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^rad^'s adventures in India

Day 1 - Saturday December 3rd, 2005

Departure from Adelaide Airport at 1530.

The Adelaide Airport International terminal is brand new, and no one really seemed to know what was going on.
I waited in the check in line for about an hour, whilst every single passenger except me argued that they did not have excess baggage, when some of them had 4 suitacases each....

The vast majority of the passengers appear to be Malaysian.
Then after that line, we move to another line for customs, only theres no one there. Everyone including me is confused, as we were just told to proceed to customs.
The pilots and crew are at the head of the line, and they are bitching to airport police, that they need to get on the plane to start pre flight checks etc, the cops are saying they have no idea, but they try calling on the radio, next thing they are borrowing a cell phone of some guy and making some calls.

Eventually, 2 guys turn up to man the customs area, and we proceed through, I get quizzed about my business visit, and have to fill out an extra form, the fellow asked me why I was going and who I worked for, and after that story asked me if I had any ID stating who I worked for, my business card was sufficient.


Stock photo not taken by me


Inside the new Adelaide Airport

Adelaide as seen from the airport - we are lucky it is close to the city.

Flying on a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200.


Stock Photo not taken by me

Picture of the plane I was about to get on

The flight was absolutely full, of fools!
In front of me is a German guy, and no matter what he does he cant stay seated more than 5 minutes, he actually tried to get out of his seat as the pilot powered up on the runway for takeoff, but sat back down when he realised just how dumb he was. I would estimate that in the 8 hours he got up 100 times minimum.
Meanwhile, to my left is an english backpacker couple, and the guy is a real dick, insulting the stewardesses, the food comes, you have a choice of 3 things, and he tells the malaysian girl to her face 'so its all fucking gook food then?'
For the Nerds interested, the in flight entertainment thing in the back of every seat is interactive, and mine crashed and rebooted and it was linux, but I dont know what flavour.

I did not sleep at all during the flight and watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was sort of interesting, and 'the extras' with the guy from the office.
I think most of the people on the plane were students returning home who attend university in Adelaide.
There was more food than I could eat, some chicken in soy and oyster sauce with rice, with cake, then a large 'giant twin' ice cream, then some smoked salmon on noodle things came around, then later a bread roll, a slice of cheesecake and some honey glazed nuts.
The cabin staff were extremely professional, but I have never ever seen men so openly gay! they wore pink eye liner and called each other darling, with a malaysian accent.

Arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 2015.

I do not have pictures unfortunately, I will try when I go back through or on my way home, but the airport is huge.
You arrive at a shopping mall, which is inside the controlled area so its only passengers, this is a satellite terminal, you then get on a train that goes to the main terminal, this is before you have cleared customs or got your bag.
The line at immigration is enormous, probably 500 people long, nearly all of them japanese and not able to read english or malayan, theres 30 or so desks to check your papers and the line moves fast, but as each japanese person gets to the line they have no clue when the sign tells them which desk to go to, so someone has to scream at them, which was amusing.
The immigration check was no problem, and my bag is there waiting....now though I have to find my transit bus to the hotel.

Immediately I am mobbed by taxi drivers, and I am telling them 'no, I have free bus pass to hotel' and they say 'yes sir, we take you', so I let them escort me around the building whilst I am looking for a Malaysian Airlines desk to ask where the bus to the hotel is, and 3 of them follow me for at least 20 minutes, eventually I find a desk right by the exit and give them my pass, and within minutes the bus is there ready.

Transit the 100km journey from the airport to the Bluewave hotel at Shah Alam.

The bus is a mini bus, and it is full of course, im squashed into a corner, my blackberry works! I thought maybe only the phone features would but no I have email and internet working on it.
The drive was long, at least an hour, the bus was slow and twice we had to pull over on the highway, as some VIP's passed with police escort.
Most of the other people on the bus are japanese tourists, and they are totally lost and confused, we get off the bus and it drives off, and I am moving to the hotel reception, but the Japanese people all just stood out in the street, I can see them whilst I am checking in and suggest that someone goes and gets them.

