Monday, 30 June 2008

kaal

The cover of the movie says "There has never been a horror movie quite like this one". They're right!

From the beginning it follows the typical Indian movie formula of dancing and singing. Then it drops into the movie. Its unclear to me (having watched it) if its a horror or a satire (of even a kind of comedy?). Well its been done before, but movies like Evil Dead were at least funny!


This is not quite a movie review and not quite spoilers, but since Kaal is not quite a horror movie, nor not quite a comedy then I figure that this is OK

In Kaal is quite a strange movie, I suspect that the joke is only known to those who have visited india and been pestered by people wanting to be your guide (like at the Taj Mahal or indeed any indian monument) ohh ... perhaps I've given away the ending already.

The movie was reduced to 69 rupee (about €1) which is pretty cheap by anyones standards, but then hey, this is a cheap movie.

Without a doubt, my vote for best actor in the entire film goes to the monkey. I realise he's only a supporting role, but he appears in a few places. Perhaps its best to think of him as just another person, or perhaps (better yet) think of the entire production as being a monkeys?

Anyway ...

One of the theme's of the movie is illegal hunting, naturally one the characters quiclky outs himself as a "keen hunter" (and pulls a .22 caliber semi auto pistol out of his pants). Right ... you'll be doing lots of big game hunting with that! So, anyway, later in the movie he takes the "jeep off into the Jungle" to do some hunting. Mysteriously he comes across some white bunny rabbits in the middle of the jungle.


With a grin on his face of "I've found game" he pulls out his .22 pistol and heads off in pursuit.


Right about now I'm wondering ... is this movie pulling the piss or are they on drugs?

It gets worse .... as the director introduces the 'fake' tension scenes. Like this one; the "hunter" has just mysteriously slipped (on a rock) and been pulled down into this valley by some mysterious force (gravity it seems works). After picking himself up he is standing before the camera sweating with tense music building ... slowly a straining hand reaches from his right ...


then with a crescendo we find ...


its his own hand. WTF?

I don't know if the director is attempting to pull the piss out of horror movies, insult the intelligence of the audience, or is the director genuinely that dumb himself.

Anyway, their guide gets killed, and everyone wants to go home. So off they drive and get held up by a 'freak' landslide blocking the road. From out of nowhere comes Kaal ...




he'd saved them from tigers before (when their guide got them stuck) by appearing from nowhere, again he appears from nowhere and offers them help.

This (I suspect) is where the horror is. You see, when you walk about in parks or famous monuments like Red Fort in Agra, you get pestered by people wanting to 'guide you'. It starts out at 300 rupee, then gets dropped down to as low as 100 or "pay me as you like" when you keep saying no. Then (eventually) the sting comes at the end. We had one fellow who tried a cunning adaptation on this and said "no, I don't take any money, this is my duty!" (at first). Then after showing us around he wanted to take us one more place (around the corner) mumbling about showing us a hidden secret. When we refused he then demanded to be paid "as you like" for his services.

you should have seen his face when I offered him 1 rupee :-)

So anyway ... I won't spoil this with the ending, just keep the pestering guides in mind when you watch the movie. There is the real 'horror' of this movie.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

desperate and pointless

you know, I really will have to condemn the Australian to being a rag ... just how did this make it into the newspaper? Not to mention why did police bother with it in the first place.

No jail for dope-dealing monk


I mean when you read the details, facts such as:

  • the Guy is 63 years old
  • He was caught selling $10 worth of the drug
  • A police search of the premises uncovered further stashes of 63.7g and 19.5g of cannabis, as well as "other paraphernalia such as plastic bags"
  • he has medical issues which cause him to seek pain relief
Say what ... he had how much?

Yep, a total of zero point zero nine kilograms (0.09Kg), talk about a major bust. Wow and plastic bags too (I bet they were zip seal too ;-)

I wonder how many officers were involved in that?

Perhaps I've been in Europe too long. I know the law is the law, but come on guys, haven't you got anything better to do than hassle some old monk for a tiny bit of dope? (evidently not)

central planning or free market?

