First Impressions of India
June 12, 2010
Just landed in Bangalore. Hard to form impressions at night, but I have a few.
First, on naming… I was confused as to what the “official” name of the city is, Bangalore, or Bengaluru. I thought maybe it was something like the lost in translation thing that happens with Ethiopian cities, where Sidama there turns into Sidamo in the US. I had the good fortune to sit next to a city resident on the flight, and he explained that Bangalore was a bastardization applied by the British when they colonized India. In 2006, the India government officially changed the name back to Bengaluru. But it hasn’t stuck yet. So you see it both ways. The fact that I didn’t even realize the same situation existed with Mumbai (it used to be Bombay) leads me to believe the local name will stick eventually. Although they do have the issue of having Bangalore International Aiport. Anyway…
For a city of 5 or 6 million, it’s pretty dark at night flying in. So dark there was no point taking photographs out the window. Surprisingly dark.
The airport itself was modern and impressive. Immigration and Customs was a breeze – as well they should be, given the PITA it was to obtain a visa. But most US airports have nothing on Bangalore. I was able to get through Immigration, claim my bag, hit an ATM to get some Rupees, all in about 15 minutes. There is no way you could do that in Newark.
The cab situation was a zoo, as was explained by my Bangalorean friend on the plane. On the way to the official airport cab stand, I was plyed by at least a half dozen different drivers, and they even created a kind of fake queue near the real one. A local was kind enough to tip me off. The cab was a Tata, I think, clean and modern. They drive on the opposite side of the road here, so I will DEFINITELY NOT be doing any driving. Fare was Rs15 per kilometer. So a 35 km ride cost about Rs580. Figure about Rs40-45 per dollar, so it was maybe $12 for a 20 minute ride. Reasonable.
Riding in to the hotel (in the dark at 1 AM, mind you), I got the impression this place is kind of like a cross between Singapore and Ethiopia. Some things exceedingly modern, e.g., the airport. Some things more 20th century, e.g., the concrete building construction and lack of lights.
My USD$42 per night hotel is nice enough. Two twin beds, a bath, an A/C unit and a wireless connection. Oh, and a 1 liter bottle of Aquafina, complimentary. Time for malaria med and bed now, since it’s 3:30 in the morning (time change = +10.5 hours).
I will get out and about tomorrow, as I have Sunday on my own, except for lunch with one of the coffee guys guiding me around. I’m going to try to hit the City Market in Bangalore 1st thing. My plane buddy explained to me it wouldn’t be worthwhile – just a bunch of local veggies, spices and handicrafts. Sounds like just my speed. More tomorrow.