The company that I work for sent me to India to work with two engineers - Rohijit and Prashanth.  I was there for 15 days including two weekends.  We have an office in Bangalore which is in the state of Karnataka.  There are 29 states in India and each one has its own language.  Most of my coworkers simply use English to communicate.  Works well for me since I don't know Hindi or Kannada.

Prior to this trip, I had flown about 4 or 5 times, this trip was going to involve 6 flights alone!  My flight from Burlington, Vermont to Bangalore, India involved 3 flights: Burlington to Detroit, Detroit to Paris and then Paris to Bangalore.  The flight to Detroit was quick - just 2 hours.  The flight from Detroit to Paris started at 9pm EST and arrived in Paris 9 hours later at 11am Paris time.   I was still on EST which was about 5am.  I simply started the day with some coffee ( I don't normally drink any caffeine so this was a big jumpstart) and switched time zones pretty effortlessly.  I did attempt to sleep on the flight across the Atlantic, but it didn't work too well for me.  I couldn't stretch out or curl up.  The lady next to me was gone for 5 hours and when she got back she told me she found an entire empty row in the back and actually laid down!  

Read here about my 24 hour layover in Paris.

My first view of India was from the back seat of a BMW.  I arrived at the Bangalore Airport at 1am India Standard time and was picked up by one of the cars from the Leela Palace.  This is a pretty typical hotel shuttle car for a 5 star hotel.  However, this was not a typical destination.  Once beyond the airport, the roads were full of rickshaws (tuk-tuks) and mopeds.  The BMW now felt very out of place, as I was soon to feel.

I was very tired and went to sleep.  Upon awaking and walking downstairs, I felt at home.  As opposed to Paris, everyone here spoke English and the food was great and almost all vegetarian!  Here is my typical breakfast at the Leela.   Sambar with onion dosa and chutneys with some black tea or masala tea.  While enjoying the food the waiter comes over and says "Sir, would you like some French toast or pancakes?".  :-)  I declined, I wanted the great tasting Indian food.

After breakfast, I walked around the grounds of the Leela.  It has an impressive courtyard with palm trees and other plants and flowers that I have never seen before.

This is above and beyond any hotel I have ever stayed at.  Other high end hotels/resorts that I have stayed at are the Mt Washington Hotel and Atlantis in the Bahamas.  Everything from the room, the grounds, the food, the staff are top notch.  While I felt out of place at the hotel, I was really shocked when I walked out of the hotel gates and onto the local streets.  Here is a quick video of the traffic in front of the hotel:

For my first day, I decided to use the Leela BMW to get to the office.   My coworker Prashanth took me out to lunch on my first day.  He offered to take me to Pizza Hut!  I said no, I want to have some traditional Indian food.  

We took a rickshaw to MTR for lunch.  The rickshaw was quite different from the BMW, but much more typical for India.   The traffic is both chaotic and safe.  There seem to be no rules, but I didn't see any accidents.  There are slow moving rickshaws and mopeds, faster cars, even slower cows and pedestrians all in the road.  The roads are several lanes wide, but there are no lane markings and drivers simply drive around any slower moving object (cow, person, vehicle...).  Any passing of a slower object is announced by a honking of the horn.  As such, there is a continual noise of honking horns.

There are street beggars that will walk up to you while you are stopped in traffic.  One woman was carrying an infant.  I really wanted to give her some money, but was told that it could be a scam.  Here is a story on the scam.  Other beggars were visually crippled.  I didn't think that could be a scam, but believe it or not there are stories of organized gangs crippling orphans and sending them out to beg.  I did give money to this lady:

The food was great at MTR, a never ending supply of about 20 different foods.  I tried all of them and liked most of them.  I tried one thing I didn't think I was going to like, but it was great.  Curd rice - essentially rice made with yogurt tastes better than it sounds.   This was incredible food!  It was served in traditional Indian fashion - the server walked around with a large pan and ladled different curries onto your plate.  This was the first restaurant that I went to that had a "hand wash" station.  It was expected to wash your hand prior to eating and after.

