Just barely after I recovered from an overseas conference, another conference came knocking. This time, it’s to Shanghai, China – where it’s Great Firewall of China can be seen by the whole world without the need of a satellite image. Packing the luggage was a simple repetition of what I did for the Taiwan trip. However, this time round, I decided to be a little more kiasu. I decided to bring my heavy trench coat along just in case a freak cold front happens at Shanghai again. Of course, my physics revision thought me that since it’s winter, the sea releases more heat for every degree drop in temperature and if the wind blows landwards, I should be getting some nice warm sea breeze. Of course, I am not taking any chance and the coat comes with me.
The luggage ended up being just a little over 10kg, while my day pack was just a little under that. Heh. I think I get enough training every day from all the carrying around. Anyway, I digress.
My trip to Shanghai is on Singapore Airlines and I somehow wonder if I will meet anyone familiar on board. Hmm.. oh well.
12:50pm: Argh! I am late. Got hijacked by my land lady to have her mmmmmm.. nice Chicken Rice. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the car was out of petrol and I had to top it up at the nearby petrol kiosk. The rain didn’t help much at all, but I am glad I got to my parents’ place at just 20 minutes to 2pm.
3:25pm: Got to the airport on time. Heh. I did an e-check-in earlier and decided to join WY and LS for lunch. I took the duck of my duck rice and passed the rice to LS – who had a rather small portion of rice for her mixed rice. Well, I guess food is either expensive at airport, or cheap but little in serving. We were contemplating Popeye’s, but I think LS preferred the foodcourt, WY, being the least fussy amongst us, went along with whatever choice we made
One thing I dislike about traveling to a conference is the need to carry in my poster on board. Today, I decided to just check it in – and it got through! Yay! No more fumbling of poster holders in the cabin! Woohoo!
5:25pm: Found out that I forgot to pass LS the ticket stub to be mailed back to Japan! Argh! Needless to say, I had to go through the procedures of getting out of the restricted area if I wanted to go out, which will almost certainly mean that I miss my flight! Thank goodness there was a postal-on-wheels in the transit area and I got my stub sent to Japan. Hopefully it gets there in 1 piece
It’s been a while since I was last on an SQ flight. Ah… brings back memories. The seats do seem more crammed than China Airlines’ and Qantas for some strange reason. I always thought that SQ had one of the more comfortable seating arrangements… but perhaps I “thought” wrongly. The familiar chattering of the cabin crew makes the entire cabin livelier, although some people might start to mistake it for a fish market.
Then again, perhaps my ears were a little sensitive today.
7:30pm: Saw my Prof on the same flight! I kinda thought he would be on this flight and if I have chosen the front seats, I would have been seated just 1 seat in front of him! Anyway, he was rushing through his grant application while I was rushing through my exam revision. Time flies
when you are having fun regardless if you are having fun or not and my exams are just barely a month away! Oh dear!
And oh, you know what? Remember that SQ used to have one of the better KrisWorld Entertainment System on board? Well, their Video-On-Demand just became a pseudo-VOD! It seems that despite you going through their Interactive menu, the system still brings you back to the movie that is playing half way! Oh, what a bummer.
10:30pm: The plane finally landed after a 5 hour flight. I spent the remaining hours on flight doing my revision since there wasn’t much of a movie to talk about. I chatted with a cabin crew who would have been my junior. Heh. She was supposed to be on stand-by and had been called up to do a turn. Apparently, she had been doing so many turns that if she did a couple more, it would have been turn-turn-turn-turn (ok, old internal joke here). The small talk was quite nice and I ended up being almost the last one to leave the plane. That chat really made the flight pleasant.
11:30pm: The airport is a pretty new one and there’s no special clearance for diplomats. Oh well, at least the clearance was fast! I got my luggage without much of a hassle. There was apparently a diplomat channel *after* the immigration clearance, but no way am I going to go through that. I saw my Prof and quickly got out of the restricted area. There was someone waiting for him and I got a lift to the hotel too. Along the way, my Prof asked if I could speak Mandarin and he was surprised when I said I could
The trip to the airport took a little over 40 minutes along what seemed like a newly built expressway with lots of speed cameras built into it. In fact, the speed cameras kept flashing and I wondered if the taxi driver actually bothered with it. Apparently, it’s very hard to get a taxi from the airport and according to my Prof, the queue could take up to an hour to clear and if you are unlucky, you’d end up being one of the last few to leave the airport. Also, there are apparently taxi drivers/touts who would promise you cheaper fares to the city centre, but that’s allegedly a sham. After hearing this, I was quite pretty glad that I met my Prof on the same flight.
1:30pm: Shanghai turned out to be rather warm. It actually is! I got to the nearby 24-hour convenience store with nothing more than just my polo shirt, jeans and the school jacket! The winds were a little too much though, but nothing that a school jacket can’t handle
I got a couple of flavours of cup noodles and a row of Yakult-like stuff. I didn’t get the original Yakult because I remembered not liking terrible. After I got all my stuff and made myself more satisfied from pacifying my tummy, I got on to investigating how I could make the network work for me. As with Murphy’s Law, the brand new RJ-45 Cat 5e cable from Challenger turned out to be a fluke. It didn’t work at all and I spent the next 15 minutes trying to figure out if my Mac was having some problem. Shame on Challenger! They should have at least tested the connectivity of their cable!
To add to that, the mobile router didn’t work as well! Argh! Seems like I have to get some other ways of getting the wireless up. The Mac can probably run wired, but the iPhone is giving a little headache. Damn. I will just have to make do with the wired connection for now.
