Thailand – part 7 (of 9)

Phuket is full of annoying “MASSAAAA!! MASSAAAA!!, sir” women trying to sell their massage services to you – with or without an exultant finale. Our hotel’s spa was however professional and über relaxing. The herbal detoxification wrap with lymphatic zone massage was particularly great. It was scandalously cheap. We’ve spend in total 12 200 Baht (R2 832.11) for over 6 hours each of total indulgence.

part 7 01

Speaking of massages. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, but a full/half day companion, however, is not. The authorities intended this to be sort of like a tour guide where these people will take the tourists to local places and generally show them around (and supposedly negotiate better prices for their shopping). In practise, this is not the case. To circumvent the law, the parties are told to look romantically involved. So one sees a lot of Thai women (and often even the odd guy) next to a grabby sweaty old overweight has-been loser who appears ecstatic to the point where he cannot believe his luck. The “day companion” on the other hand seems distant and often on her phone yapping away. We thought we will get used to this, yet every time we encountered this odd pairing, we couldn’t help but stare. In future I will be skeptical of any man (single or not) going to Thailand on holiday. Why would one publicly wish to display that you are too sad to score for free?

part 7 02

Apple Inc has a stronghold and cell phones in general are huge. Not to mention cell phone covers. Think of a design, shape, and colour and multiply it with too much. Piracy is also a lucrative business. Take poor old Louis Vuitton for example. What do you want, LV flip-flops, or LV towel? They have no regard for the original product line. They’ve figured that LV is popular with the tourist and now you get it on everything … yes, you’ve guess right, even cell phone covers.

Mosquitoes in South Africa are at least decent and retreat when the sun rises. In Phuket, PF and I hosted many an eat-as-much-as-you-can 24/7 buffet. They even got to us, whilst we were in the pool. They were also completely disrespectful towards our SA’s “Peaceful Sleep” repellent.

Continue reading Thailand – 8 (of 9).

Thailand – part 6 (of 9)

Here’s a challenge for SAA. The flight on Thai Air from Bangkok to Phuket is 1 hour long. They served food and drink to 389 passengers on the Boeing 747-400 during this time. Pretty impressive if you consider that they effectively only have 40 minutes to achieve this. (Which means they have no time to do what airline comedian Pam Ann calls “touch trolley, touch galley, without serving any passenger at all”)?

part 6 06

Where Bangkok is all about shopping, Phuket is about all things holidaying, swimming, tanning, and drinking. Somehow the hordes of Euro Trash thought it to be an achievement to walk around on the pavements, inebriated with bottle in hand. Don’t know about you, but I always put on shoes even when I go to the café for milk.

part 6 07

There are a few breath-taking and some famous islands around Phuket. We did a day tour bopping about the islands off Phuket’s coast line. During India 2009 my self-esteem got a knock at Ramthanbore Tiger Park. We were sharing an open top jeep with 2 guests from the Oberoi Hotel. We had cheap-n-nasty blankets we took from our rooms, they had fancy blankets with the Oberoi name embroidered on it. Great was my excitement when our hotel (Burasari Resort) in Phuket issued us with a beach bag (with their name embroidered on) and 2 beach towels for the day. Self-esteem restored. Finally.

part 6 08

As South Africans typically do not visit Thailand this time of the year, I got spoiled for having the luxury of speaking Afrikaans and no one can understand me. So we boarded the speedboat for the day tour and cross opposite us, sits this box with some oversized cheap looking white earphones, presumably listening to his music. Well, it didn’t take me long to verbalise what I thought of this bafoon and his ridiculous headgear choice for a day like today. I should have known better. The overly brand named clothing and flashy camera should have tipped me off. Two waves later one of this group leaned forward to ask if we were from South Africa. They turned out to be Jo’burg Indians. I just smiled, as if for a Colgate advertisement, and said, “dan better ek oplet wat ek sê”. [English: then better I watch what I say] They knowingly nodded. But I am sorry, he still looked silly. Also turned out, they stayed at the same hotel – except their rooms didn’t have direct private pool access. (Nhhnnnnn!)

