Thursday, 1997-06-12                       Trip Report #5

There are a lot of people here, and most of them seem to be
standing around.  Every street, every corner, every store, everywhere.

Last night, I went to Food World, apparently the largest western-style
supermarket (on M G road = Mahatma Gandhi Road).  After getting past
the standers, and into the market, it looked like a double or triple
size 7-11 store.  The checkout booths had scanners, and people standing
around.  They took credit cards.

Speaking of credit cards, many credit card charge slips include a line
where you should spell out the amount (e.g.: ninety-four rupees),
in addition to the numeric total.

Some things never change ... the Chimney restaurant (Monday & Tuesday
lunch) won't take American Express.  Of course, my hosts had a corporate
AmEx card.  So far, two of the local restaurants give a small discount
to HP people, which is nice.

On previous mornings, I took a taxi from the hotel to get to HP,
by asking the bellman for a taxi (there are dozens parked in front
of the hotel).  But ... all of the taxis at the hotel are cars (the
50-ish looking cars), and you can't just get them on the meter ...
you have to have a fixed price trip, put on your hotel bill.  Jim Sartain
reports that this is a relatively new "innovation" at the hotel.

Last night, I looked at my hotel bill (easy to do ... pick up the phone
on the super-fax in the room, press a special button labeled "Folio
Printout", and hang up ... you then get a fax with your bill up to the
minute), and realized that the taxis were about 180 or so rupees (or
was that 100?)  I decided that I wasn't happy wasting Allegro's money,
so this morning I walked out of the hotel, and down the road about
30 yards.  Then, a three wheeler "auto" taxi pulled up, and agreed to
take me to HP for "meter + 5", which came out to 14 rupees.
An additional plus: it's faster than a regular taxi.  The autos can
zoom around more problems than the cars can.

OTOH, if we simply *must* drive down the really wrong side of the street,
I feel much safer in a car than in a flimsy 3-wheeler.  I don't think
I've been in an auto or a taxi yet that hasn't stalled at least once
during the trip.  Someone told me that besides being somewhat wet during
the rain, the autos often have problems with puddles of water
killing the engine.

I had been invited to a "meet the assistant manager" cocktail hour
at the hotel, so I went last night.  No manager.  But, free drinks
and appetizers, including a spicy chicken leg of some kind.

Note: Indian beer is stronger than U.S. beer.

After recovering a bit, I went to a dinner buffet at the hotel.
(The hotel seems to have 3 or 4 restaurants, but they're like cities
in the Bay Area ... sometimes you can't tell where the boundaries between
two of them are.)  The main courses were ok (no tandoori, about 7
veggie choices, and 5 non-veggie choices), but the desserts were very
good.  I had hot Gulab Jamun, and an excellent chocolate/coffee gateau
(British/Indian for "cake").  It was good enough that if they have it
again tonight, I'm going back!

I'm told that if someone here says they're a "non-veggie", then they
probably eat meat at least once a week.  I guess that makes
me a NON-veggie.

At the hotel, we're given a free newspaper each morning.  I'm getting
the "Asia Times", which is 80% newspaper, 15% scandal sheet, and
5% ? (my mind has blanked out, and I can't remember the name ...
a paper that would have *lead* stories like Elvis' clone impregnated
Space Alien).  The best story so far is a man in some city who
came in to the paper's office to report that "secret sex chemicals
have been added to the city's water supply, increasing the sex drive
of people."  It seems he could detect the presence of the "sex chemical"
because it "made his eyebrow heavy".  There wasn't a hint in the
article that they were humoring him.

Today's paper had two stories about Tiger Woods ... seems like you can
stay up on world events here!  Oh yes, and a story that Mary Decker
Slaney would run if allowed, and her competitors weren't sanctioned for it.

You'll be glad to know that Karnataka, the state that Bangalore is in,
won the most gold medals at the fourth National Games, held here in
Bangalore.  Oh yes, the local language is Kanada ... did someone say "eh"?

The paper has stories that you can read several times, understanding
every single word, and still have absolutely no idea what the story
is about.  At some university, people are in an uproar that some kind
of student paper disappeared and reappeared.  It *sounds* like an
exam paper, and the newspaper even printed the serial number of the
exam and the student's student number, and all sorts of minutiae ... 
but nothing about why this was at all important to anyone.

Today, someone at HP offered to give me a can of Coke ... so I followed
them to find the secret source.  All I found was a refrigerator at HP
with 2 cans of Coke in the *freezer*.  Luckily, they weren't frozen.

Later, someone here who hadn't seen the cans told me that you couldn't
get cans of Coke in Bangalore.  I decided not to show them the empties :)

I'm still looking for the source.  It gives me a purpose in life, to
have a quest like this.

I just heard that the team is having a picnic on Saturday, "by the river",
which turns out to be 90 kilometers away.  And ... I have to get to HP
by 7 AM for it!

At lunch today, we went to another restaurant with a name but no
externally posted clues about the cuisine.  It, too, turned out to
be a "Chinese" restaurant (all 3 we've gone to for lunch have been!),
but with about 60% Indian food, 40% Chinese food.  I had Chicken Tikka,
and Chicken  (a Tamil Nadu chicken with a green sauce).  Most
of the restaurants have had dim lighting ... maybe they're trying to 
tell me something?

Maybe tomorrow I'll talk someone into trying the Pizza Hut (which may
be the closest restaurant to the office).

In a few minutes, I'll leave HP and try to get an auto back to the hotel.


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