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London to Mumbai and back with BA in Premium and Economy - Feb 2010

London to Mumbai and back with BA in Premium and Economy - Feb 2010

Old Mar 20, 10, 2:12 pm
  #1  
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London to Mumbai and back with BA in Premium and Economy - Feb 2010

Welcome to my latest trip report. This one covers a rather hectic and last minute business trip to Mumbai.

Routing

- London Heathrow T5 (LHR) – Mumbai (BOM): British Airways (BA), Premium Economy (Y+), 747-400

- Mumbai (BOM) – London Heathrow T5 (LHR): British Airways (BA), Economy (Y), 747-400


Background

I work in IT, and as many of you that work in or with IT know many companies have expanded into the offshore services market using large numbers of staff based in India. I work for such a company and have been working with my Indian colleagues for a number of years now, but as yet had not had the opportunity to actually go to India and meet everyone, face to face.

The project that I’m currently working on is going through the latter stages of development and testing and it was clear that as deadlines were getting tighter, there would be benefit in myself and another colleague travelling out to meet the team in India and help them out by co-ordinating the remaining project activities. It was also a great opportunity for a bit of team bonding and a chance for me to sample some proper Indian food!

Booking

Booking was a bit of a nightmare! Like many organisations, I’m instructed to use our corporate travel agent. The company that we are actually fantastic and very friendly. It’s the internal politics that makes life difficult. Which class was able to travel in? What’s the price limit? Can I book direct flights even if they are more expensive? Who will authorise the travel and how long with that take? Blah, blah.

Due to the fact that this trip was a bit of a last minute affair and that we are not allowed to book business unless the flight is over 10 hours I settled with premium out and economy back. Even that, booking a few days before meant a ticket price of around £1200. Incidentally, I could have booked business with Emirates for only £200 more, but due to politics, I was denied this luxury. Still, as I was with BA and a silver card holder, at least I’d be able to use the lounge and both ends, board first and pick up some useful points.

Visa Process

Any reader wishing to travel to India should be aware that even for UK passport holders a visa is required. I applied for a one year business visa to give me flexibility should I need to return to India in the near future. This was all taken care of by a visa processing company and after filling in a few forms my passport was collected and returned within 3 days by courier. Much simpler than getting a US visa I can tell you!

London to Mumbai – British Airways 747-400 – Premium Economy

I’ve flown premium economy with British Airways quite a few times so knew what to expect. Much comparison with Qantas’ premium offering takes place and in my opinion they are not comparable. The Qantas product is streets ahead. Still, premium with BA is better than economy with BA, just a shame that it wasn’t business.

Flight: BA139
Carrier: British Airways
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Scheduled Departure time: 10.30 am
Duration: 8h 45m
Scheduled Arrival time: 00:45 am (local)
Routing: London Heathrow (LHR) T5 – Mumbai (BOM) T2
Class: Premium Economy
Seat: 28J – Exit Row

Getting to Heathrow

I needed to be in the office on Monday morning so I’d booked a morning flight on Sunday. The flight times to Mumbai are pretty awful. You end up wasting a whole day in the air if you want to arrive before the start of the working day in India.

I had a taxi booked for 7.30am and the silver E-Class arrived on time. I use a local taxi firm that 90% of the time use large executive cars for airport transfers and only charge about a pound a mile which I think is a bargain!

The weather wasn’t great but at least traffic was clear at this time on a Sunday morning and I slept most of the way.

Check In and Lounge

After paying the driver I made my way to the business class check in desks at T5 (a Silver card benefit) and quickly checked in. This was around 8.45am.

On my last long haul trip (see my previous TR) I was rather spoilt with op-ups so now every time I fly on a Oneworld carrier I have that slight expectation in my mind. I also knew that 9 hours in premium economy would not be fun however, 9 hours in business would be bliss!

Sadly, I was still in the seat that I’d chosen a few days ago online (another Silver card benefit). 28J is right by door three on the right hand side of the aircraft and benefits from massive leg room, no-one beside you and a handy little table for placing drinks/newspapers and such like. This and it’s sister pair, 28A are definitely the pick of the bunch in the premium economy cabin on a 70J configured 747.

After checking in I made my way to South security, noting that ‘Fast Track’ was actually pretty busy so I joined one of the many standard lines instead. It was strange as people seemed unwilling to give up their fast track privilege even if it meant waiting longer.


Terminal 5 Departure Area – viewed from South Security


Terminal 5 Departure Area – viewed from South Security

After clearing security I started to make my way to the Galleries South lounge which was looking down on me.


