Mumbai by Jet

Unfeasibly early start once again. The flight was due to leave Udaipur Airport at 8.20am, so we rose at 5.30am, our taxi arrived at 6.30 and we were there in plenty of time.

The security at the airport was the most thorough I’ve ever encountered, with two searches of hand luggage and a patting-down search, as well as x-raying the checked-in luggage. I had to demonstrate my mini alarm clock before I was allowed through.

The airport, being as far as I could tell domestic only, didn’t have much in the way of shops or other distractions so we watched the armed police wandering about while we waited.

When the plane was ready we walked over to board it (across the tarmac taxi-way and up the stairs).

The flight was pretty uneventful, just over an hour with breakfast of something unidentifiable.

Our landing in Mumbai was delayed by 20 mins due to congestion but we quickly reclaimed our baggage and headed outside.

The guidebooks said there was a taxi rank outside but we were immediately swamped by taxi drivers. We picked one who seemed to be at the front of the queue and he agreed to do the journey “on the meter”.

After a while, the driver asked us again where we were going and then didn’t seem to know where our destination guesthouse was. As we got down to the Colaba area he stopped to ask the way and after a few wrong turns we arrived at Bentley’s. The meter reading was Rs374, so we were a little taken aback when the driver asked for Rs650 saying that the extra was for air-conditioning. We argued for a while and we eventually paid him Rs550 just to see the back of him.

As we enetered Bentley’s we passed some workmen obviously carrying out electrical repairs. We were shown to our room (no.27) which was in a different block. The room was a bit grim. Small windows looking onto the kitchens of a neighbouring block, tiny shower/toilet room where the shower pointed directly at the toilet.
There a TV, though it had a habit of turning itself off at random intervals, about every 3-4 minutes. Not ideal but survivable.

We watched TV for a couple of hours and then went out for a stroll in Colaba. We passed all kinds of shops and streetside stalls selling a multitude of things including a good deal of touristy tat before reaching Leopold’s, one of the “traveller” hangouts. True to its reputation it was busy with lots of Westerners, though there were also plenty of young Indians in the drinking Kingfisher beer and eating fries.

We had a few beers and a bowl or two of free nuts, before leaving, heading back in the direction of the guesthouse. Another bit of a rest and it was evening and time to eat. The guidebooks recommended a Chinese place called Ling’s Pavillion, which was just round the corner from Leopold’s, so that was where we decided to go.

Walking along the dark streets of Mumbai was a little intimidating and we passed several scurrying rats, the size of cats. On reaching our destination, we were told that there was a 15-20 minute wait for tables, but we decided to wait. After only 4 or 5 minutes a table was ready, so we took our seats at a first floor table overlooking the ground floor with its stream full of fish.

We had managed to stick to vegetarian food at virtually every place we’d eaten (with the exception of Mahansar) but the menu here was sadly lacking in veg options. We selected the steamed veg wontons and Buddah’s Delight (mixed stir fry veg) along with another veg dish, the name of which escapes me. I had selected a peanut-based dish but the waiter said it wasn’t good (!).

Frankly I thought the food was very disappointing, the veg was mostly bland and tasteless and we both wished we’d gone for the non-veg options instead.

The bill came to Rs880, about 11 quid, the most we had paid for a meal in India, as far as I can remember.

Returning to the hotel, we passed many more rats, and hundreds of people sleeping on the pavements so that we had to walk in the road to avoid disturbing them.

We made it back to Bentley’s, and finding that the lift was locked walked up the stairs to our room.

Flicking the light on we were greeted by the sight of several cockroaches scurrying for cover. More were on the walls, on the wardrobe and in the bathroom. After a while it became clear that Vic was not going to be able to sleep in the room, so we had to consider alternatives.

We started calling round some other hotels and finally found one that answered the phone. By this time it was 2am and we both needed sleep. The hotel was th Taj President, part of the Taj Business Hotels group and well outside the price range we had budgetted for. We decided to go for it anyway, as we were too tired to find anywhere else. The hotel agreed to send us a taxi so we quickly packed our stuff back up.

Making our way out of the room we passed the room boy asleep in the corridor outside the room. We walked down the stairs and across the road to the reception area where we paid our bill for the night. No one asked why we were leaving a day earlier than planned, or why we were leaving at 2.15am.

The taxi from the Taj President turned up and whisked us away to the luxury of the hotel.

This was a different class (and four times the price of Bentley’s), the room was air-conditioned, had a bath and shower, mini-bar; in fact everything you would expect in a good business hotel any where. By UK standards it was a bargain at 60 quid a night, but that was more than 3 times our total budget for each day, a figure we had remained close to ( though never quite achieving) throught the trip to date.

We slept well that night, not waking until well after 9am.

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