I was just reading the Australian (I know, again ...) and found this pearl of wisdom

Charge more for guzzlers



well gosh, isn't that what rising petrol prices are doing?

While building an argument for his ultimate point "The most effective ways to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions over the long term seems to be to introduce mandatory vehicle fuel consumption legislation"

but then he reminds us that: "The US has tried to regulate vehicle fuel consumption since 1975 through its federal corporate average fuel economy legislation for new vehicles in each manufacturer's fleet."

So he makes clear how central regulation has failed before. But if at first you don't succeed try try again .. right? Well I guess that's good news for increasing administration overheads but bad news for innovation and free markets.

It seems that noone recalls how effectively we've seen centralised planing fail in our own past let alone existing examples. Heck, even the last bastions of centralized planning (Soviet Union, Peoples Republic of China) are moving towards a freer economic basis.

It all seems to drive on the punishment principle ... charge us more and we'll stop. Pitty the economy in general is so linked to transport, we'd all want our bread and milk to cost more wouldn't we now...

then the next stunner "This would only decrease fuel consumption and greenhouse gases by a miserable 1 per cent to 2per cent in the short term and can be compared with the 30 per cent reduction in fuel consumption if traffic on stop-start arterial roads is transferred to uninterrupted travel on new freeways"

I lived in Tokyo for over 2 years and (coming from Australia) was quickly weaned of car dependence and moved onto the excellent (and well used) public transport systems that exist there. Small streets when navigated by bicycle or foot were able to carry more people per meter/minute than the same streets crammed with (apparently parked) cars, no matter how 'fuel effective' they may be on test tracks. Ohh and road trauma is markedly reduced as a side effect when people are just walking / public tranporting / cycling on inner city roads.

Perhaps if the direction of policy was to drive alternatives that were cheaper and or more effective, such as (gosh) effective public transport or preventing unnecessary car traffic in city centers we might actually give up using fuel guzzling cars and 4WD's (really meant for getting you to camping locations or outdoor work) to take the kids to school.

As I see it, if government would become proactive in fostering and perhaps facilitating for alternatives, rather than spanking us for not having alternatives we might get somewhere.

I guess that Nanny isn't good at being a forward thinker.



On a side note the author makes the point: "Further vehicle regulations have reduced car emissions to 10 per cent of those in the 1970s."

Right, well I guess it depends on which specific tunnel vision you have on emissions, last I looked CO2 was a significant emission.

For example, our 1979 volvo 2.4L6 cylinder diesel station wagon uses 6L/100Km, yet a mates latest model Volkswagen 1.9 turbo diesel 4cylinder diesl station wagon uses 5L/100Km.

So tell me agin how we're emitting only 10% of the complete emission set (like CO2)? We've barely reduced those emissions to about 75%, or by 25%. Far less impressive.

So its lies, bloody lies then statistics ....

The next worthy statement is: "with the deadly 10 micron particulate emissions reducing from 1.1gm/km in 1990 to less than 0.1gm/km now" wouhh ... deadly ... gosh! Lucky Nanny is looking after me.

Well recent research seems to be showing that the filters are resulting in even smaller particles (which aren't legislated for) which have even more serious health effects, not to mention increased fuel consumption on filtered vehicles.(wiser people suggest that its more complex: "It becomes more and more obvious that the mass of the particulates may not be the most relevant index of exposure since the health effects are probably more linked to surface properties of the particles or to their number than to their weight.")

Aren't you glad we've moved forward there ... good one central planning, and thanks so much for looking after our interests there Nanny.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Hotel near Amber Fort

Of the places and hotels we stayed in, the one which I liked the most was near Jaipur called Amer View (no idea why not Amber view ... perhaps it was taken?)

While nothing much to distinguish it from the outside; the interior decoration, quality of rooms,
nice bathrooms and friendly staff were a nice change. As an Australian (and my partner is a Finn) tipping is not something customary. To us, the whole idea is just an indication that staff are not paid properly and need to pester visitors for a proper salary.

