Just past two in the afternoon ahead of schedule, Air India Flight-101 rumbles down the runway at Newark Liberty International Airport. With the wings of the Boeing 777-300 flexing up and down at the tips it truly seems as if it is a giant bird trying to take up flight as a lot of asphalt passes beneath us before we become airborne.
Comfortable in Row 52 we settle in for an almost 15 hour flight to Mumbai (BOM). Somewhere over the North Atlantic we encounter some of the worst turbulence that we have even encountered. I was certainly glad that we were seated with our seat belts fastened although prior to this situation the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign was off. The flight attendant announcement about the seat belt sign being on was interesting as it reminded us not only to fasten our seat belts but also to not use the lavatories.
A movie, “Sherlock Homes”, dinner, some sleep time and I wake up with still over 7 hours to go. A few laps through coach while snacking on delicious Air India peanuts and I repeat my long flight routine.
It has been at least ten years since my last visit to Mumbai. I am looking forward to it although it will in essence only be a stop over en-route to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
At 2:20pm we firmly touchdown in Mumbai and having purchased ahead of time E-Visas online it is a quick and painless process through Immigration and Customs. One thing that is new here since my last visit is Uber and I am anxious to give it a try. We make our way to P-7 West Parking Area and although we have to wait for our Uber driver there is a collection of them there and even a Uber supervisor. It will cost us about INR 600 or less to get to our hotel instead of INR 4500 for a private hotel shuttle.
In about an hour we are dropped off at the Trident Nariman Point. Back in 2004 I remember this hotel being known as The Oberoi. Unfortunately, in November of 2008 it was one of the sites of a deadly terrorist attack.
Although the name has changed it is still a part of The Oberoi Hotels and Resorts with the staff, service and rooms just as friendly and nice as I remember.
Feeling the effects of jet lag it's time for an afternoon then it's an early evening walkabout before heading to Leopold's Café for a delicious and so filling dinner.
A walk back to The Trident and we discover that Mumbai with over 13 million people still has it population of street sleepers although some creative arrangements. At an area with taxi cabs one cab driver is sleeping in an elevated bed with a net and a fan. Along the way a dog who is not to fond of foreigners on his stuff barks and follows us for at least half a mile.
Before retiring for the night we spend a few moments at a favorite gathering spot for locals. Although the air is clear and the night skyline beautiful there is an unusual smell that lingers along the Mumbai waterfront. Still it is a relaxing area to lie down on the concrete wall while listening to the harbor waves and looking up into the Indian night sky.
The alarm goes off at 5:15am and it is time to get going for an early morning (US$25) bike tour to see the highlights of the city before the blazing sun and temperatures reaching almost 100 degrees makes the experience sweaty and miserable.
Our first stop is the Gateway Of India one of India's most valued monument. It is from here the last British troops sailed prior to India's independence.
Next it is a ride across town pass the Bombay High Court towards Old Victoria Train Station now renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal. From there we head to the Fruit Market then it' time for a cup of freshly made “Street Cha”.
The Flower Market is next followed by a visit to Bombay Panjpole an almost 180 year old infirmary that houses over 200 cows, pigeons and other animals. It is somewhat of a scared protected institution where locals come to feed the animals for “Good Karma” and picture taking is frowned upon.
Music fills the streets as we leave the area on our way for a daytime view of the Mumbai waterfront which we are told has some of the most prized and expensive real estate in the India. Our last top is smelly but still worth the visit. We have missed most of the day's activities but the Fish Market is still bustling.
It is not even noon and we are already boiling under the morning sun as we begin our walk back to the hotel. “Hello, how are you?” Not far from Madras Café we are approached by a few locals. Their smiles and friendliness are so charming. I can't help but think that on a hot day like this an ice cream cone or a cool treat would be nice. We make sure these kids could enjoy a hot day treat or two if they wanted to.
A few more blocks of walking and we get to watch some local cricket action then I part with 100 rupees for a sample or two of what I consider one of the treasures of India. It is mango season here and IMHO my 100 rupees is well spent.
We get an unexpected welcome back at the hotel, well not really.. The local cricket team is staying at our hotel and their fans have filled the lobby area of the hotel waiting for pictures and autographs. I’m a bit disappointed no one ask for my autograph but I do feel kind of special having to go past security to get to our room.
Thanks, Mumbai for the memories.