We were in the far south (Kerala) and needed to start heading east because we were planning to meet someone in Chennai; Bengaluru was the next logical stop. We caught an overnight bus, and arrived at the hostel at about 7:00am the next morning. We did the usual tired luggage drop-off in the hostel foyer and then headed out in search of breakfast. What I noticed immediately is that Bengaluru was cleaner than the other cities we had visited so far; there were public bins, footpaths, functioning traffic lights (that motorists obeyed!), and logical street signs. We hadn't come across this before and deduced that Bengaluru must be a wealthier part of the country.
While we were in Bengaluru, we stuck to the beaten track. Our hostel provided a great walking tour that took you to all of the main sights of the city centre. We caught the Metro north, and set off. We visited the law courts, the local markets (where anything you could ever want can be sold to you "for the cheapest price"), the various art sculptures provided by the Ministry of Tourism, the Vidhana Soudha (Parliament building), the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, and (my favourite site of all) the Blossom Book House which is the largest book store in the city, and the second largest in India stocking over 200,000 books! Wall to wall, ceiling to floor, just books everywhere in countless different languages. The next day, we visited Bengaluru Palace and paid for an audio tour around. It gave a fascinating insight into the royal history of Bengaluru, wider Karnataka, and of India's colonial history. I had a really nice time in Bengaluru; it's the city I would choose to live in if I ever moved to India. Perhaps this is because the city centre appeared a bit cleaner and more organised in it's layout, or perhaps because it seemed less busy than the other cities we had visited (despite having a population of 10 million). Whatever the reasons may be, I really enjoyed our few days in Bengaluru.
After Bengaluru, we headed to Chennai. We were heading further and further from the standard tourist spots, and it was beginning to show. Hostelworld options were becoming thinner, and there were fewer road signs in English. We had arrived at the coast again so we visited Marina Beach which had a fantastic setup of fairground rides, people playing massive drums, and a young girl slack-lining as an acrobatic performance. Chennai was fine, not my favourite city to visit, but still had a few interesting features. To be fair to Chennai, the main reason we had come was to meet a friend named Sathya, who is the brother of a man who Boy worked with back in Christchurch. We went out for dinner and drinks that nights; it was wonderful to get to know someone from that part of the world; someone who could give some insight on what it is like to live in Chennai, and in India. Besides visiting the beach, and meeting Sathya, we didn't do much else while we were in Chennai because the monsoon rains kept us stuck in the hostel! After Chennai, we continued (via overnight bus) on to Hyderabad.
Before arriving, we could tell that Hyderabad was not a city that many tourists ever visited because Hostelworld came up with no results, and Expedia came up with three. We (quite luckily) managed to find a youth hostel for a couple of nights. We hung out in the room for the next couple of days because I was feeling run down. On the morning of our (intended) departure, we met Sathya's friend, Archana, at a cafe for breakfast. We didn't know her before arriving in Hyderabad but Sathya put us in touch so we were really excited to meet her. We talked about what she did for a living, what we were doing in India, and where we were planning to go next. We told her that we wanted to go to Varanasi that day and would be going to the train station after breakfast to get some tickets. Archana gave Boy and I a doubtful look and said "have you booked them already?" We said "no." She said "then even I am doubtful you'll get any." So that wasn't a great start. Long story short, after spending a good four hours at the train station, we didn't have any tickets and were certainly not aboard a train bound for Varanasi! We regrouped, caught an Uber to a hotel in town, and decided that we were instead going to fly to Varanasi, rather than catch a train. Our flights were another four days away so during these extra days, we visited Golkonda Fort (where the photo at the top was taken) and Charminar which are two beautiful landmarks of the city.
Because we had extra time in Hyderabad, we messaged Archana. After meeting up again, she told us that her mother wanted to invite Boy and I for dinner at their home the next evening; we gladly accepted. This was a definite highlight for Boy and I - we were welcomed into a somebody's home and were fed a delicious dinner. To top it off Archana took me saree shopping the next day! We were only meant to stay in Hyderabad for two nights, but through a few twists and turns of fate, we stayed for six nights and it turned out to be one of the best parts of our entire trip.
We made new friends along this leg of the trip, and are so grateful that we were able to do so. Thank you, Sathya and Archana, for taking the time to get to know us and make us feel welcome in your respective corners of the world. Hopefully Boy and I can repay the favour one day in New Zealand!
From Hyderabad, we caught our flight north to Varanasi the next afternoon, which is where I'll leave this post. I'll pick the next post up with our time in Varanasi, Rishikesh and Amritsar.
Bye for now,