27 February 2012

India, Day One

Holy cow (literally!) I don't even know where to begin.  My camera battery is charging now so I will transfer pictures in a bit.  I did not think to take my camera to breakfast, I should have as I have no idea what I ate, I ate the local (cooked) stuff and I thought it was very good.  I have had a lot of warnings about the water and not eating anything fresh unless I peel it, and everything else.  I'm not sure I'll be able to remember all of those the week I am here but I ought to remember them at least 24 hours.  The drive from the Holiday Inn Mumbai, yes there is such a thing, to the domestic terminal was with a lot of traffic, a lot of weaving in and out of our lane, and finally arriving at the airport.  Where there are soldiers patrolling with rifles on their shoulders.  NO... I did not take a picture.  NO... I did not ask if they were loaded. 

Turns out they close the flights 45 minutes before boarding, and we were there 44 minutes before the flight.  But they let us on anyway so I'm guessing it's more like a guideline than a hard and fast rule.  After that getting through security was no big deal, the flight was uneventful, and the landing not bad at all.  Turns out Pune airport is also an air force base so as we were walking into the terminal from the plane we saw 2 Russian SU-27's land.  Since I didn't have my glasses on (I'm nearsighted) I couldn't be sure but even squinting I could tell they were not American jets, then recognized them as SU-27's.  And I guess they were actually Indian SU-27's, not Russian, but I think you know what I mean.  Being kind of a military plane geek, well maybe a geek anyway, but an extra big military plane geek, I thought that was extra cool. 

The line to get our luggage was about like in Mumbai, and the hotel did not have any cars waiting for us when we got there.... I know!  The nerve of them!  So we got into 2 small Suzuki cars (there are 6 of us here) with luggage piled on the roof rack 3 of us crammed in.  I didn't take pictures, I figure I will have other opportunities, but the poverty is startling.  I've seen it before in Indonesia and China, but it is always a surprise to see it right there in front of you.  And taking pictures of it seems... I don't know, not quite right somehow.  I will get a couple, but don't expect a documentary on poverty in India from me.  And I had my first experience of this type overseas... a car accident!  Actually, more like a motorcycle ran into us as we drove through a red light (Hey... everybody does it here, I think it's expected) then bounced off and the guy fell over.  The driver got out., looked at his car, then yelled at the guy picking his motorcycle up who then got on and rode off.  So I guess no blood/no foul.  Then we got to the Marriott here.  And we haven't even had lunch yet!

Okay, now for some pictures:

This is in the Quantas Lounge in Narita airport.  I flew Malaysian airlines from Tokyo to  Mumbai, via Kuala Lumpur.  This was the first time I'd seen VB outside of Australia!  Not my favorite Australian beer by a long shot, but better than Foster's and brings back good memories from earlier trips to Australia.

The view from the Business Class lounge in Kuala Lumpur.  I don't think this really counts as being in Malaysia, but it was still pretty cool.  
 This is what happens when I get in a hurry, I don't edit, or even rotate pictures.  But since I'm trying to get this done before lunch I'll leave it.  This is Malaysian beer, not too bad!  I had 1 in the lounge and 2 on the flight to Mumbai.
 This is the view out my window in Mumbai, I guess the view out the other side of the hotel was total squalor.  Kind of glad I didn't have that view.
The next 3 are from driving to the airport in Mumbai.  They do not do it justice.  I might have to take a movie, just the horn honking alone is crazy and something that has to be heard to be appreciated.

 And finally, this is my room in the Pune Marriott on the 20th floor.  I know I've said I've spent nights in some pretty questionable places... this is not 1 of them.  So I guess you'll just have to take my word for it for now.

Okay... more later.  (I find it's pretty easy to blog when traveling.  Work, eat, drink, sit in hotel, and sleep.  We'll see how this keeps up when I am back home.)

26 February 2012

India - First Impressions

Okay, no pictures yet, it was dark when I got in last night, still dark this morning, and I had heard they are NOT receptive to lots of picture taking in the airport.  But here goes:

  • In customs line I saw 4 Indian guys move over and let a guy and his wife to the front of the line ahead of them, it looked like he had MD.  I don't know that I have ever seen that in a customs line, anywhere, any time.
  • Waiting for my luggage the people were stacked up 2-3 deep with luggage carts and everything else, right up against the carousel.  I saw my suitcase go around once with no chance to get to it... so I got closer then just pushed through the 2nd time.  In Japan, for instance, people stand at least 3 feet back and step forward only to get their suitcase then immediately get out of the way.
  • Very friendly and very helpful in the airport and the hotel.
  • The traffic and driving from the airport to the hotel was every bit as bad as what I have seen on The Amazing Race
  • I can't wait to see more.....