The hotel rooom is fine, large and with what I believe is free internet, king size bed, many tv channels, some with western movies (schwarzenegger, stallone, van damme, seagal movies ONLY).
There is also free bottled water, which is good since tap water is out.


My hotel room at Shah Alam

Day 2 - Sunday December 4th, 2005

Shah Alam

Awoke as it got light - really had no idea what to expect to see out the window.


View from the hotel room window, fog on the distant mountains.


Another view from the hotel window at sunrise

Shah Alam is according to a taxi driver who followed me on my walk, 90% a muslim city, and nothing to see.
It is a new city built around an enormous mosque, everything seems to be new, or under construction.
There are a couple of megamalls, which I walked past at 8am, on a Sunday, but nothing at all was open, no food even. I walked past the mosque and took a photo.


Sultan Salahuddin Mosque

Since I have to take my malaria tablet and I have felt ill the last 2 days by taking it without eating first, I bought a toblerone bar from the hotel lobby. It was still early, and so I had time to kill, on the tv so far we had seen Rambo 3, Universal Soldier 2, and now was...Father of the Bride 2, Followed by Under Siege 2, it seems they only show sequels? A slight adjustment required to my previous statement, a Steve Martin sequel has slipped in amongst action hero sequels.

Shopping in Shah Alam

At 11 a.m. things seemed to open! so I ventured out once more, in the hotel lobby, there was a family gathering of some sort, with kittens???? there were women in muslim dress carrying kittens all over the lobby for no apparent reason, they seemed to be quite wealthy, covered in gold chains, and the kittens seemed to be pure bred, perhaps some sort of swap meet for kittens? Unfortunately, I could not get any photos.

There were two malls within walking distance from the hotel, one appeared to be really fancy and bright, the other older and darker, I went to the fancy one first.


The fancier of the two malls

I walked around for a while, noting that I was the only person wearing shorts in the whole place, eventually I saw a couple more people, with muslim women, so I felt more comfortable.
I found a guitar shop, and went in, and was immediately questioned non stop by the entire staff of the store, by the time I left without buying anything, we agreed that Steve Vai was god, fenders are overpriced and that I have really cool hair (No pics sorry!)
I decided it was time for lunch, all the local fare was deep fried, and I didnt feel like double fried honey chicken with fried noodles, so I went to Nando's and had a grilled chicken burger, and coke, with ice! Now I have broken 2 eating rules, the burger had lettuce and the coke had ice, but the store was so spotless, the staff all wearing gloves and hair nets, and a sign saying their water was produced via reverse osmosis....we shall see!
The flash mall was quite boring, many brand stores like nokia, samsung, but they didnt have much stock, and no prices displayed, So I thought the darker mall would be a better choice.


The outside of the darker, dirty looking Alam Sentral Mall

Well, it was still immaculately clean, I guess the whole city is kept clean as it is where the sultan lives, apparently there are no cinemas because the Sultan does not want society corrupted by western influence, he has no problem with malls though....


Until today, I thought Kenny Rogers chicken was invented in Seinfeld


The metal shop! they were blasting non other than akercocke, then zyklon, the cd's were expensive, about $15 Australian, so no bargains to be had, all stores have p.a. speakers out the front playing music


A view from the top floor of alam sentral


On the way out, I spotted this bakery, but resisted - those cakes in the window are about $5 each

I remembered that my hotel in India is advertising that they have free wifi, and I have no wifi card, so I found a computer store and commenced the bargaining, I got a card for about $15 Australian, it appears new, it was sealed in plastic, but they also had second hand laptops sealed in plastic so who knows, I have installed it and it seems to work, although I cant detect a network at my present location.

Still with time to spare before needing to go back to my hotel, I walked around some of the official buildings, and snapped a couple more shots of interesting landmarks.


As far as I can tell, they have erected a grandstand to watch the traffic go past! It really is just a grandstand facing the road for no reason.


Another view of the famous mosque

Transit the 100km form Shah Alam back to to Kuala Lumpur International Airport - 1500.

