Took off from SF on 7/22/10 at 5:00PM PST headed for Dubai. Aside from the fact that Emirates took 1 HOUR to get my bag from the plane to the claim belt, I had no complaints about their facilities and service. I watched five movies during the 14.5 hour flight from SF to Dubai, some proving to be a lot worse than others (Date Night, The Book of Eli, The Bounty Hunter, Up in the Air and When in Rome [don't judge me, Sarah Marshall is cute]) and slept through another two (Shutter Island and Twilight part deux). The 4-hour flight from Dubai to Hyderbad showcased Aladdin, a classic and a perfect complement to the ambiance. My plan to read some books couldn’t have gone more wrong.
Arrived in Hyderebad, India this morning at 3:00AM local time. I unsuccessfully tried to “check in” via Gowalla and Yelp. However, I successfully “checked in” using Google Latitude. Now, if I only had more than 6 friends using Latitude, we might be on to something. Might. I’ll be here for two weeks to “work.” It’s OK, I laughed, too.
Initial impression: Not nearly as hot as people warned me about.
Full disclosure: It’s pouring rain outside.
Secondary impression: I stand out because of how different I look.
Full disclosure: That happens everywhere I go.
After getting settled and taking a nap, I went on a local city tour with my assigned driver for the day, Ghikil. We cruised the muddied streets of Hyderabad in our silver Ford Fusion, dodging and dipping and dodging the motorized rickshaws, motorbikes, bicycles, cars, and pedestrians. It reminded me a lot of metro Manila, except that the streets were filled with Indians instead of Filipinos and I couldn’t understand their English very well.
Our first venture was a city-wide car tour of the various neighborhoods of the city, ranging from the old town district, to the bar scene (he just assumed I wanted to go there, go figure) and to where the Bollywood stars live. Then we hit up the legendary Charminar mosque, the trademark of the city and home to a bustling marketplace.
They charge locals 25 Rs (About $0.50) to climb to the top. They charge foreigners 100 Rs. A total rip-off in principle, but I decided to contribute to their local economy:
We later stopped by an all-marble mosque, but no cameras/phones/camera phones were allowed. I had to take my shoes off, so I ran up and down the steps in socks. It wouldn’t have been an issue, except I saw a woman with a gnarly little toe that looked like it was fighting to run away from her foot. Also, it started to pour rain while we were up top, so while running back to the car and I almost took out the people waiting in line for coconuts (the seasonal offering to the deities) at the bottom. A picture of that would have been priceless.
On the way back to the guest house we stopped at a local bakery because I wanted to get a snack. I got mine to-go, which Ghikil didn’t expect. When I got back to the car, he was elbows deep in some grub (curried mutton and rice from what I could see and smell) that he had brought from home. After an initial awkwardness on his part, I assured him that it was OK for him to chow down while I killed time playing games on my phone. I had a chicken samosa and banana nut muffin, ef why I.
Day 1 ended with dinner at the company guest house, where a resident chef prepares dinner for expats 6 days a week (we’re spoiled). Tonight he served a version of pizza that I can’t honestly say I’ve ever had before. The dough was unbaked naan (so unnaturally soft) and the tomato sauce…wasn’t. I asked homie what it was made of, but all that I heard/understood was “beans.” Geww. Either way, I would have been OK with just one slice of the non-vegetarian pizza, but he’s a really nice guy and insisted that I try the vegetarian one…Saturdays are pretty slow for the dining hall, and it became apparent that I’d probably be their only customer that night.
Hmm, this entry was more than I bargained. If you read this, congratulations. I’m going to make any future posts more normal. Giddy up.