Well, well, WELL.

I’m writing this from a desk at a nice hotel in Kolkata, India on the morning of September 27th.  It’s 7am and things are relatively quiet—there even seems to be a lull in the din created by the seemingly constant cacophony of perpetual horn honking.  (Trust me, this is rare.)

Now, of course I have a story to tell you—but before I get too far into the middle and have to Tarantino my way back to the beginning, we should start with the obvious.

I would imagine that some of you might be wondering, “what is Roman doing in India?”

This is a good question, but I might follow up with, don’t you ever listen to me?  Do you even check my Facebook?  What kind of relationship IS this?

I’ll forgive you for not knowing, at least for the sake of telling the story.

I had mentioned a few times before that as a thank you for helping him with aspects of his recent bestseller, The 4-Hour Body, I was invited to come to India with Tim Ferriss.

Now, India wouldn’t have been my personal suggestion—it’s outside my range of experiences; however, Tim happens to be the consummate traveler, and, if ever I was to journey to this unfamiliar I couldn’t think of anyone whose quest I’d rather join.

He’s also a great friend, of course, and hanging out is always a good time. 

Add to that the fact that I was told other awesome people would be here (in industries from medical services to insurance) and that I’d have a chance to see some monkeys.  As you can tell by the intro pic in this article, I did. And so, I was sold on the idea.  I invited my good buddy Dr. K along, and trip was planned. 

Everyone all caught up?

Excellent!

So, where were we?  Ah, yes. Let’s begin at the beginning—the Arrival.

On a recommendation from Ballantyne, I flew business class on Qatar Air.  I was only able to do this because I cashed in some Air Miles.  Learning to do this was a crazy adventure in itself, and I have Momma Roman to thank for facilitating in the process—because American Express was certainly no help.

Flying business was a new experience for me, as historically I book economy; and it was a good decision. I’m not normally keen on flying, because although I’m not tall I am atypically wide and find it hard to get comfortable. 

Not an issue in business class, as it turns out—despite this being the longest flight I’ve ever taken, it was also the nicest and most comfortable.  The food was delicious and the service unreal.  If there’s anyone from Qatar Air reading this, hat’s off to you—well done.

As a random little aside, if you haven’t had the chance to fly business or first class, I suggest you do it once in your life.  It won’t be a repeat experience for me—at least not for a while—but it was awesome and totally worth spending my miles on; glad I did it.

Getting back to the storyI touched down at Doha International airport in Qatar, and tried my best to get my bearings, which took a second.  Now, firstly: what a gorgeous airport; not that JFK is a dump, but Doha is next level.  It was spotless, efficient and completed the feel of exceptional luxury I’d begun to experience on the trip. That’s not what threw me.

Instead, it was the sort of cultural fusion that was interesting; that is, the sudden shift towards Middle Eastern culture was expected—the degree to which Western influence was peppered in was not. 

To but it bluntly, I just didn’t expect to see Kit-Kats with Arabic writing being sold at the airport.

Anyway, back to the travel—with my flight departing just before midnight and lasting 13.5 hours, I thought it best to simply take the opportunity to sleep—and I did, for over 8 hours.  A better slumber than most, at least in terms of length.

Now, given the timing and all, this seemed like a decidedly good decision—the logical decision. I did not, of course, realize that it would again be evening when I landed. In fact, I landed at 6:57pm after being awake for only a few hours.

Which brings us to what is always the most hilarious part of long travel: time differences.

I had no idea which way was up or down—or more to the point, which time zone was back or forward—and I had an immediate fear of never getting back on schedule.  In fact I wondered if I’d ever sleep again

Assuming the worst, I contemplated life as a vampire and made my way to my connecting flight, which for some reason I thought was only an hour long.

Upon boarding, I asked a few questions of the staff, and found that my arrival time in Kolkata would be just around 3:15, according to Mouina, who was taking care of service for the flight.

That made no sense to me at all. My confusion multiplied.

My impulse to ask whether she meant AM or PM was incredibly strong, but my reluctance to appear an American Cliché precluded me from voicing my query. I determined to simply arrive when the plane landed and hunkered down to watch a movie.

As it turned out, the second leg of my journey was just over five hours, and despite my concerns, I dozed off during flight. I cannot be given credit for this, as I was forced to sit through Fast Five, which I assume was a strategic choice on the part of the airline to lull travelers into a coma.

My sleep was not unbroken—I was awoken twice by the staff, each time to be served champagne or fresh fruit.  A fella could get used to this.

Finally, we landed. I reached turned on phone and waited for it to register the date and time. 

It was 3:45…in the morning. I left NY on the 18th and arrived on the 20th.

I couldn’t help but feel that I’d traveled through time. I also couldn’t help but feel that when they finally DO invent time travel, it should come with champagne.

I stepped off the plane and was in for a rude awakening, as the airport India is a lot less like the lavish transit stations in the Middle East and a lot more like you would expect.  Dirty, hot, noisy, and confusing.

Arriving in Kolkata I was met by Pawan, a representative from the travel and tourist agency that took care of the trip. A nice young man with only mildly broken English, Pawan was courteous to a fault and refused to stop addressing me as “Sir Roman” despite my constant assertion that I am not, in fact, a Knight.

We loaded up the car and the drive slammed the accelerator harder than was probably necessary.  With a jolt that I can only assume was not good for the transmission we were off.  My experience with Indian driving had only just begun.

Along those lines, my first exposure to Kolkata, then, was also that drive.  And it was strange.  As we sped through the mostly-sleeping city, I was given brief glimpses into the dichotomy of India—opulent estates and plastic covered lean-tos appeared next to each other without any break between, and it became clear that my Western notion of neighborhoods defined and separated by income strata would not be applicable here.

Even at that time of night, the poverty was evident, as sleeping bodies by the dozens lined the sidewalks.  Roving packs of dogs slept in the middle of the street, unafraid of oncoming traffic and unhurried in their movements to avoid it.  As Pawan put it, “after midnight, the dogs rule the streets.”

Those dogs must be crazy, I thought, for surely only madness would prompt one to tempt fate in Indian traffic or let it rest on the whims of Indian drivers, who seem only dimly aware of the existence of traffic laws. 

Laws, by the way, is too strong a word, because the idea of a law implies that breaking one leads to some sort of punishment; an idea that is entirely foreign here.

