Tuesday, March 08, 2011

An Excellent Tour….

I am back from my Thailand tour. Contrary to what I thought, it came out to be an excellent trip and for this, a big thanks goes to two people, one my travel guy and second to Piya, a BIG travel guy whom I met at Thailand. I wanted to write parts of this tour while being there only but at the end of the day, I was just so tired that I couldn’t even get up to do so. I wanted to write about it as soon as I got back but thanks to fever and cold, I couldn’t do that too. But since the trip actually came out to be really nice, I wanted to write about it before I would forget the details, I thought I shall do it today so here it goes!

I always travel alone. There is never that I am with someone or someone is with me when I am on a business travel. This time also, it wasn’t going to be any different. But this changed all of a sudden when I got a call that my travel guy is also going to accompany me. He wanted to meet some of his Thai alliances there and also wanted to do some shopping, at least this is what he told me on the phone in the starting. Later, when we were in the plane, he told me that he wanted to come along because he had  a feeling that my last overseas trip didn’t go so well and I am really upset. He said he won’t ask anything but he wanted to ensure that I can get some smiles in this trip. What more I can say than this it was so touching to hear it. How ironic it is that even being a business associate, he thought so much about me but for those, whom I actually went to some place so far, it didn’t matter at all ! In fact, I just got the tears and cries in return and they couldn’t even wait for me to get back to start giving me punishments for this with saying that this is something which is just I wanted to do myself! Anyways, so that’s the reason that this time, I got a company while doing the traveling.

The flight was  in the morning at 4am. If you know me(and if you don’t, you must know and remember this) than you must be aware about this fact that I never get late. I shall be at the place right on the time, doesn’t matter what happens. And I HATE those people who get late and then come and give excuses for being so. You want to mess up a meeting with me, just be late and congratulations, you have already done a good job to spoil my mood. And this applies to all, no one is exempted from this. The same happened this time too. I was at the airport right at about 12:30am, the time which me and the travel guy decided for meeting outside the departure gate. But there was no sign of him anywhere. I called him but he didn’t pick up. It was really cold outside and he specially asked me not to go inside without him. Well, it’s okay , I can wait outside but I must know for how long right and that’s why I called him. Well, he called me back after some 10 minutes and told that he would be there “soon” . And that “soon” happened after almost an hour and a half. Yes right, he reached by 2am and guess on whom, the blame went to? Yep, the traffic! I hate it if you ask me. I always tell the same to the delegates too, tell me something else, like you got kidnapped, your car got stolen, something interesting and other than traffic. But that’s the same that I get to hear all the time and it leaves me wondering all the time that how come I don’t see that “traffic” and get late myself? Never mind. So finally we met and entered in the departure hall. Be it whatever time, Delhi airport is always packed with lots of people and if you don’t know yet, the Delhi international airport is world’s 8th largest airport. So seeing it busy is just a normal thing. We were flying through the Cathay Pacific airline (one of my favorites). After getting free from the check-in it was time to go for immigration. Normally, I never have to spend more than 5 minutes there but this time, it was different. Not because there was any trouble but because after the immigration officer read my departure form, started asking me about my work( I mentioned IT Consultant) . He told me that his daughter has done her masters in the same so I should guide him that what she should do? Ironic isn’t it because I myself don’ know what to do :) . Still, I did try to give him some advice based on whatever I have learned with my experience so far in this industry and I just hope that it would help his daughter in some way. After noting down my number and email, he wished me good luck and let me go :) . In all this while, my travel guy was scared like hell thinking that what’s wrong :) . I told him already, don’t be scared because I don’t get scared from any of such things but he still got scared so much. He asked me what happened and to answer it, I just said nothing with a ;-) . We were done from all the formalities and it was just an hour left for the departure. We were hungry but there wasn’t any time to eat because any moment there could be announcement of the flight. So I just bought a cup of coffee and guess what, as soon as I got it, the boarding was announced. Finally, after doing a long walk, we were at the gate and boarded the flight which was jam packed. We were all set to go to Thailand, country where I went for the very first time when I left home for the very first for my very first air travel. Thailand, here I come for the 3rd time to you.

