(See Arriving in Bangalore for the beginning.)
After checking into my hotel, I left my stuff there and headed out for a walking tour of Bangalore. I discovered quickly that it’s perhaps not the best city for a nice relaxing walk. The main problem is noise. Cars and autorikshas all honk non-stop. It’s really just one continuous honk. I also found the city really polluted – worse than Beijing, and that’s a really tough target to beat.
My first task after leaving the hotel was finding money. I managed to find an ATM soon. Imagine the joy of typing in the number “12000” when asked how much you want. It really makes you feel rich! (Many things in India do, as I soon learned.) I then started looking for Church Street / Brigade Road / MG Road area, which was supposed to be Bangalore’s “yuppie” area. I figured I'll start there, then slowly make my way to the grittier parts. It took me some walking to find it, and not all of that walking was worth it. I found Church Street somewhat more palatable than the areas around it in terms of noise and pollution. It was now down to Beijing’s levels of pollution (again, that’s still pretty bad, but breathable). It seemed at the time that I was also down to Beijing levels of traffic and noise, though that changed in a short time, as the rush hour started to kick in and people started showing up for night life.
In terms of yuppiness, Church Street / Brigade Road was a bit of a surprise. I saw a treet that is barely paved, and buildings that reminded me more of Kharbin, maybe some parts of Recife, but definitely not of Shangai or Beijing, as I expected. I realized Bangalore was in India, but I some how expected it to be different from the rest of the country. (I later learned that it is different, just not as much as I expected.) After being so impressed with how connected Banglore seemed with the Silicon Valley, I expected it to look at least a little bit like it. What I was seeing, looked like a provincial 3rd world town. And when I say 3rd world I do not mean Brazil. In the past I could have used the term “3rd world” to refer to Brazil, but there in Bangalore, walking along Church Street, I decided that I'll never use that term to refer to Brazil again. Not to say that I count Bangalore’s 3rd world looks against it (though, for the 3rd world look I enjoyed other parts of Bangalore more.)
(Those photos of downtown were taken a few days later on a Sunday afternoon when the area was quiet and empty.)
Now, I had seen office photos of Bangalore’s office buildings, so I knew that someone around here there must be some islands of Silicon Valleyness. But despite that, I found it hard to believe such buildings could be anything within 100 km range. I kept catching myself seriously doubting that I am in Bangalore, I mean the Bangalore. The bangalore that Brazilian IT economists are obsessed with? No way! (Next morning, I was asking the receptionist at the hotel today what sort of things one could do in Bangalore before 8 a.m. — and found myself pausing before saying the world “Bangalore”. I had to mentally prepare myself for the possibility that he will laugh in my face and say “But you are not in Bangalore!”)
Now, let me make one thing clear: those were my first impressions of Bangalore, and they did change later, so stay tuned. And Bangalore is definitely building. The construction might not happen by means I would have expected, but there are a few large buildings being consructed walking distance from Church Street (though it took me a few days to find them), and someone vising the place in a few years might end up with a different experience.