part 6 01

Snorkelling. Yet another I need to add to my list of things I am not good at. PF, however, managed the art of floating on the water and breathing through a gigantic straw better. It’s like floating head down in clear bathwater. With colourful fish. Turns out I am more a shower type of guy.

part 6 02

We visited Maya Bay where parts of DiCaprio’s ‘The Beach’ were filmed in 2000. We skipped the piece of rock sticking out of the water where in 1974 ‘James Bond: The man with the golden gun’ was filmed. (Trivia: it was the 9th Bond movie, and the 2nd one with Roger Moore in the title role)

Continue reading Thailand – part 7 (of 9).

Thailand – part 4 (of 9)

They are a very resourceful nation. Any small space of sidewalk can be turned into a stall or restaurant, complete with small tables and absolutely minute chairs. Some of the food we have passed by really smelled nice, although neither of us were able to identify any shapes, and as a result I now will never know (thank you!) what it tasted like. They have a culture of eating out … as in outside, in the street, on the sidewalk, we even saw an evening “restaurant” in front of an ATM. The format is always the same. A strange trolley contraption, with a gas burner on the one side, a wall on the other side (with the fare on offer and prices (very cheap)). Some very economically sized tables and chairs and scattered randomly buckets filled with (what was once) water, with unidentifiable objects floating in it. The foodstuff was always close to the trolley, so I am only assuming these buckets were used for washing your hands/cutlery? If only I had the World Health Organisation on speed dial. But the smell changes throughout the night. What started off as a very aromatic frying grilling smell, turns to a sweet gag inducing pungent linger, as they pour those questionable liquids down the many drains along the pavements. Bangkok is relatively flat, so you can just imagine when I say “lingering”. When they are sold out for the night and all the patrons left, they neatly pack up their show and push their trolleys and stuff down the street and away out of sight. The only evidence that there was some activity is the bags of rubbish neatly stacked against the nearest tree/pole. There are no rubbish bins (not even in the fanciest of shopping centres) because of past unrest and bombs being hidden in them. Somewhere during the early hours of the morning the streets are cleaned and rubbish removed.

part 4 04

We only saw proper restaurants – as we know them – in shopping centres. None which had a smoking section. There is a small grocery store on the ground floor, with our hotel on top, via a baby escalator ride. After we checked in – knowing the rooms were all non-smoking – I went down to reception to enquiry as to where I can smoke. “On first floor”, the receptionist said, pointing to the escalator. Turns out first floor = ground floor = street level = gagging sweet fowl off smell. Me and Peter (Stuyvesant) didn’t spent much time together.

3 January was an extra New Year’s Day (public holiday) and the businesses and beggars were open and active again on the 4th. Guess they too took the day off.

part 4 02

Very excited to notice on all our hotel reservation confirmations that our airport transfer will be done with a limo. I was thinking paparazzi and maybe I should shave too. Turns out to be a bloody normal sedan, just slightly bigger and with leather seats. Toyota Camry or similar.

part 4 01

Shop assistants have 3 favourite past times. Fiddling with their hair, fiddling with their make-up or eating – regardless of the time of day.

part 4 03

If you ever intend to travel to Bangkok, you ought to spend some time at MBK and especially their 5th floor Food Court. The concept is much like the New York Deli in Sea Point use to be. You get a card as you enter. There are loads of different vendors / styles / flavours, you order and they swipe your card to register your order. Only when you leave, do you pay for your consumption. Good variety. Scrumptious food. Very reasonably priced.

Continue reading Thailand – part 5 (of 9).