The 'Supa Comfort Luxury Mini Coach' turns out to be worse than the last one, no air conditioning, and somehow 12 people fit in it, no seatbelts, my big bag is wedged behind a seat and the driver sat on the seat and pushed back with all his weight to squash it behind there, I have to nurse my laptop and backpack, I am squashed up against a window and somehow manage to get my camera out.
Took a few shots, but only one came out, there were rows and rows of these houses that all were identical, I do not know what they were for, but they were in stark contrast to the rest of the housing along the road which was mansions with palm trees and high rise buildings in fields on their own.


poor peoples houses

Kuala Lumpur International airport is enormous, I am there early, at about 1600, and the flight isnt until 1945, but its delayed an hour and I cant even check in yet.
So I wander around as best I can with my big suitcase, there are airlines I have never heard of, Xianamen for example, and the check in gate my flight is going to use is going to Saudi Arabia, they have a special room for passport checking the women whos faces cannot be seen, I guess by other women.
I snapped a couple of shots whilst I was waiting.


Kuala Lumpur Check in hall


Another shot of the check in hall, its hard to convey its size


Once you have checked in, you ride a little train thing to the sattelite terminal, about a kilometre away, why they didnt make it all just one building I do not know, perhaps, like me, they think trains are cool. It was confusing when I arrived at night to get off a plane and get straight on a train before you even see your bags

The Satellite terminal is just as big as the first, and has a rainforest growing in the middle of it, there are a number of food outlets, all of them international chains, the duty free shopping is very poor surprisingly.
I had to wait here for about 2 hours, my neck hurts from carrying my laptop around.
I manage to get a wifi connection that only allows port 80 at ridiculously slow speeds, with -80 on the signal strength, at least it proves my new card works though.


Satellite terminal, I snuck up here to some administration offices to take this pic


Lunch/Dinner - I eat when bored, this was poor quality, diet coke tasted weird, like Dr Pepper, cost about $5 and was probably only worth $1

Depart from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 1945.

The flight was fine, the jet had no in seat tv's just big tv's, I have the aisle seat at the bulkhead, right in front of the tv, and about 6 feet of leg room, so it is very comfortable. Dinner is a vegetarian curry, they screen a Tamil Comedy with no subtitles, followed by the dukes of hazzard.
There were only 2 other 'white' people on the plane, from the USA, and they are wearing face masks!! They come and talk to me from the back of the plane, and ask how to fill out the immigration card, which has detailed instructions on it in English. I have no idea why they are wearing masks, but they are on a world trip, missed their flight in Kuala Lumpur that was to take them straight to France, and now have to connect through Chennai, they intend on staying at the airport for 12 hours.

Arrive at Chennai/Meenambarkkam Airport at 2055.

Welcome to India!
The airport is dilapidated, the roof is leaking in a number of places, the immigration checks are smoothe, but the guys do not talk, I say hello, how are you, thank you, and they dont even look at me.
The baggage reclaim is chaotic! lots of stuff is coming out tied together in rope then shrink wrapped in plastic, everyone is pushing for no apparent reason, I stand back until I see my bag and grab it.


Chennai Airport Baggage reclaim, I am standing back from the hole where the bags come out, 400 other people are standing right by the hole clamouring over each other.

Exiting the airport is hilarious! There are 2000 people held back by soldiers, I get a call on my phone which thankfully is working and my friends meet me, they have a 4wd just metres away and I jump in.
The drive is....scary, but everyone seems unconcerned, the roads are probably the equivalent of 5 lanes wide, but there are no lines, not even in the middle.
The traffic lights seem to stay red, and you just go through, they have a big LED countdown timer on them, I dont think we went through any green lights.
And then theres the flood! Luckily we have a 4wd, as the water is covering the wheels in some sections, people on scooters are pushing them through the water, we come to a bridge and its crowded with people standing looking over at the water (in the dark), I dont think standing on a bridge to watch floodwaters is a good idea.
I arrive at the hotel, my friends come in with me to make sure everything is fine, and it is, the hotel is clean, it has wifi but you have to pay (havent arranged that yet) and my room is huge.


My lounge room


Other part of lounge room


Bedroom


Other View of Bedroom


Bathroom

I sleep well, the room has good air conditioning to drown out the noise outside.