2:10am: Heh. I experienced first hand the effects of the Great Firewall of China. Facebook – banned. Twitter – banned. Google groups – banned. Plurk – banned. Oh wait, why in the world would they want to ban Plurk?!?! Thank goodness MSN is still alive Apparently many people have found various ways to jump over the Firewall, but most of them just end up falling flat on their faces. Now, the Firewall comes with barbed wire
The only thing that is left to do is to get myself registered tomorrow. Let’s hope things go on well. Argh. Exams…
Day 3 marks the end of the Chevrolet driveaway. It had been a fun 2 days so far and I am beginning to miss the fun already. Alice and myself had initially wanted to catch the morning sun, but I guess after 5 glasses of beer, that was close to impossible. We were just thankful that we didn’t get to miss the breakfast as well.
Just before we drive off, we had wanted to take a group photo… but! There was a banner at the entrance of the resort and it was WRONG BRANDING! So, we went into the lobby to have our group photo taken. Too bad I didn’t have any photos of it because we were all apparently in a rush of sorts. But…
I do have a picture of the MC giving short instructions on the way back to Singapore. =)
We had lunch at Sea View Seafood Village, which was pretty good food, save for the crab, which was a tough case to crack. Literally.
From here, we were given last words and instructions before everyone proceed individually for the remaining of their journey. The view outside the restaurant was quite good though. Heh.
Anyway, it turned out that the journey back was just as an eye-opener. Clarence showed what the car could do when he rammed it up to 170km/h! 170! Any of the cars that I used to drive would have
taken off been reduced to a royal rumble!
Evidence of it here. Heh. 170!!! Can you believe it?
Anyway, since it was a long way drive – 250km of it to be exact, I took some photos that I thought is worth sharing. =)
Something about the pictures. That yellow coloured Aveo5… kept staying ahead of us. I am almost convinced that it’s not usually the car that can’t perform, but it’s the driver. She’s one helluva driver man. And oh, the bikee, he’s none other than our advance party throughout the trip – making sure that we are not lost. Kudos to him too.
As for the road signs, the 110km/j is probably something you will never get to see in Singapore and the wind thingie sign… no idea what that’s for. Haha… my best guest: strong winds ahead; beware of drifting. Heh.
Definitely looking forward to Chevrolet’s next driveaway 2009… and hoping that we’d still be invited. =)
The original plan was for the teams to race it out at Sepang with their Chevys until the last man survive and emerge as the winner of the Chevrolet Driveaway. Nay, of course this is not entirely true. The real plan was actually for everyone to participate in the Sepang F1 race where the karts can go up to 80km/h on a real replica of the Sepang race track.
Just that no one is going to lay their hands on the 80km/h version.
Instead, everyone will be assigned a go-kart that can go up to 25km/h to compete 5 rounds on a replica of the Sepang tracks. The 10 best go-karters will then get together to compete for the first to cross the line. And the prize for this?
A $1 million dollar cash as the carrot.
A $60 limited edition cash card from Pioneer.
Well, they definitely don’t want to promote speeding as a way of life and the token is merely… a token of appreciation for risking our lives and limbs to make the race spectacular for the rest of the Chevy audience.
Following the race, we were supposed to be back by 4:30pm for a telematch. That, didn’t happen because everyone was late and dead beat by the time we returned to the hotel. At least that gave us enough time to prepare for the pirate themed dinner. Heh heh.
8:30am: We gathered to prepare for the trip to the race track. At first, we thought it was some small go-kart place. But when we started the drive, we realised it wasn’t to the small, teeny, wheeny go-kart track just outside the hotel. It was the one just next to the Sepang race track just next to the real one near KLIA!
However, before we set off, one of the Chevys had a punctured tired. I am not sure, but I thought that’s a GM staff helping to change the tire. Heh. If it were my car that broke down, I will be terribly lost at what to do. Speaking of which, I had been looking at cars recently, and one of the cars that I saw came with only a tire repair kit – enough to last me to the mechanics. Hmm… now, if it were in Malaysia, over a weekend, I think I am going to have a big problem getting the repair kit to last long enough.
Then again, to be fair, it was the parallel import version that came with a repair kit.
Anyway, to keep with the schedule, we proceed to the Sepang Tracks which was really near KLIA… and VERY FAR from Port Dickson.
Moving as a convoy gives a very nice feeling… that we won’t get lost (or at least if we do, then we are ALL lost). There’s no longer that mad race for time like how it was like in Day 1. I may be a competitive person, but having to compete every single day is not my cup of tea. Heh.
Soon, we hit the highways again…
And the long, windy, hilly road…
Across many, many plantations…
Before we see a familiar sign…
And finally… Sepang Circuit! Woohoo!
10:30am: Before we do any serious racing, all of us have to sign to give our lives away should anything happen. Heh. Then again, my life is hardly worth a single cent and I readily signed it. Even though it’s just the go-kart version, every driver was given strict instructions on the dos and don’ts on the race track. We were supposed to drive carefully and not as if our lives depending on the winnings.
Each kart had a timer which gets turned on the moment we cross the starting line, and our lap times are recording onto the microcomputer on the kart. This explains why the last person won’t be disadvantaged when doing a time lap and is last in the line.
Everything looked like the real thing, minus the pit stop. There was also an ambulance on standby just in case anyone gets into serious trouble.
And the race begins! It’s kinda fun being an F1 photographer – because given the wrong settings, it is almost impossible to get a good picture. Even though they are travelling only at 25kmh, it seemed very much faster. I think it’s probably because I was very near to the tracks itself.
There were altogether about 5 races from which the top 10 were gathered for a first-to-cross-the-line race. I made it to the top 10 and was the only girl to be in it! Haha… that in itself is actually quite intimidating because I had to race against 9 other guys! Not to mention the pressure to do well… even though it’s just a mock race.
I started off first for the first 3 lapse but my kart
went turtle was out of control at one of the bends and turned 360 degrees. Thankfully, 2 karts came from behind and knocked my kart back into position. Running 3rd, I cut bends like there was no tomorrow… and contrary to believes, I did make use of the brakes. Actually, I drifted a fair bit when cutting bends and corners and used my weight to counter the “G-force”. Heh. Eventually, the 2nd person lost control of his kart and I came in second overall.
