Peggy Smith, India and the Commons Jan-Feb 2011 travel blog

A crazy rickshaw ride to catch the bus to Goa

Enjoying some food on the terrace at Oakwall Mall

Fish pedicure at Kenko Spa

Palms grace the walkway beside the lake

Who's enjoying the experience more--Lynn or the fish?

The peaceful lobby of the Purple Lotus Hotel, Bangalore

Amazing trees in Lalbagh Gardens

Curious education students on tour in Bangalore

January 19, 2011, Bangalore

On the bus to Goa. Lynn and I took a 40-minute drive in a rickshaw taxi (due mainly to the crazy traffic--even worse than Hyderabad) to the first pick-up bus stop, one of five I arbitrarily picked because I didn't know the city and couldn't find anyone to help, including Kuoni Travel. Bus was 45 minutes late (we were supposed to leave at 4:55 pm). We got on the bus but were told it was temporary and that we'd be switching buses. We then drove back through the area from which we'd come, so could have saved ourselves at least an hour in the traffic. Oh well, at least we caught the bus. We made the switch to an older bus and Lynn and I made ourselves comfortable in our double sleeper bottom berth. We didn't get out of the crazy Bangalore traffic until 8:30 pm, 3 hours after getting on the bus! We've just gone through a toll booth and are now whizzing down a fairly quiet, paved (if a little bumpy) highway. The whizzing didn't last long and we were back to incredibly rough roads. Poor Lynn had a migraine so suffered even more.

The trip is supposed to take 13 hours. We'll see....

It's 9 am and we're still 30 km from Panjim--that will be over 16 hours on the bus. We've had one pit stop at 10:30 last night and I'm still holding on. We've just stopped in Margoa to let some people off. There's much denser forest here, but just as many people and garbage. Caught one glimpse of the ocean awhile back, but haven't seen it since. Will have to wait until we get to Candolim Beach. The practice here is that if you need to go, you go up and ask the bus driver to pull over and you relieve yourself in the bushes on the side of the road. For some reason I was able to hold on for over 10 hours! So looking forward to seeing Sharon...

Bangalore is almost a distant memory, but wanted to note the highlights of the visit.

One of them was certainly the Purple Lotus Hotel, listed in the city guide as "semi-luxurious". Our room was large with a kitchenette, table, desk, sitting area and beautiful bathroom with a glass door on the shower--the first enclosed shower I've experienced since arriving. All bathrooms seem to be open concept with toilet, sink, shower and drain all together. There's also usually a sitting stool, bucket and jug for water. That means that the bathroom floor is constantly wet if you've used the shower or taps. Routine seems to be to fill the bucket with water and wash up and rinse while sitting on the stool--what Mom would call a "cat bath". I got used to doing this because hot water wasn't always available. So the Purple Lotus with ample hot water and enclosed shower stall was indeed luxurious. It was also incredibly quiet and peaceful in spite of being in the centre of the city. Complimentary continental breakfast was served on the main floor next to lotus ponds, with soft jazz playing in the background. It was always so soothing to come back to the hotel after the incredible pollution of the city with its millions of people and vehicles.

Another oasis was the Oakwood mall, just a couple of blocks from the hotel. A ritzy multi-story building with residences and high-end shops made of marble and glass, it provided a rooftop terrace with water fountains, relatively fresh air and a variety of restaurants serving international cuisine, including Italian and Thai. I enjoyed some Thai spinach dumplings, prawns in wasabi sauce and wonton soup one day, and the next a Greek salad and pasta with a mushroom and asparagus cream sauce. It was nice to have a break from the spicy Indian food.

The big highlight was the visit to the Kenko Spa. I chose a 10-minute treatment with the fishes nibbling on the dead skin on my feet, then 30 minutes for a shoulder and back massage and a 30-min foot reflexology treatment. Did that ever feel good after all that bouncing around on bumpy, busy roads. The reflexology treatment was the most vigorous I've ever had in spite of the small size of the southeast Asian woman who did the treatment.

The next day I visited the Lalbagh Gardens while Lynn stayed behind at the hotel to relax and recuperate from a migraine. I walked all the way to the gardens in the chaotic traffic, waiting forever at intersections for a break in traffic so I could cross the road. The gardens were a delightful break, with 90 hectares of green space and water, including huge trees and beautiful flowers being organized for an annual flower show this weekend. Spent a couple of hours in the park. Met some curious young male education students on tour who wanted their photo taken with me. Walked back. By the time I got back to the hotel I had been walking for 4 hours and I had blisters from new sandals that in the beginning I thought were pretty comfortable. Should have worn my running shoes...

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