Archive for the ‘India2004’ Category:

Home safe

August 16th, 2004

I made it home. Safe and sound. It’s monday afternoon, but even after 2 cups of coffee my body still thinks it should be sleeping right now. What a great trip. sigh.

Going Home

August 14th, 2004

I'm now sitting in the wonderful business class lounge at the Singapore airport. Strong coffee, fresh fruit, sandwiches, curry, muffins, and orange juice are available to all. Plus The internet station which includes free access to 8 computers, printer, and ethernet plug for my laptop makes me love flying singapore airlines. A completely different world from india.

My last day in india, friday, flowed appropriately as it should. I had a goodbye lunch with yahoo, did some shopping, did 3 hours of writing in this livejournal. While composing in fritz's guesthouse, i finally witnessed what i would call a monsoon rain. It was a torrential downpour lasting about 30 minutes. Very impressive. Later that night i joined fritz, mike, and his coworkers for dinner at a soothing fusion restaraunt – mostly thai, but a bit chinese and indian. Before dinner ended, i had to say a quck goodbye and then off to the airport.

Yesterday morning i arrived in Singapore. I had no plan, so i found a hotel online (there are many internet stations at the airport), hopped in the shuttle, checked in, and headed for the beach. After sleeping about 3 hours on my 4 hour flight from bangalore to singapore, i was tired but still wanted to check out this town (i get by on very little sleep when i travel, the excitement from new cultures is my caffeine). I chose to take the cable car to the beach in sentosa island in order to get a birds eye view of the city, and it proved to be a very wise move. Amazing. You could see most of the tall, modern buildings downtown, tons and tons of shipping ports (later i counted 30+ ships in the water), and beautiful hills covered with lush vegetation. Sentosa, like most of singapore, is like an amusement park. Everywhere you go is well manicured. Toilets, atm's, trinkets, food and snacks are within arm's reach almost everywhere. They also have a monorail that takes you around the island (about a 30-min loop with 6 stops). I only went one stop to the beach, got off and walked around. This was also well planned, with beach in the middle, surrounded by trees, bathrooms, stores, and a bar. The sand was nice, about the same as goa – some areas were fine white powder 10 feet away from sand that was more like crushed shells. They had 100-meter wide island that was about 30 meters south of the beach that was the “Most southernmost part of Asia”. And i was there. What an accomplisment, now i can die a happy man.

Now check this out – I walk up and down the beach then pick a spot on the sand to chill out for a while. Right behind me a group settles down and one of the dudes walks up and looks at me. It's tom, a guy i know from when i worked at Intel. I haven't seen him in years, and i run into him on a beach in singapore. Wow. I ended up hanging out with him, his fiancee virginia, and their friends the rest of the day. Tom still works in the san francisco bay area (san mateo), but virginia has been working in singapore for about 2 years and is moving back to sf with tom. They hook me up with all the local info – after some discussion i decide to do a massage and then join them later for dinner.

I went to kenko, which is a chain of massage stores in singapore. They have 20 to 60 min massages, specializing in feet, head, neck/shoulders, and full body. I got the full body for an hour – i appreciate the deep, hard musccle massages the most. The woman who performed the massage had the strongest hands i ever felt, but the massage was just average. Of course this massage, like most, left me floating, feeling like jello, which i love. But she still didn't go as deep as i want. I then joined tom and about 10 others for a nice dinner. I even tried durian, a singapore fruit that is definitely an acquired taste. It smells bad to most people, a little like rotten eggs, but most of the locals love it. After dinner we went to one fullerton to a dessert restaraunt on the water. I forgot the name, but that place was unbelievable. All of us had desserts, ranging from strawberry cheesecake ice cream and hot fudge brownie sundaes, to creme brulee and custard, apple tarts, and a warm chocolate cake for me. The cake shell was perfect, but the warm chocolate mousse like interior was phenomenal. Sitting on top of a warm, sweetened orange slice with vanilla ice cream on top, surrounded by berries, this could have been the best dessert i ever have. Now, i can really die happy.

Despite how clean, modern, and beautiful singapore is, i definitely get a george orwell 1984 type feeling. Everything is great as long as you like it, and if you don't like it or do something out of the ordinary, you bettter watch out. A great place to visit, but i wouldn't want to live there.

