Planerides, a Night In Bombay

7 o'clockish Sunday, November 1, 1998

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The plane tonight is teeming with energy. It's more bombin' than Armageddon, the movie I just watched.  I guess that's the difference between going LA - Hong Kong and going Bangkok - Bombay. My friend next to me on the plane loves reading my InfoWorld mag. He spends most of his time on the ads.

I'm sure this trip's gonna rock 'cause even though the middle-aged woman across the aisle keeps giving me and my bud the stink-eye, everybody's laughing and talking and standing up in the aisles and I don't think I want my plugs in 'cause even though the kid sitting behind me continues to kick the back of my seat (as I predicted) I love every face I see. Indians are so beautiful. During the :45 min stop over I was the only one not standing in a group and talking. There's a constant chatter. My friend, I think his name was Sayah, had a Carlsberg with me and fell asleep almost immediately, woke up just in time to have another with me (and raise the eyebrows of the nosy lady). I forgot about that "busybody" thing that Indians like to do. It's kind of funny to me. I'm not sure what the best tack is usually but I know that things have loosened up between me and my buddy. He looks kinda like my best friend from childhood, Mario.

Oh, and the clouds! And lightning!. We're taking off in a lightning storm. And the greens and browns. The patchwork Diebenkorn countryside of Thailand.

7:00 PM Tuesday, November 3, 1998

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I'm part way through day 2 in Bangalore. Just typing up my Bombay experience. There's been no time to write for 3 days. I still haven't wiped my butt with my hand. You probably don't want to know when I do. I got off the plane in the international terminal in Bombay. You can't imagine how small and railer it is. The bus station in Death Valley would probably put it to shame. My buddy from the plane suggested I go to the domestic terminal (there's a free shuttle and you can use the rest room) I was glad to have a plan because I'd taken too much codeine right before we landed. The customs line took about 45 minutes. It was 87 degrees at 10pm. You can smoke while you wait in line.

So I get some Rupees and walk outside to get a shuttle but the tourist info guy says that the domestic terminal is about to close for the night. Then I ask if there's anywhere to get something to drink there and he says "No, it all closed" and my thirst, like a real narcotic thirst, is telling me I'll die without water. I look around the international terminal and there's nothing. Just floors, walls, doors and ceilings. Kind of like a jail. And people ” men, to be exact. In dress shirts and slacks. Every last one of them, except for the police/army guys. Every one of them (that isn't carrying bags) wants to part me from my money. I put on my sternest crackalley face and bust through the crowd. Guys are grabbing me and calling me "boss". All the other tourists are in line for the pre-paid taxis to take them to a hotel or whatever. There's one other white couple, obviously young travelers but I don't bother talking to them. They were a couple so I figured I'd leave them alone. I'm standing in an empty parking lot, there are "free shuttles" all over the place - going to hotels only. I'm not ready to plunk down the Rs.2500 (40 rupees to the dollar) for a room in one of these places. Then the white couple comes around the corner escorted by an Indian and the Indian says "Where you going?" I say, "Domestic airport" and he says "No, you go to hotel" I look at the couple and they say "We booked this $50-a-night room and we get a free ride." Without hesitation I said "You want to let me in on it? We can split the cost and it'll be cheaper for you." They said "sure" and we were soon on our first frenzied Indian car ride. To say the prospects of the parking lot were bleak is, of course, an understatement.

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We got to the King's International hotel where all I had to tip was a Rs.50 note and the couple didn't know how much to tip. Dominic, the guy in the couple, gave me Rs.30 and I gave all 80 to the driver. (I should have only tipped Rs.10) we chalked it up to experience and went inside where the clerk tried to tell us we had reserved 2 rooms. We said we want 1 room for Rs.1800 and the extra person for Rs.300 just like their posted rates. He wasn't going for it. We had to make it look like they had messed up the reservation. Dominic threw a shit fit and after the clerk made 3 calls to his agent at the airport, he let us in for Rs.2100. I gave Dominic Rs.700 and we were taken to a sweet little room and I had my mineral water within minutes. From now on I'm going to refer to the stuff I drink as mineral water. You should just substitute "less likely to be poisonous water" cause there's nothing particularly "mineral" about it.

None of us had any energy so we said "maybe just a beer" and went out to the restaurant next door. Dominic and Erin, were a nice couple of kids that had just spent 5 weeks in Indonesia and were on their way to Pushkar for the annual Camel Fair. (supposedly an amazing event). We talked for a while and then went to sleep. I headed out at 9 in the morning on my free shuttle (tipped Rs.20) and let a guy put my bags in a cart and drive them across the street, (Rs.10) and checked in. I carried my bags through the 5 or 6 different checkpoints where they either give you a piece of paper, stamped what paper you had, or take what stamped paper you have. Indians love stamping and collecting paper. I found myself in a somewhat normal looking airport gate. I bought a couple of samosas and some water and ate while all the Indians stared at me.

It was raining in Bangalore when we touched down. You go down a mobile stairway onto the runway. An easy time was had at both ends of my domestic flight. Brian was waiting outside under an spacious golf umbrella for me. I had the feeling that things were gonna be just fine.