March 12, 2009

We had the morning to kill before our 2pm flight, so we headed back to the market because we all felt kind of ripped off from our mini visit two days ago when we had our tour. It was nice because mornings here start slowly. By the time we got into town, it was about 10am, and the vendors were just starting to unwrap their stalls and wheel in their huge carts full of veggies and bangles and spices. I like mornings here because of the slow waking-up of the city! It is also a nice way to get accustomed to the crowds and chaos because it slowly gets more intense – like boiling a frog in water; it doesn’t hop out if it is put into the pot when the water is cold initially!!
Allison was on a mission! She needed spices, pots, bangles, and tea. Caroline wanted another sari, and Scott and I were there for the ride. I ended up buying some tea – typical chai is probably a good thing to buy here! I just liked wandering around!
We took a tuc-tuc back to the hotel and got ready to hop into the van to head to the airport to go to Mumbai! We sure have a lot of baggage…and we were not quite sure what the allowance was – the “head wobble” concept confused us when we asked when we checked in at the Pune airport. In any case, we were potentially going to be over weight….my two bags totalled 27Kg…
The airports here are an interesting experience! They check boarding cards and passports about 6 times before actually making it to the airplane! Firstly, walking into the airport itself you have to show your ticket reservation or boarding card as well as your passport. Then, your checked baggage gets scanned and zip-tied – where you have to show the documents again. Afterwards, the actual check-in happens. However, instead of only putting one person’s bags on the scale at a time, they piled all four people’s bags on the scale! Here is where we lucked out big time. Because there were three girls in our group, plus Scott, the guys at the check-in desk could/would only talk to Scott! However, Scott was delayed in getting his bags zip-tied, so we had already started checking in. So, when our bags were overweight (it was a limit of 25Kg per person!), they whispered it under their breath without really looking at us girls or addressing the issue! When Scott came over, one of the guys went over to him and whispered “the limit is 25Kgs”. They didn’t say anything about us actually being overweight!! Fortunately Scott ignored the guy and we finished getting our passports back and checked in without any real problems!! 😉 They check out documents three times more between security, the door out to the tarmac, and while boarding the plane! At security, the lines are segregated for men and women and they do a very thorough check of each person! The girls are screened in an enclosed area, by a female security guard and the guys are screened in the open by a male security guard. It is quite the process!!
The flight was uneventful, which is always nice, I suppose! Getting off the plane in Mumbai was like walking into a steam room! The heat and the humidity were phenomenal! I think it was only about 36°C, but that sure didn’t account for the humidity! We all got our bags and were met by the perfect travels dude with no problems.
It was quite the drive to the centre of Mumbai. The population of that city alone is approximately half of the population of Canada! Isn’t that incredible! It is really quite mind boggling! Our hotel was located about one block away from the Gateway to India (I believe…I get the names of the two gates in Mumbai and Delhi confused!) and the Taj Hotel that was bombed November 26, 2008. It was close to the water and very centrally located to shopping and the major sites, which was a bonus. I didn’t see mom and dad’s hotel, but it was further away from the shopping areas, so the few times that we met up to do things together, they ended up coming to our hotel and continuing on from there.
After a brief check-in and snack we headed down the waterfront from our hotel (the Faryias…I’d stay there again, if I ever get to Mumbai again!) to see the Gateway to India, the Taj and the shopping areas! The other two girls were determined to get to FabIndia for present and scarf purchases, so it was an excellent walking pace (finally) to reach our destination. Mumbai seems to be more tourist friendly than Delhi was. There were minimal touts in our faces and less people to step over. There were actual sidewalks that were being used for their actual purpose. It seemed to me that there were more beggars, but perhaps that comes with the incredible size of the city. I really do like Mumbai.
We made it to FabIndia only about 15 minutes before it closed, unfortunately. It was fine for me because I was in it for the walk more than anything!! Hopefully we’ll have time after our tour tomorrow to go again so that the other two girls can get what they need to buy. On the way back we stopped into a cafe on the shopping strip – and it was excellent! I got a bottle of water, a can of pop, and a chicken pizza for less than 5$ Cdn! Isn’t that awesome! Then, afterwards, on the walk back to the hotel, I got a MacDonald’s ice cream cone for 10 Rs – so about 25 cents!! London is going to be expensive!
Tonight is our last night in India!! Last day tomorrow…I don’t feel like I’ve really spent four weeks here! It is amazing!!

Later

-Allison

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