On to India

I have a few more pictures from Japan to post but am on a slow connection here in the Business Class Lounge in Kuala Lumpur (I know, I can hear the Awww poor Baby now) and I prefer to attach big pictures to my blog.  I know it's easier to load and view smaller pictures, but being somebody who like details I like to blow up pictures I like and look for the detail.  So when I can I'll do that here.

My last day in Tokyo was a bit of a drag, I woke up with a bit of a sore throat and it was a cold rainy day all day, so no run across the Rainbow Bridge.  I'm not generally bothered by running in the rain, especially when training for a marathon or 1/2 marathon, it just proves how much you want it, and if I was heading home instead of India for a week and China for 4 days after that I'd have gone ahead and run in the rain.  So I got some salt and gargled hot salt water, and had a smallish lunch from the convenience store, I get tired of big meals and going out to eat all the time.  That makes it tough for George when I get home, she's been home dealing with everyday life, and I'm traveling and going out to eat every night.  But she is a great cook, and I’m not bad at things I like to cook, so I prefer to eat at home for a week or so when I get home, especially from a long trip in foreign lands.  I generally try to eat "local" the whole time I am gone, it always bothered me when I heard about people, generally guys, who travel with a suitcase full of energy bars, snickers bars, and pop tarts.  Really? 

I have never been to India, so I'm looking forward to that.  I like the exhilaration of walking through an airport for the first time, wondering where I am going, what it's going to be like... what's it going to smell like.  That might sound stupid, and I'm not sure I can explain it any better than that, but different countries smell different.  Not all countries, but a lot I have been to.  But this was my 15th trip to Japan and will be my 5th trip to China, so not that Oh Wow! feeling any more.

It will also be weird to be 10-1/2 hours different from home.  That's right; they are 1/2 hour off.  I read a pretty good explanation so I will link to it here.  I guess that makes sense, more sense than Victoria, Australia being a 1/2 hour off anyway, but still weird.  I kind of get it with Indiana being on the far western edge of Eastern Time, and at least we've moved into the 20th century by adopting daylight savings time (I realize it is the 21st century but I don't expect Indiana to join this century for several decades yet). 

So, more pictures and stories coming from India, and maybe some other stories if I have time.

(Okay, 1 quick story since I can't go anywhere for 45 minutes yet anyway.  This is why I feel it is important to run in the rain.  I had run several 5k's before but decided to run a 1/2 marathon, the Indianapolis 500 Festival mini-marathon to be exact, and I trained pretty diligently, but had never run in the rain.  Well, during the mini it rained... and it poured.  My shoes were something cheap, and worse yet I had on cotton socks and a cotton t-shirt.  What the hell was I thinking?  I obviously didn't know any better.  My feet started to blister around mile 6 and I took off my socks at mile 7 and my feet felt better, for a while... but it was a miserable experience all the way around.  About a 1/2 mile from the finish I was looking back over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't cutting anybody off by moving over and caught a flash of red... on my shoes.  Which were decidedly not red!  Well I finished, and felt like total shit, and my feet hurt and my shoes were bloody in back from my blisters.  OUCH!  And that wasn't the worst part... my cotton shirt had chafed on my chest and my nipples were killing me!  My feet pretty much felt better after 2-3 days, my nipples hurt for a week!  Of course I got NO sympathy from George... I believe the words "Try nursing 3 kids 6 months each many times a day then come tell me about your nipples hurting, okay?" were heard.  Who knew your nipples could hurt so bad?  I certainly had no idea!  So just to prove I was nuts I ran the mini again the next year and have run 6 marathons since then.  I've had some running injuries and blisters but nothing ever approached the pain of that first mini.