Thailand – part 3 (of 9)

Bangkok is locally known as Krung Thep, which means City of Angels. Its full name “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathi Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit” is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest name for a place. (Google, however, doesn’t agree with this statement)

part 3 01

Very colorful country, and for a reason. Every person has a colour, as determined by the day on which you were born;
Monday        =   Yellow
Tuesday        =   Pink
Wednesday  =   Green
Thursday      =   Orange
Friday           =   Blue
Saturday      =   Purple
Sunday         =   Red (1st day of the week)

Hence all the pink taxis, as the owner of the company were born on a Tuesday. Only the yellow top/green bottom taxis don’t follow this pattern, as they are ‘owner driver’ taxis. (The driver of the taxi below is restrictive about what you are allowed to do in his vehicle … checkout the 3rd last no-no.)

part 3 02

Did I mention that Thailand is known for shopping? As they have been doing/offering this for a while now, it only stands to reason that they must have systems in place. Systems that only make sense to them. Some are consumer friendly, if you enter a clothing stall/shop and the shop assistants ignore you like in South Africa, then they do not have your size (remember the locals are compact size). If they rush to greet you at the door (with “we have your size”), then they offer plush sizes, proudly marked “XXL” or even “XXXL”. One’s self esteem does go for a nose dive. Paying for your shopping triggers one of their systems that just doesn’t make sense. The street vendors are the easiest. You hand over money, you get your items. Done. In the shops it starts with a sticker that gets pulled off the item and they stick it onto a sheet of paper, which is placed inside a book, inside a folder. (Sometimes a second sticker is placed on the outside of the folder) The assistant then hands the pile, along with your shopping to a second person – who by them also wants the money/credit card, who walks to the cashier and hand everything over. The cashier then checks all the stickers and scans some of them randomly. Lot of talking takes place amongst them and then eventually a credit card slip appears for me to sign. What’s up with all the stickers? The worst system was in a department store, where the cashier scanned it, then pulled the price sticker off the item and stuck it onto a piece of paper. Put the piece of paper in the printer and printed something on it, we conclude the sale on paper, with me and PF wondering among ourselves what the use of their computers would be. Would hate to work there when they have a stock take!

part 3 04

Speaking of technology. This is rather impressive. Time to pay and I hand my credit card over. Before the cashier gets the chance to tear the slip off for me to sign, I already received my SMS from FNB to advise of the transaction that took place, along with the value (in Rands … very handy). But think about it. Her machine needs to talk to her bank, which needs to shout over the ocean to FNB, only for FNB to nod and say it is OK, and then FNB has to send me a SMS back halfway around the globe … all in a matter of seconds.

part 3 03

Way back when Tygervalley Shopping Centre opened and everyone was in awe of the size. Many a Durbanville housewife had to do coffee halfway through, due to sheer exhaustion. 275 shops. Canal Walk opened and people had to buy treadmills to practise at home. 400 shops. MBK (Mah Boon Krong) – the one we have spent most of our time in – has 2000 shops! (5 x Canal Walk) OK, the shops are way smaller, but crowded with stuff. Many without prices, which mean you have to ask. And if you have to ask you know the first price given is over inflated. The shop assistants do not speak good English and they always punch the value on a calculator and hand it to you. Very handy, as one can then divide by 4.5 to get Rands (saves time to not have to get own phone out to do the conversion). In the beginning one is shy and just shake your head and walk away, but after a while you realise your rug sack is empty and you start tapping numbers away on the calculator and hand it back to the assistant … sometimes they agree and sometimes they shake their heads and walk way. Needless to say often you haggle your price down, only to realise you have just shaved R10 of an item.

We also braved the “Weekend Market” at Chatuchak which crams 15 000 stalls into 35 acres!!

Continue reading Thailand – part 4 (of 9).

