Traveling Via Mangalore
Once a seaport of some significance, Mangalore is an important center for the processing and export of Karnataka's spices, coffee, and cashews, and known as the bidi cigarette capital of the world. (The bidi, effectively a roll of dried tobacco leaf, is also known as the "pauper's puff." Apparently 90 people die every hour in India from tobacco-related cancer.) Its greatest significance for travelers is that it makes a convenient pit stop on the section of the Konkan Railway that runs between Goa and Kerala, and provides road access to Belur, Halebid, and Sravanabelgola, as well as Mysore. The Gateway Hotel (Old Port Rd. tel. 0824/666-0420; www.tajhotels.com; doubles from Rs 4,000) is the best hotel in Mangalore. Accommodations are comfortable, if not particularly luxurious. If you're feeling flush, book a suite with a river-cum-ocean facing view (Rs 8,000). Staff will arrange trips to the beach and local temples, as well as tours of a cashew-nut factory or tours to see how Mangalore's famous red-clay roof tiles are made.