Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day 24 - Jan 30, Mumbai to London

Day 24 - Jan 30, Mumbai to London - Miscellany - Mumbai to London, we’re in the front row!

1. Taj Hotel and Gateway to India
2. MHB gets a too
3. There we are on boat to Elefanta wearing our FabIndia shirts
4. 2 street scenes, traffic and note people walking in the streets
5. Sign (explanation to follow later)

Update on the tut-tut argument in Cochin: Shreeraj (guide, better spelling) got turned in by the lead tut-tut guy who was more argumentative and leader of the pack, for being a guide without a license. The police were called, and eventually Shreeraj got off with a “warning” because the police officer was Hindu, Shreeraj was Christian and the complaining tut-tut guy was Muslim, so it was two against one. Martin relayed the info, another insider view hidden from us (gives you an insight to just how wrong the rest of this blog can be!).

  • Yesterday’s lunch in Mumbai (Chinese food) was the big splurge, $30 for the seafood, $25 for the chicken and $20 for the veg. There was one other table of four eating lunch, otherwise, we had the place to ourselves. Might not have mentioned, they had two waitresses who looked Chinese, both from N. India, neither had anything to do with China
  • I know you’re waiting for the confirmation, in the Elefanta cave temple there was such a Holtby moment that both of us caught it right away, nice confirmation of an earlier observation. Let us say that we didn’t expect it, even though we had Freud and Einstein floating in the air along with all the versions of Shiva. And, the cave temple itself (repeating here for emphasis) was quite large and extremely impressive, well worth a detour!
  • There was a gathering for the goodbye dinner, one member passed, five left for the airport around 7:30pm. Only two ate dinner, the rest had drinks, a round of farewells, and then we headed to the Taj with one other couple for a final-final small meal. Food not near as good as almost anywhere else we ate (no surprise, too westernized, poor hybrid).
  • This morning we breakfast with Carol and Martin and debrief for 90 minutes (one other member joins with about 20 minutes to go) and they are very receptive to our feedback and (of course) have been talking throughout the trip about needed adjustments. Nice way for us to pass along our thoughts in person in a very non-confrontational mode. All seem delighted with the conversation (we sure were)..
  • On the way to the airport, we get a better (ie, slower) look at the slums and note that every 30 feet or so there is a “road” that tunnels in from the street, about 3-4 wide. Gets dark within a few feet of the entrance, must seem very maze- and warren-like once you enter. And the ones we see are mini compared to the big ones elsewhere in Mumbai, the one in slumdog is probably the one with 5 million, and the movie is very accurate of the visual
  • Many of the vehicles have signs on the back begging: Use Horn Please, meaning (I guess) since they can’t really see the cars behind, the horns help them. However, since everyone honks all the time (whether behind the begging for a horn guys or not) it seems the ultimate sardonic request.
  • Air quality has dropped from extremely poor to oxymoron since there appears to be no more air left (see earlier comments re sunrises and sunsets; we did have another pretty sunrise this morning).
  • We ended up with $12 in rupees out of an initial (and only) ATM stop of $200 lo those many days ago. We charged very little after the first stop at Sun N Sand, the tour picked up almost every expense except laundry and miscellaneous snacks and drinks (eg, beer with meals). Made it hard to spend money, and it is already hard to spend money here in any quantity. A 100 rupee bill ($2) goes a longgggg way.
  • They are waxing the floors in the airport (ya gotta come to your faithful blogger for all the best updates) because most of the flights come in or out in the early morning hours, so noon (our time) is now midnight for the airport.

The BIG news: British Air has upgraded us from premium economy to business class!! Ahhhhhh….hot nuts and free champagne, oh, and a bit more leg room). Here are some awesome features:
  • Massive leg room (Alec, you would not be able to reach the seat in front of you)
  • Individual seat / bed pods that take hours to figure out all the controls and stations, we will probably be in London by the time
  • We have facing pods, so are chatting away; if our relationship doesn’t survive the flight (or snoring gets out of hand) we can put up the cute little S-curved frosted privacy glass that separates us
  • A pulldown (“squeeze the catch” must be some Britishism of “mind the gap” fame) foot rest that is more like a seat for your feet
  • Plugs that do not require converters, so I am typing (“keyboarding” in Americanismics) on my computer without using the battery…awesome dude!
  • Choice of meal: Salade Nicoise! (horrible)
  • Headsets that keep out all sounds, including of my seatmate
  • A choice on BBC Audio by a British comedian titled: What’s so great about Bob Dylan? If they had wifi, which appears they don’t, I would have issued the fatwa and the guy would be gone before we hit London. Rock Trivia: Al Kooper grew up with Paul Simon and then played organ on Like a Rolling Stone (howwwwwwww does it feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel). Nice threesome…Hey, he changed songwriting, he stuck with his changes even when the audience boo’d (You don’t knowwwwwwww what is happening here, do youuuuuuuu, Mr Jones), and the guy influenced the Beatles (is that a qualification?). Guy is the Shakespeare of our times. In the dime stores and bus stations, people talk over situations…

We land on time, make it to the Renaissance Marriott and hot showers, luxurious towels, fitness center open 24 hours and room service coffee (not S. Indian filtered, unfortunately).

On to United later this morning and home later today (Saturday).

Ralph and MHB

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