Thailand – part 2 (of 9)

Bangkok’s main shopping – the pulse – occurs in an L-shape. We stayed approximately 3kms away from the hustle and ever since that invention of Henry Ford, we are so not going to walk. Thailand – like India – sports swarms of tuk-tuks. Capitalistic logic dictates that a 3-wheeler should be cheaper than an air conditioned metered taxi. Not. An average tuk-tuk of questionable hygienic seats and dodgy bodywork charges 150B (R34.27) for the short trip, where as a reasonably well looked after old Toyota Corolla with impeccable air conditioning charged us 80B (the cheapest was on a Sunday morning for 50B … R11.42). It became a non-brainer and aircon taxi it was then. One has to wonder about the logic of the foolish (read: dumb) tourists who kept on using these open air caskets – with the heavy traffic, it is not like they will be at their destination any faster.

part 2 01

Taking a taxi was relatively easy. You wave one down, you climb in, you ask for meter to be switched on and you repeat “China Town” about 4 times. Honestly, how many ways can one pronounce this? And then, about 500 meters later, the driver will say “oh, China Town”, like we have been pronouncing it wrong all along. The choice Afrikaans swearing one indulge in, is enough to even make me blush, was it not for the heat which gave me a rosy glow in any case. After 21:00 the sequence changes somewhat. Despite the “taxi meter” sign on the roof, the driver is reluctant to switch the meter on, and rather negotiate a flat rate … usually double, now I might be a lot of things, but stupid is not one of them. If we paid 80B to get here, we want to pay 80B to get back to the hotel. Thailand doesn’t share Zimbabwe’s inflation rate. I cannot guarantee, after a full day of intense retail therapy that my swearing was kept exclusively to Afrikaans. Normally, by opening the door and starting to climb out, the driver gave in and switched the meter on. It was the first time we had to do this that my initial opinion about them not being as opportunistic as the Indians started to change. Cannot really hide the fact that we are tourists. I am double their size and less pigmented … sort of a dead giveaway.

part 2 02

Taxi drivers’ courteousness is directly related to payment. 1B = R0.23 and their smallest note is 20B (R4.56). Thus, if the fare is close to a hundred, give a hundred, otherwise they give you a bag full of coins that all look the same. It was only when we paid them more than what was on the meter, that we got ‘happy new year and a smile” as we climbed out. Suppose my mother was wrong when she taught me that a smile costs nothing.

part 2 03

Some taxi drivers were indeed humorous. We had a guy who saw the need to sing-a-long (a loud) to a CD he had going. Every time my giggling became too loud, he would skip to the following track.

Continue reading Thailand – part 3 (of 9).

Thailand – part 1 (of 9)

OK, so what do I know about Thailand. They’ve got like an airline (“smooth as silk”), they are known for their massages, lots of people return with an afterglow due to all the apparent shopping, it is hot and oh yes, before I forget; The Tsunami also hit them … mainly down south around Phuket.

So far so good. Book me!

The exchange rate is favourable (4.37 Baht to the Rand); the ‘air time’ of 15 hours in economy (9 to Dubai, 6 to Bangkok) is however becoming stale. It is not the non-smoking that is bothering, but rather the riff-raff one has to share the cabin with. Note to self: have to plan/budget better in future. [Keep on reading my blog … we only got the planning better in 2015]

part 1 02

The 31 December 2010 outbound flight sounded great, as it would have been the first time we would have celebrated the annual event in the air. A bit disappointing though, as old Emirates did not see the need to announce anything, let alone offer some bubbly. Hmm, or maybe it was just us in economy? The disco music and drunken people on the dance floor in First Class kept us awake. Nevertheless, we saw some fireworks as we passed over Dar es Salaam.

part 1 03

The whole of Thailand and its islands can fit comfortably twice into South Africa. They have a reported 68.1M residence, with a density of 133/km2. They are 19th in the world, based on population; we are 25th, with 50.5M and a density of 41.6 people per square kilometre. Spacious. (India is 2nd, with 1.21B and 408/km2). Not too bad, but wait; life expectancy in Thailand is 73.1 years, India 69.9 and South Africa only 49!? Pension Fund (“PF”) is turning 40 this year. Where do you think I should go for my “widower tour”?

part 1 01

It is PF’s 3rd visit to Thailand, and my first. As a result we decided to steer away from typical touristy places and stayed in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Cute boutique hotel – Shanghai Mansion.

