Archives for category: Sports & Lifestyle

On my way back from Cambodia, I transited through Bangkok for less than 24 hours. I had enough time to marvel at the progress of the country. The huge vibrant Swarnbhoomi Airport is an immediate indicator of the golden success of the nation. By the way Swarnabhoomi is a Sanskrit word meaning Golden Land, and being Indian it is always gladdening to see our contribution to their progress. 🙂

Despite the wonderful shopping that Bangkok has to offer, over the last few weeks I have come to the conclusion that Delhi can be a good alternative to Bangkok, simply because there is much more to do in terms of business and consequently to enjoy life.India’s pathetic infrastructure got highlighted most recently last month when power cuts on successive days managed to put half the population (= 600 million persons) in darkness. That means that almost 10 times the population of Thailand needs much improved power infrastructure in India.

Statements made for power, can also be repeated for roads and water. And, this development along with auxiliary development gives an indication of the vastness of economic opportunity waiting in India. Thailand enjoys a more than double of India’s per capita GDP, again leaving less room for growth. Thus, the income opportunity is higher for me if I am in India.

With higher per capita income, disposable income is also higher in Thailand. This results in a higher cost of living. Even a visit to the international McDonald’s is more expensive in Thailand. A quick Internet based search reveals that Bangkok is at least 50% more expensive than Delhi; exceptions exist such as the cost of reasonable quality Japanese food! I would certainly like to see more international food at reasonable prices in India. Otherwise the costs are lower for me in India.

Higher revenues and lower costs translate to better profits. This is good, but what use are profits if they cannot be enjoyed? Certainly Bangkok seems to offer much higher quality entertainment as its shopping centers and variety of eateries demonstrate, but for me there is less freedom because I don’t know the local language. In Delhi, I can manage very well with English. Additionally, lesser road congestion of Delhi allows me to get around more smoothly. The rapid expansion of the Delhi Metro will make transportation even better in the years to come.

I am in international business. Bangkok certainly has its appeal, but if Delhi can work for me, it might for you too.

Singapore of course would be very different. Ideas differ though….

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On my way back from Japan, I stopped over in Hong Kong earlier this month. It was my first visit in ages. The main objective was to visit the Disneyland. This was the first visit to Disneyland for my youngest son and I; my wife and other children have been to Tokyo Disneyland before.  Why did I choose Hong Kong Disneyland for my debut?  Well, I felt that the lines for the attractions would be less; it has easy access from the downtown area, and the size would be manageable.

However, on reaching there, my first reaction was that the airport has moved further away from the downtown area. The taxi ride in now costs over 250 HKD. There are two downtown areas for visitors, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. We chose to stay in Kowloon at The Kimberley Hotel (about 900 HKD a night for twin occupancy, inclusive of taxes but excluding breakfast. That’s okay because there are a number of restaurants serving breakfast for about 40 HKD across the street).

The Disneyland:

In all respects, Hong Kong Disneyland met my expectations, and my family and I had a wonderful time.  The tour desk at our hotel would have arranged to get there at about 11, but we did not wish to lose even a single precious minute. So, we went there by taxi, which cost us about 200 HKD from Kowloon.

The advantage of a June visit is that it is the low season.  Additionally going on a weekday meant that the lines were manageable and we didn’t have to wait more than 12 minutes anywhere.  Starting anti-clockwise we visited Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Toy Story Land and Adventureland in order – managing 11 attractions by 3pm, at which point I had to take my daughter to the airport.

For me, the most memorable was the space mountain ride, which I repeated with my daughter and second son – although a bit scary for my youngest son. The other repeated ride was RC Racer at Toy Story Land.  I also remember the Mad Hatter Tea Cups and the Jungle River Cruise.

Though the food menu at Disneyland is extremely tempting, the actual food doesn’t live up to the expectations as created by the other attractions. I must admit though that I enjoyed a rubbery textured ice-cream for the first time in my life.  I guess you’ll just have to taste it – I can’t express it in words, except to say that it is worth it.

My wife and two sons remained till 8pm and managed to finish scaling the entire park. In the five hours that I wasn’t there, my son bumped fists with Buzz Lightyear as he walked by, enjoyed the Lion King musical and Mickey’s magic which was more than a 3D adventure.