Time for my flight. What a trip. I'm lucky to get to travel. I must do it more often.

Classes and Wages

August 14th, 2004

I find it difficult to exist in a society where all people are not equal. Specifically, india still has a huge disparity in the working class. I earn approximately 3 times what a software engineer might earn in bangalore, and a software engineer in bangalore earns about 50 times more than somebody like the driver who took me to mysore. 50 times. And that guy, the driver, has 2 daughters that he sends to private school – which means to me that his wages may be small, but still somewhat acceptable.

I also find it hard to not consider them equal – those who serve you often will not want to engage in casual conversation besides hello and goodbye. Some of them will not want to make eye contact for more than a few seconds. Or maybe it's just the way i come across – loud american. 🙂 Actually, i don't think indians see many americans, more europeans. One dood never even heard of the US, but he knew canada – so i says to him “we're right next to canada”. It's kind of refreshing to be unknown.


August 14th, 2004

The mysore palace was one of the most recommended things to see outside of bangalore. Others included ooty (a city) and some national parks, but i only had about 2-3 days left. I ended up taking a private taxi that i hooked up through yahoo – it costs about 6rs/km (or 8rs/km if you want a/c), which ends up being roughly 2400 rupees for the 300km roundtrip, or about $50 USD. Not bad for a car and a driver who knows all the sites and how to get to them, but a really good deal for me since i would otherwise have to figure out all the things i wanted to see and how to get to them. My initial attempts at going to 2 different tourist offices proved completely fruitless.

I arranged to leave a 9am from st marks hotel, which is right around the corner from fritz's google house where i'm staying. The locals don't like to believe foreigners can be anywhere besides a hotel, so it's lucky that fritz lives near one. The road to mysore included many villages, several factories (i noticed toyota and pepsi), universities, and a lot of road construction. We also saw some younger indians shooting off fireworks, the driver would only tell me that they were students. Later i read that there were some tuition issues for students, where the public colleges and the gov't were arguing over who would pay what. Apparently some issues were resolved, fritz guessed that could be the cause of celebration. We also passed several beautiful hills and quaries. Most of south india seems to be red-brownish dirt, so the white and grey rocks on the hills made an interesting contrast.

Our first stop was the Tipu summer palace in Srirangapatna. This is where the Tipu Sultan used to kick it when it got too hot in other parts of his dominion. The sultan controlled most of southern india in the 18th century, finally losing much of his power and territory to the british in 1799. The entrance was cool, but the grounds around the palace, like most of india, were not kept up very well. The inside of the palace was quite ornate, with carvings and murals everywhere. Once again, time was noticeably not on its side despite the attempts block the sun with green shutters and disallowing cameras. Got back in the car and drove the 15 km to mysore.

Upon entering the city of Mysore, we briefly stopped at an old church, which looked exactly like a 300 or 400 year old church from europe. Then off to an atm, then lunch, then the Mysore palace. The palace was impressive, especially since it was built for only $4.2 million rupees at the time over a period of about 15 years. It is actually the second palace, finished in 1912, since the original one burnt to the ground in 1897. The grounds outside the palace were interesting as well, with a grand entrance, a hindu temple, and several mini temple-like towers at the corners. I was happily enjoying my walk alone, taking artistic shots when this kid in a red shirt came up and started talking to me. I tried to shoo him off, but he would not leave me alone – it was one of the few times I really got pissed by the locals. For the most part, I get approached by beggars about as much here as i do in san francisco.

The main part of the mysore palace is the inside. Before entering, you must remove your shoes. This is rare outside of religious temples, for the indians view your feet as pretty dirty. I assume they do it for practical reasons, bare feet bring in less dirt into the palace and probably cause less wear and tear. The inside was very interesting. A bit gaudy (as the lonely planet phrases it), but fascinating nonetheless. It was mostly large open rooms and columns, with many murals on the walls depicting usually people posed for a picture. They had sultans and maharaja's, generals and officers, and various types of indian elephants fashioned in different attire. There was also a room of paintings which once again reminded me of my european travels. I also found the very ornate doors extremely interesting, as well as 5-foot long stone tigers that appeared near many entrance areas. I got my shoes back and headed back to my car where the driver was waiting. He took a shot of me with the palace in the background. How nice.