part 1 04

As Thailand flirts also with the equator, one cannot help but to draw comparisons with India. All the pavements are … paved. The streets are clean(er). Drivers hoot less. Less nasal/bronchial fluids are excreted in public. In general the people look happier and better dressed. Initially I thought they are also less opportunistic than the Indians, but more about this later. Thais’ grasp of the English language is marginally better, but you still cannot communicate with them in full proper sentences. PF had more luck with them, than I did, as I never knew which words to drop. My usual (comical?) sarcasm was so lost on them. And tried I did. Lost on the waitress that got my breakfast order wrong. Lost on the taxi driver that missed our drop off spot. Lost on the annoying tuk-tuk driver, who couldn’t understand that we do not wish to utilise his services. Not sure why communication barriers could possibly upset me, as my sarcasm is frequently not appreciated at our local KFC as well.

Continue reading Thailand – part 2 (of 9).

India – part 5 (of 5)

In Western society we are spoiled, as most things in our lives are considered perfect or damn well close to it. We have experienced India not to be too consumed about being perfect, but rather lean towards just being functional. We coined this concept “Indian good”, in that for other people (and tourists) it might not be good enough, but for them, it is good. In Jodhpur, we stayed at the Pal Haveli Hotel. A stately old townhouse with intricate architecture, how is it then that our towel rail in the bathroom is noticeably skew? Most probably because the guy who installed it, was tasked with putting a railing up and did just that. Hell, he even probably walked off afterwards reaffirming to himself that he did a good job. Another hotel we stayed in, during our tour, had a shower floor with no slope for the water to drain. Come to think of it, this might have been deliberate, to shower for a shorter time and thus in the process conserve water? Yet another hotel had a handheld telephone shower head with no hook to hang it on. You will find this concept (of ‘Indian good’) everywhere, it doesn’t distract from your experience of the country, but is worth a smile occasionally.

part 5 01

There are only a few festivals celebrated nationally, as for the most part it is restricted to regions or provinces. We have spent a lot of our time in the Rajasthan province and for a whole week they had a kite festival. It had something to do with the sun (could be the moon as well … probably worth a google) moving into a new constellation. Not sure how this involve kites, but reasoning eludes, as you find yourself gawking at the skyline from early afternoon, as it is dotted with beautiful dancing kites. You drift slowly into a peaceful state of mind, watching this inexpensive pastime as if the show is being put up exclusively for your viewing pleasure. Until it hits you and you witness it right in front of you. This is a game. The bright purple kite that was rhythmic dancing above you just now, disappeared for a moment and is now being controlled from a rooftop two blocks away. At closer inspection, you notice that the kites change location (read: ownership) frequently. The rules are as follows, each kite is in a fight for the sky with the one closest to it. You must try to get it out of your airspace. A favourite tactic is to use a special abrasive type of string, which if stroked for a long period against another kite’s string, it will eventually cut through it. The defeated kite will fall from the sky and moments later it will be victoriously back in the sky, but with a new owner. Serene on the one hand, yet competitively fueled on the other hand. Cheap entertainment for the neighbourhood’s children – remember you need scouts on ground level for collection and retrieval purposes as well. Lesson learned: one doesn’t need loads of money to have clean innocent fun.

part 5 02

Additional bits and bobs, not worthy of many words:

  • In Delhi, there is an official market selling stolen goods
  • In Ranthambore, we were booked on an evening safari ride, in hope of spotting a wild Bengal tiger. The ride started at 14h30. Our guide greeted us with a friendly “good evening” … the sun was still shining.
  • You constantly need to double check the change given back to you (remember my earlier reference to opportunism and entrepreneurship?)
  • Paved sidewalks are rare. If you find one, it is usually much higher than what you are used to in your own country. This is to ensure that it doesn’t accidentally form part of the drivable road surface

The sequence of places we overnight at: Chennai, Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore, Jaipur, Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Chennai.

part 5 03

Despite my cynical comments, I have no regrets visiting India. No wait. This is not true. I regret not buying more fabric and curio. Apart from it being ridiculously cheap, it is beautiful.

part 5 04

As all good things need to come to an end, I am glad to be back home. My weight needs attention and I am happy to be in touch with water/milk/food without the need to worry about a potentially expensive international medical evacuation.

part 5 05

OK, this concludes India. Why not check out Thailand?

