Saturday, February 24, 2007

View From my Hotel

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Monday, February 19, 2007

As Tense as all the trips ! Part II!

The flight to Dubai was spent pretty fact the moment the flight took of both of us slept of... I for one dint wake up untill the announcement came that we were abt to land in Dubai in a short while.. This got me all excited..Emirates airlines has this really good in house television where we can actually be privy to what can be observed at the cockpit..pretty neat i thought.. also there was another video channel which gives the flight directions... the topographical map etc.. A cool feature..especially for a first timer in emirates...I was trying to see if I can see the Ship like hotel (burj-al-something) from above but no such luk..not sure if there is any construction like that anyway....Dubai Airport had pretty neat construction... no pictures of the airport me to have actually checked in the camera :(...anyway although we were awestruck by the airport ... everything wasnt as could it be with the kind of luck that we were having...we had some problems while boarding the flight..coz amazingly a couple of indians and we had our passport being taken away for some stupid excuse like scanning (is it coincidental that only Indians were faced with this problem?...worth thinking abt)..anyway that incident apart we boarded the flight for moscow...there were a couple more indian students ( medical....pretty travelling to moscow along with us..really dint strike much of a conversation coz I wasnt feeling that alrite ( this is more of an understatement.... i had sharp pains shooting in my stomach periodically and i was struggling with this ailment throughout the trip) guess it was to do with predominant travelling in a sitting friend sampled a bit of the cuisine served in the flight and completely lost his apetite...a rude welcome to the world of bland uncooked/semicooked european food:)...I for one had food as the last thing on my mind...struggling with my stomach ache...We taxied into mocow at arnd 2:00 p.m. moscow time.. Temperature outside was announced as -16 degrees...This really had me all excited.. I had my jacket with me and the gloves...thought i was ready for battling the cold...all arnd me ppl were gearing up... for the battle with jackets et all...from the flight we there was an aero bridge connecting directly into the airport..The way open for barely abt 3 seconds...Just for three seconds we were exposed to the cold of -16 degrees... for the first time in my life...The experience completely knocked the wind out of us.. we actually could not speak for a minute..completely taken aback by the coldness..everywhere arnd it was ice... and even the runway was covered with ice..on hindsight a great job by the pilot to land smoothly in the runway..too numbed by the cold to evenr notice the skills displayed by the pilot..At the immigration, we faced our first hurdle..A commmunicating challenge..none on the officials knew english..and they asked some queries..we had no clue as to what they were asking.. Fortunately there was somebody from the client side waiting for us at the airport wo talked to the officials and clarified as to why we were in Russia braving the cold :)..Moscow airport was a bit of a letdown... Dubai airport set too high a standard :)... The client representative handed us the ticket for our Next Flight from Moscow to a lil known place called Ufa some 1200 kms from moscow.. In most countries that would be a formidable distance including India.. but not in Russia..where the trans siberian network takes eight looong days to complete its journey!!!.. We had to kill arnd five hours at moscow airport...Dint even think abt venturing out in the numbing cold...Killing time at the a bit of a bore...My friend was browsing thro our ticket.. and thats when we got a real rude shock.. the ticket was dated for the previous day.. most of the stuff (meaning all the literals) was in russian but thankfully the numbers were the same as english numbers... and clearly the date was for the previous day...another adminsitrative goof up...We wanted to confirm our fears... but then communicating in English is one of the biggest challenges.. we did find out a person at the informative desk who had a semblance of knowledge of english who confirmed our fears... The person also direct us to the counter of the airlines where we can try to get the date changed provided of course tickets were available for the day of travel..Luckily Tickets were available...After a bit of contemplation we bought the tickets 1033 roubles each... pretty decent price i guess for a distance of arnd 1200 kms.. at short notice..

The security check at moscow is pretty rugged process... We had to take out even our shoes and get it scanned...Boarding the flight to ufa in the cold would now be our next big challenge... We had to go out in the open and board a bus which would take us to the aero bridge this time arnd...This time though we were better prepared.. We had all our winter gear on us.. including thermals, monkey cap and gloves....The prepapration though barely seemed like anything...I mean it was as if we were stark naked in that cold.. Made me think that what was civilization doing in this extreme temperature... again we were way too shocked by the cold... and completely speechless...and to top it all since the airport did not have any buildings nearby it was actually a lil windy....Finally boarded the flight to Ufa.. By now you would have guessed how i spent time in the flight..yeah u guessed it right...completely knocked out.. dint even know when the flight took off... in fact when i woke up the flight was actually taxiing to a stop in a wilderness which i later came to know as Ufa at 2 o clock in the morning local time.. There was no runway and as far the eyes could see everywhere it was a thick blanket of snow..the pilot did quite an amazing job once again... We got out of the flight.. to a temperature of -2 degrees and more windy conditions...boy we were getting used to the conditions pretty fast :)...We boarded the bus and ater a few monutes the bus stopped at some gates...It seemed a lil strange coz i couldnt actually see any airport beyond the gate..we found out that the gate was exit out or the airport and we actually had to wait outside in the cold in open windy conditions till our baggage arrives..imagine our shock...Cold is an understatement to the feeling that was engulfing us during our wait.. for the baggage..Einstien Theory of relativity worked with perfection.. and it seemed like we had to wait till eternity till our baggage came along.. We were trying to keep ourselves warm by walking in cirles( quite an exercise given the fact there was thick feet of snow all arnd) and rubbing our hands and for the first time without cigarettes i was letting out smoke from my mouth like a chimney...Me and my friend were distinctly feeling the cold more than anyone else and this was partly because ppl there were used to it i guess.. and then partly because i guess our equipments for preparing us for the cold wasnt really that great as what is available locally, which is what everybody arnd was decked with.. Finally after the wait till eternity the baggage arrived...and we quickly grabbed ours..thankfuly our cab was waiting for us and we quickly got in.. back in the comforts of the heated car...Finally we reached our hotel and were just abt ready to hit the sack for some more and much needed sleep..this time in the proper posture...but then our day and the string of bad luck was not to end so soon :)... we reached the hotel and got to know though our resevrations were for the day but the check in time is usually 12 in the afternoon..the time in UFA was three o clock in the morning..The ppl at the reservation who thankfully knew english said that at present no rooms were empty and we would have to wait till 6 in the morning for the rooms to get empty... All we could was kill time at teh 24 hrs cafe at the hotel.. till then..Although we did have tea at the cafe...the caffeine content was not enuff.. and i again went into deep slumber in a sitting posture.. finally my friend awakened me at six in the morning and said the rooms were... immidiately we grabbed the keys and hit the sack for a much needed rest...