Here at Amer view we didn't get the "hanging around like flies" type of staff to carry your bag for 5 feet then stick their hand out for money. Sure, people helped and were friendly, but quickly turned off to go about other business before we could even think about getting money out (having been conditioned into tipping for meaningless tasks already)

One of the nice things there was the roof top dining (not really a restaurant, but the kitchen was up there too). It was refreshing to have dinner up there in the (relatively) cool breezes and enjoy the views of the town at night.

The food was well priced and the Kingfisher was cold!

Not much more that you can ask for after a days walkin around in the heat if you ask me. Well ... now that I mention it ... relief from the heat would be nice. I makes eating a big meal (and the food certainly deserved it) harder.

The interior was nicely (but sparsely) decorated with paintings of Rajasthan culturally significant icons.

Because of our "package tour", knowing the actual prices of the hotel is nearly impossible to guage. This is annoying as why shouldn't (as a consumer) I have some idea what things cost?

Actually this point is a common issue in India, hotels regularly seem to list one price on their WWW sites, but charge another when you walk up (or call from a local Indian mobile) and ask for the prices.

Back to the Hotel, the views from the roof top both day and night are great. Walking around the local area (up towards the fort) was not only visually, but filled with all sorts of great small food and fresh vegetable markets.

I really wish we'd spent more time here ....




So, if you go to Jaipur, I recommend this place to stay!

Indian travel

I thought I'd get this down before the belly was fully better and while the rash was still bothering me (so pardon the sarcasm if you will).

After my Oracle bootcamp we plannedto hang about, travel and see the main sights (like the Taj) in India. We initially thought we'd just wander about on a day by day basis, because trains were easy to get. However due to some turmoil in the regions (the gujjar protests over issues have crippled transport). So we engaged a local travel agent and made a 7 day plan.

The travel agent (not quite liars denied that there was any problem and dissmissed my assertions that there were any ... however lets not get into that issue here) made a plan with us which seemed pretty good.
  • Leave New Delhi for Agra
  • Spend one day / night there to see Tajmahal and red fort
  • then on to Jaipur and Ranthambore national park for two nights
  • then return to New Delhi and fly home.

Seemed reasonable and minimized the time in travel. Sadly (after we'd paid and settled the payment of account) they came to our hotel late at night (just as I was retiring) with a 'revised plan' ... double back everywhere, spend more time in the car, less time at locations, be hassled and not get to spend more than one night anywhere. The bastards. Still, you get used to the lying and cheating in India .. (so I'm told).

If I had my time again I'd force them to cancel the contract and start again with a new plan in which they actually acknowledged the things I knew were happening in the political landscape. Still 20:20 hindsight is wonderfully clear .... other travellers we spoke to said that this re-negotiation after the contract happened to them, so perhaps its common practice. So if you're negotiating anything over there be firm ... no be so firm as to nearly be rude. Seems to be the way there.

Traveling in India is unlike traveling in most other countries I've been to (Australia, Canada, South Korea, China, Japan, Indonesia, Finland, England). Using taxis for longer journeys actually works out not much dearer than a train when longer trips are called for. For example for about 1000 rupee we could have a taxi for an entire day tripping or traveling. Considering that a sitting train fare for about the same distance was 700 rupee its not worth hassling with trains if you are traveling in a pair or a group.

So, our trip (including hotel accommodation) was about 28000 rupee for the two of us for 7 nights. This is not a bad price (remember we were already in India, so no international flights are part of this). You also need to consider how hotels are ... things are NOT the same as in Europe, Nth America or Australia. Some things are just that little different. For example, you won't see much of this on the brochures






so remember you really do get what you pay for ... sometimes less '-)

However, since you're now going in with your eyes more open, I can say that my trip was generally wonderful and we had a great time. Especially Ranthambore, Amber fort and Jaipur was the nicest part of the experience.


Rajasthan Jaipur and Tigers

Travel to Rajasthan had never really been something I'd thought about when considering trips in India. Places like Goa, Taj Mahal and the various temple have been what came to mind. During my trip in 2001 I was quite attracted to the southern temple architecture. However this time we were starting from New Delhi and my partner had a wish to see Tigers.