India – part 4 (of 5)

Discrimination is somewhat commonplace and noticeable. Hinduism introduced the caste system many full moons ago and it is still observed to this day. It is too intricate for me to discuss it here, google it yourself, but in short there are 5 classes (technically 4 +1). All good and well if you were born into a caste that is known for its priest, or warrior, or trades people, but spare a thought for the (literally) poor untouchables. It is this lower class that will come out to unblock your drain. With minimal equipment, often the job is done with bare hands. Such is the divide that even if the shadow of an untouchable passes over you, you need to be swiftly taken to a temple for a drawn out cleansing ritual. To me this just sounds like an excuse for a day spa. I am grateful for not being born into a caste, where my future was predetermined – I am big on free will.

part 4 01

Dubai import labourers from India by the planeloads. When their work visa expires, they need to leave and re-apply from their home country again. On that last flight out – having not seen their friends and family for a long long time – they over indulge in the illusion that is duty free shopping. They board the plane with laughable amounts of cabin luggage, optimistic that they will find overhead storage space for their hefty haul. Naturally they turn to the cabin crew for assistance. The same stewardess that greeted us with a sweet and friendly smile minutes ago, now dust off her resting bitch face and blandly states “sorry, I can’t help you”, before she turns and walks away. At dinner time, we get asked politely if we would prefer the scrumptious chicken dish with couscous, or the Mediterranean vegetable casserole. The Indian passengers get a German Matron barking “veg or non-veg?”. The airline’s in-flight entertainment system is world class with a wide selection to cater for most, but the live entertainment – albeit disturbing – was better.

part 4 02

If you fly regularly you know to remain seated until the seat belt signs are turned off and the plane came to a complete stop. This bit of safety advise is lost on most Indian passengers. We are still on the runway … I guess we even have enough thrust to still take-off again, as a wave of clicks ripple through the cabin. Loads of people are getting up trying to open overhead storage, ignoring the panicky screams from strapped down cabin crew, to please sit down. This dangerous behaviour is not exclusive to Emirates, as we witnessed it also on Jet Lite, Jet Airways and India Air. The last three however have all Indian cabin crew accustom to this conduct and thus no sheer horror displayed from them, when the unbuckling starts on the runway.

part 4 03

Unfortunately, my dreams of weight loss brought on by visiting an exotic destination and resulting gastric incompatibility, did not realise. The food is good and cheap in relation to my own country. You can order your roti / nan / paratha buttered. It means they prepare it the traditional way, but bathe it in ghee (basically melted butter!) before serving it to you. It should arrive with a massive heart foundation warning, but instead you order another one as your mesmerized tastebuds crave for more. One evening a waiter asked us if we expect more guests at our table, after we practically ordered the whole menu. (LOL) In South Africa leftover food either goes the doggy bag route (rarely), or straight into the bin. In a land of opportunity, leftover food goes over the kitchen backdoor to those in need. After I learned this there was nothing stopping me ordering more adventurous dishes and journey deeper into the spicy textures and tastes on offer. Meat is however problematic. Beef is holy and pork religiously frowned upon. Lamb is really goat and then there is water buffalo masquerading in the mix as well. Chicken is chicken is chicken and safe to eat. If you ever plan on visiting India, explore their vegetarian options. We stayed one night in a small town called Pushkar. It is situated around a small tranquil lake (some deity’s mother wept there, according to folklore). The whole town is vegetarian. Out of protest for the absence of meat, my brother and Dad went to bed early. I had the best dahl dish that night.

part 4 04

Pepsi is the market leader. Even if you ask for Coke by name, you still get a Pepsi. Shout out to Pepsi India for their awesome market penetration!