After work, my coworker Rohijit offered me a ride back to the hotel.  Sounded great, but then I realized that he has a motorcycle and only one helmet.  There is a helmet law in India, but only the driver needs to have a helmet.  Although, it would have been legal, I declined his offer and hoped not to offend him.  I wear a bicycle helmet for a short ride to the library, there is no way I am riding pillion through that traffic with no helmet!  I instead walked back - Prashanth walked half way back with me to his bus stop.  Along the way we passed some street vendors that were selling some nut type things that smelled good.  He said that it was peanuts cooked in the dirt that they collect from the road.  I am not sure I understood him correctly, but I definitely passed on that food...  The hotel is only about 1km away from the office, but there was some crazy traffic to deal with.  Notice the other pedestrians are all other typical office workers carrying laptops and such.  This traffic seems pretty normal to them.

After two days in the office, I now had my first weekend off in India.  I planned on a guided bike ride on Saturday by a company called Art of the Bicycle and a guided walk on Sunday in a city park.

Click HERE to read a detailed report on the Passage to India guided bike ride.

The next day I left early to take a guided walk around Lalbaugh Botanical Gardens.  The walk started at 7am, so I needed to leave the hotel before breakfast was served.  I left the Leela with one water bottle and a clif bar.  My plan was to do the walk and head back to the hotel for a nice lunch.

The walk was very informative, but more of a talk than a walk.  The guide was very knowledgeable about Bangalore's history and the many plants in the park.  Potatoes are almost a staple in most Indian foods, but weren't introduced until the 19th century and they came from South America.  We didn't walk more than 1/2 kilometer.  I had the park map and saw more of the park that I wanted to explore.  After the guided walk, I skipped the included lunch to explore the rest of the park.  It was incredible.   It was a Sunday and many locals were walking, running, playing badminton or just enjoying the sunshine:


The view is from the top of Lalbaugh Rock shows the downtown area of Bangalore.  

At this point, it was nearly midday and over 90F.  I was hot and hungry.  I then got a call from Prashanth to see if I wanted to meet him and his wife for lunch.  We planned to meet in an hour so I went to get some more bottled water and walked around some more.  We ended up going to Mint Masala, probably my favorite restaurant of the trip.  Many snack options, curry options, rice options and bread options.  There was one snack chip that looked like a nacho chip, but had a distinctively Indian taste.  I grabbed several items that looked good and started eating them.  Anuradha (Prashanth's wife) told me that I was eating it wrong.  Apparently there are some curries that are intended for bread and some for rice....  There were also several deserts including gulab jamon.  I loved this so much, I had three of them!  Its a fried piece of dough that has been boiled in sugar solution after deep frying in oil.  I tried to make it at home, but fried it too much and it was oily.  My next try will be to add some Vermont flavor and boil it in maple syrup!

After lunch, I finally headed back to the Leela.  I got back at 3:30 and sat down to read.  I ended up sleeping over 15 hours until the next day!  This was my 4th day in India and I was not quite acclimated to the time zone.  So for that Sunday, I only had one complete meal, but it was a multi course Indian extravaganza.

It was now the end of the weekend and start of the first complete work week in India.  In India, the Allscripts teams mainly work 11-8pm so that there is some overlap with Eastern US time.  This allowed me to have time for yoga, swimming and a leisurely breakfast before work.  Not like my typical breakfast where we are rushing to get Carly ready for school at 7:55am!  

One day I brought a box lunch from the hotel with a Masala Dosa.  Other days, my coworkers brought in extra food from home for me.  Very thoughtful and appreciated!  One day I was served some rice that looked like fried rice, but did not taste anything like the fried rice we make at home or buy at restaurants in the US.  I asked Prashanth about it and he said his wife made it fresh that morning!  Even more remarkable was that he said that they always make their rice as they eat it and never reheat it.  He had thought that reheating it could cause long term liver damage.  I told him we often make many servings of rice on a Sunday and reheat it all week for lunch.  I guess we are doomed.  :-)  

After lunch, Rohijit handed me some dried herbs.  He typically chews on them after lunch to aid digestion and freshen your breath.  The herbs were fennel and ajwain.  I told him I have heard of fennel before, as its often on bagels, but never ajwain.  He then said that he has never heard of bagels.  I liked the dried herbs and will have to share Bagels with Rohijit some time.

Another interesting thing - there are people in India who call themselves "farmers".  But they are not farmers in the sense of working on the land.  They are wealthy landowners who hire day laborers to do the planting and harvesting.

