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Day Two in Hyderabad

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Today I was able to visit the office, which is in a special economic zone in Hi-Tech City.  To get into the area, you need to pass through three security checkpoints and show your ID.  If you tell them you’re going to Vignette none of the security guards will understand, it is pronounced VIGG-NET-EE by the locals (except of course for those who work at Vignette).  The office is really nicely done, bright with lots of colour and agile workspaces for the development teams.  I’ll try to take some pictures tomorrow.  We spent most of the day in product reviews and roadmap overviews, the former being incredibly valuable to me to see some of our product integrations coming together nicely and the latter being an excellent opportunity for conversation.

We went out for lunch and for dinner, both times oddly enough we had Indian food.  I’ve had paneer at every single sitting so far, which I’m not complaining about.  I’ve never meet a paneer I didn’t like!  At lunch I promised I’d follow up my tweet “Eating something, not quite sure what it is, for dessert. One is custard-looking, one green like coleslaw, the other an off-white square.”  And here it is…

For dinner we went to a restaurant which was a perfect opportunity for tasting different items, with several small servings of different Indian dishes.  All of the dishes were vegetarian, which reminds me of an interesting quirk I noted in the restaurants.  Unlike North American restaurants where everything is meat-a-licious except for the tiny vegetarian section of the menu, most menus I’ve seen here have a small “non-vegetarian” section.  My coworkers are still trying to convert me, and I keep trying to tell them how much wrapping vegetables in bacon enhances the flavour!  Dinner began with a pitcher and bowl to wash your hands, which was a unique experience. 

Dinner ended with Paan, which is a Betal leaf with some stuff mixed inside (I was assured that this particular one didn’t have any tobacco in it, which didn’t make any sense until I got back to the hotel and read this article.)  Anyways, it was absolutely disgusting and I wound up spitting it out (picture below of the part I didn’t eat).  Outside the restaurant, I took pictures of a vendor making Paan by cutting the leaves and mixing the ingredients into the leaf before folding it up like an ice cream cone.

 

Some other random items from today…  The first is one of many Fresh American Sweet Corn stands, which serves a product that is neither fresh nor found in America.

And the last item for the day is yet another billboard for cement.  I’ve counted a total of five cement companies vigorously fighting for mindshare in Hyderabad.  For the record I’m a big fan of Bharathi Cement, it’s three times better you know and has robotic quality control!

Tomorrow the other Canadians arrive, I look forward to see if their observations are similar to mine and if they’ll be as adventurous.  I seem to have found a kindred spirit in Kent, a Texan who seems to like the same type of food as me (ie authentic and somewhat spicy).  Sorry about the picture quality today, it was blackberry-only as I never seemed to have my camera with me.

Categories: Travel

Day One in Hyderabad

November 16, 2009 1 comment

After a long but surprisingly incident-free trip to India, I spent much of the day sleeping and recovering from jet lag.  However once I did drag myself out of bed, I went for a walk around the hotel and asked the front desk what they would recommend to see some of the local sites in the afternoon.  They suggested I rent a car, which here actually means car and driver, who can take me around to see the city.  And so I did!

Pretty much everything I know about visiting India comes from The Amazing Race, but I wasn’t sure if that would be a realistic impression of a major Indian city or not.  For example, if the Canadian stop on a reality show involved dogsledding I probably wouldn’t call that a truly Canadian experience.  What I can fairly confidently say having seen several seasons of Amazing Race and having actually experienced it myself, that yes it’s a pretty accurate depiction.

We drove downtown, and I was completely taken aback by the traffic.  Cars, mopeds, people, and in many cases animals were everywhere.  The car horn is a completely normal and expected part of driving.  Lines, signs, and traffic lights seem to be mere suggestions which everyone ignores.  It was madness.

My driver thought I might want to do some shopping to bring home some items for my family, which was nice but he missed the mark by a long shot.  First was a pearl shop, which while interesting is not something that Jodie’s particularly in to.  Next was a cashmere scarf shop, and finally a jewellery shop where apparently all the stars get their jewellery.  In all cases I was completely uncomfortable, which is not necessarily a bad thing when you’re experiencing a new culture, but the incredibly aggressive selling style of these places completely turned me off of buying anything.

I noticed people selling everything on the side of the road, including used tires, fruit, bricks.  Construction seems to be a big deal here, but not in the “big” way we’d normally see in North America.  Instead it seems like everyone’s a handyman, and you get your raw supplies from the guys on the side of the road.  Oddly enough, there were advertisements for cement everywhere!

He then took me to some of the local attractions.  One of the major stops was at the Seven Tombs, which if I’m to believe the tour guide (and I don’t) were built by the seven kings of Hyderabad for them to be buried in once they passed on.  Part of the tour guide’s sell seemed to be how many pictures he could take, so I have lots but here are a few of the better ones. Did I mention that I’m pretty sure I got completely hosed by the tour guide?  All part of the experience…

While we ran out of time to go through a “real” residential area we did pass by several little shanty-town type lots.  The poverty here is distressing, and there are people begging at every intersection.  Many keep animals, my driver (pictured above in the white suit) told me that in some cases they’re for food but also as work animals.

The area near the hotel is much more modern, with mostly American companies setting up large campuses in the newer areas of the city.  I’ll be heading into the Open Text / Vignette office tomorrow and look forward to meeting with the team.