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Monday, February 12, 2007

As tense as all the trips! partI

The trip to Russia is gonna be one of my most memorable trips due to so many innumerable reasons not the least of which being that it is my first official tour... The takeoff of the trip was filled with so many uncertainities for starters.. Firstly we were supposed to leave on thursday early morning from chennai and we were in our office on wednesday morning in hyderabad still not sure whether we would actually make it. The reason being that the visa was supposed to be processed on wednesday at Chennai Consulate and obviously without which there would be no possibility ofthe trip..So the morning in offfice was spent on worrying whther the visa processing would come though and whether we would get confirmation on it before catching our flight to chennai at six in the evening...We got word on the visa only by around 1 in the afternoon from chennai and it was that among the three of us destined to make the trip one of our visa was rejected due to some administrative goof up..So myself and nvr were supposed to make the trip.. And now started the running arnd...first for collection of forex which seemed to take till eternity for approval and availability and boy was it a long drawn process coupled with problems with availability of cab to drop us at the airport in by the tim we left office it was 4 in the evening...came home and suddenly u find that the last minute packing necessities rarely ever gets over in a became quite a long drawn process given my lapses in memory.. and by the time was done with eveything and ready to take the cab the time on the clock read 4:50 p.m. The distance between my home and the airport with the least traffic would take arnd 20 mintes..and as luk would have it encountered heavy traffic on route..but not just that there some more bad news coming.. my friend to whom i entrusted the responsility of getting my jacket from his home to the airport..however my friend equally blessed with poor memory had but obviously forgotten u might be wondering whats the big deal with just a jacket being forgotten...however we are traveling to russia where the day time temperature is -16 degrees !!! I have lived all my life in te trpics and even my vacations have not been spent at any temp less than 10 u can imagine its gonna be quite an experience and on the way to airport i find out that the my friend who is just abt to reach the airport say that he has forgotten it ( I bought this damn thing just for the trip on the previous sunday for the specific purpose of battling the cold in russia).. anyway then we decide to call another friend to take it from my friends place and deliver it at the airport..while i am biting my nails trying to figure out whether i would reach the airport in time or the jacket or neither...finally i do make it to the airport..the time on the clock find out that i am the last guy to check in and the boarding announcement has just been made.. however my jacket is yet to arrive so I requested the guys at paramount to give me some more time to wait at the entrance to take my jacket...however the traffic as usual messes up things and the final announcement of boarding has just been made Ground flight attendant asked me when is my next connecting flight from chennai..which is thankfully after quite some time at arnd 3:30 in the morning the next day and this time luck was in my favour and paramount was flying one more time frm hyd to chennai on that evening at arnd 9:00p.m. The attendant promised to deliver the jacket through the next flight operated by with a quick exchange of phone nos and a lot of trust i boarded the flight to chennai..spent the entire flight duration abt hundred things whether my friend who is supposed to get the jacket will hand it over to the attendant trusting him and then further will the attendnt actually come good on his promise and will paramount cooperate for the delivery of the jacket on the next many complications..Landed at chennai collected my baggage and tried to talk to some authorities there and explain my problem...(In all these complications I had to basically rely on my friends phone as my phone did not have balance and could only be used for recieving purposes and that too due to roaming in chennai will not be possible)... As luck would have it my friends phone conked off due to low battery when we landed in chennai... anyway all though the authorities there seemed really busy promised that they would get in touch with me once the jacket arrives.. again a quick exchaneg of with more tense moments to come we waited at the airport for my jacket to arrive..In the meanwhile had my dinner and my friend got his phone working and we finally we had a communicating device (cant imagine a life without cell phones) luck would have it again the flight to chennai was delayed by half an hour and by the time it came to chennai at arnd 10:40...there was shift in duties at the airport and the paramount authorities to whom i talked to were no longer on duty.. so i got in touch with the person on duty at the airport who of course is completely unaware of the situation.. I called up the attendant at hyd and he reassured me that he had sent it by the next fight and i had to wait to see if it arrives at the conveyor belt as no one else seemd to have a clue....luckily it came through..there now at least i had my jacket ( means of survival in extreme cold). We trudged along to the international airport which thankfully was adjacent unlike in Mumbai..and guess what we find out that the flight is delayed by around one and a half hours.. we practically slept of at the airport after running arnd the whole day..The airlines guys( emirates) had arranged for snacks for everyone but we were in no mood to eat basically slept at the airport... finally began our trip to Moscow via Dubai...

More tense moments in Part II...contd

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