On the Way to Hyderabad

It's 10:25 A.M. I'm in my hotel room in Hyderabad India. It's the day before the start of the Sun Tech Days event here. I'm thinking about yesterday -- or was it two days ago, or three, or a day and a half? Crossing the International Date Line has had a interesting effect on my reckoning of time. In any event, I took the longest trip of my life in terms of distance traveled: Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A. to Hyderabad, India. Trips like this that cover almost half the planet can't be done in one direct air flight unless you're flying one of those super sleek spy planes. Rather, this is a multi-flight experience, with each leg of the journey having its own feel, its own story. I'd like to share with you some of that story, so here are some random thoughts abut the trip, one leg at a time.

Las Vegas to Los Angeles

  • Zoning in. It dawns on me as I board this flight that I'm starting the longest trip of my life, longer by more than 5 time zones than a trip my wife an I took to Australia in 1999. Hyderabad is a half hour off the hourly time zone scheme. Does that add to the time zone count? I wonder why there are some places in the world, like Hyderabad and the Northern Territories in Australia, that choose to be skewed a half hour off the rest of the world. Strange.
  • Full flight outta town. Why are so many people leaving Las Vegas on a Saturday night? Was there a terrible run of luck at the craps table? Did everyone lose their bankroll at the same time and now have to head back to the humdrum of real life? I get into a conversation with the fellow next to me. It seems that he's part of a large group on the plane from Sao Paolo Brazil and they attended a shoe convention in Vegas. Show's over. Now many of them are heading to Los Angeles before heading back home. I start thinking about the word shoe and how it also means the holder for decks of cards dealt in blackjack. Also the great jockey Willy Shoemaker was known as "The Shoe". With that thought in mind I feel the tires hit the ground at Los Angeles International Airport.

Los Angeles to Hong Kong

  • Crossing the Pacific. The pilot announces that our route will take us up the Pacfic coast to Alaska, then across to Siberia, then down the coast of Asia past Korea and China to Hong Kong. I'm sort of stunned that we're going to fly over Siberia and Korea. Thoughts of the Gulag, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Kim Il Jong zap through my brain. And I'm thinking that I want the pilot to get to Chinese territory as fast as possible. I certainly wouldn't have thought like that in the days of Mao. The geopolitical realities of the world have changed.
  • The woman across the aisle. The flight is scheduled to take 15 1/2 hours. I try to sleep but do so fitfully. So I turn on the overhead light, take out my notebook, and start writing some random thoughts, some of which you're now reading. A young woman in the next aisle asks if she can borrow some paper, and that leads to a long conversation. I find out that she's a graduate student in music at Redlands University. She tells me that she's also writing a novel and the novel is based in large part on cultural clashes she's experienced in her life. She's Chinese, born in Hong Kong. In fact, she's going home to visit her parents who still live in Hong Kong. Her husband is French. He's an anthropology professor at the University of Redlands. And they're raising their children in Southern California. We talk a lot about cultural differences in her family and mine. We also talk about music. I ask her if computer software plays a large part in the music curriculum. She says definitely yes. In fact, she says that she wished that some of the computer software for music was available when she was younger. She explained how many of the musicians at her school who deal with percussion instruments use a terrific program that allows them to simulate an entire spectrum of percussion instruments. They use a headset to hear the sound. If you had an instrument like that just think of all the arguments you would have avoided with your parents about playing loud music in the garage.

Hong Kong to Bangkok

  • Hong Kong airport, shhhhh. The Hong Kong airport is ultramodern and very quiet. It has the feel of a very new and very hushed hospital. Here's a photo.
  • The Olympics are coming. The airport is full of signs like this:
  • Looking out the mamoth glass windows of the airport (which you can't see in these photos) it looks a lot like San Francisco. Fog, mountanous islands in a large bay. An almost dreamlike setting.

Bangkok to Hyderabad

  • A sightseeing tour of Bangkok. I had a great time today. I had a long (almost 10 hour) layover in Bangkok and decided to put some of that time to use. So I decided to take a tour of the city. I was worried about how I was going to get into the city and even more worried that I wouldn't get back in time to catch my plane for the flight out. But everything turned out fine. Walking through the exit doors of the Bangkok airport, I'm accosted by hordes of taxi and limo drivers, each claiming to provide the best service for the cheapest prices. Some were way too aggressive for my taste. But one of them caught my attention -- I don't know why. He turned out to be a wise choice. For an agreed upon price of 2000 Baht (a Baht is worth about 3 U.S. cents), my driver "K" gave me a 4 hour tour of the city, showing me everything from the Golden Buddha, to the King's palace, to a snake farm run by the World Health Organization. In some cases he accompanied me in these places, explaining some of their contents, in other cases he waited patiently for me to do my own thing. We even shared two Singha beers. Here are just two of the many photos I took during the tour.
  • The photos might make Bangkok seem golden and serene, but the fact is it's a noisy, dirty, crumbling in parts, yet new in others, city. It's full of cars, scooters, motorcycles, three-wheeled pedestrain cabs called tuk tuks, and trucks of every state of brokendownness. Drivers appear to stop at red lights but apparently follow no other rules. It's a crazed city and exhiliarating at the same time.

Next stop Hyderabad

If Bangkok is crazed, Hyderabad is certifiably mad. But I'll wait to tell that story on another day.

See you all (at least virtually through this blog) at Sun Tech Days.

Ed Ort


Ed, I admire your ability to really immerse yourself in the travel experience and your articulate awareness of the world. Such a pleasure to read your travel notes!

Posted by christine dorffi on February 26, 2008 at 12:57 AM PST #

Great pictures! WOW is that actual GOLD? Liked your article.

Posted by Rita on February 27, 2008 at 10:24 PM PST #

Thanks Rita, Yes, I understand that it's pure gold.

Posted by EdO on February 28, 2008 at 09:54 AM PST #

I enjoyed your observations, travel'in man. I'd love to see more of your pic's and hear of your adventures. Was that a typo, your taxi tour guide working for three cents (2000 bhat)? You picked the right fellow and your escape to discover Bangkok was worth the risk of doing a running man to your flight.

Posted by Brett Cross on March 19, 2008 at 09:43 AM PDT #

Thanks Brett. Yup a Baht is worth about 3 cents (2000 baht=$60). BTW, an Indian rupee is worth about 2.5 cents.

Posted by EdO on March 19, 2008 at 10:24 AM PDT #

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