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Recently when I was in Hong Kong, I found out about a train that goes underwater from Hong Kong island to Kowloon peninsula. Likewise, living in the San Francisco Bay Area, the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) has a popular commuting train option that goes from San Francisco to Oakland through a tunnel placed under the bay—a distance of 6 miles when including the approaches from each station. Having lived in the Bay Area the last 9 years, surprisingly, I have never taken that train ride and for that matter, never taken a train trip through an underwater tunnel any where in the world. I’ve been wondering 2 things about these trains—1) what does it feel like to be on a train underwater and 2) how do they build such tunnels underwater in the first place.

This weekend I took my first BART ride from Oakland to San Francisco. I also discovered the way the BART tunnel was built and in general, the different methods of building underwater tunnels. (more…)

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In a previous posting, I wrote about my observations of China from my one week stay in Beijing.   Earlier in the year, I visited India after six years, spending time in Hyderabad and Kerala—you can read my observations from that trip here (or click on the links to the side under the heading India Trip Observations).    During my stay in China, I found that 1) my pre-conceived notions of what I expected China to be often was based on my experiences in India and 2) internally, I would often compare my China observations to my India observations for a particular attribute.    The reason for this is based on the parallels of significant growth that China and India have been both experiencing over the last decade, the wide media coverage of both of these countries which often compares them to each other, as well as their common status as the most populous countries in the world.

Given that, here are my armchair comparisons of India and China in a few areas and more specifically Hyderabad (population approximately 4 million and Beijing (population approximately 12 million (metro) , (more…)

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Earlier I wrote about my one day stay in Hong Kong.    Upon leaving Hong Kong,  I went to Beijing, my first ever visit to China.   I stayed there for a week, working with my company’s Beijing office team.    Below is a chronicle of my experiences and observations of my trip categorized by the following topics:

  • Itinerary
  • First Impressions
  • Infrastructure
  • People
  • Lifestyle
  • Cuisine
  • Local mannerisms (more…)

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I just completed a business trip to China (my travelogue is posted here) and on the way, had a one day stop in Hong Kong.  My first trip to Hong Kong, obviously a day wouldn’t be enough but it’s all I had.  I arrived at 6 AM in the morning on a Saturday and left the next morning on Sunday at 6 AM.   Here’s what I did in those 24 hours and my observations of Hong Kong.

Morning

I chose a hotel in the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, which happened to be right on the harbor.  (more…)

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I just came back from a week long business trip to Beijing, China.  One of the most memorable events of the trip was a variety show at a Beijing teahouse called Lao Tse teahouse climaxing with an exceptional face changing routine typical of the Sichuan Opera.  With remarkable slight of hand, the performer will change masks seven to ten times during an approximate 3 minute performance; often right in front of you.   Some may consider it as an  illusionist or magic trick, but more rightfully, it’s an art form developed in southern China that takes years and years to perfect.  While not the actual Sichuan opera performance I watched, here’s an example clip of Sichuan opera. (more…)

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I recently read the wildly entertaining book, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s a fiction book, but semi-autobiographical, based upon some of Roberts’ real life experiences as a fugitive from an Australian prison who flees to Bombay and has a wide range of experiences there including living in a slum, joining the Indian mafia, fighting in Afghanistan against the Russians, and acting in Bollywood movies.

In one passage in the book, he writes about the Indian gesture, the head-wiggle (also commonly called the head bobble).

From Shantaram

“No discovery pleased me more, on that first excursion from the city, than the full translation of the famous Indian head-wiggle.  (more…)

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Continuing my India trip observations, the next set of observations relates to lifestyle and consumer characteristics I noticed.   Parameters surrounding my observations are documented in this initial posting

Lifestyle

Various tidbits related to the changing lifestyle that I noticed in the cities I visited.

Consumer Products and Technology

  • Consumer technology advances are quite evident.  For example, Tivo like home devices are being advertised more regularly and visible on busy roadway billboards and television ads.
  • Satellite and cable television have been a staple for many years, but the number of channels, and western channels, continues to increase.

(more…)

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Continuing my India trip observations, the next set of observations relates to the tourist industry, primarily in Kerala.  Parameters surrounding my observations are documented in this initial posting.

Tourism

  • Our experience with the tour operators of Kerala was exceptional.    We found a Kerala tour operator/travel agent while still in the US who arranged for our 6 day stay in four different locations in Kerala- Cochin, Alleppey, Kovalum, and Trivandrum.   She planned everything meticulously and truly exemplified service.
  • In Cochin, we stayed in a home-stay, a growing tourist concept in Kerala; basically a home where each room is rented to guests who are served meals together; similar to a bed and breakfast.    (more…)

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Continuing my India trip observations, the next set of observations relates to environmental aspects of society.   Parameters surrounding my observations are documented in this initial posting.

Environment

Before the trip, I was warned about the pollution in Hyderabad and that I should try to stay inside during the day.   Furthermore, you often read today about the level of consumption increases in places like India and China and the corresponding impact to the environment related to that consumption.   Given this, I tried to keep heightened awareness of the environmental and energy practices around me during my trip.

  • I found the pollution in Hyderabad not to be as bad as I had expected. Of course, during the day, I was primarily inside a car or indoors, but the times I was walking around during the day, I was expecting that I may cough or be noticeably bothered by the air. Fortunately, I didn’t find that to be the case, but I suspect if I was out walking for extended periods of time daily, my experience may have been different.
  • I did, however, notice a few, but not many, motorcycle drivers or passengers wearing a scarf or handkerchief over their mouth and nose due to what I assume was the pollution. Given, their exposure to the open air and the growth in vehicles on the road all around them, the motorcycle drivers seem to be taking the brunt of the pollution. Again, those wearing scarves were clearly the minority, but I suspect this trend will increase over time. (more…)

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Continuing my India trip observations, the next set of observations relates to primarily Hyderabad’s IT industry.     Parameters surrounding my observations are documented in this initial posting

IT Industry

Hyderabad has an active hi-tech scene and after Bangalore, is likely the second largest IT center in India.  Below are some observations relating to the hi-tech industry in primarily Hyderabad.

  • Six years ago, I noticed many more posters, signs, and billboards advertising IT skills programs teaching .net and java and other technology programs than this year.
  • While the number of IT training course signs looked to be fewer than years ago, I noticed many more signs promoting Animation and Visual effects courses in Hyderabad and even Kerala.  One of the first animated feature films was released in India and it appears animation is becoming a blossoming industry in India. (more…)

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