Saturday, April 24, 2004

Final Stop

After eight cities in two weeks, I am at the last stop on my trip: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am a frequent traveller to KL, as I have worked with one client here for about a year now spending almost three months straight in one stretch. KL is a cool city with a vibe unlike anywhere else in Asia.

I snapped this picture of the PETRONAS towers about 5 minutes ago (my hotel is within 100 meters of the entrance). The towers used to be the tallest buildings in the world, before some Taiwanese building took the title in November. I work in the tower on the right, on the exact same level as the bridge that connects them together. That same walkway is featured in Sean Connery's Entrapment.

Malaysia is one of the few muslim countries in Asia and arguably the most religiously tolerant city I've ever visited. It is so totally different from the previous Islamic countries I visited (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Dubai). Here Muslims (mostly from the Northern Malay states) and Ethnic Chinese form a diverse mix that actually works. You can have your nightlife, complete with loud music and drinking, but you also can hear the daily call to prayers and most restaurants observe Halal standards.

What I like best about KL is the lifestyle. Like most Muslim countries, people live late here. Since it's so hot during the day, people take full advantage of the night (and arrive at work late). It's not uncommon to see people just sitting down to eat at 10 PM or whole families out in the parks at midnight. This is perfect for me, since I like to eat late -- most restaurants are open to at least midnight.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

McDonald's Local Fare: Shanghai

I enjoy visiting McDonald's Restaurants when I am travelling.

Before you get on your high horse and proceed to lambast me with Fast Food Nation trivia, realize that I don't care. It's food that I have chosen to eat. Nothing more, nothing less. And quite truthfully, unless you've been out of the country for more than a few months before, you can't possibly understand how exciting it is to see the golden arches. So hush, this isn't the point of my story.

My love for foreign McDonald's is not really based around their food. I am simply in awe of their logistical excellence that enables them to sell a Big Mac seven thousands miles away from headquarters that tastes exactly like the one you would get in San Francisco. However, what I really enjoy is how they let franchisees localize their menu to suit regional tastes. This localization takes many forms, but my favorite is what I call "Featured Foreigner Food (FFF)." I used to call it "Fuzzy Foreigner Food," but I was the only person that got the Bill Murray reference. Basically, it appears to be a Mikey Ds rule that each country can develop and sell one special dish that suits the local culture. I seek out FFF menu items for their high amusement value.

Shanghai's FFF menu item is: Shrimp McNuggets ! 12RMB (~ $1.50USD)

I didn't have the balls to try this particular FFF, as I follow this strict rule: Never eat seafood at a fast food restaurant. I will try to dupe a local into reporting on the quality of this particular FFF (look for future reports on the topic).

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Shanghai New Music Tuesday

Travelled out of the greyness of Beijing yesterday . . . into the greyness of Shanghai. As the weather in Shanghai has definitely sucked (terrible, terrible polution and haze), I decided that I needed a New Music Tuesday to cope with the endless travel boredom. As I had it, iTunes had a stack of new stuff to buy. I decided on a few choice songs: "Float On" and "Ocean Breath Salty" from Modest Mouse, some classic Social Distortion ("Story of My Life" and "Ball and Chain") and some pop metal from Hoobastank.

The Modest Mouse was really what I was after. Had heard a good buzz on the band, but really hadn't listened to them. Let me say first: this wasn't what I expected. "Float On" has been used on some car commercial . . . and it is very hard to classify. It's a little airy, a little laid back but still interesting. Think "Soak Up The Sun" from Sheryl Crow. That said, still quite good. I've probably listened to it 10 time over the past day or so. I rated it "****" on the iPod. "Ocean Breath Salty" is less accessible, but still a decent song. I gave it only "***".

I bought the Social Distortion as a fail safe in case Modest Mouse sucked. As they didn't, these songs were purely bonuses. Both rock, and have rocked for quite a long time. I gave both "****".

That brings us to Hoobastank. Not sure why I bought this. I occasionally like the nu-metal / rap -- say Lincoln Park or Limp Bizkut (Don't laugh, I know you listen to crap at your house. I have an excuse because I am far from home). "The Reason" is just plain crap. Should've listened to more than just the iTunes :30 preview. Rated "*".

BTW Sony Music now has some cool RSS feeds. Of course, most of the bands suck but getting RSS feeds for tour dates is good stuff.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Back To Mumbai

Traffic in India is chaotic at best, but today's ride has taken the cake. In India, there are a variety of vehicles on the road: push carts, small 100 cc motorcycles, bus, regular cars and the dreaded three wheelers.

Three-wheelers are the primary menace. While India traffic customs would shock most Western drivers (it isn't uncommon to see people driving on the wrong side of the road or even the sidewalk), the three wheelers take it to a new level: Sidewalk, wrong way down a one way street, even across grass. Between this cavelier attitude to driving norms and their absolute inability to stop at any intersection, this can try the patience of most other drivers.

Today, we basically hit two of them. It was almost comical if we haven't been doing about 30 MPH at the time. After we hit the first one, it hit another and then they both fell over (kinda like a bicycle). Everyone appeared to be alright, but my driver didn't wait around to find out.

Friday, April 16, 2004


Decided to jet over to Hyderabad in the center of the country for the rest of the week to visit a client there. Hyderabad is a slightly smaller city in India (5M people) that sits on the central plateau. It is hotter than Mumbai (which is on the coast) but due to its elevation (around 1500') is not nearly as humid. It is also one of the Indian tech center cities.

As Hyderabad has grown rapidly over the past five years, there isn't a lot to do there other than work. However, our hotel has a kick-ass pool so that is where I am spending much of my free time.

Unfortunately, they close the pool at 7 PM to spray for some kind of bugs :<

Monday, April 12, 2004

Mumbai / Bombay

Finally got into Mumbai at 1:47 AM on Tuesday morning. It's hot (83 degrees F) and humid, but it's nice to be off a plane for at least a few days.

I made it fine, but I think that my bag is on its last leg. I've had this Briggs & Riley bag since 1997 so it's probably time to put it out to pasture.

I'm here for the week, with decent Internet access, so I'll try and share some sights and sounds from India.

Two Down . . .

After 12 long hours, I am dazed but on the ground in Frankfurt, Germany.

The airport here sucks: nowhere to sit down, nowhere to eat and the "special" smoking areas are in the middle of the terminal hallways (apparently someone missed the memo on second-hand smoke). Or I could be really grumpy from a lack of sleep.

10 more hours until Mumbai. It actually doesn't sound that bad right now. Of course, that's only because I know I have a bed there.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Leg One

So I survived leg one of my journey to Mumbai, India. Of course, since it was only a 30 minute trip from Sacramento to San Francisco, that really isn't much of a accomplishment.

More news from Frankfurt, Germany.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Long Weekend

Finally all the way back from my weekend in Memphis. I was actually back in EDH Sunday night, but due to a death in the family I was back on an airplane less than 12 hours later.

I should be here for the rest of the week before I start my delayed trip to Asia.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Memphis Awaits

Every spring, I get together with several of my friends at various locations around the United States. Kind of a belated spring break for thirty year olds. We usually tend towards warm-weather southern locals and we have decided on Memphis, Tennessee this year. While I was not an enthusiastic supporter of this decision, the place started to grow on me when I read that they have some of the best ribs in world.

Anyhoo, I am off to Memphis this morning. I'll be gone much of the weekend so there probably won't be much blogging in the meantime. Perhaps some quick phone-cam pictures if you are lucky.

When I return, I immediately head out for a quick trip to Mumbai, India.