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Last Day in Mumbai

It is Day 9 in Mumbai and I am ready to go home.  This is and will be a long day for me.  I started my day to the office at 11 in the morning.  My flight doesn’t leave Mumbai until 3 in the morning on Tuesday.  The good news is I will be back in NY at 1 in the afternoon.  The bad news is I have to go to work Wednesday for an important meeting.

Because I stayed in Mumbai for over a week this time, I have more time to explore the city and get to see and enjoy it better.  My impression of Mumbai is better and I can see why so many people love it.  Mumbai is almost like New York City but dirtier and more crowded, if you can imagine that!  Mumbai has the high-end stuff such as hotels, shops, etc. and it is relatively safe for travelers (although it may not seem that way since everyone seems to be staring at you on the streets and/or trying to sell you something).  It is definitely very dirty, dusty, and hot/humid.  If you love NYC, you will like Mumbai.

To me, Mumbai is like NYC and Hong Kong combine.  It has the familiarity and excitement of a big city, and also the exotic and aroma of a foreign country.  It certainly helps with the currency exchange rate of $1 to 50 rupees.  Mumbai’s infrastructure definitely can use some badly needed upgrade.  The streets are in bad shape, public transportation is not convenience if existed, and traffic is a nightmare but most people own a car if they can afford one.

I would love to visit Mumbai again if I have the opportunity.  There are many places to see and things to do still.  But, no place beats home when home is NY.  I am glad to be going home at last!!!

Day 8 in Mumbai

Today is Sunday and I don’t have to work…well almost.  I am staying at the Taj for the weekend and I planned to do some more shopping today.

Since I don’t have to go to work, my plan was to sleep until 7 or 8 in the morning and then breakfast and some fun activities.  Great plan but didn’t quite work out that way.  I was awakened at around 3 in the morning by my cell phone.  One of my colleagues was to leave NY and come join me in Mumbai on Monday.  He had trouble with his airline booking confirmation and they couldn’t find his reservation.  We went back and forth for a couple of hours.  It certainly didn’t help that the first guy behind the airline counter had no clue what he was doing.  My colleague had to get the manager after 45 minutes with no result.  At the end, my colleague had to take a later flight and a longer layover in London and will arrive in Mumbai 7-8 hours later than initially planned.

It was 6 by the time we were done and I went back to bed.  I forgot that I had a wake up call at 7 with hot tea deliver to my room.  Woke up at 7 but didn’t bother with drinking the tea and went back to bed.  I got up at 9:15 with great difficulty.  Couldn’t remember if Buffet breakfast open until 10 or 10:30 so I rushed to make sure I get there before 10.

I was planning to hangout with people from work today but since I didn’t get a call to confirm, I didn’t wait and set out on my own at 11am.  (Turned out the guy and his wife had some family emergency and didn’t call me until late afternoon).  I went to the Prince of Wales Museum.  The entry fee is 300 rupees for foreginers that includes an audio tour.  I didn’t take any pictures inside the museum but took a few outside.  The museum has very good selection of arts and historic artifacts and worth the visit.

Then I went to the Colaba Causeway market again for some shopping.  I stumbled upon an arts, crafts, and jewels store and spent many hours in there looking at so many different things.  I ended up spending quite a bit of money for some very nice looking semi precious stone jewelery and crafts.  The prices are not the cheapest but reasonable I believe.  This store usually closes on Sunday but kept it open today because there is a cruise ship docked at the bay and they expected many tourists to come.  My lucky day (or the store owners’ lucky day depending on how you look at it)!

Then, I went to McDonald’s for late lunch at 5pm.  There are many restaurants and street vendors selling foods but I am not sure how clean they are or if I may get sick so I stick to the familiar foods.  I saw McDonald’s and Subways, but have not seen Starbucks yet.  I ordered 9-piece chicken nuggets and one-scope sundae for 140 rupees, that’s less than $3 with current conversion rate of $1 to 50 rupees.

