Getting There

It was the first time that I was traveling by Singapore Airlines and I was pretty impressed. The hostesses were beautiful but not intimidating and dressed in a beautiful yet sexy way. My dad being a seasoned traveler had clearly asked for an Asian Vegetarian Meal for all of us. When you ask for something like this, you get very nice Indian food while if you don’t, you would be lucky to even get vegetarian food let alone Indian. And the food was awesome and just kept on coming right down till the Cornetto. You could have as much as you can and I made full use of such a wonderful opportunity.

Dubai Duty Free

We had a stopover of 2 hours in Dubai and an hour in Singapore before we got to Beijing. Dubai airport is simply massive. It is a long terminal building with gates on both the sides and a hotel in the middle. It also plays host to the world famous Dubai Duty Free and is a pretty busy airport as it serves as the transit point for all flights into and from the gulf. Another really wonderful thing I noticed this time is that Dubai Airport offer free wi-fi. I realized this only towards the end of my transit and so wasn’t able to make full use of the bandwidth. Our next stop, Singapore only had designated terminals offering free internet unlike the wi-fi in Dubai. Changi airport of course is one of the best in the world but in my opinion the Dubai International Airport was no worse.

Dubai Airport

And finally we are here, Beijing airport. All the terminal buildings are designed in traditional Chinese Architecture. Most of the Chinese airports have come up in the past couple of years which means that their construction started somewhere around 1990’s and hence are pretty much the latest ones around. China’s airline industry is very huge as compared to the one we have back home. There are three main airlines which are – Air China (biggest), China Southern and China Eastern. These are international airlines which fly even to India. Other than these there are a number of smaller ones like Hunan Airlines, Shanghai Airlines etc. The three main transportation hubs for the airline industry in China are Beijing in the north, Shanghai in the East and Guangzhou in the southwest.

But on speaking to our guide and others in China, traveling by flight still seemed like an expensive affair for them. This is in stark contrast to our LCC’s back home which have made flying once a year possible for a larger section of society. Cheers to you Mr Gopinath.

We had booked our tour over the Internet with a local company called China highlights. We were met at the airport by our guide whose english name was Angelica. She was a pretty young(and beautiful) girl who was just out of college. She definitely had trouble with her English but was a delight to talk to. Every other time that she didn’t understand what we were saying, she would ask us to write it down in her notepad and then she would recognize it. I guess their read and write skills are better than their spoken ones. They also seem to have a problem speaking the word ‘r’ and pronounce it as ‘s’ and so it becomes the ‘sird sing sload’ and the ‘sailway station’, but we were able to understand most of what we said.

The road from the airport to our hotel passed through various ring roads and intersections. In all there are 5 ring roads currently in Beijing which would grow to 7 by the time of the Olympics. Beijing has a number of bicycles and two-wheelers and have dedicated lanes for these. It also has an equal number of cars and really big ones at that unlike the smaller hatchbacks which we prefer back in India. Of course their roads are a lot wider and lane discipline a lot better because of which they ca drive around in those huge cars.

Our hotel seems to be in the middle of the Hair Parlor district of Beijing. Everywhere I look there is the revolving patterns which signifies the hair salons here. The people here also seem to be a lot into maintaining their hair straight and keeping up with the latest styles. And I see a lot of young people around and I can think of nothing else but the scenes from the movie Babel.

Our Hotel in Beijing

After checking into out hotel and settling in we decided to go for a walk and take in the place. There are a number of stores around selling clothes, some of which are a real bargain but I’m sure they can’t be trusted. Besides it’s really difficult to bargain with someone who doesn’t even speak your language. Seriously I could count the number of people who were able to respond in English on my fingers. We were looking around for a supermarket where we could get some fruits, chips and the like but had to roam about the square for an entire hour before we could make someone understand what we wanted. All this when it was just a 5 minute ride down an escalator to the basement. The only person there who seemed to understand what we wanted was the pharmacist. I guess reading the labels of all those medications really comes in handy. But this is something that I have never experienced anywhere else. An entire hour!!!! Normally there is always someone around on the streets who would know a small bit of English which would do the trick. But we were totally out of luck here. We should remember to get everything written down in English the next time we want to find something.

On the streets

An alarming thing that I noticed is that even the supermarkets were checking the notes which we gave them, shining them in the light to check for fakes. Either we looked like terrorists or they have a serious problem with fakes. That wouldn’t be a surprise would it, in the land of Piracy.

Tomorrow promises to be a very interesting one with a visit to the most famous square in the world followed by an illegal entry to the Forbidden city, we are going to discover the center of Beijing.