My Sons with Buzz LightYear

Coming back was easy. There is a train (metro, subway whichever you prefer to call it) connection that gets you back to Kowloon rather quickly and at a more reasonable cost. Memories of this enjoyable visit shall remain with me for some time to come. I guess the adrenaline rush from the space mountain ride is just too addictive.

Earlier this month I had the chance to travel back to Japan on home leave. My youngest son is very keen about Ninjas and on his insistence we went to Ninja Mura (= Ninja Village) in central Japan. Though initially I went along as the chauffer, but gradually I became more and more engaged as a learner in this beautiful journey.

It seems there are a couple of Ninja Muras in central Japan. The one we went to was in Iga city in Mie Prefecture, known more for its beef than Ninjas. It is less than two hours’ drive from Nagoya, the home of Toyota and Mitsubishi’s manufacturing.

Ninja and ninjutsu (the art of the ninja, which is not a martial art)have become a part of the English lexicon. Appearing all the time on TV, in movies and cartoons, they are an established part of Japanese imagery now. I realized how little I knew about this element of Japan, and now I am able to share much more.

The Ninja Mura is a museum about the ninjas, with live demonstrations of their art, ninjutsu. The Ninja were agents of espionage and stealth hired by warring factions to gain intelligence about the activities of their enemies, and sometimes to assassinate them.

The interesting thing for me though was the fact that apparently ninjutsu originated in India. Yes, that is right. According to the museum, “those roots are found in the art of warfare that began around 4000 B.C. in Indian culture, was passed to the Chinese mainland, and around the 6th century, passed through the Korean peninsula and crossed over to Japan.”

The other interesting fact about the ninjas that also corroborates this India origin theory is the fact that ninjas were vegetarian. Yes, they were the vegetarian exceptions in the land of exceptional beef. For health, ninja avoided meat, fish, dairy foods and sugars in favor of a diet centered on whole-grain rice and vegetables. It seems they avoided meat and other foods that might lead to body odor to avoid being detected when sneaking or hiding.

There are so many more interesting pieces of information that are far better experienced than reduced to the written world, for example, my sons enjoyed throwing the shurikens (ninja stars). The younger one dressed up as a ninja and was even inspired to design his own ninja house once he grows up! We also saw revolving walls, trick doors, safe compartments, etc.

My second son and youngest son with a Ninja at the demonstration ground – The wood wall shows embedded Ninja Stars

The inspirational Ninja Mura can be enjoyed as a day trip from Nagoya or Osaka, though from Tokyo, I would combine it on a journey on the way to Kyoto, etc.

Recently, Toyota sponsored a pan India golf tournament. Assocham, one of the Indian industry bodies also has an annual Japan-India corporate golf competition. Many leading newspapers and business magazines also get involved. Apparently, Golf seems to be the lubricant of international business.

We normally associate Japan with sushi but the uber corporate Japan can be better associated with golf. At least in India, it seems to be the only recreation that most Japanese enjoy.

When I was younger, I never imagined that I would play golf one day. My college’s golf course was used more for late night walks discussing philosophy rather than the actual game. Later, when I joined Toyota, my father-in-law encouraged me to join golf, but it did not seem like an alluring thought back then. I assumed it to be an old man’s sport. However, after some years, my boss in Hitachi managed to convince me that I ought to play the game for business reasons.

Initially, golf turned out to be tougher than I had imagined. Connecting ball to stick is not as easy as when seen on TV. A friend of mine, Pankaj, got me out on the golf course and from then on there was no looking back.

In Delhi’s concrete jungle, the manicured greens at Qutab are a refreshing feast for the eyes. I competing against myself brought out the old sportsman in me, trying to do better than before. A double bogey is good, a bogey is satisfying, a par is something to talk about and with a birdie – the caddies get a treat! Eagles on the course are just as rare as they are in Delhi’s skies.

Going out with customers creates a healthy bonding. Strictly speaking, I haven’t concluded any deals on the course, but spending so much time on the course and thereafter on the 19th hole does enhance friendship.  I do find it more enjoyable working with friends.

In addition to the joy of natural beauty and socializing, I also find the kilometres walked to be a good exercise. Depending on post-golf action the calorie count may eventually be neutralized, but whenever I resist the temptation it does work in my favour.  It reduces my fat, it increases my stamina and it improves my concentration. Though, I have a long way to go in terms of score improvement, I convince myself that with every extra shot I hit I get extra exercise!

I’ll be back on the Golf course from mid-June, I promise.

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