So... I will always run in the rain in training.  Better to be used to it!  I never wear cotton when running... socks, shirt, shorts... anything.  I Vaseline my feet before putting my socks on for all long runs.  I wear compression shorts to prevent thigh chafing... I didn't mention it because the pain was very much secondary to nipple pain, but by itself it would have been bad enough, and I always... ALWAYS... put bandaids or tape on my nipples for my long runs.  I might be crazy but I'm not stupid.)

25 February 2012

Update from Japan - 25Feb12

Friday I traveled to Hitachinaka north of Tokyo, the only trip I took by train in Japan.  The politeness of the Japanese always gets me... whether you're walking to catch a train, or down the sidewalk or anything, always polite.  Here is the train platform before we left Tokyo, obviously not rush hour.

This was lunch, we stopped at a noodle restaurant.  I got curry, I almost always pick the spicy choice.  there was a slice of pork in it and I got 5 fried dumplings as well.

This was on our way to the Komatsu  factory, this picture doesn't really show it well, but the fence on the left side of the road there was pretty torn up and twisted.  That is the remnants of the tsunami last year after the earthquake.  The worst damage was in Sendai about 200 km north of this, but the Hitachi factory here had 3 feet of water in it and it tore this fence up.  

That night for supper Mike and I were on our own.  Mike did not want "any raw fish, or anything else" and since neither of us knew any Japanese our choices were limited.  We did find this restaurant that had English on the menu, turns out it was a Taiwanese restaurant.  The food was good and the beer was cold.  While I did not get the dish in the menu below I would have certainly tried it if somebody else had.  In fact I might have had it before!.. 

This was what I did get, Tofu with spicy meat sauce.  I have decided I like tofu in Japan and China, have never had it anyplace else where it was even remotely good!    This was excellent!

Then Mike wanted to see the Ginza, Tokyo's high end shopping district.  It wasn't as crowded as I have seen in the past but a lot of walking round, I'm not sure how much buying is going on there.

And I didn't get a picture but as we were heading back to the hotel (another story I'll get too in a second...) we were standing on the corner talking when this guy in a black suit and a black trench coat said "Hey... you guys want paradise?"  Wait... what?  "Paradise... you guys want?"  Um, no.  Thanks...  Or as Mike said "My paradise is back in Indiana."  That about sums it up.  I like getting to go these places, meeting people and seeing the friends I've made, and making new ones, but I always love coming home.  My paradise is in Indiana.  

So, I got Mike to the Ginza, not by my normal route, and we were walking and decided to head back to the hotel, and i hate to back track.  So we kept walking... and I realize I don't have a fucking clue where we are.  Good thing Tokyo is so safe!  I need a landmark!  Tokyo tower... high above everything, once you can see it between the skyscrapers....  Once we gt there we were close.  I knew the right direction to go, Mike was not so sure till a nice Japanese guy decided to help the foreigners outs and point us in the right direction.  "You sure you want to walk?  It's a loooong way!"  No problem, 25 minutes later we were back.  The not back tracking thing has led to some interesting trips before but I'm getting tired and it can wait for another time.

23 February 2012

Japan Update - 24Feb12

I forgot to mention where I'm staying here in Tokyo, it's called the Intercontinental Tokyo Bay and overlooks, naturally, Tokyo Bay.  Trying to remember to take pictures here is hard because this is my 15th trip to Japan.  I like it a lot, but it no longer seems new and novel.  Depending on which side of the hotel you are on the views can be pretty spectacular.  Here is the view out my window:

The bridge in the distance is the Rainbow Bridge over Tokyo Bay, from the hotel, over the bridge and back (if you run a little on the other side) is about 4 miles, a nice little run.  I love the view from the middle of the bridge but you can't be afraid of heights... or bridges... or water.  Going the other way from the hotel is Tsukiji Fish Market.  I've taken pictures there before and put them on Facebook, I might go tomorrow morning and take some more.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights I was in Tsukuba, Japan.  Again, I forgot to take pictures except at supper, been there too many times I guess.  Supper Wednesday night in Tsukuba was at an Oden restaurant.  It is one of my favorite meals in Japan.

Andy thought we needed a picture of my 1 liter beer...

Fried chicken and fried daikon radish (i think...) whatever it was it was good.  More of my "don't ask what it is just eat it" philosophy.

The fish cakes, noodles, eggs, what have you are boiled in this broth

I think these were friend potato strips, that's what they tasted like anyway

The green things were cabbage rolls, of a sort, and were delicious.

