Chris On Tour – The Pursuit of Hard Rock Cafes

Taking a firm decision is the beginning of everything…

Planning my iternary starts months before departure.  I check flight routes and what to do at each place.  Booking early helps to save a few dollars, I use the airlines websites directly, sometimes I book through www.travelhero.com.  Well, this time it’s complicated, places from India to Fiji, the result is:  more than 20 flights in 35 days.  Eleven new Hard Rock locations and some other nice places are my target.   Don’t think I’m HR crazy just because I keep the focus of this trip report on the HR experience.   For the rest of my journey, please check out the pics, I took more than 1500, and it was a lot of work to select the best, then link to the pictures at the end.  Well, everything went smooth on this trip, thank God!

Early December, there I go… First, I made a stopover in London, I finally got to visit the Vault at the London Cafe, just to get a visit score at Beat’s site www.hardrockcafes.info/english/hrc-fan.htm.

India:  Well, despite my original profession as an athropologist, I leave the in depth culture thing for another journey.  Lack of time.  India greets me with nice temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees C.  Some ideas I’ve had about India were not ture (anymore).  Cows, I’ve seen less than a dozen in the whole of Mumbai.  It’s dirty, but not that much.  things that kept me from going to India earlier, like extreme poverty or examples of discrimination by the cast system, I didn’t encounter.  On the contrary, I’ve met lots of friendly people, no hassles at all, except for the tuktuk drivers in New Delhi (a city where you can’t find a taxi).

Chris in Hyderabad

The Hard to find Cafes…”know where to go”…

Mumbai:  it’s the impossible to find the HRC, since it’s on the backside of a business building, no hint on the front side. Who’s gonna find that place? Well, not my taxi driver 😉 even if he says he knows it… I wasn’t too far away, after visiting the scenic Haji Ali mosque at sunset, he thought it would be good deal when we settled the price, but only after 1 hour and asking about 10 different persons we’ve found it, darkness already surrounded us. The staff was friendly, the food was good, and the music loud, sounds familiar. 95% of the customers are Indian I was told. How do the other 5% find this place I thought…

Delhi:  this city is vast, definitely not enough for my short stop over. Will have to come back one day, visit the Taj Mahal at Agra too, and the cities of Rajasthan, and the tigers at Ranthamboree NP too. At least 3 weeks. Another time. The HRC, still hard to find, is at DLF Saket Mall. There are other DLF Malls in Delhi too. The drivers rather know the name of the mall next to it: Select Citywalk. It’s inside the mall, not too big, a lot of red and brown colors, very nice.

Bangalore (as still everyone calls it): is a nice city, but first, we drove almost 3 hours west to Mysore. The Mysore Palace is an absolute must visit. Sunday night, the palace is lit up, thousands of lights are admired by thousands of visitors.  My hotel, the Empire Int’l,  just a hundred meters away from the HRC, organised a car and a driver at a very reasonable price for this side trip. I hired the same driver for a Bangalore city tour the next day. My personal favourites are the ISCKON temple and the Shiv Mandir temple, (see my picture page). For me, the HRC in Bangalore is the nicest in India, they’ve given a historic building a new purpose, friendly staff too. Only “Bengaluru” items available now.

Pune:  I could have taken the train from Mumbai, but I prefered to fly, it’s so much more convenient. I hired a driver through my hotel (Hotel Srimaan, higly recommended, unless you can afford the brand new Westin. I can’t.) We’ve been to some sights, but nothing too spectacular. The HRC, pyramid shape, is another HTF Cafe, way out of the city. Take a left about 1 mile after the new Westin hotel, park at the end, and walk 1 minute, you’ll see it. Beautiful on the inside, we were the only guests (at 8pm!), and had some good talks with staff members.

HRC Pune

Hyderabad:  it’s hard to find words for this city, it’s a bit of everything, a mix of cityscapes, people and cultures. What I was curious about were the rocks at Jubilee Hills, giant rocks laying around, while the city expands nearby. My driver Ali, proud owner of his car, brought me to the HRC, located at the not so big GVK One Mall. He took a nap while I went for lunch and shopping. The impressive Golconda Fort is a great place to visit, don’t miss it if you go to Hyderabad. I was too early at the nice new airport, I saluted at the remnants of the former HR Bar in the most remote corner of the int’l departure area. No wonder this location didn’t last too long.  By the way, who’s approved this business plan, hmmm?!

