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SE Asia December 2005

South East Asia December 2005 - Page 2

Day 4 - Tuesday December 6th, 2005

Another pre work walk

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....

South East Asia December 2005 - Scene on the main street, still quiet at 7am

Scene on the main street, still quiet at 7am


South East Asia December 2005 - A side street - I am amused that there seems to be driving schools based here

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


South East Asia December 2005 - The ox is laughing at the stupid Australian

The ox is laughing at the stupid Australian


South East Asia December 2005 - Joyous Occasions Buy the best COCK.............brand fireworks

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.

South East Asia December 2005 - 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

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.


South East Asia December 2005 - And in contrast, heres one of the more common forms of houses along here, there seems to be about 10 people in there

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


South East Asia December 2005 - Electricity is no problem, the local authority has erected 10,000 volt transformers on every street corner with no fence, this one buzzes loudly.

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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Day 5 - Wednesday December 7th, 2005

Laundry

Today is to be my first full day of actual work, no tours, no meetings, but the first task is to arrange some laundry to be done, I call up the number it says for laundry, and the person who answers says 'no problem sir' and a few sentences in tamil (I assume he is speaking to someone else).
A couple of minutes later a man arrives at my door to shine my shoes.....
No, thats not right, lets try with props, I show him my laundry, which i have folded in a plastic bag, he looks at his shine box and brush, looks confused, then proceeds to try and brush my dirty clothes with his shine brush, 'no no no no!' I try to explain, he calls up on my phone, talks for a while, hands it to me, a girl is on the other end.... 'hair cut?' no, I tell her laundry, wash clothes, she speaks to the shoe shiner, and he laughs and takes my clothes, will I ever see them again? who knows!

Today I am working at a different facility, I promise not to many boring work details, but one thing to test is a text to speech tool, it reads text out in a human voice. To prove how great it works a demo has been set up that not only speaks to me, but I speak to it, so I get given a microphone and the computer asks me how is my day, and my name and sir etc. A crowd is forming by this point....I keep asking for the speakers to be turned down, but no, that doesnt appear to be an option (I am betting it is, but they are pretending its not)
So I talk to the computer for a while and am wished good fortune, and it guesses that I am from Adelaide, that I like to cook pizza, and basically it asks me questions which it knows the answers to based on information I had shared with my Indian friends.
Now...I am not sure at this point wether I am supposed to believe the machine has artificial intelligence, or wether I am supposed to just appreciate the effort, but soon after laughter erupts around me, followed by furious hand shaking.

Lunch today at this facility is not as luxurious as the last couple of days, I get to eat in the cafeteria, a sales manager who presented initially to us in Australia joins us, and he has lived in Australia and America, and tells me that my presence in the facility is much amusement to the staff, as no one before has worked in amongst the cubicles, eaten in the cafeteria, or especially stayed all day - it seems most other V.I.P.'s (his words not mine) come in a group, for half an hour, and leave.

I leave on time, which gives me plenty of opportunity to venture out, I have convinced my friends they do not need to escort me back to the hotel in the car, the driver knows where he is going.
Upon arriving back, I dismiss the driver for the evening, he seems thrilled, I think he is getting paid regardless, and I suspect he would of sat in the hotel car park until 10pm otherwise.
I collect my camera, ensuring it has the memory card, and venture out to the street to get a three wheeler taxi!
'english? english?' I ask, theres about 10 three wheeler taxis to choose from, most of the drivers are 3 foot tall and 200 years old! soon a young fellow comes over, he speaks english, and helps me negotiate a price to go to T.Nagar a market for clothing and jewellery, but mostly bright lights. 100 rupees is the fee, which is $3.

South East Asia December 2005 - We stop for fuel and I snap a pic of the taxi, or auto rickshaw as they are called, apparently theres room enough for 4 people in the back of one of t

We stop for fuel and I snap a pic of the taxi, or auto rickshaw as they are called, apparently theres room enough for 4 people in the back of one of these.


South East Asia December 2005 - T.Nagar - the building on the right of this picture is the nicest shop in all of Chennai, it stands out like a sore thumb. It is of course where I am

T.Nagar - the building on the right of this picture is the nicest shop in all of Chennai, it stands out like a sore thumb. It is of course where I am dropped off.


South East Asia December 2005 - A view down the main street, each side has the shops, and in front, the stalls, with wires running everywhere, also theres lots of cooking going on in

A view down the main street, each side has the shops, and in front, the stalls, with wires running everywhere, also theres lots of cooking going on in the street, huge woks of boiling oil are frying all manner of things, just inches from passing traffic, very dangerous job!


South East Asia December 2005 - Another street in T.Nagar, this one I suspect has traffic only when pedestrians allow, I am being followed by people trying to sell me childrens toys,

Another street in T.Nagar, this one I suspect has traffic only when pedestrians allow, I am being followed by people trying to sell me childrens toys, they are very annoying, my usual defences dont work 'I have no children', 'I do not like children', 'I have no money', 'no english por favor'.


