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Last minute India! Suggestions for short agenda in Bangalore and Hyderabad

Last minute India! Suggestions for short agenda in Bangalore and Hyderabad

May 12th, 2010, 08:24 AM
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Posts: 192
Last minute India! Suggestions for short agenda in Bangalore and Hyderabad

Well, I just found out I get one of my "dream" trips - India! - but I do need to work it around my husband's work obligations, which are:

Bangalore - June 7 and 8
Hyderabad - June 10 and 11

I have spent the past few hours trying to read trip reports and options on what to do, but it seems so overwhelming. Usually I ask people to critique my plan before posting here, but this time I'm at a loss. My husband's company recommended that we stay at the Taj Vivanta in Bangalore and the Westin in Hyderabad, but we can basically book anywhere we like so long as it's in that nearby vicinity for work purposes. (I'm also not a big fan of booking "Americanized" chain hotels or staying in the touristy areas because of safety). I realize it wil be HOT, too .

So... we could probably arrive a few days early in Bangalore and stay a day or two later in Hyderabad, looking at a trip with dates like June 3 - 13, something like that (possibly a few more, not sure).

I haven't a clue on what to do while I'm there. My husband will be working in the daytime and I have a few friends in Bangalore I can possibly neet/talk with, but I feel like they will immediately steer me to the mega-tourist stuff. I'm not the typical tourist - I don't need to see the "main" attractions (unless it's an overwhelming must-see). I like to experience a place as opposed to a rigid sightseeing agenda, so I'm pretty flexible. Really love nature/art/markets/people.

Thoughts on a great, though rather short, experience? Any suggestions on a plan/hotels is much appreciated. I'm excited about the opportunity but because it's a short trip, a little perplexed as to how to make the quality of the trip count.

On a side note, I'm also concerned how I'll do there health-wise as I tend to be very sensitive to third world food standards, but I'm still going to go for it! Tips welcome on that, too.

Thanks in advance.
jumper22 is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 08:29 AM
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p.s. if it's helpful info, I'll be flying to Bangalore from either Baltimore, MD or Dulles in D.C.
jumper22 is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 10:47 AM
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For a start--re: hotel recommendations--do you mean the hotel should specifically be near your husband's workplace -or anywhere in the cities? I'm guessing the former, as they are huge cities, and commute times can be immense.

I totally understand what you mean about wanting to avoid the "sanitized tourism" experience, Have you checked travel forum Indiamike? If you put your cities in the "search"column on the site. you'll see all kinds of interesting threads. There are also forums specific to the states--e.g Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh--which should give ideas for things to see/do outside the city centers.
I wish i could share a personal experience, but mine of Bangalore is limited to trips to the new airport, and a very odd hotel near BLR which I would NOT recommend! However...before we dropped "inner-city Bangalore" from our plan, these were the hotels we considered:
St Marks (we met the hotel's former chef and other staff at another place we stayed , and they loved their employer and the hotel) .
The Grand Magrath.

For a more cottage/heritage type experience:
Casa Piccola in a restore bungalow.
Villa Pottipatti in a restored mansion.

If your husband is going to do IT stuff at Electonics City, all these places will be about a 30 minute drive, IF the traffic cooperates. In Bangalore we were on a very busy highway entering the city from the West, and traffic slowed for the bucolic cows in the road. YOu get the picture.
As for food, the guide books have good info. Fodors Guidebook has of tips about food, etc. We had not one problems in two weeks (knock wood for our upcoming trip)--careful to use only bottled water for everything (including toothbrushing) that the bottles were original seals, and we took lactobacillus capsules, starting a week before we left. Bring Pepto Bismol chewable tablets--although we didnt use them, they are supposed to help upset tumies.We did NOT use antimalarial tablets.
CaliNurse is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 12:34 PM
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If you have not already taken a look at my trip report on Hyderabad. I fully undertsand the desitre to stay in hotels that are not "americanized", but I would HIGHLY recommend that in both cities that you do so. I say this because your husband will be working and at the end of the day he'll want good A/C, ice a shower and some of the luxuries we take for granted. Also, see my commentary about the Hyderabad Novotel - if he is in Hytec city it is a good choice for distance. The Taj properties, while not far away can take over an hour to get to even with a good driver.