Categories: Travel

And it looks like I’ll be enjoying yet another night in Chicago

August 18, 2006 Leave a comment

Well it’s midnight EDT and still no pilots.  I’ve been here before, and I know what happens next… the pilots show up and then get a call from the powers that be letting them know that they have no more legal flying time left in them.  Chaos ensues and I get very grumpy (oddly enough I’m still in a decent mood).  Luckily the hotel connected to the airport still has rooms, so I’ll be bunking it here in Chicago until my newly booked flight can get out tomorrow after lunch.
Of course my luggage is still in the belly of the plane, so I feel sorry for the poor soul who gets to sit beside me on the flight tomorrow.  Mmmm… day-old business clothes…

Categories: Front Page, Travel

Finally boarded the plane…

August 18, 2006 1 comment

… and the pilots have arrived at the airport.  Slight mixup though, our plane full of passengers ready to get home is in Chicago and the pilots are in Milwaukee.  Now this is fun!  There are rooms available at the Chicago Hilton, I’m thinking I should learn from my past mistakes and just book a room.  In case you’ve missed it in the past – never, ever travel with me or this will happen to you too.

Categories: Front Page, Travel

Has anyone ever left O’Hare ontime?

August 18, 2006 1 comment

Oh I just love connecting via O’Hare.  For this flight I “took one for the team” and flew BUF-ORD-MSP instead of a direct YYZ-MSP and saved the company $1000.  The warm and fuzzy feeling of saving money is going away right… about… now.
I should start keeping stats of my personal ontime performance flying through Chicago, officially the average last year was 75% ontime but I think my personal stats are closer to 50%.  The worst experience was when flying with a group of colleagues a couple of years ago when a Blizzard hit.  I had a Las Vegas vacation to start the next day, so I worked my a** off to get home in time to pick up the wife and make it to Vegas on-time.  I bounced across a couple of different flights and airlines eventually making it all the way to the runway before the pilots gave in to mother nature. 
Of course all of my colleagues, not caring so much about going to Vegas with their wives the next day, had already checked in to the Ohare Hilton and were sending me drunken heckles via Blackberry.
This one’s not so bad (yet).  It looks like a 1-hour delay but still, that’ll get me in to Buffalo at about 1:00am and there’s another 90 minute drive back to Toronto.  I might end up getting a hotel in Buffalo so I don’t doze off and plow into oncoming traffic on the drive home.
I remember when I was 22 travel was glamorous and exciting, oh how naive I was!

Categories: Front Page, Travel

Not a good week to be flying

August 10, 2006 1 comment

Wow, I’m glad that I’m not on the road this week.  The US, Canada, and Britain have just gone into critical alert status for the first time ever and air travel is just a mess.  Here in Canada, carry-ons with any sort of liquid or gel are not allowed on any flight to the UK or the US.  In Britain, Heathrow airport is effectively shut down (still running, but everything delayed, many flights canceled, and many flights just not going there any more).  In the US, lineups are growing as Continental, United, and American airlines appear to have been targeted.
It’s hard to complain in a situation like this, and I doubt that many people are (other than the passengers who are inherently belligerent) but it sure would be frustrating to be stuck in this.

Categories: Travel

Lakeside Beach State Park – Camping Review

August 8, 2006 Leave a comment

We just got back from Lakeside Beach State Park, and I felt somewhat that we were taking a leap of faith because I couldn’t find any reviews of the campground before we left.  So here is my contribution to the ether, a mini-review of Lakeside Beach State Park.

Location
Lake Ontario shoreline about 1 hour east of Niagara Falls.

The campground itself:
The camping area of the park is one of the better campgrounds I’ve stayed at.  The sites are nestled in the type of tall, mature forests that I really like with decent privacy and reliable 15amp electrical service.  If you, like me, want to make sure you’re staying in a wooded site I would recommend that you look at campground areas B, C, D, or F (sites near the main road are sunny though, beware).  The bathrooms were clean, or about as clean and well-kept as you can really expect from a campground, with free showers.  Each loop has a comfort station with two showers in the men and women’s bathroom (total of four showers for about 30 sites).  Water is available at four locations in the loop, and you can fill up on the way in if you have your own hose but cannot leave a permanent connection hooked up to the water.  As far as campgrounds go, this is the style that I generally love.

Activities:
Here is where Lakeside Beach fell down, I felt like we didn’t have much of anything to do with our young children.  You can’t swim in the lake, it’s a bit of a treacherous hike down the embankment for my three-year old to even get to the lake so we decided not to head down there to try out some fishing.  There are small parks with swings and a slide in each camping area, which my kids enjoyed.  But that’s about it.  Our paid camping permit allowed us access to Hamlin Beach State Park, which was about fifteen minutes east.  At Hamlin you can actually go swimming on a beach staffed with lifeguards, and the playground area for the kids was fantastic.  Also about  five minute drive from Lakeside is a little fishing town called Point Breeze, with a small grocery store and a bait shop.  We went fishing off of the dock in the marina there and caught two sunfish and a smallmouth bass (which Katlyn got a real kick out of).

Would I go back:
In a word, no.  If you’re looking for a nice place to stop over for the night then you might enjoy Lakeside’s above-average campground.  If however you’re looking for somewhere in the area to take the kids for a weekend I’d prefer Hamlin Beach State Park.  While I didn’t get a chance to drive around the campsites there, they did look to be in a nicely wooded area as well and I would expect the facilities to be of high quality as well. 

Categories: Travel