I was now getting into a nice morning routine.  Wake up at 6am for the daily hotel Yoga, swim and then eat breakfast.  The yoga was daily at 6am by a great instructor who had been doing yoga his entire life.  He mentioned several moves that reduce headaches, others that relieve back pain and others to remove stress.  I don't remember which is which, but I do still do the sun salutation every day - or at least as much of it that I remember.  It works for me -  great stretching moves and no stress.

I was walking to work around 11am and returning at 8pm.  Each day I would walk by shops that sold scarves or other handicrafts.  Some vendors were real pushy about wanting me to visit their shop - even walking alongside me trying to get me to go to their shop.  I did buy several scarves.  I was warned of the silk and kashmir (pashmina) scarf vendors.  The prices vary greatly, I was quoted everything from 150 rupees ($2)  to 30,000 rupees ($480).   They really push the hard sale saying stuff like "My friend, you must buy this scarf if you love your wife".  Even worse was that some of the scarves may be polyester and made in China!  I hope I bought the authentic ones.

I stuck to buying simple scarfs and handicrafts that I could bring home.  One guy I met at the hotel bought a large piece of furniture and had it shipped back to the states.  It cost $600 to ship and won't arrive for a few months.  His worry was that they would ship him a lesser quality piece than the one he picked out and he won't have any recourse.  He worked at JP Morgan in Texas and was also on business travel.  Most Americans that I met were travelling for business to work with the Indian office of their company.  I saw people from JP Morgan, Boeing,  Wells Fargo, Amazon, Citibank, Cisco and even employees from a large US architect's office (they have the Indian office do the redlining).  The guy from JP Morgan was told to never walk alone on the streets and only use the hotel car to get to the office.  He felt like he was in jail behind the gates of the Leela Palace.

One day after breakfast, I heard a lot of drumming in the Leela courtyard.  It turns out that there was a wedding party.  Here is a video of the wedding procession.

Look at the fancy carriage that the groom arrived in:

The Leela Palace is very expensive, this couple must have spent a lot of money to have their wedding there.   Here are some more pictures of the Leela:


While the Leela Palace is very expensive for India, my room rate was just $127/night!  As extravagant as it is, it is surrounded by the rest of city with the typical city problems.  Just a short walk away there are stray dogs, open sewers, open burn piles and street beggars.  Here is a poor quality video showing how quickly the scenery changes within a 5 minute walk:

The following weekend Prashanth took me on a tour to Mysore.  This is a beautiful city.  Its about 180km away from Bangalore, but takes nearly 4 hours to drive there.  It takes nearly an hour to get out of Bangalore due to city traffic and then we were on divided highways (called "Double Roads" in India) the rest of the way.  These "highways" do not move at a steady pace at all - we would typically speed up and then hit the brakes due to rickshaws, mopeds, pedestrians, cows, speed bumps or all of the above.  And there are horns honking the entire time.  Even more shocking was that many people on mopeds or motorcycles will go the wrong way on a divided road so they don't have to go do a u-turn.  Yes, I often saw a fully overloaded truck moving fast with a family on a motorcycle going the opposite way on a divided highway.  We drove these roads at night and some of the rickshaws and mopeds don't even have lights.

We rented a car and driver for the day.  He was paid 5500 rupees ($88) for his time and car from 6am to 9:30pm.  It doesn't seem like much, but it feeds him and his family.

Along the way, we stopped at a bird sanctuary and saw many birds:

 and alligators:

Anuradha did not like being in a boat next to an alligator!

We then stopped at Tipu Sultan's summer palace in Srirangapatna, Karnataka:

before finally reaching Mysore.  This city is a university town with some impressive historical buildings.  There is a sizable Muslim, Christian and Hindu population that all appear to coexist peacefully.  Here is a large Catholic Cathedral with two women in burkas walking by:

Here is the front view of the cathedral:

After this, we finally made our way to Mysore Palace, one of the great wonders of the world.  Cameras weren't allowed inside, but here is a video showing much of the palace.  Shoes weren't allowed in the palace similar to any temple.  We walked barefoot on the entire tour.  It was a hot sunny day and my feet were burning on the hot paving stones!