Heh. An F1 moment. =P
Finally, we got together for a photo taking session in front of the Sepang Circuit wordings. It’s quite a nice feeling to be able to gather together for an enjoyable time of interaction; even though it was all done under the hot sun!
12:30pm: It was time for lunch and all of us proceeded to the nearly city in KL for a quick lunch. I have totally no idea where we went, but it was so full of traffic lights! In fact, there was a traffic junction at almost every 100m! Oh well.
The shopping mall was modern and seemed rather crowded – given the quiet streets outside. I went to Carrefour in an attempt to get more stuffs for the pirate dress up tonight. But didn’t get much. In fact, I got a free plastic bag… because the security insisted on bagging up my camera so that I won’t be able to take any photos while in the hypermart.
And oh, if it seems like there was lack of photos here, my camera was at low-battery level and I was afraid that I won’t be able to get more photos for the telematch (which was eventually cancelled). In the end, I didn’t get to do much at the shopping mall.
Lunch was free and easy again and I had some Briyani. Hmm… nothing compared to the ones from Hyderabad. Heh.
4:30pm: By the time we reached the hotel, it was already past the time for the telematch. I think everyone was tired and so it was cancelled. For me, I pigged in the room while Alice was eyeing at the setting sun. Yes… picture time.
We did manage to get some pretty good shots of the setting sun, which I must say, is really nice and romantic. Port Dickson is probably a good getaway for couples who want a nice and romantic weekend amidst a busy schedule back in Singapore.
And for photography buffs, your imagination is the limit. Kekeke… Nice right? *shameless*
7:30pm: We eventually started dressing for the dinner. Actually, we didn’t really dress much. What we did was just to put on white long sleeve shirts and jeans and hoped that we looked pirate-y enough. Heh. Alice then came up with this idea to use the table towels to wrap our heads with it. Oh well. Didn’t look quite nice, so I am not going to put it up. Heh heh.
But I thought Clarence did quite a good job dressing up as a pirate. Heard that the costume cost him $60 or something. Heh… handsome pirate right?
Heh. Yeah, so Clarence was the Pirate Head while Alice and myself were the kah-kiahs. =P
The dinner was very well-attended with everyone dressing up as a pirate or someone that seemed to resemble a pirate. Apparently, there was news that guys who didn’t come in a pirate costume will be subjected to a stun equivalent to walking on the plank.
And walked the plank they did.
I am going to post a picture so small that you won’t be able to recognise them and subject them to public ridicule. But yes, those we failed to come dressed like a pirate ended up having to dress like ladies to accompany the pirates. Haha. Ok lah, I think everyone took it with a pinch of salt. However, a prize was given to one of the “ladies”… not for the best dressed lady, but for the one who has the most armpit hair! Aikes!
Prizes were also given out for various other stuffs… like the first person to down 2 glasses of draft beer, the teams that won the treasure hunt, as well as other games that were held during the race and the dinner. It was quite fun and everyone was pretty sporty… especially the 3 guys who accepted the “punishment” of not coming dressed like a pirate! Haha…
And oh, it was also 2 persons’ birthday too! And as they came out, we didn’t know if the birthday cake would have been ready. Luckily, as they were speaking, the cake came out from the kitchen. Heh. Talk about being fresh from the oven!
So nice right? Too bad my birthday was too early.
Soon after, it was time for everyone to go back. Club 212 (beer drinking session in room 212) continued as they bought 1 entire crate of beer. I think it’s going to be a late night for everyone tonight.
As for the
Didn’t sleep the night before so that I could finish up all my work and not having to worry as Alice and myself prepared to go for a 3-day long event organized by General Motors. Simply Jean was invited to join in this drive-away to Port Dickson to experience for ourselves not just the performance of the car, but the fun that all Chevrolet owners love.
We arrived at GM ODC along Benoi Road early in the morning along with Clarence from EartH9. It was… EMPTY! Actually… we realised that we were too early. We were supposed to be switch over to a Chevrolet sedan which will see us through from Singapore to Malacca to Port Dickson and back. Just as we thought that it’s just going to be a drive-stay-drive (back) trip, it was a fun-laced event organized by GM and RoadVentures.
First thing first, we had to dress up our car according to the pirates theme of the driveaway! I am not particularly a good dresser, but what I didn’t expect was that Clarence brought every single thing that was needed! Haha… never expected him to be such an enthusiastic person (oops!). While we decorated our car with pirate stuffs (no, not pirated DVDs and CDs –
those are meant to be left at home) it was quite obvious who the winners would be, Heh. And oh, even though the theme was supposed to be “Pirates of Chevrolet”, we thought – for a short moment – that it was “Santa of Chevrolet”…
Yeah… we were all happily pasting decals all over the place. And oh, the secret to doing it correctly is to actually use soap water and spraying it onto the target location before pasting the car decal on it. With the soap, it is still possible to move the decal while it is in place.
And with all family-friendly outings, there were children – many in fact… happily running around while their parents watched on.
7:00am: We had a short briefing and were given tulips (road directions) from which we are supposed to find our way to the next destination. Making use of our odometers and distance markers along the North-South Highway, we were supposed to reach our first destination – Shalala Coffee. For a Friday morning, the causeway was quite crowded. The officers must be wondering on the sudden influx of Chevys. And oh, our Shell car decal came lose and flew to the Chevy behind us. Thankfully it got caught onto their bumper instead. Oops!
While going through the customs, our car was stopped for a boot check. Analysing the situation, we deduced that all cars with a male were stopped for the check, as well as getting their fingerprints. Hmm… must be a new way of catching Mas Selamat. You can find your face but not your fingerprints. Then again, I don’t think he’ll be stupid enough to escape through the immigration systems.
After we cleared the customs, we were on our way to Shalala Coffee. Trust me, we almost thought we were on the wrong track because none of the earlier cars were in sight! Thinking that we must have been really slow… the accelerator was floored. From 90, we went up to 100, 110, 120 and eventually 150! Goodness! And we didn’t feel like we were moving that fast! The Chevrolet Optra was unbelievably stable compared to some other 1.6L sedans where the steering wheel starts shaking the moment the car hits 120.
