Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mental weekend in Mumbai - Sunday

Sunday morning was a lazy one, we only woke up at 10ish and headed to the known Taj for brunch. The hotel is really special, marble all over the place, fountains, calm ambiance, very modern but yet feels comfy. Food was great, a bit pricy but worth it. Especially the super service in the toilets where the guy turns on the tap for you, spreads soap on your hands and handing over 10 softer than ever tissues to dry your hands out.

Stuffed and happy we went out to catch a cab to the renowned bazaars just to found out it was not open at the day. So we decided to take it easy, wonder around the city, visited Mumbai University building and random Art exhibition and headed back to the hotel, not before having lunch in Barista which is highly recommended as a modern cheap alternative for food, coffee and cold drinks.

After picking up our bags from the hotel, we had to do our last sightseeing which was very eye-opening. We went to DHOBI GHAT which is a place where clothes from all over the city arrive for a wash by 500 almost naked men. The area is known as the world’s biggest slum and we were courageous enough to walk around and get kinda bullied by bunch of kids.

The worst thing was when we went up to the road to get a cab to the Airport. The first cab to catch was quick but the second was mental. With a Muslim demonstration marching our way we were surrounded and jumped into the first cab without agreeing on the fare. The drive in mental traffic which took us way too long and with confusion as for which airport we should drive to was not fun. We took Kingfischer flight back to Hyderabad which was the best flight I had. In 43 minutes flight they managed to server drinks, hot meal with dessert , head phones, fresh towels and the cleanest on-craft toilets ever. We departed and arrived on a short delay and our lovely Google Drivers took us home. It was soooo nice to see some familiar faces and no need to bargain.


Mental weekend in Mumbai - Saturday

This post might sound like a week in Mumbai but it is only a normal Saturday. The next morning we had quick breakfast in the hotel and headed to have a look at Gateway of India and took the ferry to the Elephant Island where we visited the caves and took dozen photos of monkeys. Aly’s attempt to kneel and take a picture of a cute baby monkey ended up with an angry monkey-mom that groaned loud and grabbed Aly’s dress (luckily nothing more).

We then took the ferry back to Gateway to India where we had no seats, had to pay 10 Rupees more to climb to the seats-less roof terrace where we actually found a nice surface to sit on and get some sun.

With serious hunger we walked for 40 minutes following Lonley Planet’s stupid recommendation to dine at the National Hindu Hotel which was an extraordinary experience. We walked into the dodgiest place ever. It was filthy and was actually a working men 25 rupees (50 cents) eat as much as you can place. We were looked at BIG time. I don’t think anyone was expecting a bunch of white tourists walking in. I think that there are not enough words to describe it, so I took a video. As you might assumed, I wasn’t very busy with the food ;) Don’t miss it.

I will say one more thing, which is crucial for the rest of my (our) trip in India in the coming weeks. I AM STRONGER THAN EVER. Places I would never ever eat now seem to be an award winning restaurants and I hold a better understanding of how dirty a place can be.

From one experience to another, we managed to convince a cab driver to take all of us 6 to our next sightseeing. Which make it 7 in one tiny car (video), without air conditioning but with very adventurous mood.

Our next stop was Haji Ali’s mosque which was really beautiful. You can see below:

From there, as if we haven’t done enough for the day, we continued to Banganga Hill where we bumped into a funeral, found Banganga water tank, dozen of temples and some locals to interact with. From there we took a short cab ride to Chowpatty beach where we had a coffee and watched the sun set.

All satisfied but exhausted we took a cab back to the hotel to get some rest and get ready for dinner in Leopard’s which is very known, not very posh but yet food was OKish. If you happen to be there ask your Burger well-done. At this point our dear Agent felt sick so headed back to the hotel. And the rest of us just move on to the next adventure – Poly Esther club with 1500 rupees cover for a couple (got vouchers for drinks). I was surprised to find many Indians and not too many expats. But we still had good fun. Time to get to bed. Finally.

Mental weekend in Mumbai - Friday

Sorry for the latency with the blog update. I probably set high expectations posting shortly after coming back from my trips ;)
Anyway last weekend I traveled from Hyderabad where I work and based during the week to Mumbai (also known as Bombay) together with my fellow expats Viktor, Diane, Mike, Alyson and Priz.

