June 08, 2004

Lucknow to Kanpur (A 3 Hour Tour)

Thankfully, there was someone to meet me at the gate when I landed in Lucknow. (If there weren't, I'm still not sure what I would have done.) Actually, there were two people, both boys about my age. One of them spoke some English and the other none at all. Why it took two people to drive a taxi is beyond me, though one seemed to be responsible for driving and the other seemed responsible for pointing out landmarks as we drove past them.

I would like to point out that it would be generous to say that people drive on the left in India. In practice, they drive on whichever side of the road is available. After riding with Kalu in Delhi, I was somewhat prepared for this ride, but I still didn't really like it. Since the driving team was sitting up front, I got to sit in the back this time. (Somehow I felt that this was safer even though the back seat didn't have safety belts.)

My driver was actually pretty good; however, he couldn't make the other drivers on the road any better. For example, I observed a woman riding sidesaddle on the back of a moped. There she was without a helmet, her sari blowing in the wind, just waiting to get caught in the spokes of the moped. In addition to the wackos on the road, I also saw many groups of people fixing flat tires on the side of the road, as well as two men sitting in the cab of a truck that had looked like it had been sitting pitched forward in a ditch (rear wheels hanging in the air and everything) for days.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I got out of the car at the guest hostel at IITK and I decided that it would be a few weeks before I ventured off campus to do any sightseeing. Looking at the road behind me, it seemed a little unbelievable that I'm going to have to do all of that again in two months to get home. <sigh> Well, in the meantime, cheers!

PS I think that Pepsi must be the official sponsor of India. Every several hundred feet there were signs for "Pepsi: Rs 5" (5 rupees). I don't know that if Rs 5 is a nationwide fixed price for Pepsi, but given the number of places that were selling it, I can't imagine that anyone could expect to be in business long by trying to get more than a nickel for cola. Although I gave up drinking soda a couple of years ago, I may have to start again since I don't trust the water around here.

Posted by Michael at 12:00 PM | Comments (4)

Delhi to Lucknow

The domestic airport in Delhi was pretty lousy -- there were only four gates and things there were so haphazard that my boarding pass didn't even have a gate number on it. "We'll assign that later," they told me. "When is later?" I wondered. As it turned out, "later" was right before the flight. Apparently we passengers were on a need-to-know basis.

This last flight was only an hour long, so it was child's play to me. Actually, they even gave us a full breakfast, so it was almost perfect; however, the trip only gets three stars because the fat guy sitting next to me was clearly well over the armrest divider throughout the entire meal.

It's hard to argue with people who don't speak English.

Posted by Michael at 07:20 AM | Comments (0)

Delhi Airport

Technically, when I touched down in Delhi I guess I officially made my first trip to India. It wasn't all that exciting since (1) it interrupted my beautiful slumber, and (2) it looked like pretty much how any other place looks in the middle of the night: dark. Also, I still had another 8 hours or so left in my journey at that point, so I didn't really feel like I had arrived, per se.

I was more focused on the task at hand which was: stay awake for the next 7 hours so I didn't miss my third and final flight! Since I had just gotten a lot of sleep, this didn't seem like it would be too difficult, but of course I was wrong.

I had to switch from the international Lufthansa airline to the domestic Air Sahara airline, so I figured that I would just wander around the airport until I found my new gate where I would plop down and read until my flight to Lucknow. Unfortunately, when I asked where I could find the Air Sahara terminal, a security guard holding a long rifle ordered me to go with a taxi driver. I really had no idea what was going on, but rifle-man didnít seem like he was accustomed to having his authority challenged, so off I went.

Kalu the taxi driver spoke half-decent English, but that was the only half-decent thing about him, really. Instead of offering to help me with my bags, he powerwalked over to his taxi while I struggled to keep up. Once we loaded my things into his cab, I opened the door to the backseat, but he thought that I should sit up front. Iíll never forgive him for that.

Though I had been forewarned, I quickly discovered that I loathed being a passenger in a motor vehicle in India. Though I appreciated Kaluís attempt to get me where I needed to go as quickly as possible, I found his semi-truck-slalom rather frightening. Every time he passed another vehicle, I cringed. The road was filled with trucks, but Kalu found a way to wedge his tiny taxi between every pair of them that he could find.

Instead of taking me from the international airport to the domestic airport, Kalu insisted that I go to a Best Western where he would pick me up at 6am for my morning flight. At first, I capitulated because he told me that the domestic airport was currently closed, and I figured that I would just be able to hang out in the hotel lobby until sunrise. But when we got to the Best Western, it looked like an absolute shithole, and I decided that there was no way that I was going to hang out there, hoping that Kalu would actually return for me six hours later. I insisted that he take me to the domestic airport now whether it was open or not -- there were already too many questionable things that needed to go right for my voyage to be successful, so there was no way that I was going to make Kalu one of them if I didn't have to.

When we got to the airport, I discovered that it was open -- there just weren't any flights leaving for another five hours, but what did I care? I just needed a place to sit! As Kalu didnít have a taxi meter (it's India, not NYC), he decided that his fee was $20 American. This seemed a bit much to me, but I was still reeling from the cab ride, so I couldn't stomach a good haggle. At least it was better than paying $60 to have a room for five hours at the Best Western.

Posted by Michael at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

June 07, 2004

Frankfurt to Delhi

On the 7-hour Frankfurt to Delhi flight, I had the window seat in a row of three people. By the grace of God, no one boarded the plane to take the middle seat. Thus, I put my head against the wall, took up two seats, and was able to fall asleep before we even took off. On one hand, I would have liked to have been awake when we flew over the Himalayas, but on the other hand, my seat was right next to the wing and Iím pretty sure it was pitch black outside when we flew over them, anyway.

Posted by Michael at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

Frankfurt Airport

Since I didnít really sleep on the plane, I was pretty tired when I got to the Frankfurt airport. To me, it was 1am whereas it was actually 6 or 7am in Frankfurt. Either way, I had to figure out a way to get some sleep before I started to feel really awful, and yet wake myself up for my next flight.

At first, I thought about trying to stay awake until my flight to Delhi at 1pm Ė I walked around the airport, peering in the duty-free shops in an attempt to stimulate enough interest to keep myself awake for the next six hours. I quickly became tired of lugging my carry-on of books around (I thought I would read a lot on the flights) and retired to an available chair. Unlike the chairs on the plane, the ones in the airport itself didnít recline, so I again found myself awakening every 20 minutes or so. Eventually I started to feel a little sick, so I decided that I should eat something.

Since this was my first trip to Germany, I decided to try some sausage and the hefeweizen. The hefeweizen was quite tasty, but the sausage that I ordered turned out to be the tiny 3-inch-long crap you get in the frozen section of the supermarket. I was so hungry (and the booth was sooo comfortable) that it wasnít such a big deal Ė put enough sauerkraut and mustard on and anything tastes good.

Posted by Michael at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)