And the best part was… there was still no sight of other Chevrolets in front! Goodness! They must be flooring at least 150 to disappear that fast after the customs!
10:18am: We were given the next set of tulips from Shalala Coffee and headed off to Malacca. We were given about 2 and 1/2 hours and were supposed to look for answers for a set of clues given to us. Think Amazing Race. Heh. At first glance, we thought we got most of the answers, but proceeded to the destination just to be sure.
Did I mention that we saw cute little friendly kittens? =)
Now, when we arrived there, I think we just got more confused! Haha… “Don’t leave home without it” is clearly “American Express”, but we ended up thinking that it’s “Ang’s Pharmacy”. Perhaps we had been thinking too much.
We spent over an hour walking up and down the street, not knowing exactly what we were supposed to look for. As time passed, more and more teams started showing up and everyone kept hush about what their answers were. There was a picture that Clarence kept thinking contained an answer to one of the clues. Heh. I’m not going to say anything about that. =P
12:17pm: We were on time! We managed to do as good as we could with just 30 seconds left to our 2.5 hours time limit! Following which, we would have gotten 10 marks penalty for every 15 minutes late. Heh. Slowly, all the teams begin to stream in – but considering that we left rather late, we were quite sure that a handful of them probably had some points deducted. Kekekeke…
Lunch was Paranakan food at Oh Sayang (or was it Oei Sayang?). However, instead of taking pictures of the food, we ended up taking photos of a small girl from another team. Heh. She’s really cute – don’t you think so? =)
2:00pm: We left after lunch to continue on our quest for part 2 of the treasure hunt. We were closely tailgated by other teams and even when we tried to shake them off, it was to no avail. In fact, we thought we saw as many as 4 teams (each in their Chevys) following so closely that they beat the red light! Wah… hiong ah…
We were supposed to find some flowers and animals but there were a few clues that were very confusing… like “flag of Bangladesh if it is white”. We were like… DUH?! It turned out that we were supposed to take a photo of a white lily. And oh, there was also supposed to be a zoo, and we were supposed to look for an ostrich… but all we found was…
The first one is big but not real while the second one is real but a tad too small. Oh well… I am not sure if anyone managed to find the ostrich, but well, we tried out best. We were also advised not to spend too much time here and we left soon so as not to get any penalty.
The next and perhaps the final stop was at the range – where sharp shooters pit against each other. Well, I am no sharp shooter, but I was assigned to be the shooter for this round.
Yeah… that’s me. The post is not bad hor? =P
We managed to get 5 out of 10 shots this round… meaning, we got 50 points! Yeah! And the rush to the hotel is now on. Apparently, we have about 40 minutes lead. Shucks! Should have hunted for the ostrich instead. Oh well…
4:45pm: Yeah! We were the first to the hotel! And we were overtaken by a Skyline who happened to be one of the team organizers. Talk about driving safely! Heh. Wait till they see my skills at the Sepang Race Tracks tomorrow! Muahahaha…
The Guoman Hotels @ Port Dickson was a very nice place. The rooms were big and came with an extra balcony. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get one will the sea/pool view.
We rested for a while before joining the rest of the Chevy teams for dinner. Dinner was buffet styled free n’ easy and we spoke to some of the GM staff on the event. We thought that it was a very good chance for Chevy owners to get together. We also found out that each member in each team probably just paid for the accommodation and everything else was heavy subsidised by GM. Apparently, this is the 3rd driveaway in running. Heh. I hope they will drive to somewhere in one of the highlands next year. =P Not too sure if it’s going to be good for the engines though. Hmm…
This driveaway also let me know more about Chevrolet cars. I would have thought that it’s a little unfortunate that Chevy took over the Korean plants… which created the impression that Chevy cars are Daewoo cars. The drive up changed my impression of Chevy cars – at least for the Optra, which seems like a sturdy car. In fact, it took a little bit of getting used to when I first drove it out of GM ODC in the morning because I was expecting it to be a rather light car. Haha…
The light controls are on the left hand side of the car – which is different from Japanese cars, which are usually on the right. The automatic transmission gear shifter also has some safety features which requires the driver to press the shifter in before changing to the reverse gear. Admittedly, I accidently engaged the reverse gear while I was driving my car along the road. I think I was trying to change from “S” to “D” but guess I pushed too hard. So, kudos for Chevy on this too.
The Optra probably came in at least 2 other models – the sedan and the hatchback, of which the latter is probably replaced by the Optra Estate, which is pretty much like a station wagon. Quite a nice experience, I must say.
Ok… that’s all for Day 1. Do watch out for Day 2 as we prepare to kick some action at the Sepang F1 Race Track!
More photos will be made available at http://photos.simplyjean.com =)
Going to India was probably not something within my plans if not for the event. However, it somewhat changed the way I viewed certain things. Frankly, before I went over, I envisaged cockroaches and rats running around on the hotel bedroom floor, families of ants under the bed blankets, toilets jammed and faeces overflowing from the toilet bowl, brown water coming out from the taps and shower heads that gradually changes to yellow. I brought everything imaginable to “protect me” from the creepy crawlies – insect repellent, water purification pills, Dettol, shower caps, tissue paper, toilet paper… but it was quite an overkill in the end.
You see, I actually checked into a relatively ok hotel (and rather expensive too, no thanks to the organizer) and things in there are A-OK. So everything “extra” that I got were actually not really needed. I did, however, bring lesser clothes than I thought I’d need, so that will be something that I’ll note in the future.
I guess I was also lucky enough to be sent to Hyderabad where, as NTT has touted, it is the Briyani capital of India. Indeed, the Briyani is not just the usual coloured rice with chicken/mutton and gravy poured over the rice, it is a dish where the chicken/mutton is cooked with the rice – bringing the flavour right into the heart of the rice. Paratha (prata) is also different there, where spices are added to it to give it an aromatic taste. We were however, not daring enough to try their street fare for fear of food poisoning, especially when we are not accustomed to their method of preparation.