Galleries South – Lofty position above security

As many of you may know, BAA has designed Terminal 5 in such a way that you have to do a big loop on yourself to get to the lounge. This is just to send you past the shops I’m sure.


On my way to the lounge


Down the escalators...

I made my way up the double escalators to the Galleries lounge and presented my boarding pass and Silver card and was welcomed into the lounge by name. No dragons working today it would seem.

The lounge was pretty busy, which was a big surprise to me, and it took me a while to find a spot to settle. My normal spot by windows was taken, at least at the beginning. Luckily, breakfast was still being served.


Mmm, bacon rolls, I took two


Breakfast pastries

I helped myself to a couple of bacon rolls, some cheese and biscuits and a cookie. Even at this time in the morning all of the usual alcohol options were available but it was a little too early for me to start drinking. I’m not sure that a vodka and coke would have washed down my bacon rolls too well.


My breakfast

I settled into my seat and caught up with a few emails using the free Wifi and posted the obligatory ‘Look where I am’ photo on Facebook.


Silver bar – towards the windows


Silver bar – from the other side


General lounge view


View beside the windows

The south runway was pretty busy, but no A380’s at this time in the morning. When I used to fly to New York regularly it was almost tradition to see the Emirates A380 take off for Dubai early in the afternoon.

There wasn’t really much time for me to spend in the lounge as the gate was announced at around 9.30. Guess what, gate A10. Oh joy, buses.


Departure Board – A10 for me

Having had the experience of being bussed before I knew that it made sense for me to get down to the gate sharpish, even more so when it started showing ‘Flight Closing’ at 10am!

Arriving at the gate and it’s the usual. Big queue to have boarding passes checked, no priority queue for First, Business and Gold and Silver card holders so everyone has to queue up together. We were packed onto the bus and then it seemed to sit there for ages. Eventually we were on our way and spent the next 5 minutes crawling around the apron trying not to fall over or into each other.

One thing I do like about being bussed is that you are able to get totally up close and personal with the aircraft. The sheer size and magnificence simply cannot be conveyed when boarding through an air bridge.


Making my way to board the big bird


2 x Rolls Royce Engines


Heavy duty landing gear


Boarding

My only annoyance is that they use a covered set of steps, which limits the view as you board.

After a bit of shuffling I was up the stairs and greeted by a lady wearing a uniform that I had never seen before on a British Airways aircraft. To my surprise, all India based cabin crew wear different uniforms to the UK crew.

http://www.airliners.net/aviation-fo....main/3630115/

I mournfully walked past business class and made my way into the premium economy cabin. Not too bad a place to be to be honest, especially as I had one of two of the best seats in the house.


Business Class/Club World Cabin during boarding


28J – Note the side table

I even had my own overhead locker, so stowed my bag accordingly. Boarding seemed to take quite a long time, with a slow but steady stream of people making their way into economy behind me. I understand why now when boarding from gate A10, boarding is started very early.
matthandy is offline  
Old Mar 20, 10, 2:12 pm
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Continued....

Now, for whatever reason, most of the time when I fly I tend to find myself in the same vicinity as strange people. This flight probably tops the bill for weirdness.

The action centres around a couple who looked to be in their late 50’s who had occupied the bassinet position in the middle of the cabin. They were the type of people that make noise and nuisance for everyone else, but in an incredibly eccentric, naïve and subtle way.

The captain came over the PA to announce the flight time (8 hours and 10 minutes) and encourage us to watch the safety video that would be shown shortly. He made me laugh because he was incredibly posh in an old school way. He said that he was sure that a lot of us were frequent flyers, but that we should watch the video anyway, to “refresh the old grey matter”.

After I’d settled into my seat and started reading the newspaper given to me by the crew I noticed that the couple near me had started to have a disagreement. I’m not sure what it was about but the wife had started crying. It was the kind of disagreement where there’s no shouting, just lots of emotive but calm statements such as ‘I don’t understand why you are being like this?’. The husband was more occupied with seeing if he could charge his Mac by going into the Club World cabin and plugging it into the nearest power socket. Of course, this didn’t work (the power was off). He then retreated and got a big Marks and Spencer bag down from the overhead bin which turned out to be their lunch/breakfast/brunch. She had stopped crying and during the safety briefing she managed to put away two lots of home made sandwiches (cheese and pickle I think) and he scoffed down four luxury yoghurts (the ones that you buy in individual pots, Taste the Difference or Tesco Finest etc), mostly lemon flavour. I can only assume that they were meant to share the sandwiches and yoghurts, but this didn’t happen. Very odd indeed.

