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Monday, February 09, 2009

The deliberation on Bangalore trip

Initially I was a bit hesitant to take up this trip as there were really too many reasons not to.

First, I have heard many stories of people suffering from food poisoning especially the drinking water, even in a five-star hotel. It is not enough to see the water in your glass came from the bottle, one have to make sure that the bottle seal has not been tampered with. To be really safe, ice have to be avoided at all cost and only use bottled water for brushing teeth. All these advise came from the travel guide books, so I guess it wasn't exaggerated. And to get a glimpse of life in India, I quickly watched the movie Slumdog Millionaire, and it made me more worried.

Second, I had watched many seasons of Amazing Race and every time the contestants arrived in India, disaster was bound to happen. India was always the toughest leg with bad transportation and bad driver.

Third, I had made a quick research on Bangalore and there is nothing as great and famous as Taj Mahal. It is also too far to make a detour to Agra where Taj Mahal is located.

Fourth, I thought it would be quite an affordable trip but it wasn't. My ticket was redeemed from mileage rewards but I still have to pay SGD 350 for tax and fuel surcharges. The hotel rate was damn expensive too for such a place. It cost USD 300 - 500 for a five-star hotel which was equivalent to NYC hotel rate. After searching for hotel for a few days, the cheapest four-star hotel I could get was USD 180 for our one day extension. I didn't search below four-star because of the hygiene concern.

Fifth, the time taken to apply visa, even a Singaporean needs one. It cost SGD 60 and took three days. Since everyone needs to apply visa, the Indian Embassy outsources its visa application to agents. There are 3 agents in Singapore, two are in Serangoon area and one in Shenton Way, so I went to the last one since it was more convenient. It really made me boiled on how they handled things. The customer service officer asked me whether she could take photocopies of my passport and IC without saying it was chargeable. When it's the time to pay, she charged me 10 cents per copy. I told her that was expensive and besides, it wasn't mentioned on their website and if they did, I would have brought the copies myself. You shouldn't use this opportunity to earn more money. Anyway I paid for those and asked whether I could pay by credit card for the visa + those photocopies. She said ok and when I gave her my card, she asked me whether I had enough cash, simply because she had already entered the payment method as cash. And when I insisted to pay by credit card, she said it will be an extra 3% more. I told her all retailers here who provide credit card service will absorb that 3% and not charging it to the customers. I just didn't want to make a lot of fuss and then paid by cash. The way she conveyed the message was totally wrong, every charges should be stated upfront and not after. I hate hidden fees, it really rubbed me off the wrong way. And the best thing was, she gave that photocopy of passport to me instead of submitting it with the application. What the heck do I need the photocopy of my own passport???? Bozo is the word.

If there are too many good reasons not to, then why did I still pack my bag? It is because of one simple reason, I want to get that pin in South Asia!! (see the map above) The location is too strategic to ignore. :D Besides, we won't go to India purposely for a holiday, so since there is an opportunity, I might as well go, it's now or never.

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