Roads there are filled with potholes, which can be quite exciting at times when you take a ride on their auto-rickshaw as the driver swerves to avoid them. It’s also interesting to see how horning is practiced consistently on their roads where in Singapore, this can potentially be thought as an anti-social act, leading to possible fights and challenges. It was also for the first time that I saw with my own eyes how people actually run after the bus and hangs perilously on the handle bars at the exit of the bus. I have also seen how they can just jump off the bus at their destination – just like how we see it on TV.
I also saw how a bungalow can be built right next to a slum – depicting the stark contrast between the very rich and the very poor. It is something that is probably not seen in modern Singapore. At one side of the road, people are driving huge cars while at the other end, people can be seen begging from drivers whose cars stopped at traffic junctions. I had been approached by an old lady while waiting for my driver to pick me up from Golconda Fort and apparently, if her begging fails to bring any sympathy dollars from me, she will rope in her granddaughter as well. They asked for Rs. 50, which can probably cover 2 street fare meals and if Alice and myself gave Rs. 50 each, that will probably cover 4. If they get at least 10 people to give them Rs. 50, then they will probably get about Rs. 500 a day and Rs. 15000 in a month. That’s twice of what a teacher earns in India. Eventually, we gave a small sum to which, the old lady probably just spat at. We were also told that no one will be allowed to starve in India, which we of course, have no idea how true it is.
Other than cars, buses, auto-rickshaws and bikes, we also saw camels, horses and cows strolling on the streets of India. The cows were the most wonderful lot, especially with the expressions on their face that were so kind… and seemed to say “Don’t eat me”. Streets in India were also filled with people… lots of people who walked the roads in a manner would warrant mountains of fines from our traffic police. If you are able to cross the roads in India, you would be able to cross almost any roads in the world.
There are many places which I didn’t get to explore because of my short stay in India. However, I have met many wonderful people who are most willing to help me out in difficult situations. To these people, I am most thankful. At the same time, I would also like to thank Su Min/ Derrick / Lenovo who most graciously loaned out the Lenovo U110, which, besides being a great notebook, has a cover whose carvings are good for caressing when I felt bored.
The rubbery parts are also good for sinking my nails into, just like a cat does.
Many thanks to TDM / Howie / Creative for their Creative Vado, on which we have taken many wonderful videos (which Alice will be putting up soon). Its clever disguise was good enough for us to smuggle it into the museum without the security guard knowing. Kekeke… *tsk tsk* this is of course, a bad example and we have probably brought shame to the good name of Singapore… Then again, bringing it in was just to prove that the Creative Vado is light and well-disguised enough to be thought of as an MP3 player. For the record, we didn’t take any videos while we were in the museum. See? We respect the rules that they have laid.
Actually, it’s because there are 4 CCTVs filming us at any point in time.
While our stay at Katriya De Royal had been expensive and probably way above market rate, we were glad to have met great staff at the lobby as well as friendly staff at the restaurant who served us food without letting us queue up for it. To this, we appreciate it a lot. Last but not least, we would also like to thank the ground crew of Singapore Airlines @ the Hyderabad Airport for retrieving Alice’s luggage when she checked it in with 4 small disposable cups of water that threatens to break open any time and wet all the luggage in the same bin while loaded in the plane.
There are probably many things which we have not been able to address in these blog posts, but do email us and we will try to cover it here. Till our next trip in Myanmar, we will be posting pictures soon that we hope you will enjoy.
Travelogue October 2nd, 2008
We got an arrangement to the airport (Noori Travels, MD Ahmad [Mobile 9885566199/9290773572] – may not be the cheapest, but drives like an F1 racer and ensures that you get to your flight on time) and there may be something that first time travellers to Hyderabad should take note of.
Your passport and boarding pass will be checked at the point of entry into the airport. In fact, it will be checked twice before you even enter the airport. Following which, you should look for the big vertical TV that shows you which check-in row you should go to. Before that, do try to do an Internet check-in because that almost always ensures you of a shorter priority queue.
Before joining the queue, a ground staff will hand you the departure form to fill as well as a luggage tag for your carry-in luggage. Note that you will need ONE tag for EACH carry-in luggage, else you are going to have one helluva time after the immigration counter. So, if you have 1 laptop bag, 1 backpack and a camera that you are holding on your hands, you need a total of 3 luggage tags. Remember to fill in the tags when you go in. I didn’t but Alice did, but I got in nonetheless. It’s also a good idea to take out all your metal stuffs and put them either in your back pack or jacket so that it will be easier to clear the body check. Lesser groping, I think.
There’s not much duty free stuffs but you may wish to consider getting the Indian teas. Some of them are quite nice although I can’t say this holds true for everyone. If you need to change currencies, it’s too late to do it at the airport because the rates are ridiculous. In fact, they are so ridiculous that it’ll be better to do it at your destination/home country.
It was a night flight back and that means sleeping on the plane. I don’t usually like night flights nowadays because it means that I will be woken up for supper/breakfast and I will probably not get much sleep anyway. You’ll probably not be able to watch any movies because you may just fall asleep anyway. However, the night flight is the only plane back to Singapore. For those who got earlier flights out of Hyderabad, most of them got transit at Mumbai/Chennai and so they still end up with a night flight anyway.
I must commend the cabin crew for SQ439 / 01 Oct 2008 @ 2350 because I think they did an excellent job in ensuring that everyone is comfortable. But I was so tired that I didn’t have time to fill up the comments forms. I hope there’s some online form laying around.
When I touched down in Singapore, I got my favourite Bailey’s and Vodka (actually, the Vodka came with a free shaker), some wine and some beer (call me for a beer session =) ). When we went to the belt, we thought that our luggage is lost again when the sign for last bag on belt came on. Thankfully we didn’t have to call up our insurance when the luggage finally came.