The flight time was about four hours and most of which, I spent in sleep. When we reached the airport and got done from all the formalities, my travel guy told me that a person with the name Piya is coming to pick us up from the airport. We were waiting outside the airport but there was no one there. Suddenly a guy approached us with a name plate which had our names mentioned and asked our names. Guess what, both of us have the same name, yep , Aman only :) . He told us that Piya couldn’t come to the airport and he will meet us in the hotel. He called Piya and made us talk to him as well. No problem, we said and we sat in the car to move towards our hotel. The hotel where we were about to stay, was Centre Point which comes under the premier range of hotels in Thailand. Me and the travel guy were going to stay in a service apartment within the hotel. When we reached, Piya was already waiting for us. A tall, very BIG but extremely knowledgeable and funny guy he is. The travel guy and he started talking over about the business of travel and other such things. By the time, his associate, Rat(yep that was her name) also arrived and joined us. It was about an hour since we were talking. In between, my travel guy asked me that what’s the plan I have in mind for today since we reached at the hotel by 12pm. I said that  I would study for some time and then probably will catch some sleep. He suggested that we can go out to see some places like gem factory of Bangkok and Nana station. I had seen gem factory before but still, at that time, I was alone so I said, sure no problem, we can do it. In the meanwhile, Piya asked me the same question and I gave him the same answer. Rat told us that she has to meet some client of Piya at Pattaya so if we are okay, we all can accompany her. I am sure anyone who has heard about Thailand, must have heard about Pattaya as well because it is famous for its night life. I had never been there before despite traveling to Thailand twice before. But there was a small trouble that I had to go to work the next morning. But Piya and Rat assured me that they would bring me back on time so that I can get some sleep, hearing which I said yes. We quickly got ready and started a travel for almost 2 hours in Piya’s car.

Pattaya, as I said, is famous for its night life, its walking street, its beaches, massage parlors (which offer you much more than just massage) , it’s Alcazar show of lady boys and definitely, shopping. We reached there quite early so we had enough time to explore the places, hotels and eating places. Since I had Piya, Rat and my travel guy, I got a free pass with them to check out all the most costly and big eating places and hotels for free and at everywhere, we were treated like VIP guests. I must say, anyone who thinks that they can get a better deal of hotels and eating places either from their own or from their travel agents are not aware that what is actually available and this includes me also. I wasn’t aware about so many hotels, their actual ratings and who offers actually what had I not got a chance to roam around with these three travel experts. Once done from exploring these places, we did a walk on the beach road, checked the Central Festival mall. I took couple of pictures from my iPod. It was about night time so my travel guy suggested me to come along with him to the walking street. What more I can say than this that whatever people say, if its not 100% true, its still very much correct about the walking street. The places indeed offers tons of things to those who have interest in such things. When you are walking there, on every second step, you would be approached by the brokers who would offer to take you to “live shows” , “boom boom” and what not! And if you are not interested in spending money, you can have a good look at many things happening just while walking across the street. My travel guy wanted me to see some of the  most “happening” places where he has a special entry because being a big travel industry businessman but I said may be some other time because it was getting late and I didn’t come to Thailand on vacation but for work and back of mind, it was striking that I have to go tomorrow to office for a tough module and make sure that it goes fine. We did sit for some time on the beach. I was just lost in thoughts while the travel guy was busy checking out the gals over there who were “professionals” . One did come to me as well and asked “why no smile” to which I just smiled. My travel guy seemed to be willing to spend the night there in some 5-star hotel but I had my office the next day so he had no other choice but to get back to Bangkok.  So after spending some 6 hours at Pattaya, we finally moved back towards Bangkok. It was already quite late when we reached the hotel. But I decided to study for some time and slept quite late. I always have butter flies in my stomach before I have to start a new session and this time also, it was the same. With a hope that all would be fine, I slept off.

I was supposed to handle a very tough module this time. And since my hotel was a little far from my work place, I decided to move very early to the office. My office was at Crowne Plaza. Though it wasn’t very far but still, I had a real tough time to tell to the cab drivers( which change every day) that where I want to go. I had to call my local coordinator for two consecutive days to explain the cab drivers about it. Anyways, I had two delegates in my class who were not from Thailand but came there especially for this training session. I must say, both were very friendly, cooperative and intelligent. We had a great time on all the three days discussing Oracle, Linux and non-technical things. They kindly offered me to come along with them for lunch and also bought it for me. It was a very nice time that I spend with them and I hope they also were not disappointed meeting me and having me as an instructor for them.  We captured a picture of us together which you can see in the album. It was a great time that I spent with them and I shall be looking forward to meet them both at some other program and hopefully, at their own location very soon.