South East Asia December 2005 - Just another photo...

Just another photo...


South East Asia December 2005 - Pot World! Pots as far as the eye can see, this picture is taken at night, and the flash didnt even go off, its blinding!

Pot World! Pots as far as the eye can see, this picture is taken at night, and the flash didnt even go off, its blinding!


I go into a department store, the bottom 3 floors are sarees (not sure if I am spelling that right), but I really do have no clue on what to buy, everything is orange, lime green, pink, or combinations of the three, and all wrapped in plastic like a mans shirt. I am followed by 5 girls, immaculately dressed and with lots of jewellery, they speak english, soon a man comes in a very nice suit, and tells me how grateful he is that I have chosen his store.
This is surely a sales tactic, there MUST be tourists in this part of town all the time (although I am yet to see a single one), but the fuss that is being made seems ridiculous, I am being offered a drink, a seat, a private room to view purchases, custom fitting, free shipping to england (I dont think I sound english) etc.
Now bear in mind, I am wearing jeans, a t-shirt and carrying a backpack, no jewellery of any kind, and by myself - I surely looked like a scruffy lost backpacker, so I am baffled by this behaviour.
But the tactics have worked, I suggest perhaps I can buy mens shirts, for business, I am ushered upstairs, they have a large range, all are 100% cotton shirts...supposedly, I buy two shirts, for the grand total price, of 320 rupees, just under $10, and these were from the expensive 'brand name western shirts' section of the store.

South East Asia December 2005 - My two brand name shirts, Smarty brand, and Napier brand - I have no idea if they are half way decent, but for $10 I can use them to wash the car.

My two brand name shirts, Smarty brand, and Napier brand - I have no idea if they are half way decent, but for $10 I can use them to wash the car.


Police corruption

It is now time to negotiate the ride home, small problem, I am out of 100 rupee notes and only have 500's, I am not keen to yell 'english english, change for 500 rupees!' So I try to make discreet enquiries, no one has any change, but the funny thing is everyone knows '100 rupees sir' even before I tell them where I am going, perhaps this is the rate for tourists to go anywhere and I am being ripped off
I am thinking I will have to go and buy something to get change, but I have crossed the road to get to the three wheelers, and this was treachorous, a police man comes over and starts yelling at the taxi drivers, I dont know what for, but he asks me what I am doing, where am I from, where do I want to go, how do I like India, and he can change 500 rupees, but he holds up the note to the light and tells me it is 'bad...counterfeit money, but good quality, I take anyway' He gives me 4 x 100 rupees in exchange gives the taxi driver a lecture and I am on my way!
Another exciting day comes to a close with 'the foreigner' starring steven seagal on tv, its not a sequel!

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Day 6 - Thursday December 8th, 2005

Out to lunch

First, let me apologise for my ridiculous page numbering/day numbering scheme - do not panic, it has been removed, and now just links to the pages themselves. Also apparently I didnt close a link and this whole page was showing as a link, I cant see that now, so if its still broken, sorry!

Today was a full day of work, and i did not finish until about 7pm, so I am not venturing out tonight, additionally I believe something special is planned for tomorrow night, although I have no idea what, perhaps I have to address a joint sitting of the Indian Parliament with Bill Gates (who incidentally is in Chennai but his agenda is a highly guarded secret).

For lunch we went to a nearby hotel which is all vegetarian, and one of the most popular spots in Chennai, the menu is very large, I receive 2 dishes, paneer in a pepper lentil sort of soup, which is very nice, and really not peppery, despite everyones assurances that it would be too spicey for me. The main dish is masala dosa, which is what Chennai is really known for, it is a pancake made with rice flower, so it is very thin and crispy, rolled up with spiced potatoes inside.
Sounds good, and I have had it before in Adelaide, where I was assured the ones in Chennai are much better, and indeed they are, they are also 3 feet long! And it comes with no less than 10 accomponiments. I do my best to eat it all, but eventually I wave a white flag.
Some girls from one of the teams have joined us for lunch, and they are amazed that I went in an auto rickshaw by myself, commedning me on my bravery. After lunch the 3 of them proceeded to get on the one motorcycle, 2 of them side saddle, wearing sarees, and ride back up the road to work in amongst trucks, ox pulling carts, broken down busses and former parts of road which are now tests of courage in the form of boulders.

The best I can manage is to snap some photos out of the car window on the ride back to the hotel.

South East Asia December 2005 - One thing you notice when driving around, is that oil companies have money no matter where you are, every single gas station is an impressive monument

One thing you notice when driving around, is that oil companies have money no matter where you are, every single gas station is an impressive monument to shiny bright plastic and flood lights.