Take the advice on bottled wayter very seriously. Do not open your mouth in the shower either. I have a very sensitive stomach and I managed 2 weeks in Hyderabad with no illnesses. I did bring cipro and hydration salts and I would recommend anyone do the same in a 3rd world country. (I got near-death sick in Egypt last year and the combination of the 2 saved me)

I never learned the cost of my driver, Ayub, who is with Premier car service in HYD, but I would recommend you get a driver - it makes the trip much easier (get him if you can)
seafox is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 02:14 PM
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We used Ramesh Meena at ramindiatours.com. He was a great driver/planner and made our trip so much more than it might have been. He is honest, intelligent, a safe driver, and speaks English very well. We paid 3100 rs/day at high season all inclusive (no additional fees).

We stayed in heritage hotels and they are fine for a stay as long as they have a/c and the other amenities most westerners want. Check each website to make sure they have your "must haves."

Have you checked a guidebook? If not, do that pronto so you are aware of what opportunities are available to you.
indianapearl is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 05:23 PM
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I'll be listening in. Looks like a may be spending a couple of days in Bangalore myself during a layover, and my interests are similar to those of jumper22 i.e. nature/art/markets/people.
Femi is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 06:07 PM
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Thanks everyone for the quick response, so helpful!

Seafox, I read your Hyderabad report and am now freaking out about staying at the Taj V in Bangalore. I now know we'll be in the Whitefield area... what other hotels there are better options?

I'm also starting to wonder if this trip is worth it given the circumstances... from what I'm reading it seems that a single female alone during the day probably isn't the best scenario for a fun day of exploring. I have ALWAYS wanted to go to India though so I suppose I will just figure it out!
jumper22 is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 06:27 PM
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Have you looked at a map? The Taj V seems to be miles away - but I note it is 'the hotel stands right at the main entrance to the International Tech Park, Bangalore (ITPB),'

I guess this where your husband is working? Lousy for you. There is a great Taj property opposite the Racecourse. Go there.

dogster is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 07:45 PM
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"it seems that a single female alone during the day probably isn't the best scenario for a fun day of exploring." Nonsense. Dress conservatively and just ignore the touts and beggars.
thursdaysd is offline  
May 12th, 2010, 08:15 PM
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India is fine for single women doing a fun day of exploring. as Thursday said, dress conservatively (no shorts, cover your shoulders. Mian thing is to not attempt too much in the heat, and have a card for your hotel so you can get home. Take a phone that works in India --whether by roaming on your plan or with an Indian SIM card.
lcuy is offline  
May 13th, 2010, 03:32 AM
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If you can, I might arrive in Bangalore early and take the train to spend a few days in Mysore! The train ride itself is a show! Bangalore can be a bit overwhelming but you might enjoy wandering around the shops and sights if MG road while your husband is at work. Stick to bottled and boiled water.
usernameistaken is offline  
May 13th, 2010, 03:42 AM
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Travel is not only about sights but also just a chance to see another culture. I think if you have a chance you should go and create an experience for yourself.

If you must stay in Bangalore and are looking for some authentic and local markets to explore, I suggest Malleswaram, which is a residential neighborhood. It's a residential area and not touristy AT ALL - and it will be mostly normal residents doing their daily shopping but if you want to see something authentic, you might enjoy the sights and sounds. If you like art, you cannot go wrong wandering around local temples, which are everywhere. I did some quick net research and found this:




Then, if you want to see a modern temple, I suggest the Iskcon.
usernameistaken is offline  
May 13th, 2010, 05:16 AM
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jumper22 - you must go - this is a great opportunity. I agree with others, you should be fine. Very often my driver went with me to museums, historic sites and markets. That would be ideal - if you get a driver ask up front if they will do that for you - then you have no worries
seafox is offline  
May 13th, 2010, 08:03 PM
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Here are my thoughts:

