Chuck's travels

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Japan closure and a small trip to the Netherlands

Before I start the blog posts reg. the US trip, I realize there has been no closure for the Japan trip on the blog. The Japan trip today is more than 2 years back and while the memories are still fresh, it must be admitted that was a mighty long time back.

Anyways, if you ask me what I remember vividly about the last few days in Japan, I have to say that between the irritations of a couple of more earthquakes, there were feelings of excitement mixed with a tinge of sadness. The trip had ended about 15-20 days earlier than it was planned, due to various project constraints, and all three of us were going back. Japan had provided us loads of entertainment and pleasure for more than 2 months and we had become used to the catching of trains to go from spot A to spot B, going on long walks from our apartment complex on holidays, sometimes even till our office in Shinjuku, buying of groceries and exclaiming over the price …:-)

The excitement part was directly dealing with going home and meeting family again. All said and done, all three of us were married - me for less than a year – and all of us wanted to go back home. Of course, had I brought my wife with me, probably I would not have wanted to go back since life in Japan was so good. Yes, staying in office apartments and having all expenses being re-imbursed by the office is great but I am talking more about the quality of life. No broken roads, no rude auto / taxi guys, no drainage water to circle around when traveling on foot; probably the best part was the brilliant subway connections all through the country, making it easy to go from Tokyo to Shinguku to Akebonobashi to Hiroshima if one wanted. I should have brought my wife with me, I think now, but there were other constraints then which seemed to suggest I shouldn’t. What is the right answer, I don’t know, but hopefully someday I will come back here with her and show her the places I loved to roam around, especially Disneyland. Yep, definitely would love to come back some day even though that “big one” earthquake is still pending on Japan.

Didn’t get to go to Hiroshima and Nagasaki as I had planned in the very beginning of my trip here but I don’t regret that. If I had done it, then great else next time; history doesn’t do THAT much for me.

The last day when we caught the flight is still fresh in my memory. We would be taking a taxi from our apartment to a hotel complex a little distance away from where we could catch an Airport Limousine (remember … the bus???). All through the Limousine ride to the airport, we were silent, taking in the sights of Japan one last time. And then we were at the airport!

Tokyo Narita to Kuala Lumpur, a small break there, and then the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hyderabad. I don’t remember so much of the flight since I tried to sleep my way through it (not very successfully). I remember there was a lot of bouncing and shaking at times as the plane flew through slight turbulences, which re-inforced my belief that man if meant to fly would have been give wings, but the flight as a total was pretty uneventful. On the way to Japan, I had mentioned that we didn’t have veg meals mentioned against our name and so had to live on biscuits and stuff, but on the return flight we got hot veg meals as had mailed the office travel agent to confirm the same with the airlines before leaving Japan. And finally we were landing in Hyderabad!

My dad and wife had come to the airport to get me, and we took a taxi home. Hyderabad felt good to be back in, even with the lousy traffic we had to face on our way back.

Finally, the Japan trip had ended. For me, at least, though SB went back two more times in the next one year, each time for a couple of months, and once with his wife, lucky chap.

The next year, in 2006, I went to the Netherlands for a short 10 day trip. It was a hastily made trip, and since my company had gotten taken over (again), it wasn’t very sure again till the last couple of days whether I was indeed going there or not. Finally I did, flying KLM with my colleague MB. MB wanted to fly from Delhi since from Delhi, KLM flies a Boeing 777 while from Hyderabad, they fly a MD-11 which he didn’t quite trust. So we flew from Hyderabad to New Delhi by Jet, and our brilliant travel agent had booked us so the time between the Jet flight and the KLM one was real tight. The Jet flight got late for take off itself and we reached Delhi late as a result. Jet’s shuttle bus provided to take the international passengers from the domestic terminal to the International terminal had already left and the idiot at the desk made noises of “the next bus will be here soon” while time got short for us. Finally, at our shouting and also the shouting of some of the other passengers similarly stuck, Jet arranged for a Tata Sumo to take us from the domestic to the international terminal. The guy drove real crazy, and in Delhi, one actually has to come out onto the roads of the city to go from the domestic to International terminals. So the guy broke speed records and gave the Bluelines a run for their money and finally brought us to Indira Gandhi Airport, (International).