South East Asia December 2005 - Another gas station.

Another gas station.


South East Asia December 2005 - The cake shop on the right is very popular, but everything is made from ghee, which is butter that is fried, and condensed and made more buttery, the

The cake shop on the right is very popular, but everything is made from ghee, which is butter that is fried, and condensed and made more buttery, the photos are poor quality because theres lots of dust which the flash seems to light up.


South East Asia December 2005 - There are billboards everywhere, this one is for clothes I suspect, but I have also seen a motorola razr billboard with an ox tied up to it, which I f

There are billboards everywhere, this one is for clothes I suspect, but I have also seen a motorola razr billboard with an ox tied up to it, which I found quite amusing.


South East Asia December 2005 - At first site you might think this bus isnt so bad, and you are right, theres no running boards with people hanging off the outside, but now consider

At first site you might think this bus isnt so bad, and you are right, theres no running boards with people hanging off the outside, but now consider that this is an interstate bus, it is probably making a 4 hour journey with people crammed in it like that.


Apparently their is another cyclone due to hit, with effects starting to be felt tonight, so far there has been no rain, and cyclones here do not have high winds, just lots and lots of rain. This threatens to put a stop to any weekend plans, so I am hoping nothing happens.

Should I be stuck in the hotel all weekend, star movies is showing 'robomania weekend' which has robocop1, 2 and 3, followed by I Robot, and the ad has the robot saying 'what could possibly go wrong?' - so thats where it comes from!
Right now however...the movie is death wish 4.

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Day 7 - Friday December 9th, 2005

And still I work

Not too much to report today, a full day of work. I am however feeling a bit naseous and dizzy, I suspect this is a result of ghee overload from the Masala Dosa of the day before.
I decide to take it easy and eat mainly plain bread products today.

The car today is an indian made care, a Tata Indica, it is a small car with the coldest air conditioning I have ever experienced, even in the back, I wonder why these are not exported to Australia, as they are right hand drive, seem to be of a high quality and would probably be quite cheap.
The poor driver has his entire area, seat, foot well, steering wheel, coated in plastic - why should the driver have any level of comfort? Additionally, the steering wheel has what I thought were large buttons for controlling the car stereo (which incidentally looks like a high quality JVC MP3 CD player), but no, this is to control the horns and lights, the car has strobe lights on the front, thats one button, theres also another button that temporarily engages high beam, then theres 2 additional horns, one high pitched like a whistle, and one with two tones high and low which alternate really quickly. All of these items are to frighten bikes and auto rickshaws out of the way - indeed many trucks and auto rickshaws say on the back of them 'sound horn to pass'.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and I have a full day of adventures planned - but it is now raining, so we have backup plans as well.
I thought a days update without a single picture was a bit bland, so below is the best I could manage - tonights movie is 'The whole 10 yards', a sequel I havent seen the original of.

South East Asia December 2005 - View of the hotel lobby and lifts from just outside my room - quite nice, all marble.

View of the hotel lobby and lifts from just outside my room - quite nice, all marble.


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There is now a page 3, use the nav thing to go there now!

Contents

Day 1 - Saturday December 3rd, 2005
  Departure from Adelaide Airport at 1530
  Flying on a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200
  Arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 2015
  Transit from the airport my hotel in Shah Alam
Day 2 - Sunday December 4th, 2005
  Shah Alam
  Shopping in Shah Alam
  Transit back to KLIA
  Depart from KLIA at 1945
  Arrive at Chennai/Meenambarkkam Airport
Day 3 - Monday December 5th, 2005
  Work time
  The roof
Day 4 - Tuesday December 6th, 2005
  Another pre work walk
Day 5 - Wednesday December 7th, 2005
  Laundry
  Police corruption
Day 6 - Thursday December 8th, 2005
  Out to lunch
Day 7 - Friday December 9th, 2005
  And still I work
Day 8 - Saturday December 10th, 2005
  The weekend!
  Mamalapuram
  Dakshinachitra
Day 9 - Sunday December 11th, 2005
  The Indian mall experience
Day 10 - Monday December 12th, 2005
  Another work week
Day 11 - Tuesday December 13th, 2005
  No photos today
Day 12 - Wednesday December 14th, 2005
  The bathroom procedure
Day 13 - Thursday December 15th, 2005
  Visiting a temple
  Home visit
Day 14 - Friday December 16th, 2005
  Last day in India
  Departing Chennai airport
Day 15 - Saturday December 17th, 2005
  The worst flight ever!
  Arriving at KLIA at 0445
Day 16 - Sunday December 18th, 2005
  A lot of walking
  Night shots
Day 17 - Monday December 19th, 2005
  Last day
  Check out time
  Leaving Kuala Lumpur
Day 18 - Tuesday December 20th, 2005
  Back in Adelaide
  The end