On the first day, when I came back from the session, the travel guy told me that he wants to buy a laptop and since I am supposed to know about it all when it comes to computers and IT, he wants me to come along with him. I was so tired but still I said yes. He said that he had already looked around at couple of places and he knows the shop where we would get one. He wanted to buy one from Apple and he said that there is a store at Siam Paragon. Well, I had  no idea so I just said that take me there and we shall see. He said that he has already checked at Pantip Plaza and those guys don’t have it. Never mind, I said to him and we went towards the mall. Our hotel was just in front of this mall(Pantip) and besides it, there is Platinum Fashion mall which is a wholesale mall. Now, I left for office at about 7am (and I did the same for all the subsequent days as well) because the traffic in that place, being the business hub, is really worse in the morning and evening peak hours and I was really so much tired and hungry as well since I didn’t have anything because I was fasting. So I had no mood to go anywhere, not even for this laptop purchase too. But since he urged so much so I said okay. On our way to the mall, since we were walking, the travel guy suggested that we should have a look at the Platinum mall as well. Now, that mall has some 2000+ shops within it and its a nightmare to walk into when its in full swing. I said no but he was very much inclined to have a look because he wanted to buy something for his wife. Okay, I said and we went inside it too. After roaming there for almost an hour, finally we started walking towards the Siam Paragon and guess what, he forgot the way towards it and later, that where is the shop? Despite asking to several people, who suggested where it is, he kept on telling me that all are wrong and made walk, climb stair, escalators so much. Finally, thanks to that gal at the information counter, we did find the store. After spending so much time there, asking about the models and all, we finally selected a laptop. After getting free from all the formalities about it, the travel guy asked me to come along to have a look at the mall. My feet were already having so much of pain and I had no mood to do anymore walk since I had to come back and study as well. So I said, we shall just move out and while going towards exit, we shall look whatever will be on our way. I am sure it must have pist him off but if I am struck at a point, that’s it! Its not possible to make me deviate from it. So he had no other choice but to agree with me. The store was also about to close and they were asking us to go out since they had to close. I must say, in Thailand or may be at Bangkok, people are somewhat crazy about Apple. Almost all who I saw, they had iphone with them. I saw the sale of ipad happening like hot cake in the apple store and people were still keep on coming to ask about it even when the store was about to close. Well, not really sure the reason but I was surprised for sure. Finally, we took a tuktuk (which was driven like a jet) and made us get to our hotel. I studied for a while and finally, slept off. I was told by the travel guy that in-house buffet from the hotel is really good and I must check it and that’s why my plan was for the next morning.

Next day( day 2) like the previous day, my morning started quite early as I had to leave by 7am.  So after getting ready,  quickly check the buffet, had some fruit and tea and left. I had asked me hotel to call a cab for me and also told them to describe the office location to the cab driver as well. Now, I dont know what they did tell him but he couldn’t find my office. The previous day also, same thing happened and I had to call my local coordinator to tell the cab driver where he has to go. Its fun to interact when the language is totally not known to you but it’s a nightmare when you are time bound and must reach somewhere on time and must reach before others so that you can actually tell them that they are late :) . Somehow, even after making the cab driver( he was not the same from the previous day) to talk to my coordinator again, he still couldn’t find the address. He kept on driving to some other side and I was so sure that he has taken a wrong move. Then I asked him to stop nearby a traffic cop who I think, scolded him for being so off track and told him the way. Finally, I reached my office after some 50minutes which otherwise wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes but still, I was not late :) . It was just 8am and there was still one hour before I had to start the class. The guys got late actually since they forgot to put the alarm(I think thats what they told me) so we started at about 10am. But it was all good still. We all went for a lunch and as I said before, they kindly bought it for me as well. Piece of advice of those who don’t drink and don’t eat non-veg , its a tough thing to find food for you when you are traveling to places like Thailand and so. So be very careful when you order something and if you don’t want even fish oil to be used for cooking  like me, ask for “zen food” or “budha food” which is going to be absolutely pure vegetarian. Anyway, on lunch, we all did a great deal of talk. One of the delegates is going to get married soon and another one was already married and it was a love marriage. So we were talking about all the things related to it. The crust of that talk comes out to be the same as like always, it depends on both to make a love marriage happen. If one is thinking about both and another is thinking about herself only, there is only thing can happen and that is that the other stupid person would end up in tears. The other person, who is thinking about herself only would not have any troubles because she never had any plans to do anything like that. And then the talks deviated to the after effects of marriage, something with which I dont have any hands-on experience with me and I doubt that I shall have one as well but still it was great fun.

