Out and About on a Sunday Morning in Bangalore

By Nirupama Rajan

Come Sunday, and the first thing most of us look forward to is a late rouse. Wake up the early afternoon with a hangover that threatens to stay forever, make an omelette and call it brunch, and spend the rest of the day parked in front of the TV catching the Sunday afternoon blockbuster that you would never otherwise deign to watch voluntarily. And yet, while you are bang in the middle of your most interesting dreams at 7 or 8 in the morning, there is an entire city outside your door, painted in colors that you’ve never seen it in before.

Yes, sleeping late is an art that must not be dismissed. But perhaps once every now and then, you could let that alarm clock ring on one more day of the week so you can have the chance to witness this city in a completely different light, quite literally.

Here are some things that I like to do on Sunday mornings in Bangalore; perhaps with time, you may come up with a different list of your own?

On wheels at dawn

Before anything further on the subject, I will say this: be careful, wear a helmet and if you’re cycling make sure you’re carrying sufficient fluids. That said, riding the streets of Bangalore and its outskirts early in the morning is probably my top pick from this list. Our city is quite infamous for its traffic jams, but riding early in the morning, you wouldn’t think it’s the same roads that trap you for hours in the later periods of the day. Even the air feels refreshingly cleaner and clearer at this time. In fact, I’ve long since come to the conclusion that early morning riding is far more pleasurable than night rides. The sights keep changing every few minutes- first the early morning tea stalls open, then you’ll see hawkers slowly amble about with their baskets of flowers that can overwhelm you with their morning fragrance, then the cleaning of thresholds and streets is underway while vegetable sellers steer their carts through the dense residential areas and so on. If you’re lucky, you might even find yourself riding along a lake as the sun rises and believe me, you’ll come back for that experience.

Many people also enjoy the ride to Nandi Hills for the sunrise view and the highway breakfasts, so you could try that as well, although the hilltop tends to get quite crowded on weekends.

cycling wheels bangalore

Park yourself at Cubbon

This one is a crowd favourite. In fact, Cubbon Park is one of the few places that you’ll find packed on Sunday mornings regardless of how early you are. While Sunday may be a day off from exercise for many, several others get to don their running shoes only on the weekends and what better place to sweat it out than Cubbon? While there, make sure you visit the dog park; it is only active on Sundays and is a star attraction, with good reason! You could also buy fresh produce and juices from the HOPCOMS stalls or simply get lost wandering under the ancient trees inside the park. Cubbon Park is also often the location for several events on Sunday mornings ranging from yoga to photography and you could sign up for one of these through Facebook or other platforms.

Of course being the garden city, you can’t ignore the other parks (like Lal Bagh, for instance) that have their fair claim to fame, but Cubbon Park is by far, my favourite.

cubbon park

Go meet some birds

Whether you like identifying, photographing or simply watching birds, Bangalore is surprisingly home to several avian species despite the increasing crowds and concrete of recent years. Go on over to any of the many lakes in the city- some favourites are Jakkasandra lake, Puttenahalli lake, Madiwala lake etc. Quite a few lakes have actually been restored recently by active citizens and you have them to thank for being able to enjoy a peaceful morning by the now cleaner water. Look for bird-watching groups on Facebook; they usually hold events on Sunday mornings and you could sign up for one of these, especially if you want someone to show you the ropes.

Idly-dosa and some legends

Vidyarthi Bhavan Menu

Vidyarthi Bhavan, MTR, Veena Stores… the list can go on for a while yet. You’ve probably heard these names being dropped even outside Bangalore and it is probably because these age-old South Indian eateries actually live up to their reputation. Most of them, such as Vidyarthi Bhavan, Veena Stores, and CTR are located in older, more quaint localities such as Malleshwaram and Basavanagudi (on a side note, did you know that these two places were R.K Narayan’s favourites in the city, thus giving him the idea for Malgudi?) while MTR, for instance, has several modern-looking outlets across the city for those unable to find room in their original restaurant at Lal Bagh. So go enjoy a hearty meal of masala dosa and vada at any or all of these eateries- they have been the haunts of several legends in the past!

Or maybe you prefer pancakes?

Bangalore is as cosmopolitan as a city gets and it has something for everyone, whether it is activities and events or breakfast choices. So if you’re in the mood for a fancy morning meal and scrambled egg-toast at home just won’t cut it, fret not for there are more than a few restaurants willing to whip up their fluffiest pancakes and omelettes for you with your choice of toppings. While the list seems to be growing every day, my picks would be The Hole in the Wall Café, A Hole Lotta Love Café and DYU Art Café (the hot chocolate here is a must). If you get out a little later in the morning, there are some great brunch options like Bangalore Brew Works and Three Dots and a Dash.