Safety video completed and we had a short taxi to the active runway (South) and took off smoothly. The seat belt sign went off after about 10 minutes and the crew made preparations for the bar service.

At this point, the man next to me got his laptop back out from the overhead bin and set it up on his lap, not unusual. However, he also produced a Vickes nasal inhaler which he proceeded to stick up his nose and leave there for the best part of 45 minutes. Every 5 minutes he gave it a bit of a prod and re-adjustment. Disgusting! If I had to clear my nose like that I’d go into the toilet to do it and I certainly wouldn’t leave it up there for 45 minutes, it’d probably cook the inside of my nose. These really were the weirdest people that I’ve ever flown with and frankly, they were really starting to annoy me.


The strange man, the Mac and the inhaler

The crew came along with the drinks service at about 45 minutes after take off. I decided that I needed a drink at this point so opted for a vodka and lemonade. The little side table next to me very useful.


My vodka and lemonade


Leg room – watching X-Men Origins – Wolverine

Whilst waiting for dinner and took a look at the IFE. Despite refitting the system when the new Club World seats were installed, the system isn’t a match even for the economy offerings on Qantas, Emirates and Singapore Airlines. However, there was a reasonable selection of films and TV programmes and it is on-demand so it can be paused if nature calls right in the middle of an action scene. One thing missing on the programme listings was Family Guy. I can really while away the hours on a flight by watching this but sadly, BA don’t offer this programme on their flights.

Dinner arrived at an hour and a half after take off. The choices were, chicken or vegetable curry. No menus were handed out so it wasn’t possible to tell what the full offering was.


Chicken Tikka Masala – BA style

The curry was actually pretty good and reasonably spicy. The chick pea starter was also good but I left the rice based pudding as it wasn’t to my liking. I was a little surprised that no western food was offered. However, thinking about it further and given the passenger mix (mostly Indian) I suppose that BA has been forced to only offer Indian food on this route due to the competition from Jet and Air India.

The food was pretty good but the presentation and service was no match for Qantas. This was definitely a Y+ product as opposed to Qantas’ J-.

As lunch was cleared I watched the rest of the film and then went for a wander.

The plane was reasonably full in economy and about 65% full in premium.


Premium Economy cabin


Economy, from the rear of the aircraft


Economy cabin

After a quick stop off at the loo I returned to my seat to try and settle down and get some sleep. While 28J is a great seat in terms of personal space, being right next to door 3R means that it suffers from a great deal of wind noise and cold drafts. The poor, thin, statically charged blanket provided did little to keep me warm and I struggled to manage anything other than a light dose.

About 1 hour to landing a second meal was offered and gratefully received on my part. It consisted of a vegetarian wrap/pie thing (it’s hard to describe) called a ‘hot pocket’. This was accompanied by juice, a muffin and yoghurt. All were pretty tasty and I finished the whole lot off.

The captain came over the PA at around 40 minutes to landing and we started our descent. This seemed to take forever and we landed at about 00.50 local time, 5 minutes behind schedule. Taxiing to the gate took a further 25 minutes with delays due to current construction work on the taxi ways meaning we had to take the ‘long way round’.

Disembarkation was reasonably quick, with the strange man near me stealing a selection of magazines from Club on the way out.

Upon entering the air bridge I was a little apprehensive about what would happen next. I’d heard rumours about difficult immigration, hoards of people and confusing signs. Actually, while Mumbai airport is in need of a re-furb, none of my concerns came true. Immigration was slightly long winded as forms had to be completed prior to landing which were checked at least twice. There was also a man checking passports for the appropriate stamps before entering the baggage hall. I’d expected this to be madness, but not so. It was busy, yes, and the belts were small and people crowded round, but I’ve seen this at Heathrow too. Bags seemed to come out slowly but eventually mine turned up. I made my way out into the arrivals area which is a big square outside of the terminal. It was about 2 am at this point. I soon found my driver and he took my bag as I followed him to the S Class Mercedes that would take me to the JW Marriott hotel in Juhu. The driver was very friendly and as soon as I got in he produced cold towels and chilled bottles of water from the cool box in the boot. Five star service for me!

As we were leaving the car park I got a call from my boss who was on the Jet flight that was supposed to have arrived an hour before me. Turns out they were delayed and he was still waiting for his bags to come out.

Our drive to the hotel only took about 20 minutes and I was soon at the gates of the hotel. The JW Marriott is considered to be one of the very top hotels in Mumbai and can be likened to staying at the Savoy in London from a locals point of view.

