Well, I’m safe and sound and a little more awake than I should be at 11:45 pm IST (11:15 am PST) after the flight to Mumbai. Everything was on schedule and the flight went as expected.
Had almost forgotten the meal choices in India – “veg or not veg” is a common refrain. Non-veg generally means with chicken or eggs. Food was basic international fare, not bad, not great. But to my dismay, United no longer offers a complimentary alcoholic beverage to international coach passengers. Maybe it’s just flights to India, but that curry-chick pea-veggie-rice dish would have gone down smoother with a glass of red wine… Or a little vodka… Or both… Lame.
Watched Ben Affleck’s “Argo” prior to dinner and then listened to a bit of music before popping an ambien in an effort to reset my clock. Seven unconscious hours later I was awake with about 2500 miles left in the flight. Perfect timing to wash up and get ready for the breakfast service prior to landing.
The flight landed a bit early and the smells and heat of Mumbai were upon me as soon as I exited the plane and entered the jetway. The smells aren’t all bad, just different than we are used to in the US. Hard to describe, but unmistakable if you’ve been here and have the memories.
At 9pm the temperature sat around 85 F. It is the hot season, prior to the rains, in most of India and I’ll expect temperatures in the 90-105 F range my entire three-week stay.
There must have been a lot of baggage on the plane because while waiting for my bag it stopped and started at least five times. Each time it started again, a loudspeaker would announce in English, Hindi and Arabic, “Caution, the luggage belt is about to move in a fashion.”
What sort of fashion? A rapid or abrupt fashion? A slow fashion? This is a constant reminder about international travel – some things just don’t translate…
Immigration control and customs clearance went well. A little hang-up with the customs inspector as my bag made it through the x-ray machine. “How many lenses do you have?” Two – one is on the camera… “What is that thing?” It’s a small consumer video camera… “And what is this thing?” It’s a small tripod; it fits in my suitcase.
But after these questions it was on to exchange some cash and out to find my driver. On my second trip around the bullpen separating travelers from drivers I found a young boy holding a sign that read, “Mr. Gregg Dean.” Well, they must have looked at my travel information and used my middle name instead of my last name. The hotel name was correct, the Daisy Residency, so I signaled to him that I was Mr. Gregg Dean and off we went to wait in the drive-up area for cars.
I tried several times to find out the boy’s name, but he wasn’t really interested in the exchange – he doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Hindi, but I thought it was worth a shot.
The driver showed up a few moments later in a MINI-mini-van (I think they call them buses here) and we headed out to the Daisy through the evening sights of Mumbai.
I’m sure the scene will be different in the morning when I head out for my 7:10 am flight, but the city was filled with people. Many shops and roadside stands were still open, though it looked like the stands were getting ready to close down as it approached 10 pm.
The Daisy Residency is ok. I have a private bath with shower and heated water, air conditioning and there is free WiFi in the lobby that is allowing me to type this blog entry, chat with folks in the US and email a picture off my phone. I probably wouldn’t recommend this hotel as a spot for western tourists, but I had a refreshing shower and it’ll do just fine as a layover spot for the five hours of rest I’m about to get here.
I’m not big on taking photos on airplanes or in airports, so the prop and conveyer belt are all you get for today. I promise more images tomorrow!