Leaving the Airport
There must be at least 100 people waiting to take travelers any place they need to go immediately outside of the airport. Taxis are offered aggressively. 1/3 of the drivers have already been hired and hold a piece of paper with the name of a company or your name.
Three drivers held ThoughtWorks signs. The three of us from the Frankfurt flight collected in front of them and were a bit puzzled why we didn't leave instantly. We were eventually guided to the waiting area and remained confused for about 45 minutes -- until seven more students showed up. The flight from Beijing was delayed and suddenly we were very glad we didn't leave instantly. While you seem to be able to get just about everywhere with English, the language barrier showed itself immediately.
All ten students were then off to the parking lot. We were greeted with three very small cars. Four of us popped our luggage in the first one, a Toyota Innova, and jumped in the car. We attempted to anyway. In my specially-blended state of exhaustion and ignorance, I tried to get into the American front passenger seat. Bonus - I've now seen my first minivan (microvan?) with a stick.
I had heard the drive to the office from the airport was an hour. I had also heard it was 30 minutes. The time difference was pretty obvious as soon as we took off -- clearly we had a 30-minute driver.
One of the most shocking things is how similar driving in Bangalore really is to driving in the US.
- Street signs are still white and green
- Lane markings are still white and yellow
- Traffic lights are still green-yellow-red in a yellow case
The similarities seem to end there. The culture of driving here is much more aggressive. Horns indicate you're headed through an intersection. Lights are present, but routinely ignored. Honking and flashing the lights seems to mean you're going to attempt to pass. I thought I'd experienced tailgating in the states, but I'd never experienced anything like this. The car fell silent as we sat in amazement at the lines taken through the roundabouts. The feeling was more of a Formula 1 race than a commute.
So after 30 minutes of mind-racing, heart-pounding, white-knuckled driving we ended up in the Diamond District. We waited a bit for our keys and then headed off to find our apartments in the 927-unit compound. By 4:00 am, all ten of us were situated in our rooms.
So what are the rooms like? More on that later...