Sunday, December 18, 2005

My First Overseas Travel (Travel Diary)

Start Date : 23rd Nov 2005
Retunrn Date : 05 Dec 2005
I was supposed to be in our main office in Bedford, Boston for the so called
"Hell Week". This being my first overseas journey by flight I was naturally
very excited. Managed to take one day leave and go early so that I can be there
in US for the Thanks-Giving Day.

23rd Nov 2005 (Wednesday) (IST)

Started from office at around 3.00 pm. My flight to Mumbai was scheduled for
5.20 PM. The previous night I was in the office itself as I had comitted myself
to complete my task. By the time I left my house in Yousufguda it was 4 PM and I
was worried that I would be late. Brother and his friend dropped me at the
airport and I was in time for check-in. It was a Jet Airways flight and was
decent enough. I landed in Mumbai at 6.30 PM. To my knowledge this was the first
time I was setting my feet in Mmbai. My connecting flight was scheduled for
1.30 AM the next day. I completed my immigration check and then went and rested
in the waiting lounge. The furniture was good in the sense that we could almost
relax to 120 degrees. The only way to kill time was by reading the book on
Sardar Patel that I had with me and that too was dry. Tried to sleep for some
time but couldn't.

24th Nov 2005 (Wednesday) (IST & Various other Timezones)
Boarded my flight to Amsterdam at 1.30 AM. It was a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
(famous for its ageing cabin crew, particularly the air-hostesses). Entering the
flight I realized how crammed up the seat for the economy class were. It was
2-5-2 arrangement and almost 9 rows had to satisfy themseleves with one big TV.
I got the middle column. Food was served 3-4 times during the flight. From here
started my tryst with tasteless and alien food. Had to eat only for getting
energy. It was around 9 and 1/2 hours of non-stop flight. One thing very
interesting was that the current position, altitude of the flight w.r.t the
world map was regularly show on the TV. Also the outside temperature, current
local time, current time at destination, speed of the flight and remaining
duration of the journey was also shown. It's quite difficult to sit in the same
seat for such a long time. It was around 6.00 AM in the morning by the time we
landed at the Schipol International Airport, Amsterdam. Itw as still dark and
cloudy there. A tremendously big airport with five terminals A,B,C,D,E and
almost every terminal having upto 50 slots. Its quite easy to get lost in the
airport if not for the direction-boards set up everywhere. I had 5 hours to kill
before I could catch my next flight. Quickly found out my departure terminal,
got myself freshened up and then set out for going around this huge airport.
Went around the airport sometime by walk and sometimes using the walkways (sort
of horizontal escalators). It was time to have breakfast. I had to convert my
dollars into Euros to have breakfast. Found a Mc'Donalds outlet there and had
burger there. It was difficult to walk any further and so went back to my
departure terminal and killed the rest of time there.
Boarded my fligth for Los Angeles at 11.30 AM. A Northwest flight. Came to
know that Northwest had bought KLM, but still they operated as independent
entities. This time it was the famous Boeing 740-400. I was amazed by its sheer
size. Further it had two levels of seating. The upper level was a smaller one
though (maybe some 15 rows). It could carry around 450 passengers and could
reach a speed of 980 kmph. Quite interesting. Was better than the KML in terms
of the seating and also the cabin crew. An Italian guy and an American lady were
my neighbouts this time. Did some chatting with them for some time. Chatting
with the Italians, I realized how bad the Italians were at English. Later in the
trip I had some more experiences supporting this statement and in fact I can
now generalize it to encompass the whole of Europe.
It was around 2 PM by the time I landed at the Los Angeles airport. Collected
my luggage, got through the customs and immigration check and was very happy
that I had completed my air travel and would soon meet Prakash and his brother.
I was totally unaware of the travails that were in the offing. At the airport I
thought I'll relax for sometime before I call up Prakash's brother. For the
first time I used dollars in their original form. Then when I opened up my bag
for the paper which had the contac noo.s of all the people I know in US, I was
surprised and later angry with myself for not able to find it. I had missed it
somewhere while I hurriedly packed my baggage in hyderabad. This mistake of mine
was to cost very dearly. I had no option other than calling my brother in India
and ask for Prakash's contact number. But to do that I had to buy the costly
20$ AT&T calling card. Only a little later did I realize that it would give me
only 6 minuste of talktime to India. I consumed 3 such calling cards and 3 hours
before I could get Prakash's contact number. But when I called him up he wasn't
lifting and I was disgusted. One good thing that I did was that I left a message
telling where I would be waiting. After some time, I thought I would use the
internet to get in contact with someone else in US. So I went to the
international airport. But at the kiosks I could only browse, but I wanted
Yahoo messenger. I saw somebody with a Laptop. I approached him for help but
naturally he declined. Thus dejected, I decided to go back to the Terminal where
I had landed. When U walked back, to my surprise the place seemed very
unfamiliar. Moved back and forth to find "my place", but was clueless. I thought
I was lost, then suddenly realized that I had taken an escalator and had come
to the upper level. So I descended to the lower level and bingo I found
"my place". While I was roaming back and forth, the security personnel grew
suspicious over me and started passing occasional stare at me. I started
pretending that I was normal. Luckily, then came my saviours: Prakash, his
brother and another friend of his. I took a deep sigh of relief as one of my
ordeals had come to an end. I narrated the whole of it to them and they told me
how stupid had I been by not keeping multiple copies of all the documents. I
also realized how much I had to pay ( 60$) for this stupid mistake of mine.
We headed for Prakash's Brother's (Vasu's) house in his car and I realized
the differences between India and US. The concept of freeways was amazing. Cars
were racing at around 80 miles per hour one after another with great discipline.
Temperatures are measured in Fahrenheit. so I had to recall the formula
C/5 = (F - 32)/9 quite frequently.