I love to bargain even thought the price on most everything is very cheap when converted to US dollar.  One vendor offers to sell me 1 pashamina or 1 large silk scarf for 500 rupees and 1 small silk scarf for 250 rupees.  I ended up getting 4 pashaminas, 1 large and 2 small silk scarfs for 1700 rupees, and I gave an extra 100 rupees for good measure.  That’s a total of $36!!  I spent at least 10 minutes trying to get him to lower the price by a few bucks then I gave him more than what we agreed to.  It’s the fun and satisfaction you get from what you want, not the money.

Now that I brought more stuff (although small in size), I have to figure out how to pack them all in my suitcase tomorrow because I am going home at last!!

Weekend in Mumbai

It’s Day 6 in Mumbai and today is Saturday.  The Hyatt I stayed at is close to the airport and office in Andheri, convenient to get to the office but nothing else to do if you don’t have a car.  Since I don’t have to go into the office for the weekend, I moved to the Taj Mahal Palace in central Mumbai.

The Taj is a very nice hotel, old world charm.  The location is great and it has a nice view.  My room was upgraded to a partial sea view room with balcony on the 16th floor.  The room is a bit smaller compare to the Hyatt and furnishing a little older but comfortable.  From my room and balcony, I can see part of the plaza and Gateway of India.

I didn’t bother to unpack since I am only staying for two nights.  My one piece luggage is so full I have to expand it in order to close it.  I don’t think I have room to fit more stuff in if I shop more.  I only brough a silk hand embroidered and hand painted king size bed spread, sarees for me and the girl, few pashmina shawls and a marble chess set.  Since I was rushed to pack in less than 2 hours, I have too much cloths and shoes that I don’t need.  Next time I have to start packing sooner so don’t bring unnecessary stuff.

I went for a walk after settle down for 30 minutes.  It was a short walk to the famous Colaba Causeway shopping street where lots and lots of street vendors setup shop on the sidewalk.  It’s sort of like Hong Kong’s Ladies market except it is not a dedicated market where the streets are close to auto traffic.  In Mumbai, all the shops are just on the sidewalk street where people walk and shop and there are many of them selling mostly the same things such as clothing, sandals, handbags, crafts, and cheap jewelry.  The price various greatly from shop to shop so bargain is absolutely necessary.

I was very good today and didn’t buy anything because I remembered the packing job I did this morning and there is no room for more stuff in the luggage.  But if I can find a way or maybe buy a bag, then I can get more stuff?!!  Humm…I have to check this out tomorrow.

Day 4 in Mumbai

Yesterday was Day 4 of my Mumbai trip.

After staying in the hotel and going to the office and back for 3 days and not much else, I decided that I need to get out and see the city – downtown or South Mumbai.  The hotel I am staying at provides car service where you can book a car and driver for the day and you can go anywhere for 8 hours for a set fee, extra if exceed the time allow.

I started the day at 9:30 in the morning to avoid rush hour traffic going into city central.  I have driver’s license and can drive in NY, but I wouldn’t dream of ever want to or consider driving in Mumbai.  It’s crazy here.  Except major streets, the road condition is terrible and bumps and holes everywhere.  None of the side streets has traffic lights.  The ones that do people don’t always follow them.  There is no pedestrian street crossing signals and you cross at your own risk.

It took an hour to get to downtown Mumbai.  The relatively new project that created the Bandra-Worli Sea Link provided a shortcut that made the trip quicker.  Along the way, I took many pictures (from inside the car) and will post them soon.  We passed the Haji Ali Mosque and Mausoleum, Mani Bhavan (Mahatma Gandhi Museum), the Flora Fountain, and many other places.  We stopped at the Dhobi Ghat where hundreds of men scrub laundry.

I was planning to go the Elephanta Cave but found out that it takes an hour boat ride each way to reach from the Gateway of India.  Since my work day starts in the afternoon, I would have enough time to go so I will try it on a different day.

I visited the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.  The Taj is a really grand hotel and it was recommended by the shopkeeper that I should use their washroom if I have the need.  So I walked in with great confidence as if I belonged and a guest at the hotel, then used the washroom and left.

I did some shopping on this day trip and came back to the hotel just in time to start my work day.

