>By Deepika Shetty
Bangalore is officially called Bengaluru but it is better known as India's Silicon Valley.
It is the capital of the southern Indian state of Karnataka and figures prominently on the world map, thanks to the software companies that have made a base here.
But for literary agent Jayapriya Vasudevan, there is more to the city than just computers and chips.
The Bangalore resident, 49, moved to Singapore three years ago and goes home at least once every year.
She says: 'Despite the traffic and the crowds, Bangalore remains one of my favourite cities.'
Here are her tips to make the most of your visit there:
Take a walk in any park
Bangalore is often called a garden city, with parks in every part of the capital. You may not have time to see them all but try and visit the two bigger ones, Cubbon Park and Lalbagh.
At Lalbagh, do not miss the glass house which is famous for its flower shows.
'I used to run a bookstore in Bangalore and was privileged enough to have the eminent Indian writer Khushwant Singh visit us many times. On one of our walks through the beautiful Cubbon Park, he told me Bangalore was the only city that had a tree in bloom every day of the year. That tree is jacaranda and I ended up naming my literary agency after it,' she adds.
Visit the Bull Temple
The historical Dodda Basavanna Gudi, the Bull Temple, is one of the city's oldest temples. It is built in classical Dravidian style, with grey granite polished with a mixture of charcoal and groundnut oil. The temple is stunning and the statue of Nandi (the bull), awe-inspiring.
On the food trail
After you have walked around the area, visit a Darshini restaurant, the south Indian equivalent of a fast-food eatery. There are many located around this temple. Service is quick and the food delicious.
'My favourite dish is the quintessential Bangalore chowchow bhath, which is two upturned bowls of savoury and sweet upma (a dish made with semolina) on the same plate,' she says.
Another eatery to visit is Grasshopper. Turning off Bannerghatta Road after the Meenakshi Temple, look for the green fluorescent signs that lead to Grasshopper. You have to book in advance.
There is no standard menu, you just need to say whether you are vegetarian or non-vegetarian. The food there tastes as good as it looks. Grasshopper also has a store which offers clothes and home furnishings.
Other must-trys in Bangalore are the hot chocolate fudge sundae at Corner House and the kathi rolls at Nizam's in Indranagar.
The unofficial city landmark
Koshy's, a cafe in St Mark's Road, is a Bangalore landmark. Almost everything happens there. Deals are made, contracts are signed and cases argued.
Its Sunday brunch with appams and stew and egg curry and rice is worth the wait. The owner Prem Koshy is always around to greet old friends and make new ones.
Premier Books in Church Street is everyone's fantasy bookshop. It is a tiny space crammed with books in every conceivable size, shape and colour. When you step in, it almost feels like an entire pile would come crashing on your head, but nothing of the sort happens. So go on a book hunt here.
Blossoms, another store in Church Street, is just as delightful. Spread over three levels, it has one level dedicated to used books.
'As a family, we are comic book fans and it is here that we discovered Madam And Eve, a comic book from South Africa,' says Mrs Vasudevan.
If you do not have time to indulge in books while in town, make a stop at Shankar's at the airport. Another family-run bookstore, it has a great range of business books and bestselling fiction titles.
A home for the arts
Art is a huge part of Bangalore. After all, renowned Indian artists such as Yusuf Arakkal, S.G. Vasudev, JMS Mani and Balan Nambiar call it home. There are numerous galleries in Bangalore showcasing the work of these artists and emerging ones.
If you are into art, visit 1 Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery. This is an informal space which encourages creative collaborations and experimentation with new media. Located centrally in Bangalore, it is an ideal space for local and cross-cultural interaction among artists.
The performing arts find a home in Ranga Shankara, a world-class theatre facility. It hosts more than 300 performances a year, both Indian and international shows.
Two festivals to look out for are The Vasantha Habba, a dance festival held every spring in Nrityagram, and Bangalore Habba, which showcases the spirit of Bangalore through its performing arts.
Russel Market in the bustling Shivajinagar area is the city's oldest wet market. You get the freshest flowers, fruit and vegetables. The sights, sounds and smells simply draw you in. If you are into silk saris, check out Angadi Silks and Lakshmi Silks in MG Road. For those who prefer cottons, make a stop at Ambara.
And if it is bling that you are after, nothing beats the diamonds at Krishnaiah Shetty in Commercial Street.
The I-Bar at Park Hotel and the Blue Bar at West End are the best places to get a drink.
I-Bar is Bangalore's first lounge bar and its minimalistic look is uber cool, says Mrs Vasudevan. They do great martinis. At Blue Bar, try its cosmopolitan cocktail made of vodka, Cointreau, cranberry and lime juice.
For a drink with a view, head to 13th Floor at Ivory Towers in MG Road. With a spectacular view of the city skyline, it could be the perfect spot to end your Bangalore visit.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 14, 2008.
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