There was a stringent security check with sniffer dogs and armed security guards before we were allowed to drive into the hotel grounds. This surprised me a little, perhaps I hadn’t done enough home work on what to expect in Mumbai.

After a quick check in, I was in my room for 2.30am. I was expected to be at work for 10am the next morning so went straight to bed.

Verdict

A reasonable flight in premium economy by BA. The food was good, service was acceptable and the seat was comfortable. The downside was the location near the door which made it difficult to sleep.

The BA premium economy product, while not tired in itself has been eclipsed by similar products from other carriers and needs upgrading in order to compete. As a standalone product when compared to economy it does do what it says on the tin and offers more space and comfort. Everything else including the food and the service remains the same, which is disappointing in this day and age.

As a side note, I’m sure that I won’t forget this flight, purely due to the very strange and eccentric couple sitting near to me!

To follow

- My time in Mumbai
- The return leg including the BA Galleries lounge
matthandy is offline  
Old Mar 20, 10, 2:52 pm
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Excellent! And Making me very excited about my trip to India on BA in just four weeks!
Gumbieben is offline  
Old Mar 20, 10, 8:38 pm
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Very entertaining. Thanks. If I were going to India I would go on an Indian airline because they seem better than European or US / North American carriers.
Bretteee is offline  
Old Mar 21, 10, 6:13 am
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Excellent report - looking forward to the rest of it!
colmc is offline  
Old Mar 21, 10, 6:53 am
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Very nice report matthandy. It will be interesting to see how this trip compares with the return in Y.
Moomba is offline  
Old Mar 21, 10, 8:53 am
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Nice report so far. Thanks for posting.
camsean is offline  
Old Mar 21, 10, 9:55 am
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what a great TR! One of my favorites so far! I went to India for the very first time a couple years ago ( Mumbai) The airport alone had be questioning my choice, you must have much thicker skin than me
pilotboy1985YYC is offline  
Old Mar 21, 10, 10:41 am
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I used to work for BCAL,and remember the "Vicks inhaler stuck up the nose" trick seemed very poular on the Lagos route,for some reason...I ofter saw people with one shoved up each nostril...weird....
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Old Mar 28, 10, 3:33 pm
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Continued - My time in Mumbai

The JW Marriott Mumbai

http://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/tra...-hotel-mumbai/

I was in a bit of a daze when I woke up, having been on a long haul flight, without much sleep, and then not actually getting to bed until 3am. I was up at 9, aiming to get to the office for 10am. Little did I know that this was not going to be the case.

The room that I’d been allocated was quite old and a bit tired but the bed was comfortable enough (in typical Marriott style).
I got dressed and left the hotel without having any breakfast. One of the very regally dressed Sikh gentleman arranged a ‘Coolcab’ (a blue and white Tata taxi) for me to take me to the office in Airoli, Navi (new) Mumbai. Due to the quick turnaround of this trip I had no concept whatsoever of what to expect on the roads or even how far the office was from the hotel. Having had this booked by our corporate travel agent I assumed that the office would only be a few minutes away. Err, no. What was to follow was almost 2 hours of complete madness!

Mumbai is an extremely densely populated city, unlike nothing I have ever seen before and that includes places like New York, Bangkok and Hong Kong. This was something else. Almost immediately we were confronted with the traffic, but this wasn’t just cars, no, the traffic included lorries, rickshaws, bikes, scooters, coaches, busses, cow drawn carts, hand drawn carts and literally hundreds of people. At the side of the road the slums were evident and at every turn another mass of people attempted to weave themselves in and out of the traffic to get across the road. What the hell was this place?


Driving to the office – this is light traffic

After 30 minutes of this I was beaten and feeling pretty perturbed. What kind of place have I been sent to? My company actually has offices here? My colleagues live like this? I wasn’t happy and was starting to feel very alone and isolated. This is not somewhere that I wanted to spend the next couple of weeks of my life.

I phoned my boss to warn him that I’d be late and it turns out that he was also having issues getting to the office. It looks like we’d ventured out at precisely the wrong time and hit the traffic at it’s worst. My journey included a trip to the petrol station, and about 6 stops to ask for directions. Eventually, I phoned my Indian colleague to help direct the driver which he did and after a short argument with security I was left standing outside the entrance to the office complex. My Indian colleague sent his driver to come and pick me up, which he did and I was all checked in with security and was meeting my colleagues for the first time within a few minutes.