1. I assume you will have no issue getting your visa issued in a month.

2. I assume you depart the US on June 5 or 6 and that June 7 would be a sightseeing day, as opposed to a day on which you arrive into India. But watch the arrival time, as I see that some flights may have you arriving at 3 or 4 am on June 7, which means you may not get a whole lot of “sightseeing” done on that first day. (On many outbound flights, it appears it will take you 2 calendar days to get to India, so make sure you are counting your days correctly.) I assume you don’t depart Hyderabad until the evening of June 11 giving you a good bit of that day in Hyderabad. What are you doing on June 9? Travelling between Bangalore and Hyderabad? That flight only takes 1.5 hours, and there are early morning and late evening flights, so you should be able to use one of those days as a sightseeing day in either place. I would go with Hyderabad if possible (unless you go to Mysore as that is a whole day, giving you only 1 day in Bangalore).

3. Five days in India is just a ridiculously short time, given you have to get there via a long-haul flight from the US. You will spend about 50 hours in airplanes, travel to and from airports, immigration and baggage claim, just for the 5 days (which is 120 hours, so you do the ratio). So if there is anyway you can extend your visit, I would seriously consider doing so. As much as I like Hyderabad and Bangalore, going ONLY to Bangalore and Hyderabad would not really constitute anyone’s idea of a “dream” trip to India, I would think. Even if you have to do the trip alone without your husband it could still be quite enjoyable. If you can’t extend the visit, it is up to you to determine whether all that travel is “worth” it to you.

4. As you know, much of India will be VERY VERY HOT in June. There are experiencing their hottest summer on record, and that is saying something. Bangalore is at a higher elevation and actually is quite pleasant even in summer, but Hyderabad will be quite hot. Temps like 110 F. With no clouds. It’s brutal to say the least. It makes August in the DC area feel like November. If you travel elsewhere, also bear that in mind. It is also quite possible that the monsoon rains will beginning when you are there, which can of course be a relief from sun, but can slow travel down. Hyderabad is likely to be worse affected than Bangalore. So I would not try to do too much in any one day.

5. India is exceptionally safe for a woman alone, in my long experience travelling there. I would not have any particular concerns. Take normal precautions with wallet and purse as you would any place else, but as a general matter, IMO you are safer travelling on your own in India than you are in most other places, e.g. the US and Europe. The main problem you may have is people wanting to talk to you, as a woman travelling alone is something of an oddity. (But as soon as you explain that your husband is here working -ah- this they understand. The next question will be how many children do you have, madam? And what is your good name?)

6. It is a good thing you don’t like mega-tourist stuff because you won’t find any in Bangalore. It is also a good thing you have friends there, because they can take you to the fun restaurants and pubs. There really are almost no tourist sites in Bangalore (well, none worth getting excited about IMO). There are some botanical gardens, and some notable buildings, but compared to a place like Delhi (or Hyderabad), there is very little. There is Mysore of course, but that is a separate trip which you may not have time for – but if you can spare a full day then I would recommend it. Otherwise, Bangalore is quite a green and pleasant city and you can just relax and enjoy it. A lot like Santa Clara, California. Go see the campuses of the big IT companies there (see, it IS just like Santa Clara or Mountain View). Have aryuvedic treatments, which were developed in south India. There is an aryuvedic resort at Soukya, take a look at http://soukya.com/. Wander the excellent bookshops and get all the latest Indian authors. Go to concerts of Indian and Western music. All of it is interesting, even if there are no tourist sites (and maybe more so). About a half hour outside the city is Nrityagram village, which has an Indian classical dance academy. Take a look at http://www.nrityagram.org/village/sponsors/sponsors.htm. I have not been to the village, but have seen a troupe of the academy’s dancers perform in Delhi, they are excellent. A bit further out would be Bannerghatta National Park, and the Nandi Hills are which apparently has some interesting temples and forts. Bangalore is a centre for yoga and the Whitefield Ashram (which should not be too far from the Taj if you end up there), and the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) Temple Complex are important spiritual centers not too far outside the city, any may be worth paying a visit.