We started the trip to Rajasthan from Agra, but due to a number of reasons, we needed to wind our way back almost to New Delhi through some beautiful country before getting on the main road from New Delhi to Jaipur (like road blocks by local protesters called the Gujjars, who to my eyes at least, seem to have quite a few things to protest about). The image below is typical of the scenery outside of towns, which are commonly filthy as only a medieval township with no sewerage, garbage disposal and modern plastics and other non-degradable things can be. If ever you feel like we need to go back to the past, just visit a village in India to cure you of that notion.

As you can see, the road is quite narrow. But we met trucks loaded (over loaded) with stuff on tight corners as well as cows and people walking along on these roads.

Motorcycles in Australia complain when cars don't leave them enough room on the roads, man I'd love to see how they'd react here where everyone big pushes everyone smaller off the road.

There are some horrific twisted wreckages on the sides of the road to testify to the fact that despite the low speeds forced by the roads bad things do happen here!

Still ... the lovely scenery out the window made up for it!



Even when you make it out onto the new national highway ("the very good road" says our driver) speeds are limited by the various obstacles making their way across the roads. Take a closer look to see the details in this image. As well as the cows and the 125cc motorbikes you can also just make out an "auto rickshaw" up there in the distance. All these things are speed limited to 35Km/H here ... so nope it ain't fast traveling here.



All along the way to Jaipur you can find evidence on the sides of the road of the historical forts and "maharaja nature of government" in the area. These ranged in size from smaller to the very beautiful and impressive "Amber Fort" and over looked the passages through the countryside. Prior to gunpowder these impressive forts would be (and were) undefeatable.


Just before you get to Jaipur we stopped on the Delhi side of the Amber fort for our hotel.

Amber fort essentially marks the boundary of old Jaipur and so the village we stayed in was probably not (or is not) considered part of Jaipur (I' not sure).

Either way I was much happier staying there than in Jaipur itself. For one, the views to Amber fort were spectacular.

(Aside: you know, I like wide angle lenses. but I hate the distortion they create when angled back. Just about every time I take a shot like this I regret that I sold my shift lens. But that's another blog page). By the standards of some of the budget hotels I stayed in on my trip the Amer view was just perfect. Not such a "artificial luxury" hotel (seemingly favored by wealthy and annoying American Tourists), but being comfortable and beautifully decorated. See my pages on the hotel itself.

From here (sadly we just stayed overnight) we traveled out to our hotel near Ranthambore national park. The hotel there was a classic case of "over promise and under deliver" (as well as over charge for the food to make up for the (management perception of) "under charging". The pool was not quite like the brochure...

but then that seems to be India ... over promise (and over charge the stupid tourists) and under deliver on quality and or services. Personally I'd be happier if they kept the expectations lower and surprised us with what they had ... but then, perhaps no one would go then?

Once in the Ranthambore park it all became worth it

... well for us at least. The beauty of the landscape was just breath taking (more so after the deforestation and devastation wrought upon the land by the human habitation just outside).

The park is not quite "lush" but certainly there was much greater amounts of available water. The area had once been the hunting grounds of the "Maharaja" and its clear why. The area is packed with beautiful "game animals". Hunting these was forbidden (well, except the Maharaja ;-) which seems to have been good for everyone (the animals included).
In the middle of the park is actually a famous fort called Ranthambore fort. The remains of outposts can be seen everywhere, as well as some nice hunting lodges along the way.


The fort is up on the top of that left ridge in this pano.


but the entire park is just a beautiful place ... the terrain is dry, with arid tolerant plants.


and lots of animals ...

fish in the ponds (with crocodiles as well as birds ... enjoying that too)


more interesting (and rare) birds such as this fish owl



and plenty of peacocks ..



black faced monkeys ..



and of course (the reason we came here in the first place) we actually got to see a tiger.


We just had a flat tyre on the jeep while heading for where the animal calls indicated something large and carnivorous was wandering about, when this guy just strolled out of the brush. Its amazing to first see them through the foliage. They're camouflage is perfect! He just strolled past us ... and headed for a small water hole.


where he hung out for about 10 minutes while we took some pictures! He was seemingly content to let the jeep drive within 15 meters of him (so I was able to get some nice images).


