When I landed in the Hyderabad airport, I was very tired, a bit anxious, but very cautious, probably more than ever in any airports I’ve been, doing my best to be prepared for any unexpected incidents. Who knew that only within 24 hours, I’ll be experiencing an emergency clinic, crazy night club and residential life of Hyderabad? Definitely hands down, this first day in India beats all previous 11 days of my trip so far.
Arriving in Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad, India
My first impression of the airport was “Clean” which was completely unexpected. From all the travel guide books I’ve read, I was expecting something more outdated and dirty, but it wasn’t. I couldn’t take many pictures because I was too cautious and tried to be more attentive to the surroundings, but also the securities were pretty tight there.
Few interesting things I found:
- Soldiers everywhere
- I don’t recall being in any airports where there are many soldiers controlling the crowds
- Non travellers were not allowed at all to come inside the airport
- Securities check to go out of the airport
- It’s definitely expected to do the security scan to get into the custom, but I’ve never seen doing it again before you go to the baggage area.
- Now (I’m writing this post in Day 4 in India), I’m very used to this. They do security scans everywhere including shopping malls, cinemas, even when I get into my own hotel. And at the moment, with all the attacks happening around the world as well as some recent incidents in Hyderabad, there are a lot higher security concerns in the city.
- No Regular Taxi in Hyderabad
- There are no taxis, at least the ones we can clearly tell it’s a taxi like a yellow cab don’t exist in Hyderabad. Even my hotel cannot arrange a regular taxi. They asked me to use very expensive private car services or Uber (Uber in India is pretty new) or Tuk Tuk (Auto Rickshaw) from the street.
- Strange Taxi System
- I arranged the taxi inside the airport (I asked one of the soldier to find how to arrange a cab). To get the cab service, I prepaid the full amount. They gave me a receipt with a vehicle number printed. All they told me was to find the vehicle near the area they pointed to me. Seriously, there was no street sign or direction provided to find this vehicle. I asked them what I needed to do if I couldn’t find this vehicle, and they told me it would never happen so I didn’t need to worry. And of course, I couldn’t find this vehicle because there were a lot of people and it was already pass midnight, so I didn’t want to risk myself by exploring the area too much. After 20-30 min. of waiting, I decided to go back to the agent inside the airport but soldiers told me I was not allowed to go back to the airport. So I had to explain the situation to the soldier, then he accompanied with me and gave a command to the travel agent, who sold me the ticket, to help me find the vehicle. Because of the soldier’s command, the agent accompanied with me all the way to the vehicle pick up area, so I was finally able to get inside the cab after 40 minutes of wandering around.
- Nice Highway but Human Tolls
- The highway from the airport to my hotel was clean and new. Later, I found out that this highway was newly built only for the cars & buses to go to the airport directly. Motorcycles & Tuk Tuks (Auto rickshaw) are not allowed. Later, when I went to the normal streets, I realized how much difference it made by not having any Auto rickshaws in the street.
- I was impressed with the nice highway of Hyderabad, but also surprised that their toll system was basically a guy in a very small booth stoping you to get the money. There was nothing electronic here. I thought India was a very high tech city… Interesting.
Morning in Hyatt, 5 star hotel in Hyderabad
My first week in India will be spent in Hyatt, the five star hotel in Gachibowli, the outskirt of Hyderabad. I am very lucky because I’m tagging along with Joel’s hotel accommodations arranged by Amazon. Gachibowli is basically the Silicon Valley of India. It is surrounded by high rise tech centres including Microsoft, Amazon, Deloitte, etc. I heard that Google is also coming very soon. So, basically, this area doesn’t seem like the real India at all. (I need to enjoy this fancy experience as much as I can, because there won’t be anything like this any more after this week…. ?)
Except that all the security scans to get in and bomb check of the vehicle I was in, it was all very peaceful experience when I arrived in the hotel. I ordered Chicken Curry for a late night room service and it was absolutely delicious. When I woke up, my morning started very peacefully and it was all about eating.
Experiencing the Local Family’s Life
When Joel told me that his coworker invited us to join him for dinner, I was expecting a quiet dinner somewhere. Instead, he took us to his house first for a cup of tea. I guess it might be an Indian tradition to invite people for a tea or maybe he wanted to show us the local lives. Anyway, it was 20-30 min. driving to his place passing through busy streets of India. And…the drive to his house was simply horrifying. I was finally exposed to the real parts of India, not just comfy & safe hotel. The drive to his house was a true Indian style without any seat belt at the back seat. I was so sacred, so I tried to hold the handle as hard as I could to survive.
Once I believed that Chinese could beat anybody if there’s a competition of driving in crazy streets, but no, Indians will beat them all. Because, in India, it’s not just about cars. There are cows, dogs, chickens, trash, and any other random things including people who are just hanging out in the middle of streets. I even saw people exercising on the side of these roads with high traffic.
The side road is their living room
I asked Joel’s friend why people are on the streets, which is obviously so dangerous. He told us that it’s because there is no space in their houses. He showed us the example of cheap housing in India, the rent is about 1,000 rupees which is approx. $20 CAD per month. I don’t think this picture really shows it properly, but basically there’s no running water, no electricity, and no space. So for them, the dangerous side of the road is their living room.
Emergency Clinic in India
When we finally arrived to his place safely, he found out that his son was injured. So after quickly having a cup of delicious home-made chai tea, we all went to a clinic nearby instead of going to a dinner. We ended up staying there for an hour because we found out that his son had to get stitches. The hospital was really tiny and the facilities overall looked outdated which reminded me the 80s clinic in Korea when I grew up. We saw couple lizards on the wall.
Night Life of Young Adults in Tech Suburbs of Hyderabad
By the time we headed back to his place to drop off his son, it was already passed 10 pm. I was starving and still horrified with the crazy traffic of the road. He apologized for the delay and asked us if we were interested in going to a place where we could listen to a live music and have dinner at the same time. When we agreed, we never thought the live music meant a night club. So here we came, the first dinner of my India trip was at the Indian night club!
Interestingly, the club had a kitchen right next to the dance stage. And believe it or not, the food was absolutely delicious! I still don’t understand having a full kitchen and dinner served at a night club, but well, that’s the Indian style, I guess?
Dance, Dance, Dance!
I’ve seriously never seen anybody dancing with a turban nor Bollywood music playing at a night club. Everybody was a great dancer and seemed like having so much fun regardless of wearing a turban or not. You’ll agree with me after seeing this video.
Interesting thing is that only groups with at least one woman are allowed to dance in the elevated dance floor in the middle. That’s why you see a lot of guys dancing outside of the main floor. Joel bumped into a whole bunch of his Amazon coworkers, so I think this spot is the entertainment hub of this Indian Silicon Valley. I guess that may explains the imbalance of male and female numbers.
Free Shots, Anybody??!!?!
As the night went on, people started becoming wild and the club served free shots to everybody! I have no idea what the drinks were, but who cares, they seemed to like it. As you can see in this video below, there’s a kitchen right next to the stage.
Pan, the street style dessert
The club closed exactly at midnight and everybody got kicked out immediately. And suddenly so many polices appeared to check if the club was closed. It was really interesting. Joel’s friend recommended us to try a Pan, which is a street style dessert. It is a dessert wrapped with Pan, a very strong herbal leaf. It was definitely interesting to try, but I don’t think I want it again. ?
So….. It took me at least 5 hours to write about the interesting adventure of my first day in India. Tomorrow, I’m going to post about the first day of our sightseeing without anybody’s help and getting the first ride of Tuk Tuk… I feel so stressed just thinking about it. Until then, my adventure continues…