The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bangalore Experiences - Pre-Tournament

So much for an early night. We went to bed at 10.30 p.m., and by 1.30 a.m. I had had enough of the replacement alarm clock that Paul had got out as I was taking my clock with me. I could not sleep with its oh-so-regular electric ticking, and stumbled round to remove it to the bathroom. We already had the radio alarm clock set on my side of the bed.

Paul got up first to take the dogs out, and I got up 10 minutes later at 5.45. We left for the airport at 6.15. It took just over an hour so I had plenty of time. The flight to Heathrow was on time, and it only took me half an hour to get to T4 from T1. I had nearly 3 hours to kill before my flight to Bangalore. I spent some of that time browsing the book shops and finally decided on Iain Banks's debut novel 'The Wasp Factory', 'Song of Kali' by Dan Simmons and a non-Dalziel and Pascoe book by Reginald Hill.

I had a window seat on the flight and the seat next to me was empty so I managed to curl up and doze on and off for a large part of the flight. We got into Bangalore slightly ahead of schedule, but that didn't help me much as my bag was one of the last to come out.

I needed to change some money in order to get a taxi to the Bowring. This was when I found that the exchange wouldn't take Scottish notes. The only English note I had was a fiver and at the exchange rate given just over 400 rupees. The pre-paid taxi was asking for 500 rupees. I said that was too much - I didn't have 500 rupees so the car place said he would exchange a Scottish note.

I eventually got to the Bowring at just gone 6 a.m. but the taxi driver had taken me to the wrong entrance. Luckily there were a couple of staff there and one of them took my bags and me to the reception. It was then that I discovered that none of my 3 cards worked in their ancient looking card swiper. You are supposed to pay in advance. I said I didn't have enough cash so in the end they let me have my key and said to sort it out later. I got into my room at 6.30 a.m. and crashed out on the bed.

I changed and wandered back to reception at around 9.30. There was a different man there, and he also tried my cards to no avail. He said not to worry - pay later. I collected my breakfast voucher. I had been told by Gerry that I could get an omelette and coffee for breakfast.

There was a small queue in front of me of people collecting a plate and then various doughs and sauces being placed on it. I got to the front of the queue. All the serving dishes were covered so I could not see what was on offer. Before I knew it I had several things on my plate. No sign of eggs/omelette. I asked whether there were eggs but was not understood. I then tried 'omelette'. The man in charge understood and said he would bring me one. I sat down at the only empty table and tentatively tried what I had. It was too spicy for me. A young woman came and asked if she could sit at my table - no problem. She spoke a little English. Gradually more people from her family arrived - they were here for a wedding. She asked one of the waiters to get me a coffee. My omelette and coffee arrived and I spotted a table with toast so went and got some. I was hungrier than I thought, but soon discovered that my omelette was filled with chillis but with the aid of the toast I ate about half. The coffee was very sweet - I don't normally take sugar. I still felt a little woozy from the travelling so decided to go back to my cottage and have a nap.

My cottage consisted of a shower room/loo/wash hand basin, good size bedroom with 2 very solid single beds, wardrobe and bedside tables, sitting room with sofa/armchair and a fridge, and a balcony with a small table and chairs. The whole of the inside was tiled which was nice and cool. The bedroom and sitting room had fans which were sufficient, and I did not need to use the air-con in the bedroom.

I had just laid down when there was a knock at the door. A man had come to clean the cottage. I indicated for him to do so around me and crashed back out on of the beds...

I slept till around 3 pm, and then got up to go in search of a bank. There was one close by and I joined the queue for the ATM which was enclosed in its own little room. Once inside I put my card in but nothing happened. I tried again and some options came up. I guessed 'savings account' and waited. Nothing happened. I took my card out and then it asked my to enter my PIN. I quickly put my card back in and continued. I was allowed to take out 15000 rupees which I did. That would cover my accommodation costs.

