After my whirlwind two week vacation to my home town and country, I am now back to the Reality. This is an abbreviated travelogue of my trip.
My vacation started out with a Delta flight from Newark (EWR) to Paris (CDG). It was a code share flight between Delta and Air France and I've got to say the flights are slowly returning to "pre-9/11" luxuries. I got stainless steel fork & spoons and the flight was very pleasant. It was made even more pleasant by my co-passenger (I always end up chatting with my co-passenger/neighbor but rarely find some one engaging). My co-passenger -- a scientist and 50-ish looking lady -- was very enthusiastic throughout the flight. We had a quite lively discussion on various topics ranging from women in government to indian educational system.
Reached Paris after 10 hours and had to go through one of the world's worst transit system. Let me explain exactly what I went through. We landed in Terminal 2C and my connecting flight is at Terminal 2F. Simple enough, right? No! As soon as we got off the flight, we were put on a bus, the bus travelled for "15 minutes" (yes, 15 minutes) for a trip which I thought was meant to show the passengers around the tarmac and dropped us off in a "Transit Lounge". We had to go through security check and then board another bus, which took us again around the airport tarmac and back to Terminal 2F. The flight landed at 9.05 AM. By the time, I was in 2F, the time was 10.10 AM. They need some serious re-evaluation of their transit procedure.
From Paris it was a direct flight to Chennai (MAA) and I always wanted to say this. Why is it that all foreign airlines use their worst/oldest equipment on the flights landing in India? It was an aging Boeing 767-200. The flight wasn't that great but I managed to watch my way through a couple of movies and there I was in Chennai by midnight. Unfortunately our flight landed at the same time as two other flights (Thai & Lufthansa) and that means in Chennai airport, you cannot find a Baggage Cart. Three flights = no cart! Had to wait for a cart and get through to the customs and then found the hotel driver holding my name card. I stayed in Park Hotel Chennai just off of Gemini Flyover (for chennaiites). It's a new five star hotel and it was very nice although very expensive.
I spent three days in Chennai and boy the city has improved quite a bit. Lot of nostalgic moments: shopping at Spencers, eating in Saravanabhavan, going to Vadapalani temple, strolling through T.Nagar roadside shops, eating in Saravanabhavan (yes, I had food there twice), walking along Mount Road/Peters Road etc. I was in Chennai just after a week of monsoon rains which had quite a bad impact to the city roads. I saw the remnants of the rain and heard a lot of stories about how people went through it. On the third day evening, I took a flight to Madurai (IXM), my home town. It was another interesting experience. I met one of my university classmate in the flight whom I am meeting after 6 years. It was a short flight but we had fun catching up. Can you believe that there are two flights to Madurai from Chennai (one from Jet Airways and another from Deccan Airways) in the span of an hour and both the flights are full? Shows the amount of wealth this IT revolution has imparted on to indians.
I reached Madurai and it was nice home coming for me. I spent a lot of time in my house with my family. I ate lot of home cooked food by my mom. I visited my alma mater and gave a motivational speech for the freshers. It was well received. I also met with my professors and Alumni Association President to whom which I presented my idea for TAN (which would be unveiled sooner). I also bought a lot of clothes and gifts to bring back with me.
My return journey started quite uninterestingly from Madurai via a Jet Airways flight. My connecting flight to Paris from Chennai was atleast 5 hours away so I had to wait for my checkin. I dunno if you know. This is one of those "only-in-india" things. You have to wait for your flights' turn to checkin. Thats because there are only a limited number of checkin counters that are shared by various airlines. Since I was one of the first to checkin I got a free upgrade to Business class on one segment and an exit seat on another segment. Lucky me! The return flights were more pleasant as I had more interesting co-passengers -- one Eshwar from IBM Bangalore and another Abbey from Hughes Mumbai on a business trip. Had very lively chat with both of them during the flight.
The flight reached Newark earlier than the scheduled arrival and immigration and customs were just a breeze. Only after I reached, I learnt about the turmoil thats being going on here at my work place. That's a separate post for another time. But suffice to say that, i could not have come back at a worse time :)
All in all, my vacation has been very short, very hectic and was quite interesting in many aspects. Pictures and more information coming soon... Stay tuned.