Ready To Strangle Someone

Well, I think we’ve about reached our all-time low in India these days. At least I have, but I think Ksenia is following suit at a life-threatening pace. Today we moved from the hotel back to our apartment. We are not sure yet whether that was a good idea, because the air in our apartment definitely has a certain aura of cancerous dust and disease about it. Then again, our almost three weeks in the Grand Hyatt cost us bloody $1200 just for food and laundry etc. alone. Not that the food had even been any good. In fact, we got pretty sick of their menu, really. Worse, their morning coffee was absolutely poisonous. When the waiter asked me the other morning whether I’d like some coffee, I just told him, “yes, I’d like some coffee, but your coffee is so atrocious that I’d rather decline”. I suppose it is a bit of sign of my current state of mind, because I don’t usually treat waiters like that.

Anyways, either our relocation guy is even more useless than I had thought, or maybe it’s the Grand Hyatt that’s to blame, but when it was time to check out of the hotel, nobody seemed to have any idea about the fact that my company will be paying for the room, while I pay for food and laundry, etc. A bit of name dropping and half an hour later they had sorted it out and presented my with my bill of fifty-two thousand Rupees. The price tag of Rs9000 a night didn’t even include their crappy breakfast. To top things off, the concierge made me sign my bill twice, because he wasn’t pleased with the way my signature looked like the first time around.

We stopped at Barista on our way home for some coffee and breakfast. How is it even possible that breakfast for two at Barista is 10% of what they charged us at the Grand Hyatt? Of course, at Barista they served us our coffee, but then they completely forgot about our food. Add to that the fact that some motorbike rider on crack drove into my car the other day, giving it a seriously nice big scratch. Oh, plus, every evening that I’d come back to the hotel from work, their security staff would stop every car, look underneath them, and peek into the trunk.

They didn’t actually really look into the trunk, but they did insist that I open it every single evening. Which, because it’s an HM Ambassador, meant that I’d have to switch off the engine, get out of the car, open the trunk, close the trunk, get back into the car, switch on the engine, and drive off. Why? Because I have yet to find a single person around here who is capable of closing, i.e. actually locking, the trunk. Granted, the locks don’t seem to be the strong points of my car – it regularly takes 10 minutes every time I get gas for the attendant to figure out how to properly lock the gas tank.

Anyways, so it wasn’t even 11am this morning and I was already fully in the mood to kill someone. Mumbai is bloody hot these days and the noise and dust and pollution just never stops. Coming back to our apartment didn’t exactly improve my mood. There was cement dust everywhere, there still is. It smells damp and poisonous. It took my an hour to clean my PC – obviously, my landlord’s brilliant construction crew had not even considered covering my PC. Our shoes they had managed to first cover in dust and then just throw onto the terrace. Last we spoke to our landlord he proudly announced that he had cleaned the apartment, whining about how much money he had spent, but of course wherever we touched, our hands got covered in dust. The furniture shows nice streaks of dust, because some genius had simply used a dirty wet cloth to smear the dirt around a bit. The couch now displays a cigarette burn, and a piece of wooden ceiling just in front of the terrace is now completely ruined and covered in cement.

So eventually we needed some food and we drove to this fairly decent vegetarian restaurant. Last time we were there they had valet parking. I always use valet parking, because there is zero regular parking to be found in Mumbai. Anyways, this time the guy in the restaurant tells me to just park over there, on the sidewalk. Ok, I park over there and some other guy comes running towards me and tells me to park over there, where there’s obviously not enough space for my car. So I go back to the restaurant guy and tell him what the story is, but he obviously doesn’t give a fuck, nor does he speak any English now. So I yell at him a bit and ask him why he doesn’t just tell me right away that he doesn’t have any valet parking. Then I get back into the car, trying to drive off and somehow manage to rip off some other car’s front license plate.

Of course, that car’s driver gets out, doesn’t speak a word of English either, but starts gesturing around. We are immediately surrounded by a dozen gawkers. I tell one of them that there’s nothing to fucking see here, why doesn’t he just move on? His very thoughtful reply was: “This is India. This is not your country.” So the driver can’t explain to me what he wants, or rather: how much he wants, but then this very important looking woman comes along, and she’s obviously the owner of the car. She has no idea what to do either, other than ordering her driver to write down my license plate number and than turning towards me and telling me all huffy and puffy that I should have seen her car. “Yes, I should have, but I didn’t.” – “Well, if you drive, you should look.” She quite clearly was the expert driver, which would explain why she needs to get driven around by her chauffeur, but I left it at that and drove off.

