No.010 “Was India Calling for Me?”

※ I have a feeling you ought to take a look at No.009 “Eek, you pervert~! Now, as for that vacation…” before reading on.

Originally, I was thinking of taking time off from work at the end of May. The limited edition CD I was recording after ending my “Hikigatari Battari #1” tour in March also acted as practice for my upcoming “#2” tour, so the plan was that immediately after my official site opened on May 20th, I’d take a week long trip somewhere and after coming back, I’d use the next two weeks to make any final adjustments for the tour. Such a seemingly convenient plan and everything… but I was naive.

Not only did my workload for the opening of the site turn out to be much bigger than I’d anticipated, but I soon realized that there was going to be no pause for its updates and other work that needed to be done after its opening. But, it was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and seeing what I’d envisioned gradually materializing before my eyes was just a blast and extremely cool to see. But because of that, and a variety of other things, the rehearsals for my tour were initially not going very smoothly, so in that situation I came to the conclusion that my planned holiday at the end of May had to be postponed to after “#2” at the end of July.

When I was halfway through the tour, however, more and more activities for the near future were being scheduled and before I’d realized it, taking time off at the end of July, too, was going to be impossible. It was obvious that things were only going to get busier and busier. So, I made up my mind and decided that I had to take time off from July 14th until 18th. “Let’s see… a short vacation of 5 days and 4 nights” → “Well, I want to take it easy but I also want to avoid unnecessary expenses” → “Alright, best take advantage of Mileage.” So, I logged onto JAL Mileage Bank and looked through their special flights.

My destination? Hanoi, Vietnam. Ever since returning to Japan last summer I’ve felt like going to Vietnam (or more specifically, Hanoi) to eat authentic pho to my heart’s content. Unfortunately, since I made my vacation plans as late as July 1st — two weeks before my departure — and perhaps because of the long weekend, the flight back from Hanoi was full and I couldn’t afford to move my schedule by even one day. So I thought, “in that case, what about Ho Chi Minh City?” But there were no round trip tickets left anymore. “Oh dear… I was too late, huh.” So, I looked through JAL’s special offers for locations with direct flights as I didn’t want to waste any time. However, I’m currently not particularly interested in South Korea, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, it’s still too early for me to visit Guam or Saipan, and if I was to go to China, I’d prefer to take my time exploring the mainland. While I was busy going around in circles with all these thoughts, I happened to come upon the word “Delhi.” Delhi… India, huh…? (Cue India-like BGM of reminiscence here, resounding from around 9 years ago.)

December 1996. “So next up it’s gotta be India, huh?” That’s what I was thinking back then for particularly no reason. Thus, at the end of ’96, the plan was to go to Delhi → take a picture of the Taj Mahal in Agra → bathe in the River Ganges in Varanasi → finish by eating hot curry in Calcutta. I got my travel agent at the time to arrange my flights, booked all the hotels and applied for a Visa. Well, it turned out that the remaining validity on my passport didn’t meet the requirements for the Visa, so I hurriedly got the renewal process for my passport started. I made sure that I still had time to get the Visa after I’d been issued my new passport, so the case was closed for the time being and I kept reading my India guidebook and getting ready for my first visit there.

However, the day before I was going to get issued my new passport, I was suddenly awoken from my sleep by a high fever and was rushed into a nearby hospital. The fever was my new personal record, by the way, breaking 39 degrees. I didn’t have any coughing, a runny nose or any other symptoms typical of a cold, and there was nothing special found in terms of the fever’s origin. I was told that it’d be best to wait it out for a while and see how it develops, and so I was hospitalized. I received an intravenous drip on the bed of the hospital sickroom and took it easy, but the next day when I was supposed to get my new passport, my high fever was still there, hovering at around 38 degrees.

Naturally, the passport had to be personally picked up and although the thought of calling a taxi and sneaking out of the hospital to get it did cross my mind, I had no idea when my high fever of unknown origin was going to pass, and when it did, I had no idea if I could endure my time of convalescence in the completely new environment of India. I had no energy to think about it so I called up my travel agent to ask if I was really out of options here, and he told me that “even using the fastest method for acquiring the Visa, today’s the limit.” I sadly gave up on picking up the passport that day.

I had work scheduled immediately after I was due to return which I couldn’t postpone, so with bitter disappointment, I made the decision to cancel my trip to India. In the end, they never did find an explanation for my high fever and I was discharged from the hospital four days later. One night, I was at my regular bar where I told this same story. “Well, they say India ‘calls’ for people…“, my barkeep said. “It looks like it wasn’t calling for you this time.” “It ‘calls’ for you, huh…” (Cue the fadeout of the India-like BGM of reminiscence and return to present day.)

While reminiscing over those memories, I’d somehow come across a direct flight to Delhi that had a perfect schedule of a Thursday departure and Sunday return. Investigating further, I noticed it even had vacancies for a round trip. Perhaps this meant that India was finally “calling” for me? Mmm, but the place I wanted to go was Hanoi, Vietnam, or failing that, at least Ho Chi Minh. I wanted to stay at a fancy hotel and take my time slowly painting pictures or something. At any rate, it was all good as long as I’d get to eat pho to my heart’s content. I knew that much.

Besides, wouldn’t my first time experiencing India be a little difficult with such a tight schedule? Still, the fact of the matter was that the flights to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh were full, whereas the one to Delhi wasn’t. Well, it wasn’t like I absolutely had to go to Vietnam. More than anything, I just wanted to take some time off. If I didn’t get a cancel ticket to either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, then I’d interpret that as “India calling for me” and decide that Delhi is where I had to go. So, I put the Hanoi flight as my no. 1 wish and Ho Chi Minh City as no. 2 on the waiting list, then the flight to Delhi as by backup reservation. It was almost like a lottery to decide my place of destination. I then bought “Walks of the Earth, India Edition” and started imagining my first visit to India.

On July 8th, I had a message in my answering machine. “Hello, I’m calling on behalf of JAL Mileage Bank. We have something to discuss with you, so could you call us back, please.” Me: “Hmm, did I get it…? Oh no, what do I do if they tell me “Mr. Kimura, India is calling for you”?” Things like that were going through my head as I called JAL.

It turned out, I’d gotten the round trip tickets to Ho Chi Minh. As the day of departure was approaching and I still had to take care of the hotel arrangements and whatnot, continuing to wait for Hanoi might’ve been a bit obstinate of me so I confirmed my flight to Ho Chi Minh, removed myself from the waiting list to Hanoi and with that, my reservation to Delhi was gone, too.

So in the end, I suppose India still wasn’t calling for me. Or maybe it was — I just pretended not to notice.

Well, this sure got long. The answer to the quiz in column No. 009 was Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Though I’ve been complaining about this and that, I really did have a great time there. Next week, I’ll write more about the rice noodles, pho, that I went and ate to my heart’s content. Also, on the paysite “Kita-Aoyama Image Redevelopment” that opens on August 20th, I’ll be posting my detailed travel journal to Ho Chi Minh along with beautiful pictures. (Just doing some advertising, fufufu…)

2005/07/22

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