We’re quite surprised at how comfortable we are feeling here. It’s hot, it’s hectic, there’s a billion people in the streets, there’s litter everywhere and we keep fending off rikshaw drivers peddling their services. Yet, we’re really confident walking these here streets. They’re familiar.
Perhaps countries located along the equator are simply much alike. Climate similarities are obvious. People’s kindness and hospitality is another commonality we see between India, Indonesia and Malaysia. Even details such as very high curbs—the kind that’d badly damage any car trying to get onto it—look very much alike. It’s almost as if we never left Bali.
To my delight, there are sidewalks. Some of them wide and solid, others much less so, but they’re there. We can walk, taking in the city. Or we could jump into one of the inexpensive, shabby looking, but definitively worth a try, rikshaw. There’s also real public transportation. Bengaluru has two metro lines (looking quite modern, judging from the station entrances), and a ton of public buses. The latter seem to be in various stages of disrepair, but we still definitively would like to take a ride on one, just for the kicks.
Traffic is bad. Main streets, no matter how many lanes they have, are filled with cars and scooters. The notable difference from Bali is the noise. Drivers use their car horns as often as they do the gas pedal, just to notify all other vehicles within sight (and people trying to sleep nearby) that they’re moving—left, right, to the front, it doesn’t matter. Somehow this really doesn’t bother us. We noticed it, then stopped noticing within an hour or so. It’s background noise.
Bengaluru seems to be occupied largely by two big organizations: the military and the catholic church. We encountered military installations and training centers every couple of streets, plus the occasional fighter jet setup as a monument on some intersection. Churches, congregations, church schools are also in abundance. Surprisingly, we saw very few Hindu temples so far.
Our friend here told us that there’s a story behind all this presence here. Bengaluru is located at 900m above sea level, making it the highest of India’s major cities, and its climate slightly more moderate than elsewhere in the south. This created good conditions for treatment and rehabilitation of soldiers, so the military setup a number of hospitals here, followed by their other institutions. After the military came the church, and slowly the other eight million or so people.
There’s a visible focus on security everywhere. India’s facing a threat of terrorism from various directions, and it shows in how they’re trying to guard many of the public places. The airport was full of soldiers and checkpoints. In the city even entering a mall requires one to pass through a metal detector, although with the lenient approach of the guards manning it I’m not so confident whether they’d be able to catch a real threat.
Food is great. We’ve always been fans of the heavy-spiced Indian cuisine and so far it hasn’t disappointed. Even in the small hotel we’re staying at, where breakfast is rather plain by hotel standards, what we’re getting is delicious.
We’re yet to properly explore the food scene here, including the many fruit varieties, riper than we could ever hope to have in Poland. Watermelon juice, turns out, is a delicious companion to morning coffee. And we had some locally crafted, uhm, craft beer, flavorful and beautifully refreshing in this weather.
Finally, there are the funnies of culture. We stressed to our transport company that we’ll be four people with large suitcases and need a car big enough to carry those. Not a problem—two suitcases fit into the smallish trunk, two other… on the roof. Traffic is left-hand and so is the customary way one passes pedestrians on the sidewalks. We still need a moment to adjust here. Streets are also filled with signs and wall marks making statements in eyebrow-raising English. Some of them sounding serious, and because of their form we wouldn’t even know if we’re committing any felony.
All in all, we’re really happy to be here. Perhaps because of the familiarity stated in the beginning, or maybe it’s the joy of having escaped the lengthy, cold and dark Polish winter, into a country of neverending warmth and sunshine. We have two more weeks ahead of us, now it’s time to try out running in the local park.