For example, as a once-British colony, in India it is customary that one drives on the left hand side of the road—in theory. 

In practice…not so much. And so traffic guidelines exist, with the drivers being content to ignore them when needed.

All told, an exhilarating experience. 

I arrived at my hotel at just past 4:30am, completely unsure if I was supposed to be tired.  In a strange sort of energy purgatory, neither asleep nor awake, my body and mind simply drifted around in the peculiar fugue state that I’m left to assume accompanies time travel.  I don’t know how Marty McFly made it look so easy.

Not knowing what else to do, I flopped down to go to sleep—and nearly broke my ribs on the rock hard bed.  An inauspicious beginning to my stay. 

My gasp of pain woke Kareem, and after a 10 minute catch-up session, I told my body who’s boss and forced myself into a brief and restless sleep.

For almost 3 hours.

Unbeknownst to me, Kareem had called for a 7:30 wake up call, when I heard the phone ring I instinctively rolled over to answer it. I was completely unprepared for the greeting…

…because evidently, a “wake up” call at this hotel amounts to the staff calling you and then yelling, “WAKE UP!” as loud as humanly possible.

I kid you not. 

The shock of it was unreal and I almost fell out of bed; however, it was undeniably effective, as I will admit that I was sufficiently awake after that call.

So, I should probably tell you about the hotel, while we’re on this subject. 

We spent the first several days staying at a country club/hotel called the Tollygunge Club.  Located just South of the main part of the city, the Tolly, as it’s known, was hardly what we’d expected. The draw of this club, according to the travel reps, is the golf course and grounds. In fairness, these were quite nice—the problem is that no one in the group wanted to play.

That aside, the draw ended there. In fact, the pictures and descriptions from our itinerary could not have been more misleading, as the rest of the accommodations were a lot like Kolkata itself—sweaty and sort of jarring, with random dogs everywhere, ‘iffy’ food, and the aforementioned beds, which I suspect were made of and stone held together by a pliant glue.

Keep in mind, this place is said to be one of India’s nicest; at that point I had nothing to compare it to, but I had my doubts.

Anyway, we spent roughly two days sightseeing in a sort of “high society” tour of Kolkata, led by an upper middle class woman who took great joy in explaining the richness of the history of various areas while speaking somewhat disparagingly about the “meager poor” of India.

It was an odd arrangement, but between bouts of sipping tea and learning both this historical Indian the British influences of fine city, I was able to take a few snapshots, like the one you see below.


Photo Credit: Me

Some of the more aristocratic holdovers are pretty funny, at least to my decidedly New York sensibilities.  For example, we were taken to see horseraces, which is evidently a semi formal occasion. Not having packed appropriate attire (since, you know, I was planning on a safari), I had to pick up a shirt and some dress shoes to get into the racetrack.  Seriously.

Once there, we were consistently shushed, because despite this being a sporting event, loud noises are discouraged.  Since I’m so loud that any conversation I’m a part of is considered “loud noises,” I was promptly told to shut the fuck up.

This would not have seemed so odd if the Indians in the boxes next to us weren’t screaming at the end of every race and singing the praises of each horse.  Seems like only “non-citizens” are told to be quiet.

I have no idea if this is an Indian thing or a British thing, but I’m pretty sure I hate it—any sporting event during where you’re forced to dress up in anything resembling a suit and during which speaking is verboten…well, it’s just not for me. 

Forgive me for sounding (possibly) ethnocentric or (probably) uncultured, but I’ll stick the Meadowlands, where I’m allowed to scream my throat raw cheering for the Jets. Like the gent to the right, I’m likely persona non grata at Indian racetracks.

But, I digress.

In any event, while the unique insight into the cultural significance of each aspect of our trip was all very interesting, the trip was feeling far too structured for myself and Tim (whose wanderlust is unmatched).  After a brief discussion, we ditched our guide and did things our way. 

This was great as we got to see a few of the more Indian sights and do some shopping and all that touristy stuff, including checking out the local fish market, where I got to film Tim killing his first chicken.  Relax—it was for research purposes, as this aspect of “food prep” is going to be covered in his upcoming book, The 4-Hour Chef.

We spent the next night at the Tolly, and packed our bags to head to the Sunderbans, a tidal halophytic mangrove forest towards Bangladesh.  This was to be a sort of safari adventure where we could maybe see tigers and revel in the glory of not having electricity. 

While not overly excited at the prospect of spending four days in the humidity without the possibility of air conditioning, I was armed with several good books and—not having any other choice—decided to suck it up.

We were set to depart at 7am…unfortunately, Fate had other plans.

As it turns out, Tim and his girlfriend Natasha got extremely sick eating fish that night in the restaurant at the Tolly; and a more unfortunately twist of fate would be hard to imagine. 

The activity for the following day was touring Kolkata hospitals, which was a ridiculous site to see and almost resulted in a fistfight with a doctor attempting to inject visibly dirty needles into their arms; without hesitation, that hospital was done and off to the next.  

Eventually, Tim and Natasha landed in Belle Vue Clinic, where “better” care was to be had. I say that hesitantly, because in fact the care was atrocious, and on some level I’m surprised that they both made it out alive.

Within 24 hours, they were doing much better—which means that they were spiking only minor fevers, and dealing with horrible bouts of diarrhea several times per hour.  As you might expect, with a happy couple trading in/out of a bathroom, they quickly ran out of toilet paper.  When this was brought to the attention of the “sister” (nurse attendants), Natasha was met with the suggestion that she use her hand and water—a practice not uncommon in Indian hospitals, evidently.

After a bit of a fit, they were given a dirty towel.  A single dirty towel. To share. After more of a fit, they were each given their own towel.  With that, Tim’s anger rose up around him like a blazing fire, and, fearing for their lives and souls, the sisters procured toilet paper in time to avoid his wrath. 

In reading it now, it sounds kind of funny—in that I-can’t-believe-that-actually-happened kind of way—but I assure you it was a dreadful thing.

That said, there were some bright spots in this comedy of errors: when they asked for coconut water, someone climbed a palm tree outside and picked them each a coconut—awesome!

Getting more serious, we were initially told that they’d be in the hospital overnight, but their condition wouldn’t stabilize. Whether this was because of the sickness or the hospital care, I can’t be certain.

