The trip, Part 1

Where to begin…….First off overall the trip went really well.  I made some minor faux pas, but did not permanently wreck anything.  The trip was definitely easier on me than on Satya.  I think he just had too much to worry about and feel-returning home after nearly 10 years and worrying about whether I was having a great time and realizing how much India has changed. 

We left from NY and were nervous about missing the plane which made for tense train rides.  Once we got to the airport we relaxed.  Flew to Germany.  First plane was very nice-very cushy and modern. We landed in Germany late at night for our 8 hour layover.  Discovering that  water was $8/bottle was not fun.  The Frankfort airport was not very clean and we never did discover where the showers were.  Got on to the plane and discovered this one didn’t have all the amenities of the first plane-no personal video screen and stuff like that.  We also made another mistake-we ordered the “special meal”.  We felt pretty special to receive our food first, but then discovered that we somehow got on the vegan meal list instead of the regular vegetarian one.  We noticed others had some very tasty meals beside us. 

Landed in Bangalore.  The new Bangalore airport is very nice and extremely modern and clean.  Some people complain that it doesn’t reflect India at all, which could be true.  The bathroom was very clean-when one person leaves the stall the attendant briefly cleans the stall before you enter.  We were funneled through a place where a guy was sitting near a camera.  I guess the camera was a thermal one aimed at people’s foreheads to see if they were feverish.  Did not see anybody get stopped. 

We found Satya’s dad and cousin and the taxi and drove off.  It was about 3 am Bangalore time.  Then we entered the hotel Satya’s dad picked.  Satya’s dad calls it an “old-timer’s no-star hotel”.  What does that mean?  There was a toilet, but no shower just buckets.  No towels.  Flimsy sheets.  Hotel workers were sleeping in the hallways.  The hotel had a convenient location-right beside the bus stand where we’d catch the bus going north later that night.  Unfortunately, the hotel was insanely loud. The hotel was located at a corner and right below our window was the roof of a Ganesha temple.  Even at 4 and 5 am it was loud and at 6 am rush hour seemed to start up.  I don’t think either of us slept. 

Around 8 am we decided to give up sleeping.  We met Satya’s dad and cousin and then walked a few blocks to have idlis, rasam and tea for breakfast at a small restaurant.  Then we did more walking around Bangalore.  Bangalore seemed extremely noisy and busy but not in a very antagonistic way.  It seemed gentler than New York City, for example.  Satya noticed a lot of changes.  10 years ago there were more trees, less cars, less people.

We went to the government store.  The building seemed to sell almost everything from shoes to wooden statues to sports equipment.  We didn’t buy anything though.  Next was the Sapna Bookstore.  This had multiple floors and many books, dvds, and cds.  Next were the government buildings.  We took the rickshaw which was an adventure.  Rickshaws in Bangalore are definitely not for the faint of heart!  Only use rickshaws on short trips…….at the end of the trip we were in a rickshaw from one end of Bangalore to the other.  That experience will not be repeated! 

As others have said, horns are used for everything-when turning, when at an intersection, etc.  Later on in the trip we kept seeing big orange dump trucks filled with manganese.  On the back, the trucks said something like “Honk please”.  Horns seem to be crucial for safe driving. 

After looking at the outside of the government buildings and going to the park, we met up with another cousin and his family.  He had rented a minivan.  Minivan is a much more comfortable way of traveling than rickshaw!  We went to lunch inside a hotel.  One cultural difference was soon apparent-kids can run everywhere in India!  His cousin had a daughter who was about 3 but she would go to other tables and talk to other families and then go to the entrance of the hotel. When she strayed too far, she’d be called or brought back, but she was never forced to stay put or told “Don’t talk to strangers”. 

After doing some shopping and stopping at their house it was time to rush back to the hotel to catch the bus.  We just barely caught the bus.

Bus travel is not for the faint of heart either.  We did not travel on the new, fancy buses, but on the older ones-not too clean, no ac, no bathroom onboard (although that was probably a good thing).  After just managing to catch the bus, we settled in.  The trip would take about 10 hours and there would only be one bathroom stop.  The bathroom stop was at a small roadside restaurant (Indian equilvalent of a diner maybe).  Sleep did not come easy on the bus either.  The road was extremely bumpy (Satya explained that it was because in some places the road gets wiped out each year because of the monsoons), very noisy because of the horns, and there was lots of construction.

I’ll leave off here for now…..

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