Sunday, May 9, 2010


Upon arrival in India, my companion and I were greeted by two men outside the Bengaluru International Airport waiting for our arrival. The sky was gray as the rains began moving in. The two men took our bag carts and pushed them out to the hotel taxi. One man was the greeter, the other would be our driver from the airport to the hotel, a sort of executive apartment with full service. The drive was ridiculous. Having been to London once, driving on the left was not completely new but very strange. We're not use to that. I'll cover more about the roads and traffic another time.

When we pulled into the grounds of the hotel, we were met with a gate and a stop sign. Each vehicle that enters the walls that currently surround me is subject to an underbody search with a mirror and a boot search. A boot is what the English call trunks. Since England ruled over India until the 1940s they use several English terms and phrases such as 'To Let' instead of 'For Rent' and boot. After being allowed in, our bags were passed through an airport style x-ray and we walked through a metal detector. I'm not quite sure if the added security would really stop anyone bent on causing a ruckus, but I have seen these types of measures all over town at the more luxurious places including the Leelah Palace Hotel. Considering what happened in Mumbai in 2008 and the spat of recent travel warnings issued by a federal government who refuses to admit that we are at war with Islamic Terrorists knowing no country nor bounds, it is still a welcome sight to know that we do have some security measures. From the check-in staff, to the door men, security, and all of the cooks, chefs, and waitstaff in the two hotel restaurants, everyone is the most polite. "Yes Sir." "How may I help you?" "How is your day?" We could not ask for a friendlier staff here to help us get over the fact that we are separated from home by the continent of Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, and another 4 hour plane trip, not to mention the Southern states but I would be just as happy to be holding the sands at Cocoa Beach Florida or stuck in a blizzard in Maine as I would be in the cozy confines of the Texas state lines. This does not mean that I'm home sick or wish for the trip to be over any quicker than it is scheduled. For now, this is home. Where ever I may roam! The winds will blow as they may.

After check-in and full disclosure that the firm is taking care of all the room fees (breakfast, laundry of 2 clothing items a day, free access to the swimming pool and gyms) and that all incidentals (dinner, laundry over 2 items per day, and room service) will be cared for individually, we were ready to head up to our rooms. For additional security, each floor is only accessible by swiping your room key in the elevator and will only go to the floor for which your key is marked. I noticed that the elevator floor numbers start with zero and go up thereafter as one would normally expect. I'm still getting use to the fact that the 'first floor' is zero. My room is on the 3rd floor (or 4th for us Americans). When I step off, I have two fish in a bowl. I have aptly given each of them a name and now talk to them coming up or waiting on the elevator to go down. I'm sure anyone who has heard me is starting to wonder. The walls of the hotel are covered with pictures from Hampi, an area full of ancient ruins and temples north of Bengaluru. The pictures each have a mythological sense about them. It is a welcome site instead of the plain white walls you see in many hotels and buildings.

A member of the crew walked us up to our rooms to help us get acquainted. I was happy for the help. He gave us a complete walk-through of our living quarters. I have a full kitchen complete with gas stove, a microwave, sink, cabinets, cookery, and a fridge with enough freezer space to freeze water or make a few ice cubes. I won't be making ice cubes. I haven't had a piece of ice since I finished off that last sweet tea from Whataburger on April 12th. When I return to Texas, I'm stopping by Whataburger on my way to any tex-mex restaurant in town. Further, I have both a table and a desk from which to work from. The living room is open to the kitchen and dinning areas with a somewhat comfortable "modern" couch and coffee table. As of now, I have copies of Fodor's India, my travel journal where I'm keeping a running tally of the mosquito death toll, the U.S. Constitution that's always packed, and the book of the month (although my slow reading usually makes it the book of the year). The balcony is pretty neat. I have two chairs and a coffee table from which I can read and just enjoy the afternoon when I have time. TV has upwards of 500 channels, most of which are in any of the multitude of Hindi languages (Kannada is the local Bengaluru language). I made use of my time one day and created a list of all channels in English. The TV is set on a swiveling stand so I can turn it from the living room to the bedroom. Two glass sliding doors separate the living room and the bedroom and have curtains. As of yet, I have not found a reason to close the doors or blinds separating the rooms. The queen sized bed is comfortable and includes 4 pillows and two decorative pillows. I found that the maid service likes to put the green pillows away when they clean. After 4 days of pulling them out when I get home, they finally leave them out to add some color to the all white sheets and pillows. Call me stupid, but I like the color the pillows add. It makes the room seem a little more cozy. On each side of the bed are end tables and 'closets'. I have found a way to get all of clothes in there and have made frequent use of the safe. Finally, the shower may be the best part. The bathroom is separated again by a sliding door and again it has not been used to date. The shower head is one of those rain shower heads and is absolutely delightful. It has to be one of the best feelings to step into a warm shower when the water just falls all over you.

A few last thoughts on the room. I have yet to figure out why I need two thermostats and two air conditioners, not that I have figured out exactly what setting them on any given temperature officially accomplishes. The other weird thing to me is that I have to place a card into a slot next to the door for any of my electricity to work. I figured that it is an energy saving measure. If no one is home, then why do you need your thermostat set on 65, or whatever that is in celsius? The measure can easily be circumvented by leaving a business card in the reader all day, but in the essence of its existence I have maintained that I should follow suit and turn off my power while I am away. Given that the electricity can shut off at any moment (and it does) I can see why hotels have instituted this minor measure. Electricity, like clean drinking water, is not always available.

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