Tim has an amazing post ranting about their stay in far more detail and emotion than I could, so if you’re interested in the horrific experience, please click here and check it out.

In any event, they wound up staying for about 3.5 days, which put a pretty big crimp in the scheduled activities; not surprisingly, our tiger expedition to the Sunderbans canceled.  Probably a good thing, as further investigation revealed that apparently there wasn’t much of a chance of seeing tigers anyway, and malaria is at an all-time high in the region where the tigers are supposed to (but probably won’t) be hanging out.  So, yeah…I was okay with that.

Based on the effects of the cuisine at the Tollygunge (which we renamed the Tolly-grunge) had on Tim and Natasha, we decided to switch hotels.

We moved to the Oberoi, where I now sit and write this blog post. This hotel is gorgeous, as Western as you can get without being in Europe.  The food is amazing and the service is unreal.  According to the staff, you can even drink the water there, though based on Tim’s plight I have opted not to tempt fate.

I’ve been be enjoying my time at the Oberoi and will continue to do so until I depart late tomorrow eve, though I suspect I will have been home for a number of days by the time you read this.

Of course, you want to know about the rest of the trip. With Tim and Natasha out of commission, and having summarily dismissed our main tour guide, we were left to own devices to figure out what to do with the remainder of our time in Kolkata. 

As it turns out, there’s quite a lot: everything from seeing Queen Victoria Hall to schools and charities built by Mother Teresa. 


Queen Victoria’s Memorial.  Photo Credit: Me again!
Why is this photo upside-down?  Because I like it that way,
and I don’t feel the need to explain my art to you
.

Overall, Kolkata is a very cool city—lots of open land for such a large city, and a mix of cultures and architecture.  The people are universally nice and very outgoing, even when they aren’t trying to sell you something.  

The only real negative part of the city (food poisoning notwithstanding) is the poverty, which is just unreal. 

For those of you laboring under the delusion that you’d be prepared for it because you saw Slumdog Millionaire, let me just cure you of that fantasy right now: you aren’t. 

The poverty is absolutely pervasive. It’s immediate and unrelenting, and it will challenge every notion you’ve ever had about quality of life. I don’t want to ruin your day with too much description, but a largest thing that sticks out in my head is dozens naked babies being used for begging by 6-year old boys who carry them up to your car. 

While it’s heartbreaking, I can’t resist thinking with a sick sort of fascination that these children probably do have clothes, and are displayed naked simply because it increases conversions and they make more money.  (Hey, I warned you it was a sick thought.)

So, while Tim and Natasha convalesced, we took in the sights and experienced as much of Kolkata as we could during the day, but spent out evenings at the Oberoi enjoying fine food (include a grape cinnamon ice cream on my cheat day which was just fabulous) and each other’s company.

Once the happy couple was released from the grips of both near-death and the Belle Vue Clinic (which, based on Tim’s blog, could be viewed as synonymous), they were back with us at the hotel and ready for some Indian culture.

To that, we scheduled a cooking class with the hotel chef, and that was a truly incredible experience; we all learned a lot.  I can’t really give too much info, as Tim will be covering it in the new book, but the cuisine was great—even with me cooking it!

Than that, the last few days have been fairly relaxing.  I’ve done a bit more shopping and sightseeing, but by and large I’m ready to go home, despite the fact that I predict my body will have a trouble with the time change.

All in all, a very fun time, but, as I’ve said, not the easiest outing!  I’ve been asked if I’d return to India.  To be honest, I’m unsure. I’ve enjoyed my experience, and in particular the people, but it’s definitely a hard trip. 

That said, while Kolkata is an adjustment to say the least, it’s not all of India.  Just as I would advise a visitor to the US to reserve judgement after having seen only NYC or LA or Chattanooga, Tennessee, I obviously can’t judge the entire country based on my visit.

This has been, as I expected, the trip of a lifetime, but for reasons no one could have predicted. 

I’m looking forward to getting home…but not as much as I’m looking forward to my flight.  God, I love business class.

 

Okay, I need your comments!  What are your thoughts on my trip?  AND, what’s the most EXOTIC trip you’ve ever taken?  Let’s get 80 COMMENTS and I’ll pick one person at random for an email fitness consulation!

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  • John

    Glad everything worked out. I was a little shocked you had not picked Taj or Oberoi hotels to stay. Did you not visit the other cities in India?

  • Ylwa

    Wow, what a trip it must have been. Referring mainly to the business class part of it. Kidding.

    My travelling experiences in Asia are very limited, but I think the kind of trip you've experienced is something everyone should do once in their life. It doesn't have to be India, as far away from home as possible is the main point. And not geographically.

    I consider myself being blessed in the sense that I come from a family who loves to travel, and not to all-inclusive facilities. I've been given memories for life, but most importantly, I believe it taught me early on to not take my life for granted.

    Reading your blog post I immediately think back on my most evolving trip. As a final course on my PT degree I had the possibility to take a class in Global Health, which among other things included a two week field trip to Uganda.

    I considered myself fairly well-travelled and familiar with “inconvenient” destinations and poverty. Much like you describe the poverty in India, I was not prepared. You think you are, and you know it's going to be bad, but there's just no bracing yourself from those impressions. They are so profound and they really change your attitude towards life and your appreciation of your own comfort. At least they did for me.

    It's tough to see and often flat out heart breaking. I also found myself constantly being torn between feelings of guilt and annoyance over being viewed as a walking ATM by locals. I would, however, not trade that experience for anything in the world as I am convinced that it has helped shaping me into a better person.

    Growing up in a world where EVERYTHING is available within a mouse klick, taking trips like this really gives you a perspective of life, that I think every one will benefit and grow from experiencing.

    If nothing else, I know you appreciated your business class trip home even more than on your way over.

  • Ted

    Hahahahahah.

    Haha.

    Hah!

    This is great. I will be sharing.

  • tom kisner

    I did a trip with a bunch of classmatrs to puerto Rico and st Thomas. Definitely not the most exotic trip in the eorld, but with the amount if heavy drinking involved it was super interesting lol

  • Rick

    Wow! That's a crazy trip. How long did it take you to adjust after your trip? When you do not travel much….you really cannot have many crazy travel experiences. How did you not end up with food poisoning? Different meal than Tim I assume? What was your favorite meal of the trip and what was your least favorite meal of the trip?