Grilled chicken... very very good

And this was dessert, green tea ice cream and some sort of black bean ice cream?  By the time I thought to take a picture it was gone.

Thursday night we went back to Tokyo... We started the night in a British style pub where we had 2 black and tan's.  They tasted good but I thought the one's I made a couple of weeks ago looked a little better, I just didn't have the Bass glasses to make them in.

I don't know what the style of restaurant was called we went to but the tray of different sauces and salt was placed in front of us and as the chef brought eh food out on skewers he had the skewer facing the sauce we should eat it with.

Here is an explanation of the sauces, I should have rotated the picture, and I might later, but am trying to get this out before I leave this morning for more meetings with customers. 

A very large asparagus spear... fantastic!

Shrimp on the right

Scallop on the right (i have another story about scallops for another time.  Suffice it to say the white part we westerners eat is the best part BY FAR!)

Some sort of flower bloom...

Abalone, Minori did not want hers so I had 2!

A strawberry!

Little hot dogs

Miniature corn


All the gang.  We got shushed by the chef, apparently we were being too loud!  Oops! 

More tomorrow.....

21 February 2012

Japan Update - 22Feb12

I'll answer maybe one of your first questions right away, "Why does he do his dates like that?  What is he trying to prove?"  It didn't take me too long working with people overseas to realize they don't do everything, or sometimes much of anything, like us.  In the immortal words of Chick McGee on the Bob & Tom show, "They have a different word for EVERYTHING!"  Well, one of the things they do differently is dates.  Whereas I grew up saying today is 2/22/2012 (sidenote, it IS 2/22/2012 here despite the fact it's 2/21/2012 at home.  What happens here right now would be recorded as happening 2/22/12, not 2/21/12, even if it happened to me.)  A lot of places would say 22/2/2012.  Now that's not too confusing, last time I checked there was not a 22nd month in teh year, but what about 10/2/2012?  Is that October 2?  Or February 10?  And how do you specify which one it is when you are communicating with people all over the world?  So I default to 22Feb12.

I have been to Japan 3 nights now, we were supposed to land at Narita airport around 3:30 in teh afternoon but left O'Hare 5 hours late... I HATE O'Hare airport!  So we landed and got through customs around 8 and by teh time we got to the hotel it was nearly 11.  So no interesting food then.  I'm also still trying to remember to take pictures of what I eat so I can add here.  Lunch was nothing special, 5 half sandwiches but interesting because they always remove the crusts.  Who knew Japan was crust-phobic!  Supper that night was at a Korean barbecue restaurant that was very good.  Here is a picture of the menu:

This was "barbecued pork" but as Andy said, more like barbecued pork fat.  That was right, but it was still good.  They had these huge pieces of lettuce to use like a tortilla.  And i realize I didn't get a picture of the kimchi.  Instead of me trying to explain it, let me do this.  And since it's Wikipedia you know it HAS to be right!  In any case, it's delicious and very spicy!

Raw beef stirred up with a raw egg.  I loved it, others not so much.

Me, trying to eat my lettuce taco.

They have these crazy hot ceramic bowls they brought rice and eggs in and we stirred it up at the table and it was delicious.  Even 10 minutes later te bowl was too hot to touch.

The room we were in. 

The Cummins foreigners with Minori who works in the Tokyo office. 

Tuesday was meetings all day with customers and lunch was this Bento box, or as Takeshi calls it, our Japanese lunch box.  Of course I forgot to take a picture before I ate most of it, but trust me, it was very good.  

This was supper.  The thing in the shell wasn't a very good looking critter, but it tasted great!

Everything on this plate was delicious... everything.  The crispy shrimp you pop in your mouth and eat like popcorn, but it tastes better.  And in the bowl was raw tuna and potato with the raw egg on top for good measure.

Sashimi.  I can identify tuna, salmon, and baby squids.  They were all also, very good!

Fried chicken, Japanese style.

Pork sausage

Yakitori, grilled chicken.  The dark meat was I believe hearts.  A little chewy but didn't taste bad.

And i forgot about dessert, green tea ice cream which is really quite good!  And the beer, I forgot pictures of the beer but that generally just be assumed at supper.

I'm still trying to get the hang of blogging, but that's a bunch of pictures before I forget to upload some. If you have any questions please let me know, or suggestions even.