7. Whitefield is a suburb of Bangalore, and is developing as a hitech area with gated housing communities. There are a number of hotels under construction there (a Hilton, a Shangri-La and a Marriott), but other than the Taj, you may not find much else, and are unlikely to find any charming small hotels as this area was farmer’s fields and some ashrams until about 15-20 years ago. I would go with the Taj if you have to stay in the Whitefield area. (The Taj opened quite recently, maybe a year ago.) However, if I had a choice of hotels in Bangalore, I would pick the Leela in Bangalore itself, because it is just a wonderful hotel with a fantastic spa. Nice green surroundings. If your husband’s company will pay for this, I would try to get it. Traffic in Bangalore is really not bad, so even if it is a bit further from where your husband may be working during the day, it should not be too out of the way. While I agree that smaller hotels like the Villa Pottipatti would be interesting on a holiday, speaking as a person who goes to India for business once a month or so, your husband may need to work in evening or morning hours when the US is working, and the charms of such a place may not appeal. He may want 24 room service, two land lines in the room, a business centre with a printer, etc which you may not find at a heritage property. (He may also want a back up generator, which you may not find as well, but better places will have them.) But look at something like Special Places to Stay India http://sawdays.co.uk/, click on the book for India, and see what works for both of you.

8. Hyderabad is extremely interesting and has a long history. Read up on it so you can appreciate what you will see in Hyderabad, esp with regard to the 7th Nizam and his fabulous jewellery collection. (Hyderabad is a great place to shop for pearls and jewellery.) I can recommend some books which might interest you. You will not be inundated with tourists as it is off the main tourist path; I have been in museums there where I was literally the only person in the place. The old city is very interesting, with the Chaminar and the old bazaar areas around it. Lots of chador-wearing women, I always feel like I am back in the Middle East when I am there. There are some wonderful buildings throughout the city, the courthouse (built by the British) is like something out of Arabian nights. I thought that the Nizam’s Museum in the Purani Haveli (one of his former palaces), was very interesting, and is easily combinable with a tour of the old city. The Salar Jung Museum has a huge collection of Indian and other items. I have not been to the Archeological Museum, but it is supposed to be very good too. Note that most museums are closed Fridays, although I think Golconda is open everyday. You can also go out to Goldanda fort. From what I understand, it is quite easy to get a tour of the movie studios there, which are as big as the Bollywood ones (they produce Telagu-language movies for the south), and that might be interesting (my ever-alert mother sent me an article on this, check the New York Times for the last year or so as I recall). They are known for their great food as well. In both Hyderabad and Bangalore you might look into cooking lessons, as the cuisines are quite different.

9. Now if you have a choice of hotels in Hyderabad, a sort of interesting compromise for you and your husband might be the Taj Falaknuma Palace. This is one of the palaces of a former Nawab, and is literally just opening this month (I think, check the website). I have only seen it when it was a ruin, but it had grandeur and charm them, and this would be very interesting to stay in, I think. See http://www.tajhotels.com/. This hotel should have the facilities he needs, and you the charm you need. It is not located in any city area, but sits on a hill, so you need a car and driver to go most places, but that is going to be the case no matter where you stay. It is going to be a bit of a drive to both Hitec City and the old town, so perhaps your husband would not mind a bit of a drive. Otherwise, if your husband’s company is recommending that you stay at the Westin, then that is probably because that is the easier for him. The Hitec City area is quite a bit to the west of the main Hyderabad city and old city. I have not seen it, but I am sure the Westin is fine (although I did have lunch on Tuesday with a client who is in the construction business in India and he was complaining about the poor quality of work at the Westin, you may not notice this). If I had a choice, I would actually choose the Marriott, as it is on the lake and has nice views and is easier for seeing the old town. However, this is going to be a bit of a drive for your husband, as Sagar Lake is more in the centre of town. I am not sure I would fuss too much over it, you can just take a car and driver as you need it. However, the Taj Krishina or Taj Deccan may also work, and they are in more of an established neighborhood (although not near the city centre either). The Westin would be brand new, and might be nicer from that standpoint. The Westin and Taj would be somewhat faster location for getting to Golconda fort than the Marriott.