  • Jacob Huff

    I have friends who live in a couple different parts of India. They have told me, especially in Hydrabad that they live in cities a little more Americanized. Man US companies move operations there. They say it's pretty easy to adapt compared to other cities but still the cities take getting use to. The roads for example. Where wrecks are common and so are deaths.

    I have been told you just don't get use to some things there. Apart from the depressing use of children for monetary purposes, my friends say there are funny differences too like cows on the beach.

  • Jim

    In India, people use their hands and water to wipe their butts. I don't know if yelling at them basically because they don't practise the same methods as us is fair, particularly in a hospital where they can't be expected to service cultural differences. A hotel, maybe.

  • Fredacus

    Heh, that's quite the story man.

    Loved the part about Padwan and Sir Roman, that was hilarious!

    Hospitals in India – not so awesome, huh?

    Glad you made it out in one piece!

    Poor Tim and Natasha. Getting sick in foreign countries can be a bitch. I recall Ylwa and I's trip to Bali a few years back, where I got some bad chicken at a restaurant and picked up salmonella, or a mild case of the deadsies as I like to call it.

    Seriously uncool.

    Good to have you back sir!

  • Matt

    Wow – I read Tim's post the other day and was horrified, it's interesting to hear it from your point of view. A little more kind towards India!

    But seriously, great post – makes me want to try harder not to take what we have in this country for granted.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Unfortunately, we didn't. If I return to India, I think Delhi and Mumbai would be on the agenda.

    Kareem did go to Delhi, though.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Glad you liked it, sir. It was pretty funny, in a lot of strange ways, but mostly just enlightening. Please do share =)

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Ha! Well, yes, our experiences were pretty vast.

    It really is hard not to appreciate everything a bit more. I'm quite happy to be back stateside, I have to say.

    Although, I'd very much like to spend time in the Middle East and parts of Africa.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Yeah, it was a harrowing experience, and I imagine moreso for them. I appreciate the well wishes, Sir Fredacus!

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    You summed it up pretty well. Business class on the way back was like heaven =)

    But, yes: nothing can prepare you. It's just hard, and I feel that I'm changed in terms of my perspective on a number of things. I do hope it lasts.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    You make a good point.

    That said, this place calls itself a “western” hospital observes Western customs.

    Tim wasn't angry because he's not respectful of their customs; he was angry because they were not respectful of their patients needs.

    To start with toilet paper and refuse to look for more is different than not having it at all because of local customs.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    lol, yes, those trips DO tend to be full of interesting stories.

    I've heard.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    I think I would have liked to have seen some cows on the beach.

    Next time I'll check out Hydrabad. Thanks for the comment!

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    “Wow! That's a crazy trip. How long did it take you to adjust after your trip?”

    I'm still adjusting, to be honest. I've been back for a number of days now but still feeling a little Wonky. I'd imagine a full week.

    “How did you not end up with food poisoning? Different meal than Tim I assume?”

    Yes–the evening they got sick, Tim and Natasha had a private romantic meal. Unfortunately, didn't work out so well. None of the other members of our party were sick.

    “What was your favorite meal of the trip and what was your least favorite meal of the trip?”

    Good question. I don't really do much with spicy food, so it was all new to me.

    My favorite meal may have been chicken mulligatawny, which is a very nice soup. There was also a great lamb shank dish.

    Least favorite might have been a curry that was just too spicy for me to enjoy.

  • Camille

    Roman, you've done a bang-up job on this post. You captured a lot of the contradictions of India and the unexpected humor, grace, and weirdness of the entire experience. Many thanks for my morning laugh…

  • ZenBowman

    Kolkata is a pretty hardcore city to start with first up – since the Bengal region has been run by communist parties for quite a while, there's been very little change/progress in the last 20-30 years.

    Try Mumbai, Pune or Bangalore the next time around, as far as hotels and hospitals go, there's a whole different level of service. Sadly, there is still poverty though.

  • Patrick Edwards

    Wow!! You can't make this stuff up. Sounds like a thrilling adventure. Sometimes you need trips like this to put things in perspective. I've been fortunate to travel to Egypt and there is something special cruising the nile and visiting the antiquities along the left and right banks.

    Day 1 yesterday on program = can't walk today……..lovin it!!

  • Sirisha

    I am a regular reader of all your newsletters :) so when it said trip to India…I was unsure what to expect…I have lived all my life in India and have traveled quite a bit internationally..I agree with you on the traffic..it is an absolute nightmare to drive anywhere in India except the small towns and highways…the city traffic is just horrible..and I am not sure which hospital you went to because there are excellent hospitals at least in the metros…and you guys should just take it easy with street food in India..my advice to you if you you should ever come back to India…stay away from the street food…even most of us here cannot handle street food here!! Next time plan a trip to Goa and to South of India…you will enjoy yourself :) especially the backwaters and the coastal areas

  • http://jasonward.net Jason

    Wow! That is quite the experience Roman!

    Glad you made it out in one piece! I don't know what I would do without these awesome blog updates ;)

  • Jilligan

    Hey Roman, if you ever decide to tempt fate again and travel Asia, touch base with the 7th Day Adventists – they have clinics in just about every city, they speak English, and if you don't mind having them bless your injury, they also practice western medicine – with clean needles. Makes a big difference in your adventures!

  • http://www.miketnelson.com Mike T Nelson

    Wow, what a trip man! All in all, sounds like a blast. The upside down photo made me laugh!

    Overseas travel is always a bit unpredictable, but I have not been to India yet.

    Yikes! I read that account on Tim's blog. Good thing they are both alright.

    I love to travel and most recent (about 1 year ago) wicked cool thing was kiteboarding in Isla Blanca just north of Cancun, Mexico. We also staying in an old Hacienda about 2 hours NW of there too.

    Nobody else was there, so my wife and I and 3 friends had the whole place to ourselves for cheap. We felt like movie stars drinking adult style beverages in gasp….GLASS containers in the pool. ha!

    Being pulled over by the Mexican cops was no fun though. Ended up buying my freedom for $43.

