Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions (MICE) is a buzz word in the world of business, usually this means that one organization will sponsor a trip for their clients or business associates as incentives for a job well done, some times for a job to be done well. On the 2nd of May my colleague & I escorted 46 employees of a top client on an overseas trip. This was a 5 nights, 6 days trip crossing 4 countries and my second overseas trip ever. The following series will detail the trip.
Day 1 – May 02: We departed from Chennai to Schipol Airport by the Emirates airline and so the stopover was in Dubai. A 4.25 AM flight meant a 1 AM check in and therefore no sleep for the hosts as we had to gather the travellers assembled from across the country in a city hotel and take them to the airport. The inevitable Indian Stretchable Time standards ensured that we reached the airport late enough to give me a nervous attack.
A mad check in followed by a serpentine immigration check escorted by the guide from Kuoni left me exhausted, so much so that the 4 hour flight in an Airbus A330 to Dubai went by in a blur.
Dubai airport is seriously impressive and my favourites are the water installations and the underground train that shuttles within the airport.
The mammoth A380 with its comfortable legroom, awesome inflight entertainment ensured that the 8 odd hour flight from Dubai to Schipol was enjoyable.
I caught a movie and then listened to The Messiah on the flight. The food on the flight was below expectations and serving crackers with every meal was unusual at least for me. And I could not help noticing that the prettiest airhostesses can be found in some of our domestic sectors, on the Emirates they looked tired and very plain.
We landed in Schipol airport Amsterdam in the afternoon and after the mandatory resetting of the watches I realized that I had not slept for nearly 28 or so hours. I liked the Schipol airport and my first impression was that all airports should be designed liked this one. The airport opens into a mall with a railway station and a bus stand outside ensuring connectivity. Our bus was waiting for us and so we jaywalked across the road to the bus. I mention jay walk as there it is simply not done, people wait at the pedestrian and the traffic waits for them to cross.
The first thing I noticed about the bus was that it was a left hand drive and so we looked quite silly searching for the door on the wrong side. So we boarded the bus and another thing caught my eye, a dustbin.
A segregated dustbin with degradable, non-degradable and plastic like some we may have seen here but what was different was that this was being used, I noticed a man eating a hotdog throw the crumbs in one, the wrapper in another. Small things, but they make a difference.
I learnt a few more things during the drive to the hotel. On the road the order of priority is for the pedestrian, cyclist and then the motorist with dedicated cycle tracks everywhere and everyone respects the traffic lights even if there is no vehicle in sight. The roads are very narrow and the houses in the older part of the city are ancient with an average vintage of 200 odd years.
It was amazing to hear that around 8000 homes are protected monuments in the city with a government permission required for the owners to renovate or repair their homes. In addition the government subsidizes the maintenance costs!!! The houses share common walls and are very narrow almost like houses in Mylapore or Triplicane! Another quirky feature of the homes was the narrow doors and a hook on the roof, these hooks were used to lift goods or furniture into the homes as the doors are very narrow!
We checked into the Renaissance hotel a part of the Radisson chain and had a packed lunch before we set off for the first part of the sightseeing that was a visit to the Hieneken Museum.
Hieneken appears to be one the most famous exports of Amsterdam and the museum stands testimony to the same. The makers of the beer have converted the original factory into a museum for their famous product and a visit to the facility seems to be a part of the tourist itineraries of Amsterdam. The museum tour takes a visitor through the manufacturing process of the beer and its heritage. The staff seem so passionate about the beer and their enthusiasm is so infectious that I could not decline the complimentary beer and drank it the way it is supposed to be drunk (with manly gulps!).
We finished the tour and realized that it was still bright though it was over 6 PM. The sun sets late in this part of the country and the sun set at around 9.30 PM that evening. The beautiful network of canals adds beauty to a historical town and the water in the canals appear clean. (Sigh).
It was almost unreal to see bright sunshine and the clock showing that it was 8 PM when we reached the Indian hotel for dinner. After an Indian dinner a sore point of the trip we retired to our rooms completely exhausted. I was told by the guides that Indians are poor travelers reluctant to try any local food and if they are vegetarians it gets tricky so Indian it was right through the trips in the Indian restaurants that seemed to be everywhere. It was a tired end to a long day that started the day earlier.