Archive for October, 2009

Hotel room at the Four Seasons, Mumbai
Hotel room at the Four Seasons, Mumbai


Bathroom at the Four Seasons, Mumbai
Bathroom at the Four Seasons, Mumbai


Soaking tub
Soaking tub looking out over the city


Another city, another hotel room. In this case, it’s the Four Seasons in Mumbai. The room was nice enough, on the top floor of the hotel, with a view overlooking Mumbai. The bathroom was lovely, with a big soaking tub that looked out over the city. I imagine it would have been nice to use, if only I’d had the time to use it.

View of Mumbai from the hotel room
View of Mumbai from the hotel room


View of Mumbai from the hotel room
View of Mumbai from the hotel room


The view out the window wasn’t as picturesque as some other places I’ve stayed. But this is pretty much the extent of what I’ve seen in Mumbai. (I suppose I could add some pictures of the office to give a totally comprehensive report, but you get the idea).

Anyone who thinks corporate travel is grand, or a great way to see the world, hasn’t done much of it. I’ve seen an awful lot of hotels in my career (particularly recently), but not much of the rest of what the cities have to offer!

The hotel lobby at the ITC Hyderabad. I saw quite a lot of this.


Hotel room at ITC Hyderabad
My room at the ITC Hyderabad. I also saw quite a lot of this.


Busses line up at the office
Busses line up at the office. Traffic is so bad, public transport so limited, that most companies arrange transport for their workers.


My pictures pretty much sum up my trip to Hyderabad. I saw a lot of the hotel, a lot of the office, and not much else. The city itself is sprawling, and it took us several hours to get into the various offices each morning. The one thing that is constant is the noise: traffic, people, and the constant honking of just about everything on the road.

Quick trip, just two days and one night, hardly long enough to get a feel for the place – but the industry here is everywhere, with huge service centres housing thousands of technology workers clustered together in technology parks. You have to see it to understand what a powerhouse India is positioned to become, to understand the sheer potential of what’s possible when you have a huge, educated workforce this big.

Calcutta skyline

Calcutta skyline

Calcutta skyline

Calcutta skyline

Calcutta skyline

Calcutta skyline

Calcutta was my introduction to India, my baptism of fire, and from everyone I talked to, definitely diving in at the deep end. One of the poorer and less developed parts of India, this definitely hasn’t been dressed up for business visitors or tourists.

The adventure started when I arrived at Kolkata airport around 1am. The airport is pretty much what you expect to find in a third-world country, and was in fact cleaner and more comfortable than the airport in Manila. The passport control was reassuringly bureaucratic, with lots of form filling, stamping, signing, and recording of details in big books.

Like everywhere else in India, the airport was air-conditioned to about 16 degrees. If anyone tells you they’ve been to India and it’s hot, they’re lying. It may be hot in India, but everything here is air-conditioned to the point of being freezing. We walk around in suit jackets all day, the women in sweaters. I thought they kept it cold in Hong Kong, but they’ve got nothing on India.

I met my colleagues off their flight from Frankfurt and we were on our way. Our car arrived, and I got to experience first-hand the mysteries of Indian driving. All the stop lights were red, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone. Our driver never took his foot off the gas the entire journey. A few toots of the horn kept the wandering rickshaws in check, but otherwise the journey was reasonably uneventful.

We finally arrived at the hotel around 3am, and pour ourselves into bed. We were staying at the Hyatt, a 5* oasis surrounded by poverty. Yes, I understand the stark contrasts that this implies, but I console myself by figuring that we’re bringing plenty of jobs to the area – both in the hotel / catering sector as well as in the new jobs our company is creating out here.

Indian traffic

Indian traffic — a sort of mechanical ballet

Delivery van

Delivery van, Indian-style

The next morning was my real introduction to Indian driving. Now daylight, and with much heavier traffic, we once again joined the flow, ignored the red lights, and made our way through town. Occasionally, we passed signs that instructed us to “obey traffic rules.” Whichever ministry in India is guilty of commissioning those signs must be the biggest pork barrel of them all – no one follows rules here!

Once you get over the sheer terror of it – cars coming down the wrong side of the road, dodging cows, bicyclists, pedestrians, rickshaws, and the ubiquitous Hindustan Ambassador taxis that line the road, you come to appreciate the elegant chaos of it all. I can’t work out the rhyme or reason of it, but the whole thing comes off as a kind of mechanical ballet, set to the tune of honking horns.

This much I learned. The horn is indispensable in India. You can replace your wheel with a bicycle tyre. You can replace your hood with cardboard. But if your horn goes, you’re stranded. The soundtrack to driving here is incredible.

Our visit was very successful – we were greeted enthusiastically. I’ve been overwhelmed by the hospitality and kindness of everyone we’ve come across, and I’ve genuinely enjoyed all of the people I’ve met here.

Back to the hotel for dinner, then early to bed. We were up at 4am to catch the 6:30 flight to Hyderabad. More on that in my next post…

Indian cows
Indian cows are everywhere.


Indian cows
It’s almost a sport to avoid them on the roads.


In actual fact, this post should be entitled the Curious Incident of the Cow in Hyderabad, which is where the incident happened, but the alliteration wouldn’t have been so elegant. So for the purposes of this blog entry, you’ll have to allow me a bit of artistic license.

Yes, that’s right. India is covered in cows. They’re sacred, they’re allowed to roam where they want, and half the fun of driving here is avoiding them.

Cow shit on the windshield
The lucky present that landed right in the centre of my view…


So there I am, minding my own business and checking on the cows doing their thing when a truck drives past and sprays cow shit all over our car. I know in Western culture, having a bird crap on you is considered good luck. I’m not sure if that tradition is the same in India in regards to cows, but at the very least I was a little lucky – the windows on the car were closed.

A few last shots from Bangkok during the daylight. I had a room on the top floor of the hotel — seemed a shame to waste the view.

Bangkok skyline

Bangkok skyline

Bangkok skyline

Bangkok skyline, with the Chao Phraya river in the background

I always enjoy staying in hotels in Asia. Great food, good service, and generally speaking, beautiful décor.

I sent my laundry out yesterday. Like the last time I was in Bangkok, it all came back individually shrink-wrapped, with neat little cardboard bowties attached to each of my shirts.

Shirts with cardboard bowties

Hotel laundry, shrink-wrapped and complete with cardboard bowties

I have given up trying to be ecologically-friendly in Asia. There’s no way I can change an entire continent. They like their packaging, they like their plastic, they don’t recycle anything (at least, not that I can tell) – hey, that’s just part of life here.

I also managed to have some great room service. After God knows how many disappoint $25 hamburgers I’ve eaten in my travels across the US and Europe, having a tray of really delicious food sent up is a real treat.

Room service

Room service, Asian-style. Beats a soggy, greasy burger any day.

My virtual golf was not an overwhelming success. It’s tougher work than it looks, and my performance on the course suggests that I might want to reduce my handicap a little before they’ll let me onto the real Old Course.

I’m off to Calcutta this evening – and a new adventure begins!