Day 2 in Mumbai

My second day in Mumbai.  I woke up coughing at 4:30 in the morning (this is after I went to bed at 1 in the morning).  My body is totally confused and don’t know day and night.  I drank so much hot tea that I lost count.

Strangely, after 40 minutes in the gym running on treadmill and ecliptical I felt much better.  I am actually feeling a bit hunger now which is great since I had no appetite yesterday and didn’t even had lunch.  Did have in room dinning at 11pm, though.

Not sure what to do today before going to work in the late afternoon.  Some exploring of the city is in order.  First, I will have breakfast.  Then, a visit to the concierge desk so I can arrange transportation to the city.  Work starts at 3 in the afternoon so I have at least 4-5 hours.

Will see what to do…

 

Hello from Mumbai

I am now in Mumbai.  I arrived here last night or more like this morning at 1am.

The flight here was not bad and could even be good if it weren’t for the fact that I have a cold and had such a headache and cough.  My boss’s idea of getting a lot of work done on the long plane ride since I would have nothing to do went out the window.  By the end of the flight, the flight attendants all know what I want to drink…the usual HOT green tea with sugar and lemon.  I need the hot tea to clam my throat or I would be coughing so hard that I couldn’t stop.

First day here so not sure what to do yet.  Since I will be in Mumbai for another week, I plan to do some sightseeing or shopping when I am not working.  I will be working 9 to 5 EST or 6:30pm to 2:30am local time, I expect to have quite sometime to do a bit of activities if I don’t sleep the days away.

This is my second time in Mumbai.  Last time I was here in 2009 but didn’t stay for long so didn’t do too much of anything.  The people were very nice and took us on a late night drive through downtown Mumbai.  I was able to see the Queen’s necklace (the Marine drive), and Gateway of India at night.  Also had tea in the Taj and shopped at the Bombay store.

This time, I like to see the Elephanta Island at least.  The Kamla Nehru park and Hanging Gardens sounds interesting.  Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay (aka The Prince of Wales Museum) is also good to see.  I definitely plan to do some shopping at local markets.  I want to experience the real Mumbai shopping, for local arts and crafts.

Stay tune for more updates… 

 

Beginning of the Mumbai trip

Time flies when you are having fun or when you are so busy that there is no time to think but just go through the motions and tackle tasks after tasks and here we are. I am waiting at JFK for the flight to Mumbai.

It was a crazy weekend and crazy day.  Yesterday, Saturday, as usual, was always busy with the kids going to Chinese school, then swimming.  But yesterday I signed up to volunteer for manning the snack bar so Jan and I stayed at the Chinese school for the entire 3 hours.  Then we rushed home, fed the kids, and went on to swimming.  Then, we went to the mall and brought cards from Hallmark.

Today is Sunday and we springed forward which means we lost an hour.  Kids went to church and I went to Costco as usual.  Then we went to brunch for Grandma’s birthday.  We got home after 3pm and I had not even started packing for the 9 day trip.

I spent less than 2 hours packing and was ready to go by 6pm.  I seem to always work better under stress for some reason.

Since I have access to British Airways lounge, I even had pre flight dinner there.  It’s great service and stuff at the lounge, but I am not sure it’s really worth paying that much more on the ticket.

Anyhow, they are calling my flight now…on to London we go…then to Mumbai.

Business Travel

Occasionally I have to travel for my work to visit other office locations and it is mostly within the U.S.   The last time I traveled internationally for work was in 2011 during hurricane Irene when I couldn’t get back to NY from Belgium for 3 days.  I ended up going to Chicago first, stayed for two nights, then went to Baltimore and took the (very affordable) Bolt express bus home.

In less than a week, I am going to Mumbai, India.  This will be the second time I am in Mumbai.  The first time was in October 2009 during Dawali (festival of light), one of the biggest holiday celebrations in India .  I went with a small group of people to New Delhi first, then to Mumbai.  The first impression of India when we got off the plane in Delhi and walked out to the terminal was there were a lot of people waiting to pick up passengers at 1 o’clock in the morning.  Then, when we were in the car and on the road to our hotel, we saw more people, mostly sleeping on the side of the road or on the street.  A lot of traffic even in the early morning.

