Monday, October 4, 2010

Nepal Day One

After I got back to the hotel last night, I decided to go out and walk around town. It was an experience like none other. My hotel is located just off a main street in a popular tourist section of town. The street is about the width of an alley in the US - enough room for one car to drive down the middle. Well, on this road there were not only cars, but motorbikes, bicycles, and bicycle rickshaws going BOTH directions, and narrowly missing the hundreds of people walking down the road to check out the amazing assortment of shops. You have to be very alert and aware of your surroundings to not get run over.

There are endless shops lining both sides of the road, selling everything from vegetables and meat, to paintings, to trekking gear. Carpets, jewelry, tour information, photo shops, and just about anything else you could ever want are within easy reach. It's sort of like a Super Walmart, except each aisle is a different shop, and there are madmen on motorbikes trying to run you down.

Being a tourist, every shop owner feels the need to yell out at you and try to draw you into their shop. Don't even think about looking at something in their shop (even while just passing by), or they will immediately start haggling on price with you. Another thing I found out is apparently they think Americans are all drug addicts, because at least 2 guys approached me asking if I wanted some hashish. After I understood what one of them was saying to me, I realized there were several other people that had approached me in the same way but I didn't understand what they were saying. All the time I just kept walking, and trying not to get run over.

I made it back to the hotel in one piece, and got a good night's sleep. Today was the first day of work, and everything seems to be going well. I am booking a mountain flight for saturday morning to go see the Himalayas (including Everest), and then after the Flight on Saturday Kiran (the owner of the studio here) is going to take me somewhere out of town to see some sights. Will try to get some pictures up tomorrow.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Made it to Nepal

After an exhausting 20+ hours of travel, I finally made it to Nepal! It is now Monday morning, approx 11:45 am local time and I am having a great time. I arrived at the Kathmandu airport yesterday at around noon.

The airport here is like nothing I have ever seen - it doesn't even compare to the airport in Bangalore, India. Very third world - a big complex that now mostly consists of empty, deteriorating buildings.

Once I got through the line to get my visa, through customs, and grabbed my baggage, I headed outside to find the people who were picking me up. They were supposed to be holding a sign with my name on it, and just as I was getting a bit worried because I didn't see my name on any of the signs, a man approaches me and says "are you Bryan?". He found me using my picture from skype. We made our way to the car which is an old land rover, and met another guy who was the driver. There was a car behind us that was parking us in, so in true Nepali style, the 2 guys with me reached in, shifted it into neutral, and pushed it out of the way!

I came into the office for a quick tour, and then went to the hotel to relax. I am staying in 2 different hotels during the trip because it's tourist season here and everything was booked up. The first hotel I'm staying in is right in the heart of the city, and after a few days I will be moving to a hotel closer to work.

So far I am really enjoying it here, much more so than India. Everything is more relaxed here, there is lots to see and do, and the people at work are great and can't wait to show me around.

We are heading to lunch soon, so I will post again later this afternoon.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Heading to Nepal

Well, it's been a long time since I've posted anything on here, but I am about to leave on another adventure - this time to Nepal!

I have a 17.5 hour flight tonight, so I will try to use that time to finish my stories from India. Keep an eye out starting Sunday or Monday for new posts.

Please leave comments, I love reading what everyone has to say!

Big thanks to Tici for helping me get the new image incorporating the flag of Nepal. Also, thanks again to Candace for providing the drawing of the burger and fly.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Back in LA!!

I arrived back in LA at 7:30 pm on Sunday. The jet lag on Monday was pretty bad, but today I am feeling a bit better.

Will finish up the Mysore story soon, whenver I get some time.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New title image

A big thanks to Candace Giancanelli for providing my new title image for Burger Buzz!!

Been busy with work, will continue with my trip to Mysore soon.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Trip to Mysore

Well, it is now Tuesday here and I am finally getting a chance to post about my trip to Mysore on Saturday.

I got up early, around 6:30 am, got ready and went down to eat breakfast before I left.

I don't think I have talked about the hotel breakfast yet - it is a big buffet with all sorts of Indian food, as well as plenty of American choices. They have an omelet station with all sorts of ingredients, and a person to cook it for you, 15-20 different hot Indian foods, porridge, cereal and milk, toast, mini muffins, pastries, and sweet breads of all kinds, and fresh cut fruit.

I usually eat a bowl of corn flakes with milk, toast, cantaloupe, and maybe a mini muffin or sweet.

They now know me quite well at the breakfast, and know that I like a cold bottle of water with my meal. No tea or coffee. I think they think that's strange.

After breakfast I grabbed my bag and headed downstairs to meet my driver.

The driver was very nice and, as it turns out, his father lives in Mysore, so he knows the way there and the city very well.

We were cruising along, starting to approach downtown Bangalore when the driver started talking a lot on his phone. Of course, he was speaking in another language (one of the five different languages spoken in Bangalore, as he informed me). I asked if the languages were similar to each other and he said not at all. After a while, he informed me that his friend was also headed to Mysore today - with some people for a tour. He said his friend doesn't know Mysore at all, or how to get there. I instantly felt bad for the people he had with him, and at the same time very fortunate that I got a good driver that knew his way around.

Everyone at work informed me that the trip to Mysore was about 2 hours, which the driver confirmed. Apparently, 2 hours in India is really 3.5 hours. I shouldn't have had that bottle of water for breakfast, afterall. I asked if we could stop somewhere to go to the bathroom, and he told me a coffee shop was coming up that we could stop at. I guess his friend and the other people were waiting at the coffee shop for us, so we could show them the way to Mysore.