Good memories of India…topped by excellent service during my Silk Air flight to Singapore. Terminal 3, I’m coming, that’s an easy to find HRC! Corp could easily open 50 airport cafes around the world I was pondering. Why don’t they do it?  Singapore, see you next year, I’m hurrying off to my connecting flight to Penang, Malaysia.

Penang has a really nice HR Hotel at Batu Ferringhi, a nice beach area some miles west of the capital Georgetown. There’s a night market too, so nobody will get bored. Penang has some very interesting sights to offer, as the Kek Lok Si Temple or the Khoo Kongsi clan house. Don’t miss the snake temple, not far from the airport, for your very personal snake experience. See my pics.

‘Stralia, ya little beauty, gotta wear shades, the future’s so bright

For more than 15 years I have a t-shirt in my posession with 2 turkeys on it saying the above, but only by 2009 my plane leads me there. Actually if it wasn’t for the cheap price at Air Asia X, it would have taken some more years for me to make it happen. Having this said, I’ve spent a night in Brisbane, not so exciting, and a few days in Surfers Paradise, a friendly place with another must see place for me: the Q1 Tower. It’s viewing platform at some 300 meters above sea level offers greats sights of the Gold Coast. Beautiful. The HRC was thriving, no wonder, the location is excellent.

Fiji:  there’s not too much happening at Port Denarau, the only place in Fiji where something IS happening, but it seems the HRC is happy with its vending numbers. They were out of City Tees, the GM promised to send me one when they’re back in stock. Will have to send him a reminder… I went on day cruise to a small island, where a cyclone passed through just 5 days before. I took some nice pics and enjoyed the warm water. Most guests were Fijians, singing traditional songs all the way back to Port Denarau. Nice experience. At the airport our plane got delayed by Fiji Time, a phenomenon others describe as lazyness. I’ve encountered that already on my arrival, waiting for the hotel driver…

Thailand, the #1 holiday destination

In Thailand, you’re spoiled by choice, good quality and cheap prices, and in Phuket, also by the beauty of nature. Bustling Patong has the newest HRC, although not well located, it still draws a mainly upscale foreign crowd. One awesome thing to do was the speed boat tour to the famous Maya Beach, revived Phi Phi Island and a small gem named Khai Nai Island. Thailand always means world class shopping, Phuket has its Jungceylon Mall, Bangkok it’s Siam Square and Pattaya the Central Festival Mall. I know where my suitcase’s overweight comes from… Meeting fellow long time HR collector Titi in Bangkok for some HR chat is another personal highlight for me. If you’ve never been to Bangkok, catch the next plane and visit the city of angels with all it’s sights not to miss. Even the seedy Pattaya nowadays is much more entertainment for everyone, especially russian, korean and chinese crowds flock the streets. Well, time’s short, gotta go, Cambodia is waiting for me…

After almost 6 years I’m back in Phnom Penh and I still get the same feeling: change is in the air. Cambodia is catching up. But besides the modern amenities, like the charming Suria Mall downtown, you still witness the ‘old Asia’ and an almost romantic countryside, if it wasn’t for the hard labour people there have to endure. There’s no HRC in Cambodia, I didn’t feel the miss, how could I, after my HR overdose the last few weeks.  After a short flight to Siem Reap I was ready to encounter the temples of Angkor, a world heritage site everyone should visit once in a lifetime. It was hot, extremely hot, and after a marathon day of exploring numerous temples, I was totally exhausted. Entry fees, car and driver/guide for 1 day cost me about 100$, but it was well worth it. Can’t do it without a guide and a car or a tuktuk, you’d miss some of the best sights for sure.

New Year in Kuala Lumpur: I wanted to see the fireworks in front of the Petronas Towers. I’ve found the Traders Hotel, opposite of the Towers, for a perfect angle. But first I went shopping, then visited the refurnished HRC. I think it looks much better on the inside now. Later on I went back to KLCC park to witness the sound and water show, not so impressive actually. Then I went back to my hotel room, took a short nap, and got ready for midnight. It was really loud and full of lights, but after a few seconds, there was more smoke than anything else.

Enough HRCs for now, my count is at 172 visited places: www.arrakeen.ch/hrcvisits.htm. How did I get so far? Well, HRCs are priority when deciding about where to go next.  2010 is another year to rock on…

Since I travel so much, I keep the detailed memories through the pictures I’ve taken. And yes, pictures say more than the thousand words above, so please have a lot at them. Start here:  www.arrakeen.ch/india2009/indiah.htm

So long…

Chris **Arrakeen**

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