    Rock on

    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  • http://none Matthew

    Roman -

    Your post was hilarious, I'm sure it wasn't for you or your friends but that's too bad for them (and you). Food poisoning, fist fights, rabid dogs running rampant, unsanitary hospitals, bodies all over the place… are you sure you didn’t see this in a horror movie? This sounds a little like Juarez Mexico, maybe next time you should save some money and just go there? I’m still wondering why a health nut would be scoping out a kit kat? Hmmmm, you bought one didn’t you????

    If you ever want to try an extreme sport, okay it’s not yet adopted as an extreme sport…. go to Cancun/Cozumel and rent a moped. Traffic isn’t AS BAD as it appeared to be in India… but like your friends… before you’re done riding the moped in Mexican traffic you’ll sh— yourself!

  • Stephanie

    Loved reading your post, thanks for the laughs! And, Sir Roman has a nice ring to it. The farthest I've gone is to Red China, that was about 20 years ago. I just remember how bad it smelled, the meat markets everywhere, and a restaurant serving a fungus as dessert in a bowl of water.

  • Tunya

    Sir Roman,

    Great write up as usual. Mahalo for sharing your trip with all of us.

  • TC

    Did you feel a little out of place?

    I often hear stories from Americans about how easily they stick out in eastern countries because Americans are so consistently more heavily built compared to most locals.

  • Nandano

    Hi sir Roman, I've been to Kolkata several times and it's one of my favourite cities in India. India is beautiful and tragic all at once but it is so alive and that's what makes it so good. The street food in Kolkata is very good and despite what you may think it's safe to eat, more so than some of the hotel food. It's made fresh everyday that's why.

    The humble roll is Kolkata's most popular fast food, paneer or meat wrapped in a roti. My fav semi raw beef (yep raw) with spices and chilli of course. This can be had only in the muslim area, of park circuit.

    The Oberoi is amazing in Kolkata, I would just go to have a drink or food sometimes and sit in the opulence. The shiniest marble floors I've ever seen and the food is so good.

    India is a place I think everyone should visit because it gives one a perspective on life that in fact, this how most of the people on our planet are living.

    I recommend it, Go with an open mind and don't plan to much because you'll miss the incredible spontaneity that just takes you. mmmm the smell of curry!

  • faz

    I wouldn't go to that dump for a billion dollars!!!!!!

  • wendy

    Roman, You should be writing books. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed reading about your trip adventures. I will go to Tims blog to read his part but I bet he is not as animated as you in bringing us there through your descriptions. Just one thing, was this a trip to help Tim write a book or learn how to cook? Thats about the only purpose I can see out of all this.Just wondering..

  • Manu

    Sounds like it was a memorable trip. You never can fully appreciate what we have in this country until you see what those living in other countries have.

    Last December I visited Riyahd and went to a Turkish restaurant staffed by Filipinos. As part of the decor there were two stuffed foxes riding a motorcycle amongst a bunch of other stuffed animals. Food was great, but the decor was bizarre. I'll admit that driving in Saudi Arabia sounds better than in India, but it is still crazy.

    Wish I had had business class on the way back from there.

  • Nina Strnad

    Welcome Back! And …Oh My God, what a hilarious post!

    We have been to India before (to a wedding) and yes, Oberoi Hotels are the way to go, but it's part of the experience to try the others. Our closest story is that we were traveling with another, very fun couple, and we were laughing so hard at dinner that he had to jump up and find the WC because the food & laughter made him squirt.

    My son visited northern India when he was 13, and it did truly change the course of his life. Travel is a wonderful thing for us… we were with our kids in Hong Kong and Beijing during the onset of SARS, for example. Big lessons on international attitudes there– one minute our surgical masks were being made fun of in Shenzhen, and by the time we got off the train back in Hong Kong, they were selling “Hello Kitty” doctors' masks! We have tried to see & experience as much as we can as a couple and as a family….

    Okay, so now let's get back on track!

  • Sue

    Glad you enjoyed Qatar Airways and what little you saw of Doha. If I'd known you were flying through here I'd have invited you to stay for a day or two. I'm a US expat living in Doha and have enjoyed the culture here, though it gets pretty frustrating at times.

    Thanks for the blogs.

  • Blaise

    Thanks for the trip report, Roman. Reminded me of the time I got sick in Belarus only I relied on my relatives, activated charcoal, and Imodium to restore some sense of balance to the system. Soubnds like Tim and Natasha had it much worse. It's always great to get out and experience other cultures first hand. No tour guide can give you that.

  • dean

    Seems like you've had a rememberable experience, the major aspect you can take back home is how to wake up people up with wake up calls ha

    Sorry to hear the experience wasn't the best for Tim but just think I bet business class seemed amazing on the way I bet on the way back it felt like heaven

    As a teenager I lived in Germany with my dad being in the army and all I can say is when we went to canada it felt like a new world everyone was so friendly and the culture was fantastic

    Being a brit all I can say is I haven't met anyone who likes horse racing, think most people in my family love rugby so no need to worry there roman!!

    P.s listening to the focus CD now

  • Tom

    Mission trips to Mexico were probably the most exotic for me. Similar to your experience, you really can't prepare yourself for the poverty until you're there. Did you manage to get some quality workouts in on your trip or did you take the time off?

  • justin

    Sounds like a hell of a trip. In my experience, if you take trips like these with friends you still experience some things you don't want to but it's easier to laugh about them later.

    Reminds me of a couple trips I've taken to Mexico. It was a good time in general and then there were encounters with unsavory characters, food, etc.

  • Jill

    Sir Roman,

    I am still laughing at all of your adventures from India as I type this. It takes a special kind of person to put a spin like you seem to be able to on trials like that!

    I am glad you ditched the middle class tour guide & got to see the real India. Imagine not being able to yell at a sporting event! Next time you are in Canada let me know & I'll take you to a rowdy wrestling show. We yell loudly, cheer n jeer and even swear a bit! And you won't have to do time travel to come. I have to warn you tho I don't know if wrestling folks will address you by your formal name SIR!! Lol.

    Thank you for sharing, you made my afternoon. I'm off to read Tim's rendition now.

    Jill

  • Claire

    Wow! You did it! Sounds like a great trip, and lots of (if not always fun) memories. Try Africa next time. Most places are very poor too but not so hectic. And if you liked the glimpse you got from the Middle East, you should come and visit when I'm back in Dubai! Emirates is quite a good airline too.

  • rocky

    Hahahaha. Seriously that was hilarious!