After checked in the hotel and freshen up, we got on the pre-arranged private air conditioned minivan and were on our way to the Taj Mahal.  The Taj Mahal is located in Arga and is a 5-hours drive from Delhi.  We drove through some very bumper roads and saw many local areas and villages.  Local people tend to sleep and work in the same place.  We saw many small hut like structures made out of mud and hay.  You can see a mattress laying on the ground in the back of the structure and there would be a wooden stand in the front where they are selling something like food or hand crafts.

The Taj Mahal was very impressive and breathtaking.   No wonder it is on the list of Wonders of the World.

We only stayed for two nights (3 nights if you count the one I had to catch a plane at 3 in the morning) in Mumbai.  We managed to visit the Gates of India and the Taj hotel where the terror attack happened in 2008.  Mumbai is a city full of life and people, regardless of what time of the day it is.

The first trip was more of a getting to know India and the people kind of trip.  We did a lot of networking with people from other business units within our company.

This second trip will be quite different as I will be going alone.  There will not be any sightseeing trips.  I will be working 9 to 5, eastern NY time everyday, which means I will be working 6:30pm to 2:30am local time.  One good thing of working these hours (or depending on how you look at it) I will have plenty of time to go shopping or sightseeing on my own if I don’t want to sleep.  I am “glass is half full” kind of girl so I always look at things on the bright side.

I can’t wait to see Mumbai again.  I wonder what my impression will be to really see it the second time and have time to explore the city this time (I hope).

Nathan’s Hotdogs and “those Chinese”

This past Saturday the family and I went in the evening to the Christmas Tree Store in the Tanger Outlets at the Arches. The kids didn’t have dinner so first we stopped at Nathan’s Famous for food. I’m a fan of their Chili Dog.

My wife had a different than usual experience: she was insulted and treated badly. She’s since then received an apology on the phone from both Tanger Outlets and the Nathan’s franchise owner. They have both offered her coupons and vouchers to make up for the treatment. She doesn’t care about that, she just wants an apology via email.

Except for removing the name of the person who insulted her, here is the complaint she sent Nathan’s famous as well as Tanger Outlets.

Dear Nathan’s Famous Corporation,

I want to file a complaint regarding certain members of your staff at the Tanger Outlets at the Arches Deer Park location.

What happened to me was discriminatory, disrespectful, and insulting. The behavior of the Nathan’s staff was absolutely uncalled for.

Looking at the time on my receipt, on Saturday December 4, 2010 at 5:27pm I was with my family at the Tanger Outlers at the Arches Deer Park location. I ordered Clam and Chips for myself and some other food for the family.

When we got to our table I discovered that the clam was very rubbery and didn’t taste good.  I went to the counter and I explained that I wanted something else or a refund.  The cashier who took my order was very nice and professional but I guess she needed to ask for approval from some senior staff.  That’s when a man named —— (that was the name on his shirt tag) commented “Next time, when those Chinese order make sure they know what they ask for.” He said that as if I don’t speak English and didn’t know what I ordered.  Yes, I am a Chinese American and I am one of “those Chinese”.

Even the female cashier was taken aback by ——‘s comment and gave him a look.  —— then said “Did she know what she ordered or what?”  The cashier said “Yes, she ordered the clam and chips.” I then explained that I in fact knew what I ordered but didn’t like the food and wanted an exchange or refund.  He said “This is how clam tastes you know.”  I said “No, clam taste better and not rubbery like this.  I don’t like it.”  —— then started walking away to the back and kept saying about “She didn’t know what she ordered” and “Those Chinese”.  That’s when I said “Do you have a problem with Chinese?”  He angrily and loudly responded “NO” and walked away.  I told the cashier that I wanted it replaced with fish and asked to speak with the store manager.

I soon found out that the manager was not any better.

The manager came to the counter and I started to explain to him that I don’t like to be called ‘those Chinese’ and I was not happy with the way I was being treated.  It was discriminatory and disrespectful the way —— talked to me and I wanted to file a complaint.  The manager’s response was “OK, so?  You are making a scene here.”  We went on back and forth like this for a few minutes.