I got a perfume for my mum as well (even though we are not on regular talking terms) and was served by a Chinese national. Not that I have anything against them, but I like the Singaporean ladies better because they seem to be more committed to their work and know what is good and suitable. I asked this girl if she had Tresor and she said there wasn’t. I had to recall the brand (Lancome) and searched for it myself. Worst, the item was at the wrong shelf with the wrong pricing. I’m not saying that it’s her fault, but I guess putting in some effort instead of hiding behind the counter would have helped a little – at least that had been my experience for my flights thus far.
So here I am, at Terminal 3, waiting for time to pass so that I do not have to pay the 35% peak hour surcharge. Stingy hor? Yes, I know; especially so when electricity just went up 21% in my absence; and with immediate effect too! Like how a Singaporean would put it: Wah piang!
Meanwhile, stay tuned to my (even more) abridged posts for this trip. =) And for a start, the post on getting online in India will probably be a good start. =)
Today’s the last day in Hyderabad for us. It’s been quite a packed 5 days with zero shopping, so we are sorry that we are unable to get anything for our friends and readers. However, we got some tea back from the airport which we have not tried. So, if you are a fan of tea, we will be most glad to share it with you. Just drop us an email here and we will be most glad to mail some tea to you (yes, my financial advisor actually does that).
We did, however, manage to get to 3 places today – Charminar, San Jung Museum and the Fort (I can’t remember which fort, need to ask Alice when she wakes up). The first place charges Rs. 5 for India Nationals but US$2 for foreigners (or Rs. 100) while… actually, all 3 places charges the same amount with the same tier structure; and now we all wonder why Singaporeans don’t get special rates while visiting our own attractions.
The Charminar was somewhat like a mosque tower where we climbed through small and narrow winding staircases to the top of the tower. It was a big mistake for me because I have fear of heights. Managed to take some photos (which will be posted later by Alice) and captured some videos (oh yes, you have to pay Rs. 25 for “videography”). However, the top offers quite a nice view across Hyderabad so it is something that you can’t miss. There’s a bazaar where Charminar is, but we went in the day and it could probably be busier at night.
San Jung Museum is a place for you if you like to look at San Jung’s collection. Apparently, he died suddenly and the state estate took over his belongings. The collection spans 2 stories and you’d probably need 3 hours to look at everything. Cameras are not allowed into the museum and this includes your phone too. So, if you really want to bring your phone in, remember to tape the camera lens. =P In the event that you did bring a camera and a large bag along, you may want to consider using their free lockers at the cloak room. It’s looked after by 1 person but I think it’s rather safe.
There’s a canteen inside the museum which serves decent food. They even serve sweet corn for Rs. 25 which is about S$0.80. Bottled water is available from the canteen although there are taps labelled “Drinking Water” around the museum. I have not tried that, but I assume that you’d have to drink it at your own risk. There’s also a clock just outside the canteen which attracts a huge crowd at every hour. As we didn’t have much time, we didn’t manage to catch what went on. So, if you know of it, do let us know! =)
While at the museum, you will be able to get some souvenirs and guide books. We got a museum guide in English because we had to rush through the last part of the visit. The Hyderabad map may also be bought for Rs. 295 here, but we are not sure if they will utilize the “foreigners” price.
The next stop was to the Fort, and before you go in, you’d be coerced to get a map of the Fort. Note that if it is photocopied (or “Xerox’ed”), then forget it. The actual colour print costs Rs. 20 and the fat guy outside will try to sell you at Rs. 50 for a Xerox version. Yes, we got conned into buying that version after we realised that the bona fide sells for Rs. 20 by the people inside.
After you get your tickets, you will be approached by another fat man who offers to take you on a tour of the fort for Rs. 600. Don’t fall for it even if he says that he has a licence. In the event that you disagree to that, he will continue to ask you how much you are willing to pay for it. Well, there are more honest people inside the fort, especially the thinner guys. Heh. We may not get the official rate, but I think it’s Rs. 150 for a 30 minute tour and Rs. 250 for an hour 10 minutes tour. The guides are really quite good because we realised a lot of history of the fort and the marvel of science that was built into it. Indeed, being there kind of redefined the terms “wireless” and “mobile technology”.
Unfortunately, the fort got destroyed after during the 7th King’s rule and all 360 wives committed suicide. However, the marvel of the fort still remains till today. If you climb up the 360 steps to reach the top, you’d probably get a good view of the entire Hyderabad and this comes with the hour 10 minutes package. If course, you can take the 30 minutes package and continue to climb on your own, but if you are already utilizing the guides, you might as well just fork out another Rs. 100. 2 things to note here: (i) be wary of using your flash lights because there are bats in the fort and (ii) the guide will ask you for some tips because the Rs. 150 goes to a pool which is then shared amongst 440 guides. We are not too sure about the sharing part, but we were quite happy with the guide and so we tipped him.
We didn’t manage to get to the 7 tombs because we were running late. We went back to the hotel, snapped some photos and headed for the airport. Dinner was a measly fish and chips and we thought that it’s still best to stick to the local food while you are here. =)
Today is the last day of the HGM conference and it will be 2 years later before it is held again, with Dubai being the next venue. As expected, the turnout at the various sessions was quite small. Alice and myself tried to catch some action at a session on business in the -omics, but were greatly disappointed at the content (if you are interested in having a hand in our biotechnology [not-so-start-up] start up, do drop me an email). A lot was concentrated on the pharmacology side of things with very little emphasis on the basic research and funding. Of course, there was one apparent “success story” where a biotech company started up with less than US$1 mil which is now worth S$400 mil.
I missed one session while preparing for the last day’s event – from hotel to city to airport. As our flight is at night, we have a lot of time after checking out and we didn’t want to lug our luggage everywhere we go. We managed to get a Hyderabad map at Rs. 350, which is about Rs. 55 more than the usual price outside. However, we would probably want to count ourselves lucky because (i) we might not find it again and (ii) there is a different price for foreigners for everything!