They offered elephant rides for the tourists and I paid (the foreigner price).  The ride sways back and forth like you would expect a flying carpet to move.  It was very cool and worth it:

One more stop - we decided to drive to the top of Chamundi Hills.  There is a very impressive Hindu temple there and great views.  There were actually several smaller temples too - the larger one you had to pay to visit.  There were 4 prices.  You could pay extra for no line or pay less and wait in line.  And a different price for Indians and foreigners for each line.  I remarked that you couldn't charge a foreigner rate in the US since there is no visual or language way to determine who is a US citizen and who is not.  

The next day, I signed up for another bike ride with Art of the Bicycle.  This time, it was a pure hill climb up Nandi Hills.  Here are the GPS tracks of the climb (and me and guide walking around on top).  2000' feet of climbing in 4 miles, similar to App Gap.   There were signposts marking how many kilometers to the top of the hill and each switchback was numbered.  I think there were 46 switchbacks. This was on a Sunday and many other people were out enjoying the views, although most rode up on motorcycles, cars and rickshaws.

Rickshaws don't corner very fast - I passed a few on the descent of Nandi Hills!  Lots of fun.

After the second weekend, I worked 3 more days before heading home.   There was one very memorable lunch.  Two coworkers and I went to Choki Dhani.  This is a Rajastan (state in the north west of India) style restaurant.  The food was very different from the South Indian food and the restaurant is a destination in itself.  Upon entering, you see a puppet show, magic show and a gift shop.  The dining is upstairs and was very good.  There are two dining levels and you pay more for the upper level - more food and better atmosphere.  Anybody who is in Bengaluru must eat here!

Here is a snippet from the puppet show:

The travel home was harder on me.  Another 3 flights, but no long layovers.  After a normal workday (up at 6am for yoga and work until 8pm) I left Bangalore around midnight on Wednesday for a 3am flight.  Just a two hour layover in Paris and another 2 hour layover in Atlanta.  It was about 32 hours door to door from the Leela to my home.  But since the flight was late at night, I actually went 52 hours without a bed, just sleeping on airplanes.

This was an incredible trip.  I already miss India, I miss the people and the food.  I do not miss the traffic and pollution.  I would like to go back and travel the countryside more.

I really like the family values of many of the people I met.  These are not the ignorant racist family values of right wing conservatives in the US, but the take care of your family values.  One quote I heard was "our parents take care of us until we start our work, and then we take care of them when they stop work."  I met several people who live in extended housing with parents, in laws and aunts and uncles.  This allows for people you know raising your children, not a minimum wage daycare worker. 

I felt safe and didn't see any racism or intolerance.  I was very clearly a white foreigner wandering around the rural countryside and everyone I saw smiled and said Hello.  I am not sure the same thing would apply to a dark skinned foreigner travelling in rural US.

I saw women with burkas walking down the street with women with saris.  I saw one women in a burka - only eyes showing, but there were the ubiquitous white lines coming out of her hood and she was texting on her iPhone. 

I noticed a different level of "personal space" in India.  Maybe due to the population density, but there is more touching and arm holding between friends and coworkers.  Very friendly and open, it seems like everyone is more dependent on their friends and family as opposed to the independent American archetype.

I was talking to one coworker about cows and mentioned that here in Vermont, we have more cows than people.  He knew it gets cold in the winter so he asked how the cows survive in the winter.  I didn't really know, but I told him that they stay in unheated barns and do just fine.  His response was that "god takes care of his creations".

The entire country feels like a dichotomy to me.  Yoga was developed here and everyone I met was calm, kind and courteous in person.  Yet driving down the road, it feels as if every driver is a homicidal maniac rushing to find their next victim.

I think their is a greater income disparity here than in the US.  I saw a Rolls Royce and a Ferrari on the same streets as rickshaws and beggars.

Everyone I met was very educated yet there are still open burn piles and open sewers.

The cities are overcrowded, loud and polluted.  The countryside is open and beautiful.

I can't wait to return!


  1. Great report Chris.

  2. Wow !!!! Great one Chris have not missed anything but the small change my wife name is wrong it is Anuradha :) nice to see that you want to visit again ...I like it :)

    1. Thanks, I now have Anu's name spelled correctly.