Getting to Bangalore

My bags Bangalore airport

I’ve come to India for three weeks of business and one week of travel. I’m going to try to document my various adventures in this space in close to real time, and probably far too much detail. So, without further ado, here is the story of how four taxis, three planes, several beers, and one swimming pool transposed me from my cosy flat in the Haight to my shmancy hotel room in Bangalore.

I flew out of SFO on the red eye to Hong Kong on Friday night. You might think that given the number of red eyes flying both east and west out of SFO, stuff at the airport would be open late, or that you’d at least be able to get a proper pint after passing through security, but you’d be wrong. You might also think that a 14 hour flight departing at 1:30AM near no particular holidays would not be packed with small children screaming and kicking the back of your seat, but again, you’d be mistaken. Maybe this is something I’m insufficiently sensitive to, not having kids, but if the child is too small to form complete sentences, what is it they need to travel for exactly? The fact that they are adorable and cuddly can, I think, be adequately expressed with pictures, and without the cost of keeping me awake over half the Pacific. If the kid comes away from the experience with any thing, it’s probably a lasting impression that air plane travel is unpleasant, which, thanks to them, it is. Now, I understand that there is a magical land on the plane where the kids are not, and that it’s called business class, but that’s like paying French Laundry prices for, frankly, Olive Garden service. Basically, I look forward to the day when I can be sedated in the terminal after check in, packed into the cargo hold with an oxygen mask and a blanket, and awoken at my destination. There is no glamour, and no grace, in flying anymore, and the major airlines insistence on maintaining its illusion is one of the major reasons they’re dropping like flies.

Hong Kong Airport

Moving right along, we got in to Hong Kong around 6AM local time, Sunday morning. I’ll get that Saturday back when I fly home, but for the moment I’ll have to live with my truncated weekend. Now, as much as every airport is pretty much like every other, this joint is nice. The great light, huge open areas, and interesting sight lines really make it a not-altogether-unpleasant place to kill a couple hours, which is exactly what I did, before catching my connection to Singapore.

Breakfast options Breakfast

Not feeling quite American enough to get Popeyes for breakfast, but not yet fully enough immersed in Asia to get ramen either, I went for the truly international option and got a Crossandwhich at Burger King. Hash browns and Malarone (anti malarial medication) go great together.

Cab in Singapore Jeremy's pool

I got in to Singapore around noon, leaving me around eight hours before my flight on to Bangalore. So, I got some Sing out of the bank, stopped by the duty free, and hopped in a cab to my brother Jeremy’s place. The flat, and its occupants, were a touch worse for wear after Jeremy’s birthday party the night before, but after a couple quick vodka sodas expertly mixed by Jeremy’s Aussie Aussie Aussie (Oi! Oi! Oi!) roommate Dan, we were off to one of the plethora of local malls for a brunch of noodles and dim sum. I wish I’d taken some pictures of the noodle place, as it seemed to be an attempt at expressing the international hotel design aesthetic in noodle shop form, but more on that later.

Leaving the Aussies to, what else, go off on the piss, my brother and I returned to the flat, where he had some work to get done and I had some not-being-crammed-in-a-plane to do. Jeremy has recently taken on an additional sideline in his varied endeavours in Singapore, working on the dubbing of Japanese Anime into English. Sometimes that means doing the actual voice overs, but today it was the relatively less glamorous job of script cleanup, which involves going through the translated script scene by scene and adjusting the dialog so that the English is grammatical and also matches as close as possible to the lip movements in the animation. While he worked on that, I pulled out my swim trunks, secreted away in my carry on for just such a purpose, and hopped in his pool. Floating in the pool, 24 hours and half a world away from San Francisco, I wondered if just being there for even a few minutes, floating on my back a few degrees above the equator in the shade of palm trees and sky scrapers didn’t make all the hassle, sleep deprivation, confined spaces and frustration of long distance travel worth it.

Singapore overpass Singapore overpass

But before long it was time to get back in the cab and head back to the airport. I always tell people that the thing that freaks me out about Singapore is that there’s no graffiti on the highway overpasses. The place is just so bloody sterile, it makes me wonder how people who grow up there must react when they visit the real world.

Sports/Piano bar Waiting to board, watching the match

Back at the airport, I sat down for a quick beer at this ultra kitschy ‘Sports Bar’, where they didn’t have any actual games on or anything, but they did have seats that looked like deflated basketballs, and a piano player seated beneath a giant dart board attached to the ceiling. Do you begin to get the impression of how strange Singapore is? Then through security and to my gate, where they were showing the Mexico Argentina match, but the match had been played the day before and I already knew the result. That didn’t stop every dude in the place from crowding around the TV, and didn’t prevent us all being well pissed off when they finally called us to board just as the over time was starting.

Bangalore airport

Finally arrived in Bangalore around 10PM local time. Compared to the architectural marvels of Hong Kong’s airport, and to a lesser extent Singapore and SFO, Bangalore International does not quite stack up. It would be nice to say what it lacks in form it makes up for in function, but it may in fact be the least organized, most poorly run airport I’ve ever flown through, and that includes such gems as the the lean-to cum airport on Yap and the single strip and corrugated metal building that passes as Siem Riep International in Cambodia. Exiting the jet-way, we were deposited in the back of a large room with a lot of people milling about with no discernible rhyme or reason. Soon enough it became clear that the goal of the exercise was to get to the other end of the room, where presumably passports would be checked, but between the size of the room, the lack of any signage, and all the people blocking my view of the front, it was difficult to be sure. Eventually, I made my way up to the yellow line, just in time for the power to hiccup and the computers to go down. Fortunately, this seemed to be a routine enough event that the immigration officials took it more or less in stride, and things continued apace. Then it was downstairs to baggage claim, where the conveyor belt protruded from the far corner, ran along the back wall for a while before making a sudden right turn, then meandered toward the center of the room for a ways before suddenly turning again, finally terminating in an actual carousel for the circulations of whatever bags made it that far. My layover had evidently provided those ultra efficient Singaporeans more than enough time to load my bag on to the plane very early, meaning that it was essentially the last bag out.

So it was nearly midnight by the time I finally cleared customs and left the airport. Exiting Bangalore airport leaves little doubt in one’s mind as to where one is, between the sudden rush of sensory inputs from traffic noise, varied scents in the air, and the throngs of people milling about the exit because, seemingly, what else are you going to do on a Sunday night? Driving across town to my hotel, however, I saw billboards advertising Sun servers, office parks so garishly ultra modern they would look out of place in staid old Silicon Valley, and construction everywhere. This is a strange town, and after less than a day here I’m sure only that it’s going to take some time to get a handle on the place. Fortunately, time I’ve got, so stay tuned.






One response to “Getting to Bangalore”

  1. sk Avatar

    hooray for malarone!