    It's funny you mention the Jets, they def coulda used your screaming against the Ravens..

    Did you get to watch any football while you were there?

  • Dean

    Seems like you've had a rememberable experience, the major aspect you can take back home is how to wake up people up with wake up calls ha

    Sorry to hear the experience wasn't the best for Tim but just think I bet business class seemed amazing on the way I bet on the way back it felt like heaven As a teenager I lived in Germany with my dad being in the army and all I can say is when we went to canada it felt like a new world everyone was so friendly and the culture was fantastic.

    Being a brit all I can say is I haven't met anyone who likes horse racing, think most people in my family love rugby so no need to worry there roman!!

    Thanks -Dean-

  • David

    I look forward to hearing more about this trip, Roman. I was in Fiji (Beqa Island) for 6 days of diving. Clear, warm water, huge bugs, and the ever present mongoose. Very friendly Fijians, at least to the American visitors. There was alot of tension between the Fijian and the ethnic Indian population, and the two groups did not seem to mingle. My stay in Thailand back in the 90s was certainly eye-opening, especially with so many families in deep poverty, as well as the exploitation of children. We take so much for granted!

  • Divi

    Hi Roman! So you made it out of my neck of the woods alive, eh! The intangibles are what make a trip interesting…and HOW! You picked a great city and state to start your Indian Experience.

    Next trip I would suggest choosing from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Goa and Bangalore. These are the other major tourist hubs. There are soooo many places to visit and experience the multitude of cultures that make up INDIA.

    One thing to remember about India: the food is SPICEY!! And not the stuff you are used to in the west, believe me. The variety of preparations is an all other experience in itself.

    It has been a while since I've been home, and your article set me up with a solid doze of nostalgia!! >

    I hope you will visit India again!

    Cheers!

  • http://www.lifehealthwellness.com Adrian Robles

    Holy Moly! Sounds like an experience of a lifetime for sure Roman. Business class, time travel, near death experiences, contrasting hotel amenities & service – what else could one ask for? I'm just happy to hear the you, Tim & Natasha managed to survive the madness, if you will.

    I hope all is well and hope to see you again the near future.

  • http://www.shortcutcreations.com nataleigh Short

    Amazing……..

    as someone suggested earlier, you should write a book. Your writing style is educated and entertaining and I am glued to every word, it could be about your recent adventures or about how to run a successful PT business (which I have no interest in doing what so ever) I love reading your writing!!! Thank you for your time. You are an inspiration.

  • Raquel

    Hey, glad your back! I do enjoy reading your blog, it's really awesome… I respect India and might probably be a nice country but I really don't thing I would ever go there… specially after reading this :S :S :S BTW, if you want to see more monkeys, just come down here to Costa Rica, it is beautiful!!! :D See you and keep on the good writing!

  • Stacia

    roman, I always enjoy your writing. You have such a way with words and you paint pictures with your storys. I'm sick and felt crappy all day your story gave me a good laugh. thanks for sharing..

  • Shaun Robinson

    Hey Roman,

    Certainly sounds like you had an entertaining experience!

    One thing that I've always gained on my travels is the appreciation for what I have (and sometimes if I go somewhere infested with the rich and genetically blessed, what I don't have!) It's actually allowed me to realise just how much faith people such as myself put into the material possessions of this world. So many people have so little yet are so grateful for what they do have. The smiles on some of the kids faces says it all.

    Travel can be a great lesson in humility.

    India is certainly a culture shock for most. Fortunately for myself I had already travelled around other parts of Asia before India so I had an inclination of what I was getting myself into.

    My friend and I spent over a month there without a days sickness (sorry Tim!) I'm sure this was probably more luck than anything but one thing we tried to do as often as possible was to eat at places where we could see the food being prepared. Sure that doesn't take into account what has gone on prior but it's all about minimising the risk. One of the other ways we ensured no parasites survived in our systems was to drink copious amounts of alcohol!! Which leads me to the reason why I have need for your infinite wisdom and a treasured email fitness consultation!

    You're definitely right about reserving judgement based on the experiences in one city. I found every city to be totally different, India is a massively diverse country.

    I've travelled a pretty fair amount of our wondrous planet and the one place that I always remember fondly is Nepal. Now that you've been to India Roman Nepal would be a breeze for you! Fantastic scenery – the trekking is unparalleled, great food, extremely cheap (even cheaper than India) and the people are amongst the friendliest I've ever encountered.

    Get out of your comfort zone and give it a try, I'm positive you won't regret it!

  • Darren

    Great story, and i'm glad that you managed to fare better than Tim…well not glad for Tim, but you werent suffering from diarrhea or mauled by tigers so i consider it a success!

    The best exotic trip to date for me has to be Sydney: I got a chance to discover the outback, which isnt like so much like Crocodile Dundee as its like Man vs. Wild without the wild…i nearly met my ending by not paying attention and taking myself off a cliff, but other than that it was a thrill…though it was pre-fitness and im sure the excess beer consumption didnt help.

    Great story!

  • Indu

    There are many more exotic places to visit in India. I have moved all over the India and For me to select one is not easy. But if I think hard , my trip to Mount Kailash in Himalayas comes to my mind. Those beautiful mountains are not yet polluted by the civilians yet.

    But one should know to live primitive in Himalayans.

    About your India trip , it is very interesting. I say one thing. In India one can live being very poor and if you have money , can live Royal life.

    Hope you will have great time for the rest of your trip.

  • Marie

    Wow! Terrible fate for your friends. I'm glad they got better. It's tricky to eat certain foods in certain countries. I probably would have lived off protein powder after that. Thanks for sharing your trip (and awesome pics, especially the one taken upside down!) with us. And I'm also happy to hear you had a great flight. Those are loooong hours. Keep writing, love your blogs (and biceps).

  • Sally

    Thanks for the laugh, you should try travel writing one day, I would definitely listen to your recommendations. The artwork of Queen Victoria's Memorial really speaks to me. I've never been anywhere exotic but felt the vibe of India while reading your blog, thanks again.

  • Jill

    Roman,

    You make me laugh so much when you write and I just love that but most of all I love how you show your heart in everything you share.

    I have not traveled outside the states but I think many would be shocked at some of the poverty right here in this country or even the difference in culture between say New York and the Appalachians.