After a long and tiring day, it was time for me to get back to hotel. When I reached in my room, I found that there was no one there and was I happy? You can’t even imagine how much because I was so tired and wanted to take a nap before to start doing my work. But did it ever happen that someone ever think Aman is also a human being? Let me tell you the answer, NO! All of a sudden, the travel guy called me over my phone and said that he wants to buy one more (mini) laptop and also, some slippers for her wife and the market from where he wants to get them, is just besides the hotel. So if I can manage to spend few minutes, he can check for some good pairs. Oh gosh, kill me ,I said in my heart. Since he already had mentioned that its near the hotel, I had no excuse with me. So most unwillingly but I said okay we shall go. He took me to Pantip Plaza which was actually in front of our hotel but its a massive mall having so many shops having tons of stuff related to IT. After running from shop to shop, we finally settled on one shop and selected a model from ASUS. After that it was time to dive deep into streets where SO MANY shops were there for god knows what not! But despite being the road-side shops, they were having very good stuff I must say. I did buy couple of pairs for my sister Gunjan and he bought many for his wife, his sister-in-law, his mother and did a great deal of bargaining as well. I was getting so tired and also was so hungry and it was getting late, so asked him that what about dinner, to which he took me to a nearby Indian restaurant where we met again Piya and Rat(na) . Though the food wasn’t so good but it wasn’t so bad either or may be it did taste okay because I was so hungry. It was late so we had to start back for the hotel now which wasn’t very far but since I was so tired, at least to me, it appeared like very far. And on top of all, I still had to study and wake up early again next morning for the session. Sigh, wish life could be a little simple some times.

Next morning, after again having the same kind of breakfast of fruits, juice and black coffee, I took the cab but this time, I knew already where I had to stop and start walking towards my office rather than waiting for the cab driver to drop me. And that’s exactly what I did. We were having very less number of chapters to be covered on that day and we finished them all before lunch itself. After lunch, which was again at Pizza Hut with the same veg pizza for me, me and delegates came back to the office. The delegates had to finish some post-class formalities and very kindly, they asked me to take a pic with them( see it in the link at the end of the post). As I said before as well, they were really great, friendly and nice and it was my absolute pleasure that I could discuss with them a little bit of what I know about Oracle and Linux in these last three days. We took the picture(actually asked the security guy to take it for us) and finished the class with a very happy note. They wanted to check out the Pantip plaza and the Platinum fashion mall which happened to be on my way to the hotel only so we all shared the cab and after leaving them to Pantip plaza, I finally said goodbye to them with a promise that I shall try to meet them soon in some another program and hopefully, in their own place. Since it was the last day, I was a bit relaxed because I didn’t have to wake up early the next morning. I thought I shall catch some sleep in the night but the travel guy, Piya had something else planned for me and I am just glad that they did plan it. No, not a nude Russian girl strip or live sex show but a show which I am almost certain that not many, who visit Thailand have seen, a show which is a Guinness world record holder, a must to watch show which really explains what it means by a reality show, a show that’s called Siam Niramit. I can imagine why not many must have visited it because one, not many know about it, two, travel agents don’t tell you about it(see one for why), third, its a little off side, fourth and this may be the biggest reason, its REALLY costly.  But despite of all these reasons and whatever other reasons anyone would bring forth, its a must to watch show and I must say, I was really happy to see it. All thanks to Piya to tell us about it and take us there as well. We met there the sales executive of Siam Niramit, Beer( yes, that’s her name actually) who took me around all over the place, which is built to display the old time Thailand, explained every piece of it with so much detail, gave us a pack full of literature related to it and made the entire journey a memory of life time. The show lasts for 80 minutes but you never know where the time has gone. Unfortunately. no camera, either still or video, is allowed inside the room so I don’t really have anything with me to show how spectacular the show was but later when I searched, on You Tube, there are couple of snippets of the show available which you can watch. To be honest, they really are very sloppy in their quality but something is better than nothing.