Right before leaving the palace, i enjoyed a fresh sugar cane drink. Basically they harvest the sugar cane, cut off the leaves and the top so there's just about the 4-foot stalk left, then cart it into town and sell it to the stands. When you order, he takes a few stalks and puts them into this press where to gears flatten the stalks, squeezing out the sweet juice. For us, he had about 3 stalksand did 3 or 4 iterations of squeezing which produced 2 drinks, about 8 oz each. They also can add sugar, ginger, and lime to these. Here's the stand with my driver on the right side.

The next stop was a Chamundi hill and temple, which rises 1000 meters over mysore. I always love mountains and hills, so i especially liked this one. Not only was i offered a beautiful view of mysore and surrounding villages, but i got to see the only monkees i saw in india. In fact, I didn't even go in the temple after 2 failed attempts (i got shoo-ed away by locals). The monkeys were fascinating, their little hands were much more skilled than mine. There were about 20 that i saw near the temple, but i'm sure there were more. Here's a monkey family.

The last sight was Brindavan Gardens and KRS Dam. It was about 30 min or 19km northwest of mysore, and once again, the place was not the cleanest place i've been. The gardens themselves did not contain many flowers and was under construction. Apparently the dam is about 100 years old, and sprung a leak about 5 or 10 years ago. They say the whole thing is unstable, i definitely don't wanna be around when it breaks. However, after the initial shock of not finding beautiful flowers passed, i enjoyed the gardens. They did have several areas that were beautiful, but i especially liked the lake formed from the dam. It reminded me of the ocean on account of the choppy waves (the lake is huge). I found the indian people visiting the damn to be as interesting as the place itself. Many familes seemed to be there to take pictures of themselves sitting amoungst the flowers. There were also legions of school girls, in late teens or early twenties. Some of them i recognized from the mysore palace, so they must have been following me around. Get the white boy! Actually there was a youth group from assam that found me fascinating. They wanted to take pictures of me, and i prolly ended being in 15 shots with various assam-ites. For the record, assam is a state in eastern india between bangladesh and china.

On the way home we stopped at a handicraft store. My driver was telling me all day not to purchase anything at the sites, but wait till later. The shop he took me to was a government shop, where the goods are 100% gauranteed, the prices are set, and the employees are paid by the government. It was actually an extremely pleasant experience – i was the only customer there, and one boy followed me around and describing items only when i asked, which is very different than most places where the salespeople are extremely aggressive. They only wanted cash, so i ended up not getting everything i wanted. Too bad for them. After that we hit the road with about another hour left. We got home, i hit another atm to pay the driver, thanked him immensely, and was asleep in bed within 30 mins. Once again, i only slept 3 hours the night before. Overall i was very “happy” with my trip – the driver, who spoke br
oken english, constantly asked if i was happy. When i wasn't, like when i needed atm's, he tried hard to help. I like happy india. I recommend this to all who have a bit more money than time.

There were too many interesting pictures to choose from, so why don't you just
view all of my mysore pics (may not be ready till 8/16).

South Goa

August 14th, 2004

Sunday we headed down to the southern tip of goa to Palolem. It's about 100 km via taxi, taking about 2 hours. I really enjoyed this drive for the variety of things we saw, ranging from cities to tiny villages where swarming locals and large bulls impede traffic to rivers and bridges to lush jungles with large billboards. I especially found the billboards interesting, since they are written in english but often would be funny if found in the US. See if you find this example interesting:

Our driver knew a few places to stay in palolem, the first spot he took us to was the huts on the beach. They were decent, but pricey (400 rs/night). The next place was better, we each got our own room with a private bathroom and toilet for only 150 rs/night ($3 USD). The rooms could easily fit a couple, but none had 2 beds so we each got our own room. After checking in, we walked around the very small town and ended up kicking it on the beach with a beer.

