A recent business trip took me to two countries farther east that I’ve ever been and to one country that I have not visited since I was a kid (not counting the well-familiar fourth country where I had only an hour and a half between flights this time around). Here are a few quick observations.
- 14+ hours in coach of far-from-best international airline is a bad investment. I know that very few companies nowadays send people on business trips in business class. I understand the bottom line mathematics. But there is a clear productivity loss when I have to effectively convalesce for a day or so after such flight. I am still being paid during that time. Even though it is not a readily visible expense, the company wastes money by cramping me into a small seat in the back of the plane. And that’s just money – I will leave aside such things as employee well-being and appreciation.
- India, as one of my colleagues put quite pithily, is not for squeamish. I do not want this to sound derogative to any degree. It is simply that a lifetime of Western sensibilities does not prepare you for most common things you see on the subcontinent.
- 30 minutes of outside walking in a large Indian city – and you literally feel your lungs getting coated by pollutants.
- There are few better ways to impress your relatively new colleagues than to order a huge mixed-grill plate at a fancy restaurant and polish it off on your own. Yeah, I can eat.
- 5-hour layover in Dubai, under right conditions, is more than enough to get first-hand look at the city’s main architectural wonders via a series of taxi rides. (The right conditions include relatively quick passage through passport controls and a low-traffic day, such as on a Saturday.) You can even pay in dollars if you don’t want to bother exchanging money – but the driver will not help you with the exchange rate, so make sure your brain does the math correctly. (Yes, I grossly overpaid on the first ride.)
- A day in central Kiev during the putative height of unrest turned out to be almost serene. I skirted Maidan in a reasonably wide circle and only came upon one demonstration; the people might have been chanting football battle cries, for all I could – not! – understand what they were shouting. Actually, I gained a significant measure of respect for the way residents of Kiev go about their lives in the face of all the troubles.
- I have not been to Kiev for close to 30 years and to the former Soviet Union for almost 15, and this visit was such a trip down memory lane! For all the modernization and Westernization of the last couple of decades, around every corner I came across things mummified from my youth.
- Amsterdam Schiphol airport is one of the best I’ve seen, but I had to walk for seemingly a mile between the gates. The practice of doing security checks right at the gate probably defuses some of the tension that builds up in long security-check lines found elsewhere, but then you have to know to go ahead of time to a special counter to plastic-seal your water bottle, or you will have to give it up even if you had just bought it on the airport premises.
- Emirates Airlines business class is infinitely better to travel in than Air India coach. (Ok, this one is probably self-evident even if you never travelled in either. And it does not contradict the first bullet – my trip consisted of six legs, one of which inexplicably put me in the business class of one of the best airlines in the world; sadly, it was one of the shorter legs.)
Pictures yet to come.