I then wandered inside the bank to exchange my sterling. The bank was offering a much better rate than the airport - 85.4 against 81. I was ushered to a seat and a woman gave me a form to fill in, which I duly did. I handed over my Scottish notes which were looked at suspiciously. She then handed the form and notes to the man in the next booth. He told her they were okay and I was given a token. He then took me to another woman in a booth to exchange my token for the cash.

I had a little bit of an exploration. I bought some bottled water from a booth - I thought the man said 30 rupees so handed over said amount. He looked surprised and handed me back 17 rupees. Further up the road I invested in the equivalent of a pineapple smoothie - no ice - for the princely sum of 11 rupees. I was feeling tired again so wandered back to the Bowring. I had a cup of coffee (no sugar) where I had had breakfast and the waiter asked if I would like a cheese toastie. Bliss. I then went back to my cottage, read a little, did a little studying and slept...

The next morning I was prepared. I got my breakfast voucher, and asked for 'omelette - no chillis' and 'coffee - no sugar'.

Radhika phoned just after I got back to my rooms. She had arranged for me to be interviewed later in the morning and would then take me out for lunch. At around 11 I got a call to say to go to the pool for the interview. Radhika was a little late arriving but I was made welcome by the interviewer (a young woman), two of the local female players (the state champion and the wife of the president of the Bowring) and a photographer. Radhika arrived a few minutes later. She gave me a beautiful craft bookmark - an etching on two pieces of reed.

After the interview she took me to Koshy's which was nearby. This is an old establishment which serves both Indian and western food. I asked Radhika to enquire what Indian food was not too hot/spicy. I had a very mild chicken dish with a garlic naan and a mutton naan. She had fish and chips!

In the late afternoon I went exploring again. Radhika had pointed out a place for coffee just up from the restaurant so I checked it out with an iced-mocha (ice-cream rather than ice). Then I wandered up to the main road and shops. I was waylaid by a young man who said he wanted to practice his English and discuss Western culture with me... I told him I did not know much about western culture and was just walking about. He asked if I would mind if he walked with me. I did not feel threatened or intimidated so just shrugged. He showed me the park over the road. I then said I was tired and was going back to my hotel. He said goodbye and departed.

I continued my aimless wandering, fascinated by the traffic. It was beginning to get dark so I back-tracked to the main road to get my bearings. I bought some Indian sweets in another shop Radhika had pointed out to me on my way back to the Bowring - I was not very hungry after a large lunch so they would more than tide me over until the next day.

I got up a little later on Thursday morning. When I got my breakfast voucher I went to pay for my accommodation. I asked how much and was told just to pay 5000 rupees for now... The breakfast gang now asked me when I went in 'omelette no chillis, coffee no sugar' :)

I had a lazy day. I did some studying in the morning, then wandered along to a coffee shop for lunch. Radhika phoned to say she had arranged another interview with The Hindu newspaper for around 6 pm. I decided to try out the pool in the afternoon. I changed into my swimming costume under my skirt and blouse and headed for the pool. I asked the man for a towel. He did not speak much English and pointed me to around the corner. I wandered round but there was nothing there so I wandered back. Two more men were then sitting near the pool and asked if they could help. I said I needed a towel and they translated to the man for me. I was told I needed a voucher from reception. So off I went to reception only to be told I needed the other reception. I inquired where that was, and then went and got my voucher - around 50 rupees. Back to the pool with my voucher, and I was given a towel. There was a German lady already in the pool so I asked her about the water temperature. It was not heated so I decided the best thing was to just dive straight in. I did so when the man came running back along with a swimming cap...

I had a phone call nearer 6.30 pm from the journalist from The Hindu, Rakeesh, saying he was at reception. I wandered over, left a note for Gerry and Pakorn re the morning minibus pickup (they were arriving later that night), and then we chatted for about half an hour. Afterwards I decided to treat myself and went back to Koshy's for dinner. French onion soup, pork chops, tiramisu, one small beer and coffee with a good tip rounded up to 600 rupees.

I tried to get an early night - minibus pickup was going to be around 7.30 am the next morning to take us to the tourney venue. However, my room was next to one of the parking areas so it wasn't until around midnight that it quietened down and the lights outside went out...

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