Bengaluru (Bangalore) is renowned for being India’s technology city, but this eclectic destination also offers visitors numerous sites of remarkable beauty and tranquility to be admired. Panayiotis Markides explores.
Half way through my eight-day India journey and the endless travelling was beginning to wear me down. The rushing involved in waking early, getting to an airport, and the waiting time for a simple one-hour flight is taxing enough before you take into account the day’s journey ahead. However, the efficient disembarking process at Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru, meant that no time was wasted from my morning in getting about the city.
I arrived in Bengaluru on the Friday no worse for wear – thankfully the entire trip was smoothly planned and my guide in Bengaluru was waiting to meet me and take me straight to The Chancery Pavilion in central Bengaluru. Sadly, all touristy adventures were reserved for the following morning. This afternoon I was scheduled to make my way to Narayana Hospital to learn all about the facilities on offer there.
Bengaluru’s own beauty is apparent throughout– the airport is new and well-designed, along with easily accessible from a newly built highway; it’s a modern city in every way. Upon exiting the airport highway however, the traffic is inescapable – but this is something one must get used to in India; scooters and motorcycles, cars and buses each jostling for a place in the road, hooting at one another. Somehow, it works.
I made it to the hotel in good time to get checked in and have lunch before being picked up to head to the hospital. Due to the travel time getting to Narayana Health Centre (almost two hours) I arrived after office hours and struggled to find anyone to speak with, but nevertheless I had to still get back to the hotel.
I had dinner at the hotel and even went for a drink in the lobby to unwind.
Bright and early Saturday morning I checked out, and was downstairs waiting for my guide to begin my journey on what would be a long day – half a day of touring is all that there was time for, as I was travelling by road to Mysore.
First up was Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, meaning ‘The Red Garden’, the highlight of which is the glass house, a colonial structure inspired by Crystal Palace in London, and which hosts an annual flower show. My guide explained that the garden was completed in 1760. We entered near Kempegowda tower which affords visitors sweeping vistas of Bengaluru’s panorama – the skyscrapers of the technology sector clearly evident in the distance rising through the tropical growth. In total the gardens cover a massive 971,246m2. With more than 1,000 species of flora, the gardens are a haven of peace for visitors. The botanical garden also is home to Lalbagh Rock – a fossilised tree dating back reportedly 20 million years.
Next up was the ISCKON Temple – a stunning, contemporary Hindu centre of worship built in 1997, with the inside adorned with giant gold leafed statues in the worshipping halls. I walked amongst the throng of worshippers and took in the sense of peace that emanated from the temple.
Then it was back to the traffic to fight our way through the city as we began our journey to the resort town of Mysore (or Mysuru).
I had one final night in Bengaluru, and that was as a guest at the famed SOUKYA Holistic Health Centre, run by the renowned Dr. Issac Mathai. SOUKYA is an Ayurveda health centre that boasts high-level guests such as HRH, Charles, Prince of Wales and his wife HRH, Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles. It focuses on treating the cause of the problem, as opposed to symptoms. After check-in, patients undergo a thorough assessment from the centre’s highly qualified doctors in order to examine what treatment options are best. I was recommended a hot stone massage – so there was no complaining on my side!
True to the health centre’s promise of an authentic experience, after check-in I was welcomed with a traditional Indian welcome ceremony which included an authentic coconut drink and was garnished with a flower necklace, before I was shown to my room. I was given a brief tour of the many facilities before my scheduled assessment, where I was prescribed a hot-stone treatment (it was just what the doctor ordered) and a healthy dinner – freshly-made pasta.
In the morning I was given a tour of the pristine and tranquil property. Everything is done organically – all food is grown on the property, as well as the majority of any herbs used for treatments. I was impressed that even a lamb was on hand to trim the grass.
I awoke early in the morning to attend the beginner’s yoga lesson. Feeling rejuvenated I took a stroll around the property and took in the sense of peace and calm it offers guests. Unfortunately, I had a plane to catch back home, so my sense of peace was cut short by the familiar rush to get to the airport, and taking into account the traffic encountered getting to the centre, my driver arrived a few hours early.
Needless to say, traffic was the quietest I had seen, and I made it to Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru about four hours early – before the check-in desk was even open.