Just beautiful ...

So if you're thinking of a trip to India, and you're not terribly interested in being pestered by annoying beggars, hanging out with tourists on the second grade beaches of Goa (hey, I come from Queensland, we have stunning beaches there) or getting pestered for a guide or just to buy some trash at a monument (like in Agra) then come here. Not only is the forest and fauna wonderful but the Ranthambore fort itself is well worth a look (now that I know that its the only reason I'd have for coming back to India).

Hope you like it as much as I did.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

price of fuel

I was reading the Australian today and spotted the following

PETROL prices in three capital cities have topped $1.71 per litre today as a spike in the oil price last week finally catches up with motorists.

The pump price in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide was spotted reaching 171.9 cents a litre at some service stations.

Fuel outlets in various Sydney suburbs selling for different companies raised their unleaded price by up to 20 cents a litre today.


well that's gotta hurt. Still it works out at about €1.04 much less than we pay here in Finland where the price is about €1.50 ... Everyone seems to want the price to come down yet at the same time want to find alternative fuels and or slow down fuel usage.

Surely in a market economy if the prices are high it encourages alternatives, but if the prices are kept low we only value it less and waste it more?

oh well

aren't we all developing countries?

People refer to places such as India and China as developing countries. This is perhaps some sort of Politically Correct stuff to avoid calling them something else. What I'd like to know is when did development stop in developed countries (like say, my home country Australia)?

I don't see that things like
  • government accountability,
  • environmental management,
  • infrastructure,
  • public systems,
  • macro or micro economic structures
have stopped developing? Same seems to be true here in Finland and in Japan too.

Since we're all developing perhaps something more useful might be used to describe countries like India or various African countries.


I'd doubt though that you'd see stuff like this in a "developed" country, which makes me wonder what it is that developed or developing refers to ...

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

India - why all the mess?

I've just come back from India from my second trip, and (again) I feel troubled by what I see there. Pollution is getting worse and poverty seems not to be getting much better.


Walking around is so different to seeing photographs. I just can't convey the stench of the piss soaked walls or the things which wash past you when you walk up a street in the rain.




It seems to be a land of contradiction and contrast. Filled with iconic architectural marvels (like the Taj Mahal), yet immersed in such chaos, environmental disaster, filth and exploitation. I've not personally seen the like of it anywhere in Asia. On this occasion I spent a little time with a woman from Cameroon and she said to me that things were indeed not the same in her country.

People's first response to why its like it is is because of the overpopulation. So, starting with some simplistic comparisons lets compare some European countries with India.

Based on information from the "world fact book" it would seem that "Population Density" of India is not as high as the Netherlands and only a little higher than Germany


NationDensity (persons / Km^2)
India386
The Netherlands490
Germany235

Parts of Sydney, certainly Tokyo and even Helsinki are equally dense in habitation to New Delhi, so just on the surface of it its not looking like that is the main culprit (see here here and here).

I suspect part of the answer lies in India itself. While the elite within India like to entertain notions of National Grandeur (I was stunned to see recent examinations of "will India become a superpower" in the newspapers on this visit), not much seems to have brought to the attention of the upper and middle classes (or should I say castes?) the magnitude of the problems created by the lower classes and poverty.

Part of this thought process started while visiting the Red Fort in Agra, where I found this plaque on the wall.

I read it, and started to wonder if despite all the exploitation of India by the British colonial forces it if was not perhaps the British who had also taken some care and interest in the preservation of India?

I wonder how many of the NGO's who devote time to trying to help the poor and needy in India were started by the British or other foreign powers?

Its an interesting question, and I believe cuts to the root of the problem. No one in India seems to care much about anyone other than themselves (and perhaps their family).

One of my personal yardsticks of civilized behavior is the ability of people to form an orderly queue and wait in turn for some service. Just go to the airport, visit McDonalds or even just go to a shop and there everyone is always pushing their way in or jumping straight to the head of the queue. Not just some people, its most people. Perhaps its because all the "special people" in India are so used to being the only special person that when they are surrounded by them they could not possibly think that there is anyone else less than themselves present? Waiting for a burger at McDonlands in New Delhi the poor clerk had to tell everyone who came up and just shoved money over the top of the counter that he was serving someone, there was a queue and please wait your turn for service. Seemed to ruffle up the feathers of some high class people every time.

