Back at my rebound job, part of my responsibilities was to review and recommend an outsourcing vendor for the IT work on my project. The financials were fairly significant (IMO) and warranted a visit to each company site in India. There is nothing better than sitting across the table from people to either build or ruin your confidence in them. I’ll post another day about the value I found in the trip itself and process I followed, but I wanted to give a quick summary of the actual logistics of my traveling there.
- flight out of columbus was canceled due to poor visibility at O’hare… got on standby for earlier flight that was delayed and ended up at O’hare at the same time as canceled flight… not much weather problems… [American Airlines]
- flight out of O’hare to london was delayed 3 hours due to mechanical issues that only Boeing mechanics could fix… couldn’t get them there in time, so switched to a 777
- travel agency changed original booking and didn’t arrange for my baggage to be checked all the way to bangalore (I should have noticed, but was ignorant)… had to leave immigration at heathrow, go to baggage claim, get on express train to new terminal, check in bag, go through security in under 50 minutes to make flight… made it with 5 min to spare [British Air]
- arrived in bangalore at 4AM… someone suggested arranging for a car at the hotel to pick me up… it was one of the smartest things I did… there was a mass of people outside the airport trying to get you to let them drive you wherever you were going (which would have required me to know where I was going) [Taj Residency]
- didn’t rent a car, don’t rent a car… it’s chaos on the streets! The hotel can arrange for a car, you could get pay a motorized rickshaw driver (equivalent of a taxi) to take you most places or, if you are there on business, have the company you are meeting pony up for a car. They’ll do it. They want your business.
- don’t drink the water… everyone will tell you that… that also includes ice… no ice. I listened and didn’t really get sick (pollution… more later), but one of the people I went with must have because he got pretty sick. Everyone will offer you plenty of water bottles, warm soda (couldn’t find a cold can of diet coke to save my life) and coffee and tea. I used this as an opportunity to pretty much break my caffeine addiction. I don’t know if I’m healthier for it, but I’m definitely more tired.
- don’t breath the air… ok, good luck with that, tell me how it goes! The air quality is terrible in city. I went out of the city on the weekend and it’s perfect, but in city just suffers from too much smog, vehicle pollution… some folks are burning kerosene along with their gas… I’d get up in the morning to hit the gym, but after I was done with the treadmill, my lungs burned and my head hurt. It was the pollution… seriously, I’m not THAT out of shape
- Ok, slight tangent… the gym. State of the art equipment in this hotel, clean towels, water bottles, everything you could ask for. I’d get up and go somewhat early (6-ish). It was just me and the security guard. He’d follow me around (me with my ipod blaring in my ears) and stand by me just in case I needed something. Again, seriously… the guy was very friendly, huge smile, kept offering me another towel or bottle of water. I smiled back and nodded towards my towel and bottle. He’d stand right next to the treadmill near my arm watching me. Now, I missed my kids, but this guy really helped fill that void left by a 4 year old (once you realize he’s not creepy, just WAY TOO FRIENDLY). With his broken english, I never learned his name, but I called him Stan and for an hour each day, he was my faithful companion as I lifted weights, ran a few miles and inhaled more pollution than I want to think about.
- Plan your trip when there is a chance of snow… It was in the 80’s, no humidity and not a cloud in the sky when a freak snow storm in March hit Columbus, Ohio. For those of you up North, just trust me here… a foot of snow fell in 12 hours and pretty much everyone in the city was locked down for 3-4 days. My wife would have been fine, but she was left with our mini-van with my SUV at the airport. She wasn’t thrilled with me 😉
- midway through the trip, the airport workers union started threatening a strike. Concerned we wouldn’t make our flights, we modified our departure plans and got the least risky flight options home. Leaving Bangalore was fine, but in Delhi, the signs of the strike were obvious. It appeared that the main workers on strike were the janitorial staff. We had an 8 hour layover. We couldn’t actually get into the terminal (where the airline’s business class lounge was located) until 4 hours before our flight. There was a general “waiting area” outside the terminal, but the janitorial staff hadn’t cleaned in 2 days. It was a pit. There were newspaper and television reports all over the place taking pictures of people walking through the trash. At one point, I had a photographer come up and ask me if I would walk through the refuse while they took pictures. I kindly refused. You’d be surprised how many people agreed to do it. [King Fisher airlines from Bangalore to Delhi]
- 4 hours later, we were able to go through security… Here’s a nugget to remember, if you see a long line in security, it’s perfectly fine to bribe the security guards to bring you to the front of the line and bypass everything. You still have to go through security, but $5 will get you ahead of the pack.
- Fly business class if it is at all possible… for no other reason than having a nice place to relax when you are waiting for your flights. The food wasn’t bad, drinks were free and no one bugged you.
- Indian airport security measures don’t meet the standards of the major airlines (gosh, wonder why?). So, prepare to go through the same questions and inspections on the gangway down to the airplane. [British Air]
- For some reason, the airline food was better going TO India than it was coming home.
- They will pass out your immigration card to fill out… do it on the plane and try to get quickly to the lines. They pass you through fast, but still. It was 5 AM after around 17 hours of traveling already… (leaving bangalore, going to delhi then O’hare).
- I dragged my bad to the bag checkin for my return flight home… pretty smooth
- Got to the terminal in O’hare, grabbed a triple Venti white chocolate mocha from Starbucks to celebrate and staggered to the gate.
- It’s O’hare, so the flight was delayed 2 hours. I spent the time watching a bunch of high school kids waiting to start their trip to Mexico with 3 very nervous looking teachers.
- It was good getting home.
Next… The people and things to do…