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Long Way Around!

Friday night saw me leaving the office early after having successfully done the project transition to the others in the team. It was for the first time in my working life that I was taking off on a long holiday. Long here refers to two weeks and I think that itself is a pretty good steal. I had to rush home having some grub on the way and then pack. I had strict instructions from Dad to not get anything but the bare necessities. I left home for Majestic at 9 finally even though the Volvo to Chennai didn’t leave till 11. I did not want to risk any of the traffic that Bangalore is so popular for.

Now to why I was going to Chennai, well I had a flight to catch to Muscat. Interesting don’t you think…..traveling in the opposite direction to which you were headed. Anyways I had not managed to get a flight out of Bangalore and I had to attend a friend’s brother’s wedding, a friend who I hadn’t met in a long time. The Volvo ride was very comfortable, so much so that I woke up only when we landed arrived at the bus-stand(I think it’s called Mofussil…funny name!!). I was supposed to have got out somewhere on the way but I was able to figure out the way to my friends place. I managed to wake him also up early in the morning. After having a lovely breakfast of idlis cooked by Ma’am and cleaning up, we were headed for the marriage hall.

I wanted to try my friend’s pulsar, so it was me who was driving on Chennai’s sun-soaked streets. They were a far cry from the roads of Bangalore. People here actually waited for the traffic signals to go green before inching forward. And in general, the roads seemed less chaotic and a lot more peaceful to ride on. But the heat and the recently implemented helmet rules did make things a lot difficult. Still maintaining a crusing pace at the same time figuring your way around the city was easily accomplished. The roadsigns are written in English as well, so finding your way about isn’t that big an ordeal.

At the marriage ceremony we spent time with our friends and catching up on all that had happened since we had last met. Like all Tam- Bram weddings there were a number of rituals which were going on in the background which we were least concerned about. When it was time for lunch, the typical saddi was really inviting. And boy what a feast it was. And having had such a wonderful lunch, I was ready for a siesta. But alas I really didn’t have time for that. I had a flight to catch at 6:30 for which I had to be in the airport at 3:30. Chennai International terminal wore a deserted look. It was undergoing renovation and reconstruction and was turning out to be a nice facility but with hardly any flights leaving around that time, it was a boring place to hang out and the entire airport feeling was missing. It is really wonderful when you can just hand out in a new place and watch the daily chores which people do, I felt so unconnected.

The Indian Airlines flight was pretty amazing and something that I did not expect at all. Firstly the food was simply amazing. I had gotten used to eating the stale food served on all the earlier flights like Gulf air and Oman Air but Indian was completely different. I had a hop at Cochin also which gave me the opportunity of being served twice. And I enjoyed it both times. It was pleasant journey with not too long delays. Indian Airlines and to a certain extent Air India have always been airlines which didn’t have a good track record of being on time. But with this flight, I would definitely love to change my opinion on that.

Anyways so now I am at home, eating Mom’s wonderful food but not for too long. I leave in about a day’s time, so do tune in, I hope to post every day while on vacation.

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Summer 07

So I did write a post every day during summer vacations 07 just that I didn’t find time to post it yet. So starting from the next post, it’s going to be China Chronicles. Enjoy!

Earlier Post –

Posting From Dubai

There’s just one more hour to my flight to Singapore and now I realize that Dubai airport is offering free wireless internet. What a waste? I had close to 2 and half hours to download movies and that too for free. Hmph!

Anyways I am at least trying to squeeze in a post before I have to start boarding.

My schedule from here looks to be as below:

6 hour flight to Singapore, then a 2 hour layoff in Changi Aiport where also I might get free wireless access, let’s hope and then a 6 hour flight further on to Peking(Beijing). I don’t have much idea about internet access in China, so I don’t know how often I am going to be posting. I am though going to be maintaing a diary for every day and probably post all that once I get back to home base.

Keep looking forward to my China Chroicles.

Cheers.

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Race Reports

I am experimenting with some kind of report writing and for my first time, I thought I would write a race report on the Monaco f1 Grand Prix. I have made a new page where I plan to put up these posts. You can find them under the heading MotoSports on the top bar. But on the new page it doesn’t seem to follow a post kind of format, so i have yet to figure out how to put a timestamp there etc. Will do so soon.

Any comments and suggestions are most welcome.

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My comeback

As you can see it’s been close to 5 months since my last post. Things were getting pretty stale…in my life like on my blog. So I have made some changes. Something to make me feel alive.

