Last weekend

There are a multitude of stores from last weekend, when we took an overnight trip to an area about three hours southeast of Bangalore. I think these stories are best told in image form, however, (with captions of course!), so I will direct you to my latest facebook photo album.

In brief, though… six of us piled into a Toyota Innova (kind of like a minivan) on Saturday morning: myself, Mike, and Brandon, along with our guide from the IIA, Sankar, his friend’s son (roughly my age), and of course our driver. We visited the Vainu Bappu Observatory in Kavalur, explored a nearby wildlife refuge, sought shelter from an evening downpour, and slept on a very… firm bed. Unfortunately I was denied a hot shower the next morning due to a combination of “India’s showers are weird” and “why is there no hot water?” But the day improved markedly after that, beginning with dosas for breakfast – kind of like a big pancake that you dip in coconut chutney (among other things). We then set off for a tourist place of sorts called Yelegiri Hills. Check out their website – it has lots of words but very little information, save a comedic litany of driving directions with a sidebar of “useful tips.” This sort of thing is typical, it seems. Anyway, we took a boat ride around a man-made lake and walked around a bit before returning to Bangalore on Sunday afternoon. It was quite the adventure.

Before all this, we had quite the time getting to see the final Harry Potter movie. It officially released on Friday, July 15, and here is how it went down in India.

  • Nearby Theatre 1 kind of advertises  HP festival, culminating in showing movie 7, Part 1 on Wednesday followed immediately by Part 2! Wow! Let’s get tickets for that.
  • Theatre 1’s website SUCKS and tickets aren’t apparently available in advance. We visit Theatre 1 on Tuesday and are told to come back later to buy a ticket for Thursday, because Part 2 isn’t showing on Wednesday. Oooookay.
  • Theatre 2, meanwhile, advertises a showing at 6pm on Thursday on their website that apparently is easy to navigate and allows tickets to be purchased online without too much pain.
  • Mike and Brandon venture back to Theatre 1 on Thursday morning and attempt to buy a ticket for that evening. Now they say there aren’t any showings until Friday evening, and we couldn’t buy tickets yet for then, anyway. Suck.
  • We give up on Theatre 1 and decide to book tickets to Theatre 2, mildly annoyed that most of the good seats are already filled (assigned seating is the norm here at cinemas, it seems).
  • None of our credit cards work with Theatre 2 online. So we call them, and they inform us that only Indian credit cards can be used to book tickets in advance. Joy.
  • We venture to the IIA, and make friends with an Indian grad student who is willing to use his online bank account to pay for the tickets if we give him cash. (Credit cards aren’t as prevalent here, and it’s for the best, since the cinema insists you show the credit card used for purchase.)
  • Theatre 2’s website has an option for “Net banking,” so he proceeds, only to remember that… it won’t work in Firefox.
  • We switch to IE and it still doesn’t work. I feel bad for wasting his time, but he insists we come to his office and use his computer, so we do. Apparently an un-signed javascript plugin must load in order for him to sign in to his net banking account.
  • Finally… success! Confirmation in hand, we head to the cinema in a cab booked by Brandon at 5pm for the 6pm showing. The evening monsoon hits, and we are thankful to not be in an autorickshaw.
  • The driver has no idea where the cinema is and drops us off a few blocks away, so we have to walk through a super narrow, smelly, half-flooded alley of sorts to find where we’re going.
  • We stand in line outside (under an overhang, thankfully) until the movie is about to begin, at which point doors open and everyone rushes inside. (Mike and Brandon managed to turn our purchase confirmation into actual tickets at an outside ticket booth near the entrance while I held our spots.)
  • Popcorn is mostly a fail… they don’t have a popcorn machine and are selling tiny, cold, kiddie-carnival-sized popcorns for about $1 each with no extra butter and too much salt. I buy two, and Mike gets a falafel burger we saw them carry in from across the street moments before. We get two cokes because they’re out of sprite. (Tiny, no lids.)
  • The movie begins late, and for every single preview and whenever anything happens in the actual movie for the first 20 minutes, the entire theatre erupts in screams and cheers. It’s in English, but there are also distracting English subtitles, and the 3D is OK but doesn’t add much. Lots of people are constantly talking to one another and using their mobile phones.
  • But you know what? The movie was awesome. (And I saw it before you!) People eventually stopped screaming, mostly. They cut off the credits before they were done, which was annoying, but we caught a rickshaw back home for pretty cheap.
  • Verdict? Adventure success!

And now we are about to embark on another adventure, this one to Kodaikanal and Madurai. We are – get this – flying. On Kingfisher Airlines; a puddlejumper to Madurai that takes about 1 hour. You’d think it would be sensible to drive, yes? Well, they claim the drive is at least 12 hours, and trains apparently are booked well in advance. So flying it is. We’ll spend two nights away this time and undoubtedly come back with even more stories.