Day 3 - Monday December 5th, 2005

I manage to sleep until about 5 a.m. local time, quite an achievement as thats 10 a.m. Adelaide time.
Im excited to look outside! I get dressed and go downstairs soon after first light, and snap these cool shots.


View down the street to the right of my hotel


View to the left of hotel


The Radha Park Inn - fittinly named

Time to go to work, easier said than done, the roads are washed away in places, and in some I think theres just the suggestion of a road might be around some place, once again red lights are just ignored, in fact they are turned off, at major intersections a police man directs traffic, a braver man than me.
I do feel safe in the big 4wd though, as a scooter or 3 wheeler is no match, and the busses moves at 10kmph with human shields in effect to soften impact (people hang off the outside on running boards...what could possibly go wrong?)
It is difficult to snap a pic whilst moving as the windows are tinted, heres the best I could manage.


Moving through Chennai (this is a main street)

We arrive at my destination, and it is like the Taj Mahal springing up in the middle of a slum, 2 cows are asleep on the 'road' out the front.
I am greeted with more flowers, a couple of thousand people work in this building, but a sign has been erected in the lobby to greet me.
This is a secure facilty, there are guards at every door, and I need to sign a special agreement because they search my bags and find my camera.
We have a meeting and I am expected to give a speech - this I was unaware of, and I have a cast of about 40 people who all introduced themselves, 10 of them I have met before in person or by video conference, but I really am struggling with names...
I give a speech about partnerships, excitement, India, my company, what we have done, where we are going, goals, deliverables for visit, things I am interested in, favourite colors, food I like, the best guitars, a couple of card tricks followed by impersonations.
It goes over well! but they are so polite.

We now move down the road to another Taj Mahal like facility, for another division, time for another speech! some repeat audience members have made the journey, so I have to mix it up! I had no idea I would be giving speeches, but I dont dissapoint as they are laughing, at the stupid Australian.

Now it is time for lunch, I am excited! the facility has very high quality cafeterias, the main meal in India is lunch, and the employees pay about 25 cents each for lunch to be provided....I am expecting to eat with the workers in the luxurious cafeteria, but no, theres a private room for me and 10 people, which has gold statues and waiters in elaborate dress.
There are 20 dishes to choose from, I expressed my fondness for Indian food, and so there is a full selection, I am dared to try every dish, which I do, they are great, my hosts seem genuinely surprised, I earn some respect, and finish with Lassi (Curds and sugar, imagine a yoghurt drink).

Lunch lasts an hour or so, and we share travel stories, I am at the head of the table but finally the attention shifts to others for some of the time.

After lunch, its time to go into town, to the office tower to meet the managing director of the entire company of 40,000 people, once again I had no idea this was happening in advance.
We arrive, my names on the sign in the foyer again, and I get more flowers.
I meet the big boss, and am left one on one with him. The other people I knew seem humbled in his presence and excuse themselves after introductions.
Not knowing what to do, I call him sir a few times, and he calls me sir, we exchange cards in the formal fashion (2 hands, careful to examine each others cards in detail, this is a japanese thing that everyone seems to assume every other country now expects).
We discuss things at a higher level, he gives an overview of his company, I give an overview of mine, discuss strategic I.T. decisions and directions and INSERT BUZZWORD HERE. He is a nice fellow and we discuss Chennai, the flood, local sites, the roads, the traffic etc. I chat for about an hour and my friends return and I get special permission to fetch my camera from the car and go to the roof.


Chennai from the roof


and again


Here you see the main street, poonamalie road (I think)


one more time!

It is now time to return to the hotel, on the way I exchange some cash for rupees, and at the hotel, I arrange wifi access, hooray!