I was pleased to see that my Indian colleague from the UK had made it too, after spending the weekend with his parents elsewhere in India. I started to feel a bit better.

The offices were frankly amazing. The office that I was visiting held approx 5000 employees and my company has 5 of these in Mumbai! I’ve never seen offices so vast. The cubicles just went on and on.

Despite all of the mod-cons one thing differentiated this office to offices that I had been in before in the UK and the US, the view. Only metres away there was a small slum area. This is not something that I had expected. It really was strange to be standing in a modern, air-conditioned office block overlooking a number of metal sheds which were homes to some of the local people. What a contrast.


The view from the office window

After a not so long day at the office we went to a local restaurant for a ‘party’. It would seem that any gathering of people where food and drink is called a party in India. Anyway, it was at this point that I really experienced Indian food. It was frankly amazing and I fail to understand why on earth I hadn’t experienced proper Indian food before despite having many a ‘curry’ at ‘authentic’ Indian restaurants before now. The food was seriously something else. I devoured the dal mahkni and murgh mahkni, washed it down with some local beer (which wasn’t that good) and followed up with gulab jamun and icecrem. Fantastic.

I returned to the hotel with my Indian colleague and I suppose because of the time difference, it didn’t feel like it was time to go to bed yet. He suggested a walk along Juhu beach. I was a bit nervous about what to expect. Walking around Mumbai at 1am carrying an expensive camera was probably not the best thing to be doing. One thing to point out is that non-Indian faces really stand out so I knew that I would attract some interest with the locals.

We walked down to the beach to find it buzzing with activity. It seems that no-one sleeps in Mumbai, even on a Monday night!

There were a huge number of stalls selling snacks and drinks. My friend insisted that he needed to try some pan (pronounced pahn) which is a leaf filled with many different ingredients and then taken whole. It sounded good but he advised me not to try it in case it had been prepared in unhygienic conditions. I certainly did not want to spend days in the bathroom so heeded his advice.


A rickshaw drives past on the road to Juhu beach


Food and drink stalls at Juhu beach

My colleague seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere but I was a little wary. Some younger lads made some comments about my camera and my friend decided that it was probably time to go. On the way back I spotted a man catching some rest in his rickshaw, it didn’t look very comfortable!


Taking a nap

Verdict on the hotel

My colleagues told me that the JW Marriott is one of the top hotels in Mumbai and is often frequented by Bollywood stars. I guess you could liken it to somewhere like the Dorchester in London although I did not find it that impressive at all. My room was dated and overall the hotel had a musty smell to it. The entrance, lobby, restaurants and the pool were certainly impressive if you prefer classic styling. The executive lounge was good, with an excellent level of service and nice views over the pool and beach.


View from the executive lounge at breakfast

Here are a couple of little anecdotes which I found interesting that I’d like to share with you. After a long day at the office we got back to the hotel and decided to have dinner. The only place open at midnight was the ‘Lotus Café’ which is largest restaurant in the hotel, overlooking the pool. My friend wasn’t feeling too well and needed to get some medicine from a pharmacy. He asked one of the staff if they had a pharmacy on site which they didn’t however, he said that he would be happy to go and get whatever was required for my friend and charge it to the bill. This amazed me but my friend didn’t bat an eye. Apparently this level of service in India is perfectly normal. Can you imagine asking the bloke on reception in a UK hotel to go and fetch you some tablets because you have a headache?

As we sat down for dinner, and shortly after the man returned with the required medicine we noticed that there was an ice cream bar next to us. As part of this there was a huge selection of sweets which could be sprinkled on top of one’s ice cream. This looked very tempting so we asked the waiter if we could have a couple of the Haribo sweets that were on offer. He obliged and without being asked fetched a plate for us and proceeded to select whichever sweets we required from the bar. Again, this level of service is something that I’m not used to but is perfectly normal in India!

Overall, it’s fair to say that my friend enjoyed the stay more than I did, but I think that he also ended up with a bigger room than me with a better view. For him, as an Indian returning to Mumbai for the first time in a few years, staying at the JW Marriott was an exceptional treat, something he could never have dreamed of, for me, it was just another hotel (albeit quite grand). I much preferred the Grand Hyatt which leads on to…..


The Grand Hyatt Mumbai

http://mumbai.grand.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/index.jsp

We’d originally planned to stay here for the entire trip but due to availability, weren’t able to secure a room here until a few days into the trip hence the detour to the JW Marriott at the start.