The day seemed to pass very fast because it is the only day that ends at 5:30pm. The crowd at the closing ceremony was quite huge because there was the prize giving ceremony for some awards and everyone was excited about it. Alice and myself, obviously, didn’t have anything to submit, but it would be good to learn from them how to conduct a good closing ceremony; since it is usually the most unattended event for any conference.
After the closing ceremony was over, we went back to our dedicated bus for the last time to be horded back to the hotel. There was no dinner arranged for us and we decided to explore a little. We were recommended this restaurant at Paradise Hotel at the second floor. There are actually 2 restaurants there, the expensive restaurant and the not-so-expensive restaurant. Actually, most restaurants are not very expensive for Singaporeans, but for the people there, it might just cost them a few day’s’ worth of salary.
We ordered Chicken Briyani, Masala, Fish Tikka and Paratha (it’s the Prata that all Singaporeans know) and the food were really good. While having dinner, we also learnt from the Hotel Manager on how some sauces that come with the dishes actually helps with digestion, especially for foreigners who are not used to having a lot of coconut and oil in their food. We were also served mints that looked like corn flakes and has a bite like cornflakes just that it’s minty. Apparently, it’s something that is given to the customers when they called for the bill so that they can have something to munch on while waiting for the bill to come.
We were lucky to have transport arranged for us from the hotel and back to the hotel. The end of Ramadan is near and there are apparently more people than usual on the streets. In fact, we were warned not to travel too far out just in case we got lost. As there were four of us, we decided that it would be best to get 1 taxi instead of 2 3-wheelers. You’ll never know where each of the 3-wheelers will end up (not that it’s that bad… but being in a foreigner country, we are just hysterical).
After dinner, it was packing time… but we were so tired, we just zonked out on our beds. =P
We have not explored other service providers (Vodafone?), but according to Popagandhi, this is probably one of the better deals, considering that you now pay Rs. 15 instead of her previous Rs. 20 per day. You have to take into consideration that we got this deal in Hyderabad and may not be applicable in your area.
We had a Lenovo laptop, a Nokia 3G phone (the E65/E66 range would be good, although it should work for all 3G/EDGE/2G phones) and bought a prepaid Airtel SIM card. If you would like to work with a Mac, you may refer to Ross Barkman’s Scripts for Nokia 3G (EDGE/UMTS) Phones, otherwise, you will just need to install the latest version of Nokia PC Suite before you come to India (or at least have the installation copy).
Getting the Airtel prepaid card
You will need the following documents ready:
- Your passport and a photocopy of it (in India, they may also refer it as a Xerox or a Xerox copy; they mean the same thing)
- Your visa and a photocopy of it
- Your NRIC for verification of your permanent address and a photocopy of it
- 2 recent passport photographs (35 x 45mm will do)
- A local address
- A letter from your hotel/apartment management committee/friends/family stating that you are staying with them at the local address; for hotels, you will need a letter with a letter head
- A utility bill (or a photocopy of it if you can’t bring one down, but preferably the original if you can)
Next, you would need to fill up 2 forms:
- A foreigner application form
- A prepaid card application form
Then, you need to pay the following:
- About Rs. 90 for the SIM card
- About Rs. 360 for the activation and initial top up
- We are not sure how much each top up unit is, but we will find out soon and update
To apply, you need to go to either an authorised Airtel shop or the Airtel Headquaters in the state that you are in. For Hyderabad, there’s one at Splendid Towers along Begumpete Road (some spell Begumete without the last “e”). They usually open at 10am and close around 8pm.
Turning on your Internet access
You will need to do the following to get your Internet access turned on:
- Send an SMS to “52121” with the text “Internet ON” without the quotes
- You will receive 3 SMSes informing you that the Internet access costs Rs. 15 a day and that you need to have at least Rs. 30 in your SIM card to access the Internet
- If you are using an unsupported phone, you may call 121 for assistance. At the time of writing, you have to press “2” for English and follow the instructions. Listen for the keywords: Internet and Laptop. When you speak to the operator, try to speak in short sentences, and in proper English. Keeping out “lah”, “lor”, “har?” will be a good idea.
Accessing the Internet on your mobile phone
Accessing the Internet on your phone should be quite an easy task, taking for granted that most phones that support web browsing should also come with an in-built web browser. If not, we would recommend the Opera mini browser. Remember to check if your phone has Java installed. It might be useful to have it too.
- Your phone should be able to search for operator services. You will see “Airtel Live!”, “Airtel Live! MMS” and “Mobile Office”. Select Mobile Office to get online; if all else fails, select “Airtel Live!”. If you are using a 2.5G (EDGE) phone, you should see “Airtel Live! GPRS”. “Mobile Office” doesn’t seem to exist in EDGE phones.
Accessing the Internet on your laptop
We are not sure if there’s Nokia PC Suite for Mac, and we definitely do not have any other phones with us; and having said that, it’s best to get your phone software installed. Most phones and laptops should come with Bluetooth, although we are also aware that Infrared is becoming less common nowadays. You should be able to connect your phone via Bluetooth to your laptop. For Nokia PC Suite users, it is quite straight forward:
- Connect your Nokia phone to your laptop (either through USB cable, Infrared or Bluetooth)
- Open your Nokia PC Suite
- Click on the icon that says “Connect to the Internet”
- A “One-Touch Access” window should open
- Click on Settings
- Select the modem (in my case, it’s “Nokia E65 Bluetooth Modem")
- Click next and select the network operator from the list. “Airtel India” is there
- Confirm the settings
- Other information you need may include:
- PPP service provider: airtelgprs.com
- Username: guest
- Password: guest
- Primary DNS: 188.8.131.52
- Secondary DNS: 184.108.40.206
- Get connected =)
We tried the above settings with a Lenovo U110 and Nokia E65 over Bluetooth and to the best of our knowledge, this works quite well. Coverage is intermittent sometimes, but works well most of the time. We got downgraded to an EDGE connection usually, but if you have Google maps installed on your phone, it’s just wonderful. There is also no limit on data and access is over 24 hours. The validity of your card is probably for about 30 days, but you may wish to consider keeping it alive by purchasing top up cards. Auto-roaming if also available on all pre-paid cards and so you may consider using it back at your home country – although this will deplete all your credits almost immediately. =)
Just when we thought Day 2 was bad. Day 3 was… exhausting. I didn’t want to use any extreme terms because it has nothing to do with HICC, HGM nor India. I guess a combination of flight fatigue, long hours and running about contributed to it. Everything was like Day 2, except we were a little more adventurous today. We took the shuttle service out to the Hi-tex entrance where we tried to get a cab back to the hotel. Vijay of Katriya De Royal had kindly agreed to help us get the SIM cards under his name (if we were unable to get it under our names) and we were to go back to the hotel to find out how things go.