Walk through history and heritage

You might have traveled to Hampi, Gokarna, Badami or any of the numerous historical sites in Karnataka. But what do you know of the history and heritage of your own city? If you enjoy walking and good stories, then exploring the older neighborhoods of the city would be the best way for you to spend your Sunday mornings. Even better, there are several organizations including Bengaluru by Foot, Bangalore Walks, and INTACH that conduct these weekend walks, covering some of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods and historical sites such as Bangalore Fort, Basavangudi etc. Rumour has it they even stop to sample some fantastic local cuisine en route!

bangalore fort

Feed the bookworm in you

What better way to let the bright morning slowly morph into the lazy haze of noon than with a well-loved book in your hand? Bangalore is home to some very iconic bookstores as I’m sure most of you would know. My top choices would be Blossom Book House (I prefer the old one, although the new building is also definitely worth visiting) and Goobe’s Book Republic; you’re very likely to lose track of time wandering the musty aisles of these stores with books of every age towering over you on either side. The staff is very friendly and you might even find yourself a rare novel at a bargain price in these well-stocked stores.

If you don’t want to buy books per se, you could also drop by Atta Galatta in Koramangala and settle down with a book from their reading library over a steaming cup of lemon tea.

books

Contribute to your city and the world beyond

If you’re looking for something productive to do on the weekend, then this is probably it. Several good Samaritans get out of bed on weekend mornings to spread awareness of how we can make our world a better place to live in and you can join the effort by attending seminars and workshops or participating in their events. Aikyam Community for Sustainable Living, for instance, conducts discussions titled ‘Earth Friendly Choices’ where you can learn much about the environment and ways to restore it from experts and activists in the field. Some others like Kaulige Foods and HappyHealthyMe conduct workshops on healthy and sustainable cooking choices. My Dream Garden regularly conducts organic terrace gardening workshops and almost every weekend sees a clean-up operation under the banner of The Ugly Indian, so these are good options too.

So what are you waiting for? Get out of bed and gift yourself all these experiences and several more that are waiting out there for you to come discover them!

Solo Trip to Hampi

By Nirupama Rajan

One of the dreams of almost every young Bangalorean is to travel solo to at least a few of the places that Karnataka is famous for attracting tourists to. While choosing one option from this seemingly unending list of places is no small feat, if you have managed to narrow it down to Hampi, here are a few pointers that I hope will make your trip an even better one.

Solo Trip to Hampi

Whether you are a history buff looking for answers in the intricate stone carvings of this rocky wonderland, a writer hoping to find your voice in the stories that have unfolded here or merely someone looking to experience solo travel and see what all the fuss is about, everyone who visits Hampi is sure to find something very valuable to take back with them. While it is humanly impossible to detail all the places to visit and things to do while you’re there in one article, here’s my pick of the lot. Remember always when traveling, that it is never about how many boxes you check off of your ‘list of attractions’, but about what you take back from the ones you do experience, even if they are just one or two.

Getting there

The easiest option by far is to take a bus from Bangalore to Hospet. Both KSRTC and private companies offer plenty of these in sleeper, seater, AC and non-AC versions that cover the approximately 350 kms in 7-8 hours. Alternatively, you could take one of the several trains running from Bangalore to Hospet Junction. Hospet to Hampi is a distance of less than 15 kilometres and there are several government buses, private operators and autos that will help you cover this last bit of your journey there. You could also make a road trip of it and drive there in about 8 hours from Bangalore.

Accomodation

If comfort is a priority, I’d recommend staying in Hospet and making the trip from there to Hampi every day. I, for instance, stayed at Hotel Malligi in Hospet and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. They have great rooms, several culinary options for vegetarians and non-vegetarians and a great spa to top it off. If you are looking for something a little more rustic or if you’re on a tight budget, Hampi itself offers several quirky albeit simplistic hotels near the main temple and on Hampi island (known as Viruppapura Gaddi locally, it is accessible by a quick boat ride across the Tungabhadra river). A favourite among many travellers is the Mango Tree hotel near the main Virupaksha Temple.

Travel while there

In getting to Hampi and traveling while there, I used almost every conceivable form of transport- government buses, private buses, taxis, private autos, share autos, scooters, mopeds, motor boats, coracles, bicycles and even one of those golf cart-like battery cars! Autos will always be around and I can’t stress this enough. Hospet to Hampi can cost you between 200-300 rupees by auto depending on the time of the day, and travelling from one spot to another inside Hampi will cost you roughly the same. For about 700-800 rupees, autos will drive you to several prime locations one after the other. You could also rent bicycles for as little as 150 rupees a day- this I figured is most efficient as it is inexpensive and also lets you navigate the many narrow mud roads. While on Hampi island, you can rent scooters and mopeds for about 200-300 rupees a day to cover the large distances from one spot to another; keep in mind though that you won’t be allowed to take these across the river. The river can easily be crossed using the ferry service or on coracles- an experience you definitely shouldn’t miss while there.