    I was thinking as I was reading that every teenage kid in this country should to be sent to a third world country for 6 mos to get a dose of reality.

    We really are blessed here. Thanks for sharing. Jill

  • KellyM

    What an experience! Glad you all are back safely!

    I went to Europe and had a similar experience… everything that could go wrong went wrong. However, it wasn't anything that we couldn't laugh about after the fact and pay a little more money for whatever obstacle came our way.

    We missed our bus to the airport (told to go to the wrong station twice) and ended up paying the equivalent of just over $200 US to get to our airport. We got locked out of that flight. Our bags were too heavy… the list goes on for that part. Our last night in southern France my friend went missing. I thought she was going back with our friend's classmate, and sure enough they got separated and she ended up getting arrested. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time -honestly did not commit a crime- and got strip searched, and handcuffed to a chair in jail. She didn't have her passport, money, or anything on her. We missed our train to Paris the next day because she didn't get released until much later. The list goes on and on for everything that went wrong. But overall it was an unforgettable trip!

  • Charles Mclaughlin

    Hi Roman,

    Glad that you chose Qatar Airlines. I also like flying with them and they are highly regarded. India sounds a lot like Indonesia. You probably would even more freaked out when your taxi starts driving on the wrong side of the street like its nothing. I also love monkeys and actually got to take some pics with some at a safari outside of Jakarta. It was a crazy experience that I will never forget. I am sure your good and bad experiences in India you will never forget. I am glad to see you made it back to United States safely. Hopefully, next time you can take trip to South Asia. Singapore is a very beautiful country to visit.

  • SUDHAKR

    Good Insight thanks a lot Roman.

    With best Wishes

    sudhakar

  • Kia

    Thanks for a very interesting and funny post – I'm very glad you survived! Poor Tim and Natasha… what an awful way to spend most of your holiday!

    My most exotic place is America LOL! I was in Arkansas for 4 months when I was 18 ( I am an Aussie). i agree that the time change thing is really weird. It took me 2 weeks to adjust on the first trip.

  • Karen

    WHAT?!!?!??! You're not a knight???

    Crap.

  • James Hinsey

    Good post, I have not been to India yet. I was very interested in the problems you had. I will keep in mind if I get a chance to travel to India. Good job Roman.

  • Tom

    How did you sleep so well? ZMA or Melatonin?? I am looking forward to the 4 Hour Chef release maybe i can become a Bobby Flay in my next life. I was dreading the Chargers bye week and flying to play the Jets in 3 weeks, but after these last two weeks i am licking my chops ;).Roman-you are blessed to have such good friends!!!

  • ELLEN

    I was in India a few years ago with a medical team to serve those who don't have access to care. I found out that drivers honk their horns every time they plan to pass another vehicle so that that vehicle won't pull out in front of them! Hence, there is a constant barrage of horn blowing.

    When I got my flight back to home in New Delhi, I was pleased to see signs there that said “No honking”, or something to that effect.

  • rehana

    LOL! your blog had me in tears! it is the quintessential 'first time trip to India' experience, which wouldn't be complete without food poisoning. i have to say that after i returned from my first trip there, JFK and a dirty NYC taxi never looked so good…

  • http://www.sebastianfitnesssolutions.com/blog Suneet

    LOL!

    The post was really funny Roman

    Im an Indian and I kinda figured most of the things you'd say

    Its unfortunate and true

    And btw, a even bigger LOL on the using ones hand and water to wash the backside.

    PS: Its not just in the hospitals that they do it;kinda everywhere!

    I especially liked the part where you mentioned you cannot judge India based on one city and how you aptly gave the example of NYC and Chattanooga

    You visited Kolkata,which is much different from my resident city of Mumbai.

    The difference?

    BEAUTIFUL and Romantic view of the sea.

    Better place for women (Yes,kolkata and Delhi are not safe places for women.Harassment is VERY prevalent)

    More welcoming crowd (People in Kolkata are astoundingly rude.Even to fellow Indians)

    The downside:

    More population,more beggars,more traffic.More pollution.

    Hope you'd come here sometime as well.

    I'd love to meet you someday.

    I'm glad you enjoyed your experience.And even though somethings were unpleasant to endure and watch (yes, the diarrhea and the poor hospital care), Im sure it was very entertaining and kept you laughing during the entire return journey

    :D

    Take care Roman

    PS: This is probably even funnier and weird.But even I got diarrhea when I went to NYC and had something at TGI Friday! Imagine that. Must be the first time ever,that an Indian got food poisoning while eating in America!

  • Colin

    G'day Sir Roman or rather Roman Sahib,

    As you can gather, I'm an Aussie – born and bred in India however.

    I'm not at all surprised with the treatment dished out to your buddy Tim Ferris and the lovely Natasha by Calcutta hospitals as unfortunately some things never change for the better even in a country that's progressing at speed. Back in 1972, at the time I was to be interviewed for immigration to Aus, I fell ill. After waiting in a mile long queue, I was eventually given a jab with the same needle that had been used on the dozens of people in front of me. After each use, the needle was dipped in disinfectant to 'purify' it.Twenty years later, on a holiday in India, my 7 year old daughter required a tetanus shot. Guess what, an ancient needle was used which was put back in a beaker of disinfectant for reuse. This was in an upper class clinic run by nuns. Nothing had changed in 20 years.

    I can also relate to your toilet paper fiasco. On our above holiday in India the ONLY places where toilet paper was available were 'novelty shops'. Actually, since this was before the introduction of television to all but the most wealthy of Indian households, newspapers were used for more than just the provision of information.

    As far as attending horse races go, top hats and bow ties were not a concern when I was still a local at the two horse town I was living in at that time. Getting into the local racecourse was, especially when one was almost penniless. This was done by sneaking over three stranded barbed wire fences when the view of the patrolling constabular who were usually armed with a 'lathi' (a thick wooden rod/baton) in hand was obscured by passing overfilled buses – sometimes ending in torn trousers and or deeply gouged and bleeding legs. So, back over the fence and off to the hospital to meet the needle that had already been used a zillion times before.

    All good fun!!!

    Glad you enjoyed your trip. Hope you visit India again – obviously flying business class with Dr K in tow – and experience the magnificent array of experiences whether cultural,food or a tryst with a rusty and ancient needle that other parts of this wonderful country have to offer.

    Cheers.