Drive around for a while and its the same on the roads, no one seems to give the least regard for things like lanes, roundabout directions (or even road driving direction for that matter) or overloading unsafely. Its like no one else matters.

This "I'm the VIP here" attitude got one fellow at the airport on our way out of New Delhi into an argument with the armed Indian Army Sergeant on duty at the security check. The guy tried to push his way though another person just getting onto the metal scanner and then started talking down to the guard when he was told to go back. Its hard to fathom.

Meanwhile whether it be the poverty, the lack of education, the lack of resources or just the lack of interest sees Indian rivers (and streets) choked with pollution, human excrement, rotting food and plastic bags.

Its almost like its assumed to be filthy outside (where the common people and animals live) and no one seems to even notice it, much less care.


I only hope that in their race to be a proud world super power that it is not these Indians who suffer the most.




I've been suggested this reading by Milton Friedman to help explain the economic basis to the problems. For example this poignant quote:

...though the number of tourists entering India in recent years has been growing, the amoun recorded in official statistics as spent by tourists has been declining.

Reminds me of the "receipt" we got for our meals at one of the hotel. I just felt for sure that it was going straight into some ones pocket.

or:

The current danger is that India will stretch into centuries what took other countries only decades.

The authors final summary was not highly optimistic (although written in the 1960's).

It will, I fear, take a major political or economic crisis to produce a substantial change in the course on which India is now set in economic policy, and I am not at all optimistic that such a crisis if it occurs, will produce a shift toward

I hope not ... although I think the document makes quite a compelling argument. I wonder how much it explains the other social interaction issues. While I was there this time there was an ongoing dispute between people in Rajastan (called Gujjars) and the central government in New Delhi. This seems to have escalated into road blocks and train derailments ... next thing they'll label them terrorists and crack down heavily on them.

Time for my last quote from Friedman:

"The British left parliamentary democracy and respect for civil rights as a very real heritage to India.Though I very much fear that this heritage is being undermined and weakened..."

Amazingly an article in The Times of India ("Green cover up, says CM on Environment Day "friday, June 6 p9) speaks of Delhi being one of the Greenest Capitals in the world. What a laugh! Its been said that there are Lies, Bloody Lies, Statistics and Maps ... this is surely a Statistics application of the truth!

The future will make it clearer I suppose.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Oracle 10g bootcamps

I just got back from doing my 10g boot-camp (Oracle's "hands on" component for the 10g certification pathway) with Koenig in their Dehradun center. The purpose of this blog entry is to give advice and information to anyone else who is thinking of doing this sort of course, yet reluctant to accept at face value what may be written on their website in student feedback section. I too felt that these might be just the result of censored or 'approved' writings.

In summary, I found it the best value for money of any option available to me for completing the Oracle hands on training component and having a crack at passing the tests.

For me there are 2 significant issues in taking training:
#1 quality of training, then
#2 an appropriate study and learning environment.

My impression of Koenig was that they did quite well on #1 and fantastically on #2. I have a more detailed version of this article on my personal web server here. Its a word document, and about 2Meg in size. Anyway ...

#1 Quality of Training: a high pass

If you're going to invest some thousands of Euros into your career, you really want to make sure you get value for money (well I do at least). To get Oracle OCP certification, you need to not only pass an examination, but you also need to attend "hands on training". Keeping in mind the vast details in the Oracle Database product there is only so much that you can learn (and retain) in two weeks of lectures. Oracle prints a series of publications for this course, and the trainers could take two strategys for this:
  1. simply read this with you in the class,
  2. they can move through the materials while highlighting important components, fleshing out significant points and explaining confusing details.
This last strategy is the method we had with our trainer on the course. He was knowledgeable (and I've been working as an Oracle PL/SQL developer since 1994) and comprehensive. We covered the material in as much depth as one can in the time available in such a course delivery schedule.