Immigration lines were long, as we knew they would be and we were getting mightily close to the flight time which was 12:15 AM (I am a bit hazy about the time). I remember standing at the immigration counter at around 11:30 P.M. Fortunately, we had already gotten our boarding passes at the domestic terminal so the airlines knew we were traveling with them and soon enough there was a guy shouting “RS and MB, KLM passengers flying to the Netherlands”. We were still back in the line at the time and we signaled, and he moved us to a priority line where we got our passports stamped and rushed onto the plane. We both were the last passengers on board and they closed the doors even as we were walking towards our seats. We had made it, just by the skin of our teeth.

An uneventful journey followed where I think I slept the entire time, and we were soon landing at the Schiphol Airport at Amsterdam. Both of us put up at the Hilton at Soestduinen and in fact, there is a funny story behind that.

We had come to have meetings with some of our US folks and they were put up at the Hilton whereas my office here wasn’t really keen on it since the hotel charges are high. Finally the guy who was co-ordinating the meetings, a Peurto Rican born American named MP, brought forward the point that all of us staying at the same hotel would improve in errrrr … bonding. So we also went to the Hilton where I remember my room fare per day was about 136 Euros per night (breakfast included). I don’t know about the bonding part but the hotel was excellent in terms of the luxury it offered; a great gym, swimming pool, sauna and steam bath; oh yes, I did shoot a game of pool with one of the US team guys so I guess the bonding part worked too. BTW, I have never seen him or heard from him again as I moved out two months later to a different product.

I was new to the product for which we had come for discussions and so my part was more to listen than to talk, and that can get boring after a while. Anyways, five days later, the meetings ended and the Americans flew back, and MB and I moved from the Hilton to a smaller hotel called the Legement De Gaaper for another three days, where we had to prepare a demo for a couple of our products. MB had to further travel from the Netherlands to Canada to give those demos to some big shots of the company that was acquiring us, and so we worked from the hotel to get the thing ready. Also roamed around in the evenings as this new hotel was in excellent surroundings to just get out and walk around. At the Hilton, there is nothing like getting around and walking, since it was located in the middle of nowhere, but here one could get to the market center easily by walking. Another thing was the room fare of the De Gaaper, which came to around 90 Euros per night as compared to the Hilton’s 136 Euros or so. While the room size was definitely much smaller than the Hilton room, it was cozy enough for me, and more importantly, free internet which was not there at the Hilton.

It was a very nice hotel and the time of year when we had gone there (July or so) was such that the days were pretty long, and that helps when you just want to walk around and roam the place. Though the shops close at 6:30 PM, the pubs and restaurants still remain open and I got shocked a couple of times when MB suggested we go for dinner because it would be bright daylight outside, and it would only be on looking at my watch that I realize the time was getting onto 9:30 PM and definitely time for dinner.

One day RS (same initials as me...:-)), my erstwhile colleague and ex-classmate from my post-grad days, who is now married and settled in the Netherlands, came to meet me at the De Gaaper. She drove down with her hubby, and they took me out on a ride to their under-construction home (it is complete today and they are living there) and gave me lunch at an Indian restaurant. They also took me to some place where there was a LOT of windmills and sadly, I don’t remember the name of the place either with the windmills or where I went for dinner or where we visited their house.

Finally I flew back to Hyderabad, again via New Delhi by KLM. There was a one hour delay in the take off of the flight after the passengers had boarded, as the captain of the plane told us “Folks, we realized they still haven’t fuelled us”. Way to go, Captain, I am sure glad you realized it before you took off!!!

I guess they don’t fly Boeing 777s all the time to New Delhi as this flight was a rickety old MD-11 but despite taking off 1 hour later than schedule, we were hovering over New Delhi right on time. The hovering part was because there was reportedly no runway free when we reached there (on time, I might add, which makes me feel that they should have a bloody runway free for us, or were they just shocked at someone who had arrived on time?) and so the captain waited for the runway to be free. Kinda reminded me of the times I traveled on train with my family on our annual holidays to Madras, and our train would stop outside the various stations on the way waiting for a platform to be free.

I landed at New Delhi at around midnight and my flight on Jet Airways to Hyderabad was at 5:50 AM. So I caught a taxi and went home (being originally from Delhi, my parents are still there) for a few hours, reserving the same taxi to take me back to the airport at 4.

I was back home in Hyderabad around 9 AM and there ended a short and sweet trip. Probably my first trip to the Netherlands in 2002 was better since I got to go around so much then, but this time the experience at the Hilton was good; it isn’t everyday that you have the facility of a great gym, swimming pool, sauna and steam bath at your disposal and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

So now, I am ready for my latest trip, and that is the United States of America, in November of 2007. But all this writing has taken its toll, and I am off for a small round of roaming around my hotel.


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