So we took GoAir flight to the very modern Mumbai International Airport which was decent, no food but comfy enough. For domestic flights in India all you need is any photo ID (I’ve heard that Google Badge can be good enough haha) and actually ours wasn’t even checked. It might be Aly’s charming approach at the check-in desk ;)

After a safe landing, our next mission was to get to our hotel. We thought we had 3 options but actually had only 2 since auto-rickshaw cannot get to city center (Colaba). Our options then were either taking a cab or a Cool cab which actually offers A/C which wasn’t needed. Coming well prepared to bargain and argue we tried to convince the drivers to take us all (6) in a cab, which is not . After an hour long drive (500 rupees if I remember well) we arrived to Gardens Hotel in Gardens road which is just beside Godwin Hotel which was recommended but fully booked. We got our “executive luxury suites” which were very average and met downstairs to go for dinner. We found out that earlier Aly already made phone calls to book places in a fancy restaurant called Indigo. Where we had lovely dinner and paid around 30usd each.

Monday, January 14, 2008

still exploring, day 3, Hyderabad

I'll keep it short this time as I'm really tired. Woke up early (10) today and around 11ish I heard a knock on my door. It was Aly and Mike apparently they pinged to say they're coming but it never got through, so they had to wait for couple of minutes till I got ready.
Today started the Pongal holiday (lasts 2 days) and the tradition is to fly kites. After having a short visit to the drag store (found out imported stuff with exactly the same prices like home) we went to Paradise hotel to have lunch with fellow Hyderabadians from the Checkout team. We had a traditional hindi dish and went out really full. It was nice to hang out with some locals.
Later Sushill one of the checkout guys invited us to his house where we went on the roof to watch the kites flying and tried it out ourselves. The skies were full of colorful kites. They fly them really high up and try to knock down each others. They're real experts. I don't wanna know how many kids fall off the roofs on this holiday (quite a few I'd say, sad.) He then welcomed us to his place with some home-made cakes his mom made.

Exhausted from a long day we went to Aly's place to hang out together and after a short while we found ourselves with few other expats in a nice Italian restaurant. With their advice I got ceaser salad. Hopefully I won't regret it by tomorrow.
It's time for me to go to bed. I told Viktor to knock on my door as he's coming in tonight. We'll see if I'm gonna wake up.

Oh yeah, tomorrow is my first day in the office, I can't wait to meet my team and I already have sooo many great ideas.

You can also have a look at Aly's album. She's a great photographer.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 2, Hyderabad

Today started more relaxed but was actually full of action. We started our day with a (very) fancy brunch in the Taj hotel. We weren't quite sure about the salads there but I couldn't resist the Avocado. Then we continued to Charminar

From India

with the long queue outside we didn't feel like getting in, but it was pretty to look from the outside. With no side-walks you pretty much have to squeeze yourself between the street merchants and the Rickshaws. Quite and experience especially when I found out my bargaining skills are actually good. I might not make a career out of it, but it does save few rupees.

After this one we stopped for a piss in the other Taj hotel in town, we then continued to the market in the Hi-tech City. It was beautiful, more relaxed and with some ethnic dancing.

note:throughout the day we were looked at as if we were aliens.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Frist day in India

I sarted my way early morning on Friday from Dublin to Hyderabad through Frankfurt. From Frankfurt I had spcaious 2 seats just for me, a loaded iPod and movies on my laptop. I've arrived to India yesterday fairly late at night. It took me more than 90 minutes to get my luggage. The reason it's taking them so long is that every suitcase is being screened and with chalk they mark your suitcase whether it should be taken through custom. Luckily my wasn't "marked".

A Google driver was waiting to pick me up to our Guest House. It is quite nice in a gated area. Your laundry cleaning cooking and ironing is made daily.

Today I met Alyson from the Checkout team from Mountain View and we spent the day together. We've been to a place called Golkonda Fort which is a ruined city on granite hill. Later we had food in a nice place and headed home for some rest. We then met Mike and went to have dinner in Angeethi which I belive we will visit again.

To sum up, I do need couple of days to get used to the new smells, culture, flavors, people, mad drivers and lots of horning. And thanks Google for the shofer.