Continue reading India – part 5 (of 5).

India – part 3 (of 5)

My brother and his family lives as expats in Chennai (previously Madras), in the province Tamil Nadu. There are more people here than in the whole of South Africa. India’s population stands at 1.1 billion. It should then come as no surprise that in a land of many, that no one will wait for you. If you want to get ahead (or in front) you should fight for it. Queuing was a good case in point. Our tour party of the ‘Golden Triangle’ (Delhi/Agra/Jaipur) consisted of myself, Grant, my brother and my dad. Often, we will leave each other some personal space, only to find moments later an Indian wedged between us. Addressing the ‘perpetrator’ evoked, without fail, repeatedly the same response: “sorry, I didn’t see you”. Uhm. How can I put this to you mildly? How can you possibly miss four much taller, much paler people, who speaks a language unfamiliar to you, in an ocean of homogenic contemporaries?

part 3 01

Street vendors found a new way to fleece tourists. It is called “fixed price” and they have notices posted all over to advise this. Apparently, they do not want to haggle any more – this now from the nation that introduced us to this concept in the first place. Grant and myself developed a good strategy. I will keep a sales person busy and he will be on the lookout for pricing given to the locals. (Don’t think for a moment the wares are visibly priced.) Soon we have proven their notices to be incorrect and haggling back on the menu. The best tactic to get a price moving south, is to touch the article. Pick it up. Speak a few words in Afrikaans (the power of being bilingual!). Put the article down. Say you are not interested and walk away. One must love the tenacity and entrepreneurship of this nation. Two stalls later and “fixed” dropped to “best” plummeted to “final”. It is this price that is the closest to the local price and normally at this level, a deal was clenched. You convert the sale back to Rands and come to realize that you have just invested 25 minutes of your time to save R20. Money exchange hands and you are still not sure who got the better deal. It is a good jog for the brain and exciting, but equally tiring.

part 3 02

In a land where there are more people than what there are seemingly work for, job creation seems necessary I guess. Most sight-seeings followed this pattern; you buy the entrance ticket, 5 metres later someone wants to punch a hole in it, 5 metres on someone wants to tear off a corner and then for good measure someone later-on wishes to stamp you ticket (or what is left of it) as well. Deep into the palace/museum/mausoleum/whatever randomly some official wishes to see your battered ticket. My good man, how do you think I got here? I sky-dived in? What sort of job satisfaction can these employees possibly have? Yet they do not seem unhappy or ungrateful.

part 3 03

The pinnacle of job creation seems to be at airports. No less than 11 people engaged with us, our tickets, luggage or passports on Chennai airport. The first touch point was outside the airport (you must show your tickets and passports before you are allowed to enter the building) and the very last, a perplexed stewardess reading off my boarding pass my seat number back to me. I can read too. They check the pass actually just to confirm that you are on the correct flight (and not boarding the wrong plane), but telling me my seat number just feels to me like you are sadistically sentencing me to an uncomfortable seat in the poor class of the plane. I also suspect they deliberately let you walk through the better classes, just to dent your self esteem and confirm your insignificance.

part 3 04

As a smoker I know flying with a lighter is problematic, as I can hijack the plane with it, right? It is up there with tweezers. Land this plane right now, or I trim your eyebrows. Job creation however does not equate to higher levels of productivity or effectiveness (nor efficiency!). With about 6 metres to go before we board the plane, there was a make shift baggage check point (the third one thus far for the day) and it was only here that my lighter and a box of matches was confiscated. He did such a poor job, that I still boarded with another lighter (plan B) and a box of matches (plan C).

part 3 05

(Please don’t judge me for wearing Crocs. In a country like India it is extremely practical, as you rinse them every night. Plus, it being plastic, you are allowed to wear them at most tourist attractions … if you wear leather products, you sometimes need to leave your shoes/sandals outside.)

Continue reading India – part 4 (of 5).