That’s when I had enough and I called my husband over. Obviously “those Chinese” didn’t matter to him either and the whole situation was “just so” not a big deal to him.

I explained what happened to my husband. He tried to calmly speak to the manager at first.  You see my husband is not one of “those Chinese”. He’s Caucasian and we are both U.S. citizens.  My husband said “I understand.  I used to work at White Castle so know how it is.” But no matter, the manager wouldn’t hear it.  He interrupted and said “She’s making a scene.  I don’t know if this is your girlfriend, wife, or what but she came at me and is making a scene here”.

That’s when my husband said “Do you have a number for your headquarters so we can call them?”  The manager said “Yes, I have the number but she’s making a scene here” and he started to lecture my husband again. At that point my husband said “That’s enough.  We are done here.  We will look up the phone number on the Internet.  Let’s just walk away.”  And that’s what we did, with my replaced fried fish.

I strongly believe that I was discriminated against by being labeled “those Chinese” and treated disrespectfully by both —— and the manager.  I think the least the manager can do was to hear my complaint and acknowledge that ——‘s comments were wrong.  Instead all he cared about was for me to be quite and leave and not make “a scene”.

I can understand someone like —— without approving of his insulting behavior. It is possible that —— simply does not know any better.

However, the manager is a professional with your corporation. I assume that your company maintains EEOC training and familiarizes the management on recognizing and preventing discrimination. At a minimum his actions certainly do not represent good Human Resources practices. It’s not how you treat a paying customer.

Simply put, your manager knows better and behaved insultingly to a now ex-Nathan’s customer.

While my wife has received a phone call and an apology, she is still waiting for an apology via email.

Funny how things turn out

We picked the pool company (again) and finally signed the contract last night to build a pool in the yard.

It’s funny how this worked out.  We were ready to sign the contract with a different pool company on Monday then something happened… I was ticked and didn’t want to use this company.  You see, we picked this first company because the day before we discussed with them and agreed on a price with discount.  Being a finance person, I put all the numbers onto a spreadsheet and expect the total to be X.  The guy started to put all the numbers down on his contract sheet but didn’t bother with the discount that we agreed to the day before.    When I pointed out to him that he missed the discount, he started by telling me ‘but I included this and that for free’ and wanted to see what the other company is giving me in the pool package.  He also made a math mistake by somehow tagging on an extra 10K to the total price.  He did realize his own mistake and fixed it.  By then, I was soooo ticked that I didn’t want to deal with this anymore.  So we called it a day.

Then, I called the other company and spoke to the sales guy and asked him to give me a better price and throw in some of the options that the first company was giving for “free”.  Of course nothing is free, you are paying for it one way or the other.  It’s included in the price.  Free is when you don’t need to pay anything and they still give it to you.

That was Monday Columbus day where we were all taking a day off.  My plan was to sign a contract on Monday so we can start the process of getting a permit from the town while I am away for 10 days starting on Wednesday.  Well, things didn’t quite work out on Monday so it leaves only Tuesday.

Tuesday morning before 8:30, the first guy called a few times but I was still upset and didn’t want to talk to him.  Work was busy and didn’t get to speak to the second guy until afternoon.  Finally got the numbers and they looked OK but 10% more than the first guy.  The truth is we can’t really compare the two companies solely base on the total cost because they are providing two different options.  Since our house is on a slope, we need to have retaining wall built for the pool.  The first company suggested using a lot of boulders for retaining wall (turns out the guy bought a lot of them and need to use them somehow) so the price is cheaper by more than 10% for the wall.  The second company suggests building retaining wall using interlocking block system and won’t even suggest using boulders.

From the beginning, I was not comfortable with boulders and kept asking if they may roll down the hill.  I am also not too crazy about the natural unfinished look of using boulders.  I much prefer retaining wall with the finished look.  So I got what I wanted (as always).

The funny thing was I got what I wanted only because the first guy didn’t give me the discount (it was less than 5% of the total price).  I ended up paying 10% more but got what I wanted.

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