  • http://0x0000000a.com/irql_not_less_or_equal.html Sean

    Great report! I'm thinking of visting India now too. However, the idea of incessant horn honking and dog packs that rule the street in the night is a bit scary…I love silence and night walks. BTW, you thought about naked babies having clothes is not sick, it is correct. It's business, you can resist and feel egoistic or give in and feel idiotic.

  • http://www.naomirules.com Naomi

    Dear Sir:

    You should consider a career change to travel writing! Good stuff and I really love how you honestly capture the awfulness of it all without appearing to be a whiner, which, I know, you could never pull off.

    Yours,

    Naomi

  • Galina

    Roman,

    I still can't stop laughing about the wake up call. I sent it to my adult kids and they did have a good laugh with me and appreciate the reality of it. I've been to India myself. It is a very different experience. The poverty is striking, the naked babies on the asphalt is a nerve wrecking experinece and it does make one to appreciate what we have here in US very much. Coming back home to US was enlightening. “Welcome home” at the customs was a music to my ear. If only we here in US appreciated what we have to the full extent of it.

  • sharon leigh

    Sir… :D

    That was great. Pleeeeeze don't stop traveling to exotic locations. And promise to write about them, k?

    I have frequently exchanged art for part pay, part first class ticket deals. I always describe it as a might-be mistake to fly first class because when you are back in economy, all trunched up, you then *know* what you are missing. It's the true form of ignorance is bliss when squeezed between a ChattyCathy and a booger bedecked toddler.

    My most exotic trip was Egypt for a month. Unbelievable. Arrived at night and my host led me through Cairo's biggest souk(sp?)which was teeming with a cast of thousands right out of an Indinana Jones flick to a wonderful restaurant.

    The whole evening was beyond surreal. Wonderland/Oz/Treasure Island/Mummy/Hunter Thompsonish.

    When we got to Alexandria we stayed in the Cecil hotel. It's where Agatha Christie stayed when she was writing Death On The Nile.

    The baby-poop colored SHAG carpeting that time forgot and left in my room was wet. I'm not talking damp, it was*soaking*. I didn't notice till I took off my shoes and my socks instantly siphoned up about 2 pints. Gak. And it was mysteriously sti-cky. Double GAK. I flung my socks in the bin and OCD-washed my feet. Tried to change rooms but of course hotel was fully booked. Never took my shoes off, never set anything on the floor.

    To this day my f#n imagination tortures me with visions of possible scenerios as to the condition of that evil carpet.

    Too bad I can't ask Agatha.

    Thanks again for your travel tale!

  • http://ristouuk.wordpress.com Risto Uuk

    Do you imagine going to India for a second time?

    Based on your story, it doesn't really sound that India is a place I would want to go to. Obviously it could be helpful in the sense that you might start appreciating your own life more after experiencing the havoc and poverty they have, but I'll rather skip it, I think.

  • Celeste

    I loved your upside down Picture, it made me smile :). I never actually traveled anywhere

  • Daniel

    Loved the story, reminded me of my trip to India! I flew into Mumbai, and traveled over the mountain to Nasik. The culture is so . . . foreign. Beautiful, sad, genuine, scamming, breakneck driving, confusingly wonderful. We got lucky and holed up in a really nice hotel that made sandpics for us in the vestibule. Beautiful pictures of birds and words that reminded me of the art of Tibetan monks. The trash lined streets for miles abruptly meeting a building 12 stories high for those computer call centers that are so frusterating.

    I just wanted to say thanks for reminding me of my trip. Please continue to visit other countries, you know it's time to visit again when the shock of how nice we really do have it wears off.

  • Sally

    Hey Roman,

    Just re-reading your hilarious account of your India trip, as I prepare to leave for India on Nov. 6th. And it struck me: if you have never read it, you would enjoy “Are You Experienced” by William Sutcliffe. Very funny – Google the title for a review.

  • Ryan

    Sounds like an interesting trip.

    I feel for Tim. Having experienced food poisoning on a 15 hour night bus in Vietnam. Needless to say the poor lady that sat next to me was not my biggest fan!

    On the sporting subject I think your next trip should be to England. You are correct in that some British sports do involve dressing as a penguin and whispering. However, I would gladly escort you to a football (not that soccer stuff you guys play!) or rugby game. I can assure you it will be an experience. Not to mention a lesson in the finer side of the English language.

    Oh, and were there hover boards in the future?

  • http://www.gammao.com/ccp0-display/products.html PTF Gamma James

    Great article Roman, you have a well thought out blog, feel fry to try our PTF out and write a review about it, we'd be honored!

  • Andrew Todd

    Great post about India, and, as others have said, you really should write a travel guide to somewhere. It's a pity that your friends ended up with such a servere case of the runs because there really is too much to see and do in a few days. I went to Japan in 1992 and am STILL in Asia – how's that for an exotic trip? First stop en route to Japan was Sri Lanka a.k.a. Ceylon. I'm now living in Shanghai and have traveled all over Asia – and lived in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and China. The absolutely best cure for the runs? Very hard boiled eggs (eat them).

  • http://www.herbaldiet.com/ Franky Keats

    I simply love the way you write; keeps the reader interested until the end. By the way you had a fantastic trip, the sort I would also want to have if I get a chance.

  • http://www.christinehannon.com Christine H

    I enjoy the candor of your posts and can relate to the surprise of Western influence abroad!

    The most exotic trip I've ever been on must have been a sailing trip, or rather felucca ride, overnight on the Nile between Aswan and Luxor. It was the week before my 22nd birthday and my last month of living in Egypt. I spent a week backpacking through Upper Egypt and met a few fellow Americans who invited me to join them on the boat. Knowing no one for more than a day, I stepped aboard a boat of 15 strangers from Australia to Canada to Israel. I made many photographs and journaled aboard the boat, harkening back to the era of Florence Nightengale. The most vivid image of the impromtu sail was of another felucca at sunset silhouetted against the crimson sky with its reflection wavering in the river.

  • Jess

    Ok just read this blog and allI have to say is wow. It was really good. I'm not saying this because I'm your sister, but you really are gifted and brilliant in what you write. I'm seriously now going to read every blog. It's not that I didn't do it because it was you, I just don't like to read, but I like your stuff, so now I will ALWAYS read it. Good job! :)