I decide to venture out for a walk, it is...difficult, theres water which has receded somewhat, but it has washed garbage into piles along the 'street' which is now rubble along the edges.
I am the only non Indian person, and am followed by children, dogs and taxi drivers, there is no choice but to walk on the road, since there are no footpaths. This is quite dangerous, as it is dark, but on the edges is mainly bicycles, I decide the best tactic is to employ a human shield, find a group of people and walk in amongst them.
All I wanted was to buy some pepsi and chocolate or something, but this proves to be impossible. Earlier in the day I passed some areas that seemed to have these things, but they were nowhere to be found here.
Most shops are selling deep fried bananas and other fruits, fresh coconuts and various dried salted things. Some are also selling bottled water, these are not stores you can go into, they are just shopfronts, many have crates with planks as steps so you can see into them, as whatever was there previously has been washed away.
Eventually I find a store you can walk inside of, and decide to try my luck, they speak no english, one fellow keeps telling me his name I think. I ask for pepsi and chocolate, someone is sent out the back, another guy keeps talking to me like hes asking a question over and over, I just shake my head, wave my hands about, and realise that hes not italian so he doesnt understand talking with hands.
Someone different comes back eventually, with an opened bottle of pepsi, and a melted block of chocolate (it actually has a curve in it). I try to politely decline, and leave.
I now make the perilous journey back to the hotel on foot, the guy that opens the door who I had asked which direction I should walk, asks me if I enjoyed my walk in beautiful Chennai...yes, very much!

Since I had a huge lunch, I do not need a proper dinner, but I feel as though I need something.....for the first time in my life, I eat at the hotel (I hate doing this, its like an admission of failure).
The hotel has 3 restaurants, I examine the menus of each, and it becomes apparent that they have 3 restaurants that share the same kitchen, as the menus contain the same items worded differently in different fonts and colors.
I settle on a location and order a mixed vegetarian entree. It is quite nice, and cost $1 for some stuffed mushrooms, potatoes, mystery green rolled up things and paneer (fried cheese), the waiter apologises that the price has gone up.
Tomorow I will have to work out the logistics of getting to a better location in the evening....as tonight I am in my room, discovering that the same movie networks as Malaysia are in India, tonight we have kickboxer 2.

Day 4 - Tuesday December 6th, 2005

After waking up at 5 a.m. again, and watching the second half of a movie about a guy with a sword who fights dinosaurs inside darkly lit apartment buildings, I decide it is time to venture out for another walk.
It is easier than walking at night, it is also less busy, easier to cross roads. I walk up the street my hotel is on for a while, there is not much to see, mainly hardware shops selling tiles, cement, fireworks....


Scene on the main street, still quiet at 7am


A side street - I am amused that there seems to be driving schools based here


The ox is laughing at the stupid Australian


Joyous Occasions Buy the best COCK.............brand fireworks

I manage to cross the road, a police man is guiding traffic, however upon seeing me, traffic is no longer important to him, he chats to me instead, he speaks very good english and knows somebody in Sydney and asks if I might know them, or have heard of them etc.
He wishes me on my way, and tells me that Chennai is the best city in India, do not go to Dehli....OK, thanks for the advice.
I find a side street with bitumen, and take it as a sign, there are stores along here, some selling packets of lays potato chips, but not the normal size packets, they are tiny little packets that come in a string of packets joined together, it seems like it would be hard work to open a packet for 2 chips to me, so I keep walking. Some sites presented themselves along the way.


This is the nicest looking house on the street, I believe this is the garage, although it has a sign of some sort, perhaps the person living here is a doctor or lawyer who you see in their home or something.


And in contrast, heres one of the more common forms of houses along here, there seems to be about 10 people in there


Electricity is no problem, the local authority has erected 10,000 volt transformers on every street corner with no fence, this one buzzes loudly

I decide to not take my camera to work today due to the security issues, but think I will again from tomorrow, as I discuss it with my friends and they suggest that it should be OK, but perhaps they are being polite?
The morning session I do some actual work, so nothing to report, spirited argument is had on some change requests.

Lunch is once again in the fancy lunch room, another selection of Indian dishes, which is again fantastic, apart from the savory curds, which I dont like too much, weird tasting, but its the texture I dont like, yoghurt mixed with crushed rice and carrot. They have prepared 3 meat dishes, thinking that I would need them, I tell them its a waste, as I am the only meat eater, tomorrow perhaps only one meat dish, the other 14 can be vegetarian.