10. Please do not get overly alarmed by health issues when traveling to India. In more than 100 trips to India, I have had problems twice, both of which were more than 10 years ago and so I don’t really count them. All I would suggest you have is updated Hep A and B (may be too late), updated Tetanus and a polio booster. I gave up brushing teeth with bottled water years ago, and seem to be surviving just fine. Of course in good hotels the water is potable in any event. But a lassi a day keeps the good bacteria in play is my motto.
Cicerone is offline  
May 14th, 2010, 02:46 PM
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Thanks for rthe detailed post Cicerone!
Femi is offline  
May 19th, 2010, 11:35 PM
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There's this great new option that's centrally located & is an amazing hotel at the same time. It's a new hotel called ITC Royal Gardenia , its near MG Road. Its like an oasis in the concrete jungle of the city. It's got nice & comfortable rooms and great dining options. I absolutely love the Lotus Pavilion- amazing alfresco dining. Inspite of being a new property the staff there really know their job well & ensure that your stay is comfortable.So you might want to consider this hotel when you are in Bangalore.
P.S June in Bangalore is a rather pleasant month with the rains.
dreamcatcher_sk is offline  
May 20th, 2010, 05:47 AM
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This months' International Travel news has a piece in "News Watch" about a deadly riot in Hyderabad on March 30, and says "the city has experienced months of unrest".

Would you worry about this if you were thinking of visiting Hyderabad, Cicerone?
thursdaysd is offline  
May 22nd, 2010, 08:55 AM
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The riots were short lived and at this point I would not worry.
seafox is offline  
May 22nd, 2010, 12:50 PM
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I've been living in Whitefield for all of one week - there isn't a whole lot to do here for tourists, though it is a very nice place to live. If your husband is working near ITPL, I would recommend staying at the Taj here for his sanity, as driving from one of the hotels in central Bangalore will take about 40 minutes each way in the lightest traffic (I did that drive just Thursday). That said, the Leela is wonderful! You should definitely plan to have Sunday brunch at Citrus if you will be around on a weekend. Actually, if you are going to be around on a weekend, you should spend the weekend at the Leela.

We went to a restaurant called Bon South, in Koramanagala, on a coworkers recommendation and it was very good. Other than that, I would echo Cicerone's good advice. Try to add more time to your trip. 5 days isn't even enough time to get over the jetlag.
BangaloreExpat is offline  
Jun 5th, 2010, 08:32 AM
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Thank you so much for all the detailed responses. It is soo helpful and I'll be printing all this out and taking along with us. Our plans changed a little and now we are leaving in about a week and a half. We have stuck with the company's recommendation and booked the Taj and Westin. We'll have a driver so I'll just utilize that.

Cicerone, the soutkya site is of great interest to me so thanks for that. I plan to check it out, as I was recently diagnosed with a miserable condition called Superior Canal Dehiscence with Tullio and am interested in trying alternate therapies. It looks like a wonderful place. I hadn't even thought about a cooking class but that would be so interesting to me!

So I have some random questions now that our trip is in order:

1) my Dr. is recommending we do the Oral Typhoid vax (starting today, need to go pick it up), and getting the Hep A vax first thing on Monday. Additionally he wants me to do the prophyllaxis for malaria as well. Thoughts? I will say that the mosquito thing concerns me as I am a magnet for them. Additionally I have vomited my way through Scotland and France in the past, so to say I am sensitive to foreign foods is an understatement. I will, of course, be extremely careful in everything I do there. Just not sure I want to be doing all of these meds.

2) clothing... I know it's going to be HOT there so I want to be comfortable but also be respectable of the culture/blend in. What is appropriate - long sleeve linen? sandals? anything goes?

3) our flight arrives Bangalore midight on a Friday. I am wondering if I should just plan a trip to Mysore the following day for Saturday and Sunday, or if that would be too ambitious considering the jet lag. I am hopeful that the odd arrival time would give us a good 6+ hours of sleep to be functional and enjoy the weekend at leisure. Thoughts?

Thanks all! I am looking forward to this adventure
jumper22 is offline  

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