Our next stop was some other restaurant where the waiter insisted that he doesn’t have any cold bottled water, only mineral water that comes in a bottle that is cold. It’s one of those small language things. The food wasn’t bad, but unfortunately we were sitting outside, next to a main road, and one could just see and smell the dust and exhaust fumes settling onto our dishes. I haven’t had a cigarette in two weeks now, maybe that’s why I am in such a pissy mood these days, but clearly I am just about ready to strangle someone, or to get out of this shithole, because it’s giving me a serious headache these days. But I think we need to clean our apartment first.

Under Construction

Unfortunately, the wonderful effects of being lazy for 10 days in Thailand were pretty much wiped out the second we got back. Actually, before we even took off, Ksenia got sick as a dog with high fever. We arrived in Mumbai at 11pm, Ksenia looking like she was about to die, and the hot and stinking dust of Mumbai didn’t help matters either. But it got a lot worse: When we got home to our apartment, we realized that we had returned to a construction site. The landlord had started renovating our apartment to get rid of the mold, and of course our ten days in Thailand were by far not enough to get the job done.

We had pretty much expected that this would be a quick patch-up job, maybe some paint here and there. Instead, the landlord’s contractor had basically drilled open every single wall, presumably to waterproof them. Needless to say, the apartment looked like an unmitigated disaster zone. So we looked around a bit and then started driving around town in search of a hotel. At about 2am, after having been turned down by a number of hotels, Ksenia had enough and insisted that there’s no way the Grand Hyatt wouldn’t have a spare room for a woman on the verge of expiration. So we got a $210 room for the evening. Presumably, we were expected to be grateful.

We still don’t know why neither our landlord nor our relocation guy thought it necessary to let us know in advance that we’d be returning from Thailand to a construction site, nevermind arranging for a hotel in advance. In any event, we’ve been back from Thailand for two weeks today, and we are still in the hotel. The construction crew just finished waterproofing the walls; some time over the next two weeks they will re-paint the apartment. Ksenia was sick in bed for the first week; then it was my turn to have high fever and stay in bed.

In other words: Mumbai has been giving us a fucking headache recently; we could use some vacation again. Ah well…

Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

So, rather than trying to get some relaxing vacation done in India, we buggered off to Thailand. A quick four hour flight to Bangkok, then another hour flight to Koh Samui, and there we were, on a tiny little airport with conveyor belts under a bamboo roof. A little boat brought us to Koh Pha Ngan, where we switch to an even smaller boat, and finally we get to a little beach, a couple of nice huts, a small restaurant, Thai massages, steam baths, peace and quiet – exactly what the doctor ordered.

I took us a couple of days until the fact sunk in that Thailand ain’t India. While we cannot walk five meters in Mumbai without getting stared at, without getting harassed about something or other, Thais apparently couldn’t care less about their tourists – and that’s A Good Thing. Nobody trying to sell us anything, nobody yelling “Hello Foreigner!”, no retarded young boys running around all giggly, holding hands, or driving around in their Tata trucks with Bollywood music blasting out of the open windows. Instead, people are quiet, calm, reserved. The streets and shops are amazingly clean and organized. What little we saw of Bangkok from the air looked like a well-functioning modern city. No potholes, for a change. Roads actually have markings. Real cars instead of rickshaws.

In short, compared to Mumbai, Thailand was pure paradise. I didn’t even mind that I was sick as a dog for two days when we got there. A couple of days later, we were cruising around the island on a dirt bike, visiting a crazy Buddhist monk in his little temple, checked out some other beaches, and tried snorkeling. We gave up on snorkeling very quickly, because the water was full of slightly stinging fish eggs in jelly (or whatever it was), but who cares. The Thai massages were fantastic, the steam room was great, the restaurant food was not too bad, and the other guests were mostly bearable. We passed on a number of party events and instead slept forever and were generally obscenely lazy.