Well, finally I am updating with something more substantial than a Friday Five… not that F5 is insubstantial, of course, but…
Anyway, for those who are wondering, I’m here in Gurgaon (near Delhi) at Ritu’s house. I’m well and happy to wish a Merry Christmas to all those who happen to read this sometime in the next few days.
Now… for those of you wondering what has happened during my trip so far…
The trip started out a little stupidly… I assumed that the bus ride to Incheon wouldn’t be as long as it was, and that all the times on the schedule were real bus departure times. I missed the 3pm bus by about ten minutes, and that’s what made me miss my flight to Bangkok. I was on the bus, trying to get the situation sorted over my cell phone, and when it became apparent that I was going to miss my flight, I was not quite in a state to care because the bus was so cold I was in a state of freezing, and felt ill.
So at the Incheon Airport, I got my flight to Bangkok changed, checked my mail, got something to eat, and then took a bus into Incheon city proper. On the bus, a young man struck up a conversation (in Korean) with me, and finally offered to help me find a PC Room and a cheap room to sleep in. The guy literally led me all around the neighborhood because he didn’t actually know where such a cheap hotel was. I had a fair bit of money on me in American dollars, but only about 30,000 won on me in Korean funds. Luckily, after going to a PC Room and getting Ritu’s number into my cell phone to call her as well as a few abortive attempts to call her house phone), I went in search of a room with the guy.
Luckily, I insisted we go into a small hotel and the rooms there only cost 20,000 won, the cheapest I’ve ever seen in Korea. The room sucked, but in fact I’ve seen worse in Seoul. In any case, I called Ritu again and let her know what was going on… which, in part, included the news I didn’t know exactly what would be going on once I got to Bangkok.
Next morning, I woke early and caught my flight to Bangkok… and had a long chat with a Japanese guy who was sitting beside me on that flight. When I’d called Air India in Incheon that morning, I was told to drop by the Air India office on arriving in Bangkok, but of course the office was closed by then, so I had to simply shuffle off to find somewhere to sleep, and call them in the morning. Once more I sent email to Ritu, and let her know I didn’t know when I would be coming.
Then I went off to the Royal Hotel near Khao San Road. That hotel is the most comfortable, clean, and hospitable one in the area, and for a whopping $30 US a night, I also had the security of being able to lock my computer and other electronic stuff into a safe. I did a little bit of shopping around Khao San Road, and then ran into one of the girls who’d been on the shuttle bus from the airport to Khao San. We decided to have dinner and beer, and ended up talking until late in the night. We even planned to meet the following evening, which didn’t happen because the next day I discovered that my confirmed flight for Sunday had been moved to Saturday afternoon. So on Saturday I did a little more shopping and then made off for the airport a few hours early.
At the airport, I had no trouble checking in, and ended up having a nice conversation with a couple of physicists who were hanging around waiting for the same flight. One of them was retired, but the other works at Los Alamos and talked about funny stories involving his former colleague, Murray Gell-Mann. That was cool.
On the flight to Delhi, I was sandwiched between to people, a young woman to my left who turned out to be yet another physicist (nuclear) and a businessman on my right who was living in Japan and who was kind enough to give me his card in case I needed help in Delhi.
When I changed one of my travelers’ cheques to rupees, it was quite amusing because the fellow did everything except give me my money, and then couldn’t believe he hadn’t given it to me. I had to tell him a few times that no, I’d not gotten any money, I swear, see, these people saw… then he gave me my money in full (actually, a little more, as he rounded the sum up).
Ritu, John, and Koko were at the airport to pick me up, and we made our way to Gurgaon through “fog”… which I realized was smog. It was ohmigod smog, in fact… thicker than I’ve ever seen. I’ll never call Seoul polluted again!
Anyway, I’ve been having a great time with these guys. They’re great, a wonderful family and wonderful individually as well. John’s been cooking all kinds of wonderful Korean food and making me laugh very hard, and conversations with Ritu are something I cannot find an apt comparison to describe… she’s frighteningly intelligent, but in that way that doesn’t make one feel insecure in one’s own intelligence, which is a rare and wonderful thing. We’ve all been up late a few times in a row, but as I said, I am soaking up the Ritu while I can. :)
John and Ritu have been showing me around, as well… (Ritu and Koko) showed me the Qutb Minar (probably spelled wrong, I’ll check it later) and we went to a nice little bookshop… and John took me in to Delhi and bargained me a cheap leather jacket. Shockingly cheap, and nice. We also went to a popular foreigner-oriented shopping center, and to a gigantic statue of Shiva.
(I have pictures in my camera but until I resize them and get my camera plugged onto a net connection, I won’t be uploading them.)
We’ve also been socializing, visiting or being visited by friends of Ritu and John’s, and that has been absolutely fascinating for me. I don’t know exactly how to put it, but their life here looks, from my small glimpse, to be much more relaxed and in many ways, far different from the social world I know and have adapted to in Korea.
Today’s Christmas, of course, so Koko spent the morning opening her presents and then running about with a balloon helicopter, new Barbie dolls in tow. I will be trying to make some phone calls today… but otherwise, for now, I’m just relaxing.
Oh, by the way, the smog seems to have cleared up some… the sun is out! It’s a beautiful day. It’s Christmas Day, after all… Merry Xmas, everyone!