Stay in LA (Thanksgiving Shopping) (24th-25th Nov 2005)
I refreshed myself at Vasu's house. As the next day was the Thanksgiving day,
I wanted to purchase some electronic goods as they would be very cheap during
this sale. But little did I expect that there would be so much crows for these
deals. The amount of preparation by the people was totally unexpected. As there
were different stored (You have these chains of shopping stores), people would
meet the previous night and decide as to who would go to which store and buy
what items. this is what Vasu and his friends in US did too. As there would be
a huge demand for these goods, it was decided that we should start early in the
morning (4 AM) then next day and stand in the queue and grab the items that we
need. The next morning I went to one of the stores (SEARS probably). It was very
cold. Luckily I had brought enough clothing from India to protect myself from
the cold. When I went there near the store, to my astonishment the queue was
very long. Inicidentally all these people had come the previous night itself and
hadn been waiting in the beitter cold the whole night. This reminded me of Chiru
fans over here in Andhra Pradesh queuing up before the theatres for watching
their beloved star's movie on the day of the release.
Prakash bough me a Panasonice Lumix digital camera for 200$. Was a good deal.
There were many good deals but we could grab only a few.

Adventures in Sin City
After relaxing for sometime we started for Las Vegas in Vasu's car at around
5 PM. Sudhir, Teja & Dhol had already taken a room in Excaliber (one of the
hotels) and were waiting for us. It was 10 PM by the time we reached Vegas. Las
Vegas is located in the deserty state Nevada. After some communication found the
group and went into our toom in Excaliber. The room was supposed to be occupied
by only 2 people but we all managed to take shelte in the same room (we were
six of us in total). So everytime we had to go out or come in we had to go in
pairs so as to avoid the suspicion of the security guards. There were so many
hotels like Excaliber and the ground floor of all these hotels had casinos and
there were so many people testing their luck there.
After relaxing for some time in the hotel room we set out along the strip to
catch some of the shows. (Each hotel had some special show like the Bellagio
musical fountain, cirus-circus etc.)
We went to the tallest building in Vegas. (While in the lift we could feel the
gravity through our ears). On top of these building were some fun rides. As it
is the case with fun rides, only the first time is fun. Heard that there's an
amusement park chain named "Six Flags" in US which is very famous. But as the
winter had begun I didn't get a chance to visit. After this we dropped Prakash's
brother at the hotel room and went in search for the thing I had come to Vegas.
It was 3 AM in the night by the time we settled in our beds in the hotel room.
The next morning or rather noon (It was 1 PM by the team we were out of the
hotel) , we set out to quell our hunger. Amazing buffet lunch at an Indian
restaurant. Had been quite some days that I had Indian food. I will take the
taste of this restaurant to my grave. Roamed along the strip for some time.
Couldn't do much for the rest of the day. I did try my luck at the casinos.
Played the roulette and you know won 5$. I am a lucky guy. I had to leave to LA
as my flight was scheduled for 10 PM that night. Sudhir and Vasu dropped me at
the airport. I was just in time. There wasn't enough time so had to take the
baggage along with me into the cabin. So I removed the shaving blades and tongue
cleaner. I would soon realize how much this would cost me.
I landed at 8 PM in the LA airport to catch my flight to Boston which was
scheduled for 10 PM that night. I presented my ticket at the Northwest counter
and to my disappointment I was told that my flight was a US Airways one and
that it was scheduled for 12.30 PM the next afternoon. I checked up the ticket
and found that what she said was true. It was my mistake to not to have checked
up the ticket and blindly go by the itinerary sent by Gowri two days before I
left hyderabad. How I cursed myself for this mistake of mine. Had I been careful
I would have spent that night in Las Vegas with my friends. I had to do something
for the next 14 hours. I decided to go to the waiting place at the international
airport and sleep there. So I went there had dinner, and spent time till 12 AM
by reading the book I had with me. I could no longer stay awake, so tried
sleeping on the chair, but that was not possible. So had to sleep on the carpet
on the floor. Unfortunately the cold wouldn't let me sleep. Somehow managed till
5 AM and I no longer could stay laid down. So washed my face, had coffe and
breakfast and went to my departure terminal and waited there for my flight to
Boarded the flight to Boston, a US Airways one, supposed to be the cheapest
domestic airways. Had to even buy earphones and snacks/drinks on board. After
flying for 6 hours with a stopping at Pittsburgh I landed at Boston at around
10 PM. This completed my onward journey. Collected my luggage and took a cab
and landed at the Renaissance Bedford, a luxurious hotel in Bedford. This is
where I was to stay for the next 6 days.

1 comment:

Santhosh said...

This's been a nice travelogue
Keep Writing.