After the show, there was buffet dinner which was arranged by the Siam people but we didn’t take it(I was willing but not the travel guy and Piya) . So Piya drove us back to our hotel and on the way back to our hotel, we stopped at couple of other 5-star and 7-star hotels (like Grand Hyatt )which he wanted us to see. He also took us to the Nana station to show us that how its totally different in the night. It wasn’t much of the activity happening there at that time but whatever was there, it was enough to tell what would be happening in the late night times. I didn’t notice at that time but later I found out that the travel guy of mine was really excited to see it and that’s why after when we reached back hotel and had dinner, he made me walk through the entire street(yes, there is a street there as well) not once but couple of times. I had to say to him that people would now beat us because we are not doing anything here except walking back and forth on the same road and I don’t think that its a really good idea especially on a road like this. Well, he did understand it I guess so we came back to our hotel right after I said it. Anyway, one another thing which Piya did show us was a statue of Budha which is also known as Fate Budha, something according to Piya, is a very holy place and people from around the world, come to see it. I never knew about it and as soon as I came to know about it, I made it sure in my mind that before leaving the place, which was next morning, I must see it (and I did) . Unfortunately, I am not sure that what it’s really called so can’t put a link to it but I have taken couple of pictures of it and have also captured a small video of the place. After coming back from Nana station, it was nothing else which I had in my mind except to sleep and so did I do. I slept off and woke up so late next morning and was going to experience something for the first time. No, not the “massage” :-) .

I have been traveling from a long time and fortunately, I always stay in very good hotels and apartments. But I really don’t take much care about it to be honest. All what I do after my office is that I shall be back, check my mails, check Oracle forums, do study , if hungry and mood is fine(that’s more important even than being hungry) , have dinner and sleep. There is nothing much that I do since I am not on a vacation actually. But people like my travel guy, who only travel for vacation, they look at things in a complete different manner. For them, its all just fun and they want to enjoy it to the fullest. Its not that I dont like fun but I keep it for the time when I am not working and that never happens actually that I stay at a 5-star hotel on a day when I am not working. This time, it was an exception because one, I was not alone, second, I was not traveling right on that night when I was finishing my work. So for me and just me only, my travel guy booked the sauna bath and jacuzzi. I didn’t take a sauna bath before though I had experienced jacuzzi before. It was a great experience with sauna bath. After this, me and travel guy had our break fast and to make me tired I guess, he again took me to the same wholesale shop market, this time to buy some slacks for his wife( I hope I spelled it correctly, if not, its something which girls wear with a long shirt on legs) . I was tired roaming at that place where there were just women and women. Finally, he bought 5 of them, two more pair of sandals for his wife and we came back to hotel where a cab was waiting for us already. Thanks to his enormous shopping, we had a great deal of luggage to take with us and still, he wasn’t done because he wanted to buy wine. Suit yourself, I said to him and we left the hotel and started towards airport. It was going to be a not-so-long flight but I was feeling tired. Finally, we did get to the airport, finished the check-in formalities and started waiting for the flight. It was on time and fortunately, the pilot landed it some 30 minutes before the scheduled time. There was some friend of the travel guy who was supposed to come and pick us up from the airport. He came but after a long time since he couldn’t find his way to the airport. Well, couldn’t complain because he was going to drop me to my home( which didn’t happen and I think its better it didnt happen because I probably would be dead if he had drove me back to my home) .

The plan was that the travel guy’s friend would drop him first and then would drop me to my home since he was coming to my city only for a short stay. But he got so tired that he said he can’t drive anymore( it was already 3am in the night BTW) . So I decided to take a bus back to home. It was all fine un till the road was filled with so much of thick fog. I guess, it did rain the other day and it was because of it. Well, you can imagine how thick the fog was that the bus driver hit the bus twice with another vehicles and about 4-5 times, he lost the track and drove it completely off track, creating every possibility to turn it over after hitting some tree  or something like that. Well, it didn’t happen and finally, I was able to reach home in one piece. I was again going to travel to here, Banglore, after two days so it was time for me to take some rest( which didn’t happen though) .

It was a great trip and I must say thanks to my travel despite that he made me so tired and wasted a lot of time of mine that he took me all the places only for one reason and that was to cheer me up. I really and truly appreciate it because at least he understood this that  when someone travels so far, its important to treat him with some respect and not like this that he has done some crime by doing so. This was one of my best overseas trips so far.

Here is the link to the Picasa web album of the pictures that I took. If you think that they are repeated and/or are not of good quality, well just remember that I am an IT guy not a photographer and didnt have any good camera with me either. I took these pics all with my ipod and my phone. And here are the two short videos that I shot, again from my ipod, one of the Muai Thai fight round and second , of the holy Budha,



I guess it has come up a really big post and given the fact that I am absolutely not feeling well, I think I should try to sleep now.


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