Later that night we enjoyed a tasty dinner at the dolphin cafe, then walked 30 feet down to the zig-zag cafe to have some beers. I would say there were about 10 or so cafes in our area near the beach, most of which will serve beer as long as people are drinking. We met a few folks at the zig zag and stayed there till about 1 or 2am, even though they were supposed to close by 11. After that we went to the beach and kept talking (there were like 6 or 7 of us), finally going to bed around 4. Ahhh, vacation is great. I got up around 11, walked around, met up with fritz, had some breakfast and went to the beach. Mike, the 3rd dude in our party, didn't come out of his room till after 1. During this time i walked the beach, watched locals pull in a fishing net, and enjoyed a vigorous 30 minute swim under the crashing ocean waves.

After mike finished breakfast around 2pm, we all rented scooters and rode around town. We kinda just roamed around, saw many village people herding cows, bulls, goats, saw school kids coming home, rice patties, a temple, and eventually came across the intercontinetal resort. It was huge. The grounds were laid out with the hotel and cottages in the middle surrounded by a golf course, a few hundred meters from its own privat beach. The sand on that beach was great, making it just as good or better than our palolem beach. They trimmed some bushes by a pond to look like elephants, which i thought was cute. Then we enjoyed a really nice meal in the resort for about 1600 rs, or $40 usd, for all three of us. Something similar in the US would have been 2 or 5 times as expensive. After dinner we hopped back on our bikes and headed home. We didn't really watch the time, and it was getting dark on us, which sucked since we weren't exactly sure where to go (there are very few street signs) and mike's scooter had no light. But we made it home, returned the scooters 2 hours late without the dude caring.

Monday night we went to our rooms to get ready for another night on the town, and were planned to meet up back at homebase. Homebase in this case was the eating area for Flavia's place. Flavia was the name of the indian woman who rented us our rooms, she basically controls about 60 rooms as well as brings you food and beer whenever you want it. She has about 4 tables set up and there's usually 1 or 2 groups of people sitting there reading, eating, or just having a drink. On this night we met some more germans, and they decided to join us out for a drink. There were 2 girls and 2 guys, and they have been traveling for about a month in india, hitting mostly north india including trekking thru the himalayans. I found that especially interesting – One of the girls met a guy in spain who had been a monk near tibet for about 10 years. So he was the tour guide for the four of them thru the mountains. Apparently the high elevation took its toll and they retreated earlier than they planned. I don't remember how high they got, but i know people live 15,000 feet with some villages up around 20,000. They also toured Dehli, Rajasthan (which is a state containing many amazing sites), Mumbai (bombay), and of course Goa. We enjoyed many tasty beverages throughout the night, ending around 4am again. It really is nice to be on vacation.

One of the dudes, timothy, was hilarious. We met him the first night but he also found us the second night. Both times hilarity ensued. He was basically a comedian, talking about this and that for 10 or 20 minutes at a time, whether anybody was listening or not. Specifically, he loved star wars and would wave his flashlight around like a light saber while making the wohm-wohm noises. He also seemed to hate the local dogs that run around the beach without owners. I wouldn't call them wild, since they didn't really bother you, but he hated them. He even had red pepper spray which he claimed to have used on the dogs with no success. The spray advertised to work on bears, but i guess not dogs in goa. Here he is in his ready stance:

After only 4 hours of sleep, the next morning we hit the city of old goa on the way to the airport. This used to be an amazing portugese colony town, rivaling lisbon in its size. Most of the former buildings are gone (ruined in fire), but there was one church left. It was interesting, but the batteries in my camera were dead so without pictures who knows if it really existed at all.

We arrived back in bangalore, showered, met some googlers for dinner and crashed early. Despite my deep state of relaxation, i was completely tired. I don't think i have felt this good in a long time. Sigh. Grin.

North Goa

August 11th, 2004


Goa is one of the smallest states in India, known to tourists for its beaches and parties. Beaches and parties? clearly we had to investigate. So Fritz, Mike (another googler), and I decided to check it out despite warnings that it's no good right now since august is still monsoon (off) season.

For the record, monsoon season starts around may and ends in september. Then it is 'season' as the locals say it from october through about february. March it starts to get hot, around 35 C in April (95 F) before monsoon kicks off again.

Our Goa trip began saturday morning from the Bangalore airport. It took the dude 30min to sell us 3 tickets. Good thing we were the only ones there. We actually flew 1.5 hours, stopped somewhere, then continued on another 1.5 hours to the only goa airport. Both legs of the trip we got full meals on the plane, and it wasn't too bad.
Upon arrival we decided to head north to Vagator and Ajuna beaches, about 60k from the airport. Once we stepped outside the airport we were accosted by 238 locals all at once. That was fun, and mike especially enjoyed it. But we secured a taxi to take us there for about 600 Rupees, which is about $13-14 USD. Not bad for an hour
taxi ride.