After lunch it is time for me to give another one of my famous speeches, where as yesterday I addressed 2 teams seperately, today they have all assembled together, looking for a more formal speech...some notice would have been nice, I think it was assumed that I would come prepared with speeches, perhaps thats what other clients do when they come here.
I try my best, as I have 2 hours, but many of the people in attendance are quite junior, and shy, and despite my insistence that they ask questions, no one does....I am forced to resort to asking questions myself 'hands up anyone whos been to Australia'....no hands, not even the guys that I worked in Melbourne with...but then finally I make a breakthrough, 'our Melbourne office is quite near the MCG' (the MCG is Australias largest cricket ground).
All of a sudden everyone, male and female, has questions, luckily I am quite knowedgable on cricket, even Indian cricket, and I am well aware that Irfan Pathan is the new shining light in Indian cricket.

On a roll now, and keen to talk somewhat about work, I remember that in Melbourne we have the contract for the waste at the Melbourne Grand Prix, and that Karthakayen, who is an Indian F1 driver for the new Midland team (formerly Jordan) is from South India.
So I some how manage to relate sport Indians are interested in back to collecting rubbish, and give an idea of the logistics involved for doing so at such an event, and how new systems could help.
I have written far too much about boring work stuff! I will try not to, hopefully, no more speeches have to be given!

In the evening it is arranged for me to go to see some sites, a nice fellow is assigned to accompany me with the driver, I feel sorry for him that he has to entertain the stupid Australian instead of going home to his family, and I make apologies.
However...riding in a car with me seems to be the greatest thing he has ever done, plus - and this I found a little strange, he was married in January, his new wife leaves to work in Singapore for 2 years next month, his new wife lives 500km away...with his parents! He has seen here only 3 times since the wedding, under supervision. Only when she returns from Singapore will they consider moving in together.
So until then, he is living with 4 other guys - he sleeps on the roof.

Now, we return to my hotel on the way and I grab my camera, but I am a total ass, the SD card for my camera is in my laptop, which is at the hotel, so no pictures!
We go to a massive church, st thomas, apparently this is the biggest tourist attraction in chennai, I am thinking perhaps it is if you are catholic, cause to me its just a church...no it didnt fall down as I entered.
We are quite near the famous marina beach, which some say is the largest in the world, it is dark though so I am wondering what I will see, we get out of the car and I cant see water, just people, bikes, cooking setups, statues etc.

Perhaps I have found the answer to how this is the biggest beach in the world despite being only 12 miles long, there is a good kilometre of sand before you get to the water, and the sand never gets wet (apart from tsunami day).
As a result this sand is rock hard, people are riding their bikes on it, it is very weird.
The statues are mainly of film stars, and for the whole 12 miles the beach is lit up with spot lights.
Film stars I can understand, but my new friend tells me that the most popular statues, at which you have to line up for hours to see, are the tombs of the former chief ministers of Tamil Nadu. Now, wherever you are reading this from, please for a minute imagine first of all constructing a tomb in a prominent public place for your states/provinces leader, then imagine people making a pilgrimage from all over the state just to see it, waiting in line for hours to touch it, bizzarre!

To get to the beach we passed many nice looking areas, compared to where my hotel is, and I ask if we can go to a supermarket, so I can get supplies, of course this is no problem, it would have been no problem if it meant driving to another country I am sure, you have to be careful what you ask for, because even if it is a very big problem, it is no problem.
The supermarket is on the way home sort of, it is not that big, but is basically 100% a junk food supermarket. It also seems to be the place to hang out if you are young and have a car in Chennai, theres a Skoda with a Supra wing and a sticker down the door that says 2FAST4YOO.
I am a little concerned that there are no price tags on the shelves or the items, and fear that this is a plan to charge stupid Australians 10 times the normal price.
My friend points out to me, the maximum retail price including taxes for all items is printed by the manufacturer on every single item, so theres no competition in the retail sector at all.

Its all junk food, I get a cadbury block of chocolate, 2 litre pepsi, a box of chocolate biscuits and a big bag of lays 'AMERICAN CHEESE AND TOMATO CHUTNEY' potato chips - cost for this is about $2.
It is now late and I am tired, so I get dropped off, and this is entirely too much text without photos - I promise never to forget my memory card again!

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