Monday, December 14, 2015

Round and round it goes

Mumbai December 14th 2015

After paying for the two most expensive drinks I've ever had and a good night's sleep I was refreshed from yesterday's travails and ready to take on Mumbai again.

The upgraded room came with breakfast in our own private dining room away from the huddled masses. Me and my computer and a guy with his computer were the only two people in the room except for the server. The food was plentiful and good. He best part was no one searched me and I didn't get shoved once.

Checkout and in a taxi to my next hotel. One that much closer to the center of the city, than the airport. It was the same one I had stayed at before. Not as plush as the Radisson Blu or the Hilton, but the price was right. I booked three nights through the hotel's website. Could have booked through Booking.com, but I know they charge about 12% to the hotel and I'd save them that.

The taxi was a nice air conditioned one I generally ride in the front seat, because the view is better, but this on had one of those flat front ends with no crumple zone, except for your shins in case of a collision. The back seat for me this time.

One thing I had noticed before but not really noted was the pride in ownership people have for their cars in India. I am always seeing someone with a rag and a bucket washing their car or dusting it off. The only time I can remember seeing a dirty dusty car was in Darjeeling and that is because the roads are in such disrepair. He more expensive the mid priced car the greater pride as well as protection in ownership. The Mercedes and BMW’s are all I good shape. It is the SUV's that show how much they like their cars. In Australia I think they are called Roo Bars, Brush bars on the 4x4 set in the US, and Push bars on the police cars. I don't know what the are called here, maybe Pedestrian bars. Big chrome bars on the front of the SUVs. They kind of remind me of braces on teeth. The back bumper is also augmented with a chrome horizontal pipe, I guess in case you need to back over someone.

We passed the posters advertising for the right to vote for 18 year olds. As well as the fishing beach where the terrorists came ashore in 2008. The police tower is a new addition since then.

In between two buildings there was a mini Six Flags. A Centipede roller coaster that didn't go up, just around with a couple small bumps. As it was it looked dangerous enough without the climb and dive. I truly wish I hadn't packet me camera, because the Ferris wheel there looked exactly like the advertisements I saw as a child for Erector Sets. Seeing it from the roadway was as close as I wanted to get to it.

Once at the hotel was where the wheels came off the bus today. Passport photocopied, and credit card handed over to have on file. Pretty routine until he wanted my to sign the preauthorization slip. It didn't happen this way last time I was at this hotel or any hotel ever. It was his way or the highway so I initialed it. I really hope it doesn't come back to bite me.

The ride from the airport took an hour and a half. My plane leaves at 2:30 am on the 17th. That means an extra hour and half to a 24 hour plane ride, not to mention check in, Customs and getting home from Seattle. Thirty hours from start to finish is a real possibility. I decided to cut this hotel stay short by that half night and take one at the airport.

I went to the front desk to let them know and was told that I had booked a non refundable price for three nights. No if's and's or buts. F-A-D and not in a good way this time. If I had used Booking.com it would have been reasonably simple to change, now I had this guy telling me it was a special rate. It might have been a rate, but it was a rate for each night, and each night was a different price. We went round and round. I looked him in the eye and said “Fix it!”, he said he couldn't. I asked for the Manger. He said he was the Manager. I asked for his business card and it read “Duty Manager”, meaning lead receptionist. A few of the staff who remembered me from the last time came over to find out what the hubbub was about. Eventually we settled on a price that was more per night than I had booked the room for and less than he wanted. I could see if this was a mom and pop independently owned property, but it is the largest chain in India and their prices are not rock bottom to begin with.

I caught a cab down to the Gateway of India for something to do. Wandered around looking for a good angle to photograph and really couldn't find one. I was about to leave and someone called to me, a man and his wife who wanted my picture with them. Then another. And then three girl of high school ages, each in turn shaking hands. I hope it doesn't break the contract I now have with that modeling agency.

I found a shady place to sit and watch the world go by. Almost no western tourists, but tall Sikh men, three Asian monks, women in jeans, saris and veils all passed in front of me as I sat there.

I crossed the street to the Taj Hotel to have a coffee and a piece of cake for afternoon snack. I don' think it would be possible to be a good tourist to come through Mumbai and not at least experience what a hotel where the cheap rooms start at $200 a night and then go up to the sky from there. It is every bit as plush and swanky as the Plaza in New York.

Caught a taxi back to my hotel and started talking to the taxi drivers hanging around the outside of the hotel property. Down at the Gateway there was an aggressive tour operator who for $80 was willing to take me 25 miles out of town tomorrow to see some monk caves. With a lot of talking and some negotiating, I have a taxi waiting for me tomorrow at 8:30 for half that price.

The pictures I took today are just variations on ones I have already uploaded.

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