We arrived in Vagator (north goa) and again were accosted by 376 locals. We were offered “much good price” and even though we did not want anything, they wanted us to make a “very promise” that we would buy from them later. Two of them were very persistent, following us down the beach. One of them, nikita (?) could have been the best salesperson ever. She asked about my family, had a great smile, tried to tell me things about the area, help me out, and only a couple times would quietly ask me to buy from her if i wanted anything. Eventually i did buy some stuff, so i was quite impressed. The beach itself sucked, but i can see how several thousand people could have a lot of fun here. There was just one hut open on the beach, so we relaxed and had a beer before going to ajuna.

Ajuna was much nicer than Vagator. It's only 2-3 km south, but the town is a bit bigger, with several places to eat and sleep. We immediately procured a place to crash and then headed out. I read that there were big parties here, and we sorta stumbled upon 'paradiso', a really great spot on the beach that is packed with about 4,000 people during peak season (december/january). The dude said about 100-200 would show
up tonite … wow. Based on what we've seen, that's about half the population of northern goa during the off season. It turned out that he was right, we had a blast. They played goa trance all night, which kinda sucked, but i met lots of people and had a good time.

Paradiso (dope club in ajuna beach) inside and out.

This is Ajuna beach in the daytime.

The rest of the trip was spent in southern goa, to be covered in the next goa entry.

vacation time

August 6th, 2004

It's now friday night and time to start my vacation. We had a productive week, finished most everything we wanted to accomplish. We worked, drank beers, and had tasty indian food for lunch. Here's the core search qa/ops team:

Above is yahoo and a couple google guys at downtown, a pub in bangalore.
Below is the extended bangalore team eating an amazing lunch at samarkand


August 5th, 2004

These guys here in bangalore are definitely more social than we are in sunnyvale. It could be the fact that the office is new and there are a lot of younger yahoo's working, but i've read that india, in general, is more laid back than corporate america. First day everybody was very nice and friendly, we actually got some training done, went to a nice lunch down the street, and continued training in the afternoon. Except for a small brick wall i hit in the afternoon (gotta be jet lag), it was a great day. It's amazing how much more i learn from spending time with these guys versus just sending emails and having IM conferences over the last 2 months.

The Yahoo office is in a pretty happening area of Bangalore, near many other american tech companies. Evidently bangalore has some of the best weather in india (nice and cool but rainy), combined with some of the best internet infrastructure and cheap engineers, it becomes very attractive to corporate america. Once inside the yahoo building, it's pretty much just like every other office building – cubes, ac, water cooler, on-site kitchen … One thing that is pretty cool is this dude who walks around with a tray offering coffee or tea to people as they work. Very nice touch – but very inline with the service i experience in india.


August 5th, 2004

I completed my 36-hour journey through hong kong, singapore, and bangkok, to arrive at bangalore without incident. My hotel is definitely big pimpin' – they had a dude in a suit inside the airport who identified me immediately, walked me out to my own driver who took me to my hotel. The hotel itself has a very cool old british architecture feel with excellent service. Check it out
windsor sheraton hotel

windsor sheraton hotel room

As soon as i checked in, i took a sleeping pill and crashed hard. The next morning i actually got up early and hit the hotel gym, had an amazing western and indian breakfast, then our personal driver drove us to work. Us be me and nam, my manager from california who got down here a couple days before me. It's good to be the king.

First Entry – Itinerary

July 28th, 2004

I’m going to India. Hurray. I’m still getting things organized for the trip, so i thought i’d enter the blog world and chronicle my adventures. I’m still getting my feet wet, these pages might change a bit, so bear with me.

I’m traveling to India for work, but will also have some time for vacation. I’m not sure what i will do for my vacation, but i finally got my itinerary nailed down. Still don’t have tickets yet, but hey, i’ll be at work one more day before my trip, so why worry? I also did some research and got some vaccinations last week. Hopefully that should take care of any wanderings i do throughout the country. That’s it for now.