rice, pakodas and grinded & cooked fish masala. Once the bus came, I hopped on the first seat ( near the door ) and started eating away. The food was simply yummy. While the rest of the local crowd in the bus enjoyed some kannada movie on the two Televisions running in the bus - I watched out of the window, with mouth-fulls of the yummy food.
The sun was scorching once in Chikballapur, and the 1 hour journey back to Bangalore seemed to drag on - more so, as I sat on the seat where the sun glared at me. The bus dropped me off near the same bus-stop where I had got up, and I had to hunt several autos to take me to the hotel. Surprisingly, not many autowalas knew the road named after some colonel where the hotel was located. One traffic-police was standing nearby and he seemed to know, and spoke to the autowala in kannada giving him directions. But, it seemed there was two places named 'Ashok Nagar' so the auto passed my destination and went far ahead. Again, after lot of asking here and there, and a long drive on the other back side ( M.G.Road ), we finally reached the hotel, which was pretty near Cubbon Park and Mallya hospital.
In the reception desk of ITC Gardenia, the hotel staff greeted me warmly with a stole. They knew of my reservation. Anyways, I still gave the prize letter and Photo-ID for verification. While checking in, they asked for a certain 'returnable' deposit amount or cc ( which they ask from all visitors ). This was unexpected, and since my stay was already paid for I had carried very little cash with me. They had asked 10k, but I was carrying 5k along with sodexo vouchers; so alas I gave 3k as deposit. Phew! lol. Anyhow, they were extremely helpful, courteous and a pretty girl guided me to my room. She told me about the complimentary snacks time from 6-8, and showed me how the hotel operated on electronic i.e for lights, AC etc there was one LCD display box with various tabs on its screen. It was complicated, but I managed somehow.
It was already dark by then, and I came down to the restaurant ( Lotus Pavilion ) for the complimentary drink and snacks. I was served various pakoras, nuggets, cutlets etc ( veg & non-veg ). Best was the Zuchini fry. I washed down the food with coke, and then went up to my room hoping to catch up on internet. The hotel staff girl had told me about the internet connection in the room with plenty of options ( payable ), but sadly, I couldn't connect my TataDocomo dongle. So, I watched the Bangalore night skyline from top of my 20th floor room for a while, and then decided to crash for the night. Next day would be adventurous ~
( stay tuned for next part and pictures )
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