Accordingly if you intend to sit and pass the exams then preparation for the exam using tools such as MeasureUp and Pass4Sure are essential to getting a favorable result. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating not learning the materials and understanding the product here. Its just that the 10g exams test some of the most arcane and trivial details. Furthermore many of the answers on the exams are quite arguably ambiguous. There may be some implicit assumptions which make the right answer 'righter' than the others (or maybe not). Questions can come from seldom visited sections of the user interface too, so don't just rely on your experience and your absorption of the coursework. This is not like doing your Masters thesis.

This is the one area in which I felt the school dropped the ball. They assured us (in our course) that we were using latest exam dumps for our final preparation, but they were not. In our group the only person who passed the Administration 1 exam did so by 2% (hey, a pass is a pass right?) but aside from him everyone else only got as high as 66% (me). 68% is needed for a pass. Subsequently to taking the exam I purchased the current versions of the preparation materials and they are much more representative of what is on the test.

Also, while we did look at some of the labs provided in the coursework, it was cursory rather than in-depth. I think we were fairly tired too, and so we didn't really have the time to do these labs and cram for passing the exams. So its swings and round-abouts.

#2 Good environment: fantastic

Firstly the organization of the entire event was first rate. From my collection at the airport, to the travel back to the airport to go home everything was superb. Arrival in a third world airport can be a confronting experience. Taxi drivers all just about mob you with demands to use them to take you to anywhere they want. So to be met at the airport by someone expecting you is a great relief, trust me I've done it both ways. I received (unexpectedly) an envelope from the driver which contained a letter of welcome, my train ticket to my destination and some cash to get by with for incidentals. This was 1000 rupee, which is quite enough to get by for at least few days. I immediately felt I was in well organized professional hands.

It only got better ... at school Satender (the manager) is very keen and willing to help with any issues, at the accommodation Sanjay and the boys (who don't speak English very well) kept the breakfasts and dinners happening and the rooms cleaned.

But that's not the whole story, keep in mind that travel to India means travel to a third world country and brings with it many issues you should consider carefully. Romantic images of the Taj Mahal aside for a moment, India can be one of the filthiest locations in the world. Poor or non-existing infrastructure for waste disposal, crowded public areas, you might contract malaria, food poisoning, diarrhea or just simply be miserable because of the huge differences in climate and or food. With a little care the risks can be minimized to nearly zero, but just keep in mind its not Disneyland here ... ok!

This is where Dehradun comes into its own. Looking at their locations page, it would seem that Dehradun has nothing much to sell it over Delhi, perhaps only negatives with some extra hours of travel and minor cost disadvantages. Certainly you'd never be able to make the choice based on interior pictures of the centers. However I'm going to go out on a limb and say if its at all possible, then go to Dehradun.

Why?

Ok ... keep in mind that New Delhi is perhaps one of the most crowded, dirty cities on the planet, this is not just my opinion do a little research perhaps start here. Despite the fact that there are perhaps some potential savings in cost of living in Delhi you'll have more hassle, everyone (outside of school staff) tries to rip you off, and food poisoning is a very real issue there. Remeber, if your sick for 4 days in 20 of your study that counts!

Living in Dehradun we could easily move from the school (located in a newly developing technology park) to our residence, either by the shuttle provided by the school or by other means. You can go out for a quiet walk up to Rajpur or over the ridge past Saibaba. If you desire even greater mobility, some of the fellows even rented a small motorcycle for around 200 rupee a day to give the freedom to explore and go out and about.

Traffic in Dehradun is crazy (... its India) but not semi-suicidal manic like Delhi. I'm 43, I come from Australia and have ridden motorcycles all my life (here's a few of them). I've traveled a lot and lived in many parts of the world (not just visited for a holiday):
  • Tokyo, Japan(where I rode my own motorcycle almost every day)
  • South Korea (just out of Seoul)
  • Finland
  • Bangalore (India)
I would not feel comfortable riding a motorcycle in Delhi, but I would (and did) in Bangalore or Dehradun.