On the way to Mysore we crossed downtown Bangalore, which was quite exciting. Lots of traffic (although the driver told me it was light traffic), cows roaming the streets and walking between cars, and lots of American restaurants and stores to see. I saw McDonalds, Papa John's, Dominos, and Chili's all right next to each other. I saw motorcycles with 4 people on them, and rickshaws with 6 people in them.

Our first stop was a river, the name of which I do not know. I don't know the names of a lot of things because I can't always understand what the driver is saying. There were people in saucer-like boats paddling away in the river. Other people were swimming in the water, trash was floating in the water, and several men standing at the edge were peeing in the water. Quite a sight. My driver asked me to excuse him for a minute and he went down to the water's edge, dipped his hand in and patted his head with the water (yes, the same water the other people were peeing in). He proceeded to take off his shoes, and kneel down in front of some sort of little monument. He appeared to be praying.

It was here, at the river, that I met the unfortunate people from the other car. They were three people from Dallas, TX that work for Cap Gemini - a huge IT company that has locations all over the world, including here in India. They were very nice people, and it was great to have someone to spend my day with.

The heat outside makes you feel like you're about to have a stroke at any moment. Hot, humid, and LOTS of people everywhere. Indian people are some of the friendliest people i've met, but there is no concept of "personal space" here in India. You are constantly running into, getting run into by, bumping, nudging, stepping on, and kicking (ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration) other people.

We had driven down a side road, off the main road, to get to the river. On the way back out to the main road we stopped at two other places. First, we stopped at a temple.

As we approached a big gate on foot, children were running up to us from all directions trying to sell us things. We were instructed by the drivers not to buy anything from them. They are VERY persistent. As we passed through the gate, we could see an enormous garden stretching out to both sides with beautiful green grass, flowering trees, and people relaxing. Directly down the middle was a wide path, with a building at the end that looked like it belonged in the movies. The path was lined with uniform green shrubs, and palm trees filled the backdrop. When we got up to the building, we were instructed to remove our shoes (and socks) before entering the temple. There were hundreds of pairs of plain, brown-colored, old and worn-out leather shoes and sandals arranged neatly; and then there were the four pairs of bright, obnoxiously colored, new and sparkling clean Nike shoes, that were ours. In the center of the interior of the temple were three, ancient-looking boxes, with an equally old cloth draped over each one and held up in the middle in a tent shape. From what I could understand, I think these were the late family members of the King Tipu Sultan. People walked around and prayed. Outside, there were many stone caskets surrounding the temple, I don't know who was in them. We collected our shoes, and walked back to the car - through the same mob of children who still insisted we buy something from them.

Last stop before we hit the main road again was a museum. I don't really know what the museum was all about, but the building was the oldest thing I have ever seen. I can't believe it was still standing. Inside were various things to look at, and lots of crowds to fight through the narrow halls. Museums are not really my thing, so even though this was unlike any museum I had ever been in, it wasn't the highlight of my day. It is worth noting that I didn't think temples were my type of thing either, but it was a pretty cool experience.

Back on the main road, we traveled a few kilometers before taking another side road. We were headed to another temple. I got out and took pictures, but the temple was closed. We could not go in. This was to be the last stop before we reached the city of Mysore.

Upon arrival in Mysore, the driver dropped me at a place to eat lunch. He gave me his cell number to call him when I was finished. Lunch turned out to be a buffet of Indian food. This didn't make me the happiest person alive. I was elated to find the steamed white rice, and what was labeled "grilled chicken". It was NOT grilled chicken. It was little chunks of chicken, cooked in a brown, gravy-like sauce. I decided to try it. All the other Indian dishes they had looked disgusting to me. I went back to the table with my pile of white rice and "grilled chicken". The rice was excellent, the chicken was not. The chicken tasted great, the part that was not so great were the bones in it. It was cut up into these tiny little chunks with the bones left in it, so it was impossible to eat without swallowing the bones. I just ate the rice. I went back up and found dessert on the buffet to help fill the now-massive void in my stomach. I had a little piece of mango cake, some sort of strawberry, whipped cream, and chocolate chunk dessert, and a scoop of strawberry ice cream. Dessert was delicious. I phoned the driver and he found me on foot. We were now about to do the single, most-terrifying feat I have ever attempted in my life: cross the street.

If you've not been to India you are probably laughing right now, if you have, you are legitimately fearing for my safety as you read this (and maybe still chuckling a bit, because I am a humorous writer). For those of you in the first group, allow me to set the scene for you. Imagine the busiest city street, from any major US city (NYC, LA, etc), that you can. Ok, got it? Now, replace 50% of the cars with small, 3-wheeled buggies (auto rickshaws, or tuk tuk's), and motorcycles. The people driving the cars are all teenagers that just got their driving permit, have been given a rental car with the full insurance, and told they should reenact their favorite action movie sequence as accurately as possible. The rickshaw and motorcycle drivers are driving twice as bad as the car drivers, and the bus and truck drivers think they are in a Mini Cooper with no brakes. Take away all painted lines, all lights and signs, all rules of the road, and add an extra horn with a dedicated horn-honker to each vehicle. Crossing this madness is a very delicate, and expertly choreographed motion. One false move and the stray dogs will be eating you for dinner. Luckily, I survived.

After lunch I went to Mysore Palace.

This is getting long, so I will continue in a new post.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mysore Pictures

These pics are from a trip to Mysore on Saturday, will post details and more pics when I get a chance. Just wanted to get these up for all you guys begging for pics :-)

View from a temple on a mountain near Mysore.

Mysore Palace from inside the gate.

Mysore Palace from outside the gate.

Apparently vanilla is spelled differently here.

My driver and car for the day.

Normal street scene - near one of the temples we visited.

We took off our shoes and went in this temple, there weren't many pairs of Nike shoes outside.

Cow in traffic - quite normal around here.

View out the front of the car while driving - this is very light traffic.