However, even with all these options, I would personally recommend walking as much as possible. Walking elevates your travel experience to a whole new level and nothing – no, not even cycling – can give you that feeling. Hampi is the kind of place where you can look closely at a random rock lying at the side of the path and chances are, you’ll find a centuries-old carving on it; there’s just so much you miss out on when you’re not walking. Moreover, walking encourages you to veer off the beaten path, once again leading to several wonderful discoveries on the way. With every step you take, Hampi tempts you into taking one more, drawing you further into its intricate web of ancient stories.

Food
Beware of the monkeys
Beware of the monkeys

Now this is a tad problematic. While you’ll find bananas and tender coconuts all over, finding actual, reassuring food in Hampi can be a little challenging. Of course, there are several restaurants both on Hampi island and near the Virupaksha temple, and while locals are highly likely to offer to share their food once you befriend them, if you are a fussy eater, it’s highly advisable to carry fruit or packed food with you. Beware of the monkeys though, they’re everywhere and will do anything for a few morsels!

Major historical sites


Where does this one begin and where does it end? Suffice it to say there are well over a hundred historical landmarks in Hampi and even if you stayed for a month, you wouldn’t be able to spend as much time as you’d want to in each of them. The most prominent one would be the Virupaksha temple, originally built well before the Vijayanagara Empire that brought Hampi its fame. It’s a great idea to start exploring Hampi outwards from this focal point. Around this temple, you’ll find the Jain Hemakuta temples and the Ganesha temples, as well as the Krishna Temple and Krishna Bazaar. A long walk along the river from the Virupaksha temple will take you to the Vitthala temples, which is also the site of the famous stone chariot, hall of musical pillars, king’s balance etc. A little distance away is Kamalapura, and in and around this area, you will stumble upon the Zenana Enclosure, the Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables, the Queen’s Bath, the underground Shiva temple and so on. The Hazara Rama Temple is also a short walk from here. There are information boards at almost every site, but carrying a book along won’t hurt. You could also cross the river and visit the temples on Hampi island (note that the distances here are fairly large, so it’s a good idea to rent two-wheelers). All of these only form the tip of the iceberg that is Hampi; there are many sites that you will discover only once you go there and several others still being excavated and explored. Anyone can find something new and valuable in Hampi!

Other things to do

My favourite things to do in Hampi by far were to just keep walking or riding and stumbling upon great views unexpectedly in places that are completely off the tourist path. Mathanga hill near the Virupaksha temple and Anjanadri Hill (supposedly the site of Kishkinda, the monkey kingdom in the Ramayana) on the island provide unbelievable views of the sunrise and sunset and people flock to these points at these times. The museum at Kamalapura is full of artefacts and information boards- this one is a must for history buffs. There are several, chilled out restaurants with a shack-like feel on the Hampi island that you could unwind in towards the evening. Also visit the Daroji Bear Sanctuary and the Tungabhadra dam if you have any time left. Talk to locals, and they’ll probably give you ten more things to do and if you have an extra day, take a cab and visit Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole- these sites are several hundred years older than Hampi and offer a whole new perspective of history.

Other things to keep in mind

Fending off guides and autos will probably be your biggest challenge, especially if you want to explore all by yourself- remember that it’s perfectly okay to do so, even if the guides insist that you won’t understand anything without their guidance. Talk to locals wherever possible without intruding upon their privacy- they will let you in on so much more information than you would get otherwise. Make sure you have one of those guide books, maps or postcard packs; it makes navigating and asking for information much easier. Wear comfortable shoes to make walking easy. There aren’t many places where you’d have to take them off anyway. Visiting Hampi during the off-season is just as much fun as the December-January period. Consider the rain and the heat though- the heat in Hampi can be really taxing. The sunrise and sunset views may also be elusive during the monsoons. Remember to carry water and food, but beware of monkeys. Most importantly, lose the phone and the headphones- it’s the only way you can truly lose yourself here.

Solo travel is what you make of it. It goes beyond the place you visit or your form of transport; no amount of reading up will prepare you for the actual experience; so sure, read up on all the articles you can find, or read none- the important step is to actually take that leap. Solo travel gives you the freedom to discover things on your own terms- that is the most enriching bit, so gift yourself the courage to do that.

Feel free to email me at contact@simplyguest.com if you have any queries regarding solo travel to Hampi, especially as a woman.

Solo travel to Hampi