Change# 1

I have changed my blog address as well as my home address. I have moved in with 2 of my friends from work into this swell 3 bedroom…. yes that’s right…now I have a room to call my own. It’s definitely much more expensive but then change is not always cheap…hm-mm interesting thought there. I always thought change = chillar, which isn’t supposed to be much… but whatever.

Change# 2

I went and bought myself a Mac, long time Apple fan that I am, I couldn’t bear to buy anything other than that. And people let me tell you, as I type these words, sitting in my dark room at 2 in the night, with the keyboard glowing beneath my hands, (because it’s got a backlit keyboard not because it’s on fire) it feels good. I do not understand why more people do not buy this instead of those bulky boxes people call laptops these days…humph!

Change# 3

No I haven’t changed my job….didn’t get that far you see. But I did get myself another Apple product…yipeeee. The iPod Nano, an amazing mp3 player which helps me drain out the noise of the angry call center cab driver giving me the choicest of gaalis for cutting in front of him. I can hear Lucky Ali sing over the sputter putter of that kerosene filled, smoking auto in front of me. So the next time you see someone head-banging while on a bike don’t be surprised it’s just me and my music on the road.

Having embarked on the shopping spree as described above, you can imagine my credit card being maxed out and my bank balance showing a negative sign. So all I can do now is sit at home and blog about how expensive the world has become and how poor I am. Bloody inflation is ruining my life. Should make for an interesting post the next time around. Hopefully the broadband company still believes in the barter system and will accept my old shoes as the down-payment for this month’s bill.

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The New Year

I’m sure everyone had a wonderful New Year’s Eve bash and here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year from my side.

My New Year celebration was good. I was in Pondicherry on the rocky beach with fireworks in the background and drunken dudes and racy Tamil music around me. The first minute into the New Year was pretty scary because everyone on the beach went crazy. While some hugged and kissed others find some peculiar ways of celebrating. A bunch of guys would jump on you out of nowhere screaming and running and only after they pass by do you realize that they were actually wishing you but in their own way (they were pretty scary). We actually planned to ride out to Pondy on our bikes but sadly that wasn’t possible so we had the Indian warhorse – Tata Sumo to rely on. Travel tip: Auroville which is about 10kms from the main city is an interesting place to visit more because of what it signifies rather than the place itself. We ended up visiting twice because the first time around we weren’t allowed inside. For beach people Pondy is a major disappointment. There are only two beaches of repute – Rocky beach and Auro beach. Rocky beach is exactly that, rocky. I mean it’s more of a corniche rather than a beach and it’s a place you can walk along not a place where you jump into the water. Auro beach is pretty decent but my only standards for comparison are the beaches in Goa and there Auro beach fails miserably. So if you are actually looking to do beach stuff, Goa is definitely the place to go. What I found nice in Pondy is the relaxed atmosphere and European feel. If the weather had been a little cooler, it would definitely seem like a quaint town in Europe to me.

Coming into the New Year I have realized some things.

I need to work out and soon. Otherwise I am going back to the times of my school days where I set record highs. So one of my resolutions would be to join a gym foremost and then workout at least 4 hours a week to start out with.

I need to realize where I am going in life. I need some more education under my belt but what I can’t figure out is what kind. I mean do I want to do an MBA, if so from where? Do I want to pursue something else abroad? Yes, but what I have no clue. I better figure this one out quick.

I need to plan my money because it’s the time to start doing the taxes. There are so much of technicalities involved that I will have to dig deep. Hopefully this will be an interesting and informative experience.

I need to get a place of my own. I love staying with friends and stuff but having something of your own is unbeatable.

I also need better office timings. I work from 10:30 am to 8:30 p.m. and this leaves me with no time to do other stuff like say meet friends who are in town or visit people etc. I don’t see much happening on this front for the time being though.

Hmm…. it feels nice to list out things you need to accomplish. It’s easy to write bulleted list but getting them done is a damn. Let’s see what 2007 has in store.

Alert: Jan 7th 2007, is the day of the Macworld Expo in San Francisco and being an Apple Freak this is something I have my eyes glued on. For a taste of what’s in store this is what Apple’s teaser had to say “The first 30 years were just the beginning. Welcome to 2007.”

Jan 7th is also the day of the Indian Bike Expo being held in Delhi. Hopefully there will be some new launches and announcements that I can look forward to.

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Oh screw it!

I have 10 drafts in the last 2 months and I can’t think of posting one of them. I was never much of a writer anyways and things have got even more worse.

I might as well shut down this blog. Another two months to think on that huh!

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