Just a quick tuk tuk ride down the road (back into town) are some nice hotels (the Madhuban hotel has a nice bar) and the Opal Lounge, this place has great Chicken Tikka, cold beer and is generally where the local foreigners hang out. Its safe and refreshing.

As I said, the location of the Dehradun school is in a newly developing technology park. Keep in mind this is India we're talking about and not Berlin, LA or Tokyo. So it looks a little different for a westerner.



The School itself is still under construction, although the ground floor is open for business (again not common in the west, but like I said - its India).


Downstairs is the cafeteria (where you get your lunch) and the ground floor is where the training rooms are. These are comfortable rooms and are suitable for 4 people and a trainer, which indicates the intended class sizes. No over crowded teaching classes here, you can ask questions and is as good as 1 on 1 teaching.

Computers were modern, operated well and were suitable to our tasks. There were some occasional power outages, but the entire IT system is on a UPS so its no major issue to have the lights dim for a little while. As you can see the room is lit well enough with ambient light.

I brought my own laptop, but ended up using their systems for installation of Oracle server cos I really didn't have enough RAM for that. So, unlike my previous experiences with IT training in Bangalore in 2001 I'd give this a big thumbs up.

In contrast, the training center in New Delhi was compact and cramped, but then hey, that's what you get in a crowded place like New Delhi.

The accommodation is called "the farmhouse" by the organization, but unlike the name suggests was anything but that, it was really a small group of 7 flats nestled on the edge of a hillside and (as I mentioned) excellent. After walking into the property, you find that it falls away quite steeply. Here you can just see the rooftops of the 2 storey flats. The roof top (btw) makes quite a nice place for a drink and a chat after class, or a morning stretch or just admire the view.



The the gardens of the house (we didn't live there, but in the flats) were beautiful, and indications of the stature and wealth of the owner (remember what outside looks like again).



nice places to chill after class ... ohh, and up the road in Rajpur they sell beer and sprits (80 rupee for a 700ml beer 400 rupee for a vodka or Gin).



Walking down the path a little more you find the two sets of units. One is a group of 6 the other is detached. This shot is taken from the rooftop of the detached one.



A view a looking along the path ...



and a view of the single detached unit from the roof of the 6 pack of flats.

I happened to be lucky, so this was my apartment. It was (in my opinion) the best of them all, as not only was it the quietest (not being effected by noisy neighbours) but had a nice view, good breezes and I happened to like the interior layout the most.
Below is an ugly "pano" I stitched together to give you an idea of the interior and its size.

The bed was not quite double sized, had a very firm (quite to my preference btw) mattress, a reasonably sized bathroom with shower and toilet.

The furnishings were neat and the linen kept clean by the house keepers (who were also our cooks and often rescued our laundry from the rain showers while we were at school ... thank you again Sanjay).

Without trying to paint too "rozy" a picture, it was one of the nicest places I stayed in in India on this trip, and I wish that my partner and I had stayed here for a few more days before doing our trip to Agra and Rajastan. I had very cute squirrels running about and beautiful birds in the trees outside my window. Yes, it really is that good.



The view up the valley from my rooftop 'terrace':



I've spent so much time on the accommodation because if you want to study and learn, having a comfortable, secure and quiet place to live is my #2, right after quality teachers at #1. So I don't think you can under play the importance of having absolutely no stress where you live and study.

But this is where it now gets critical for Koenig, having got a nearly 100% occupancy in their residences yet only having less than 10% utilization of their new facilitys capacity. They will need to manage growth in student numbers with their accomodation. I think they can do it, but it will remain a challenge for them to keep their existing high standards at Dehradun. From the voices I heard an the brekky and lunch tables, the hotels are noisy and inappropriate for good / effective study.

If you're after more information, like I said up the top, download the word document from my web server here, and feel free to contact me if you would like more information send me mail: pellicle at hotmail dot com.

Lastly, I was thinking that if anyone else has a blog on their experiences, please post a comment with that link (or it to me ) and perhaps some sort of coherent picture of experiences can be found by others.

So, if you go there have a great time, and Good Luck!

If you have any questions, feel free to .

:-)