Now, when we were at Hi-tex, we had a lot of 3-wheelers coming to us and asking where we wanted to go. For some reason, they didn’t understand us and we showed them the hotel name card (always remember to get a hotel name card, and if possible, draw out the surrounding roads and buildings, hint: google maps) and they sort of figured out.
Then, they didn’t want to go by the meter and offered Rs. 200 for the trip back. We negotiated and got Rs. 150, which seemed reasonable if the trip was about 20km (it turned out to be shorter, but it’s alright) (update: it turned out that it should only cost us Rs. 80 for the trip back; sigh, we got radished again). Another group managed to get a proper cab and we realised later that it cost them Rs. 170. Well, perhaps that’s because of the aircon, but it was quite fun being driven on a 3-wheeler without doors and windows of any sort.
When we reached the hotel, they thought that we wanted to go to the airport and asked us to get back onto their cab. We tried explaining to them that we only wanted to return to the hotel but they insisted that we should get back onto their cab so that they can drive us up the slope to the airport buses. We passed them Rs. 150 but they returned Alice the money! Haha… we didn’t know what was happening but we needed to get out of there back to the hotel. Apparently, the hotel concierge helped us explain to them and we thought we saw the hotel chasing them away. So we asked the hotel what happened but they insisted nothing was wrong.
I hope we didn’t cause anyone any distress. =(
Anyway, we got our SIM cards under the name of Vijay (and he was on night shift) and someone else passed the cards to us. We were so grateful for us because it meant that we would be able to get online soon! Whoopie! So, we started worrying about how we can get back to the HICC without being chopped like the radish head.
We saw a normal cab (Tel: 43434343 to get a cab from Easy Cabs in Hyderabad, they do 1/2 day and 1 day chauffeur driven services to anywhere; 40km for 1/2 day and 80km for full day, additional Rs. 15/km and Rs. 100/hour extra if you exceed either the distance or time or both, and this is one of the cheapest we found on Day 4, rates start from Rs. 700 for 1/2 day and Rs. 1400 for 1 day) and was looking for the driver when we saw a whole group of 3-wheelers drivers coming our way. They wanted to charge us Rs. 300 for the trip back to the HICC, but considering that we paid Rs. 150 for the trip from Hi-tex back to the hotel, and that the distance from Hi-tex to HICC is really short, Rs. 300 is a radish price (henceforth used to represent an overprice). Thankfully, the taxi driver came back and agreed to run on meter for our trip back to HICC. The trip turned out to cost us about Rs. 220, about Rs. 80 cheaper (approximately S$2.60 cheaper).
Back at HICC, we followed Popagandhi’s guide to getting online for 20 rupees a day, which we found to be a little outdated. The instructions didn’t work out the way it should be, but here’s how you should go about getting your Internet activated:
- Instead of sending an SMS to “567” with the text “GPRS”, you should now send an SMS to “52121” with the text “Internet ON”. You will receive 3 SMSes informing you that your request is received, activated and valid.
- If you are using a 3G phone, you should select “Mobile Office” as the access point. The other 2 should be “Airtel Live!” and “Airtel Live! MMS”.
- The charge for 1 day of Internet access is now Rs. 15 and it runs for 24 hours exactly from the time of activation. I think you only need to activate it once. If not… just send the SMS again.
- How do you know if your request is activated: You will get an error: “Unable to connect” on your phone when you attempt to surf the Internet.
Following Popagandhi’s steps, we will be dedicating one post on it later. Many thanks to her for writing that guide, without which, we will be paying Rs. 1300/day for Internet access at HICC. That works out to be almost S$50. Ouch!
Dinner was at Taj Krishna Hotel and it was, again, buffet style. There were 2 sections – one for chairs, speakers and invitees and another for students. Now, Alice and myself and the entire organization representing all the countries are known as delegates, however, so are the students; and we got ushered to the open air free-for-all buffet area. Not that we mind it at all, but it was so crowded with all the tables occupied that we thought that the organizer of the event could have done a better job to ensure that there should at least be sufficient seats. Moreover, it was supposed to be a “banquet” but then again, it was most probably a cultural shock after all. The food turned out to be really good and I guess that’s what’s important at the end of the day.
Eventually, another delegate realised that we were supposed to be seated inside (so another question is – why the segregation from the students?) and we went in for an entire evening of Indian song and dance. Most of the important people seated in front were happily dancing away, but I guess the most of us were too tired to move. I didn’t have much appetite for dinner and Alice had just 1 plate of food (she usually takes about 5 to 10 plates). It’s probably the hormones telling the body that we need rest and lots and lots of sleep. =P
Oh, did I mention that we made a short recording of the dance? =) You might need to lower your speaker because we were seated right in front of the speakers with the loud music blasting away in our ears. Yes, the ears were still ringing went we left the place.
When we finally reached the hotel, I got to bed and just knocked out, while Alice continued playing with the DSLR and trying to figure out why her focusing were all out.