Well, this hotel is quite different to the Marriott. It is exceptionally contemporary and always seemed to be buzzing with activity. The rooms were a good size, with a flat screen TV, large bed, work desk, chaise lounge and an amazing bathroom. I had a full size bath and walk in shower, all adorned in dusty coloured marble.



My room at the Grand Hyatt, Mumbai


Work area and TV


The bathroom, bath in front with the wet room style shower to the left

While the rooms and the décor of the hotel were fantastic I did not like the level of visible security, especially the weapons on show. It took me a few days to notice the mini bunker complete with sandbags and a high calibre mounted machine gun hidden under a cloth, pointing right at the entrance gate. I found this unnerving.
Due to the security the hotel did have a bit of a ‘compound’ feel to it however, given the hours that we were arriving back at the hotel my colleague advised me that it would be best to eat in the hotel, rather than venturing out. We therefore spent a lot of time having room service, but decided to have this together, instead of eating separately, something I’d not done before but it was actually a really good idea.

Again, for my friend, this hotel was a dream come true. There were a number of firsts for him on this trip, not least, ordering room service, which was a bit of a mystery to him. I took it all in my stride, but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it.

After a couple more days working, including Saturday (yes, Saturday) we finally ventured out on Sunday to explore the city. We were joined by another colleague for breakfast. I was just tucking into some eggs Benedict when my friend said to me “there’s something I should tell you”. I learned then that at 7pm on the previous evening a bomb had killed 9 people at a tourist spot in Pune which was about 200km from Mumbai. He said that Mumbai was on alert and that people were advised to avoid tourist areas as much as possible. This is was bad news and I spent a little while thinking about whether we should venture out, given that what we’d planned to do that day meant visiting a lot of the tourist spots. Eventually, after re-assurances from my colleagues we decided to head out.

We’d negotiated a driver for the day at a cost of 1300Rs (about £18.5) and he picked us up from the hotel after breakfast. We headed first down to the Gateway of India which anyone would recognise from news footage during the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008 (this is not the reason that we went down there, I must add).


Women in colourful saris watching the ferries at the Gateway of India

Our plan was to head to the Elephanta caves and needed to catch a ferry to the island.


The view from the ferry looking back at the Gateway and the Taj hotel

It took about an hour to get to the island and I was glad that shade was provided on the top deck (10 rupees more) as it was a very hot and sunny day in Mumbai (33 degrees C). Upon arrival visitors have to walk quite a distance to get to the entrance of the caves. Along the way there are various people selling fruits, snacks, drinks and gifts. My friend wanted to have a certain type of fruit that looked rather disgusting!


The 'brain' fruit

A young French couple looked on with interest as the lady prepared the fruit, as did I. It looked like the mashed up brains! My friend encouraged the French lady to try it, and as suspected, she didn’t like it. I wasn’t about to go anywhere near it, despite insistence from my friend.

Elephanta Caves

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephanta_Caves

The Elephanta caves are a series of caves that have been cut into the rock containing statues and carvings. Entrance to view the caves was charged at 250Rs for foreigners and only 10Rs for Indians. Not sure that kind of race based ticketing policy would be allowed in the Western world!


Inside one of the caves on Elephanta Island

I found the caves amazing. I’d never seen anything like it before. My colleagues were less impressed, apparently this kind of thing is common in India and they’d seen it all before.

After running the gauntlet back down to the ferry we instructed our driver to take us to CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or the central railway station in Mumbai).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chhatra...ivaji_Terminus

This was featured in Slumdog Millionaire and I wanted to get down on to the platform to take some photos. Due to the heightened security however, photography was banned. I learned later that this was because an American national had planned the Mumbai attacks by photographing locations, such as CST many months prior to the attacks.


Life goes by – a man sleeping outside CST

So no go with CST so therefore it was on to Dhobi Ghat.

Dhobi Ghat

This is where Mumbai get it’s washing done. You may have seen scenes of Mumbai’s famous outdoor laundrette before but to actually see it in real life is quite spectacular.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhobi_Ghat


Dhobi Ghat – Mumbai’s outdoor laundrette

I spent about half an hour watching the activity. Interestingly, it all seemed to be men and boys doing the work. There were clothes being washed and hung out to dry all over the place. Everything seemed to run like clock work.


A worker hanging up a bundle of washed clothes

For anyone that is into photographing people, this is the place to be. There is so much activity.

After this is was time to head back to the hotel for a little relaxation before dinner. We went to a restaurant that was recommended to us by one of the staff waiting in the bar area of the hotel. He even gave us his mobile number in case we couldn’t find it.

Verdict on Mumbai

I’d never been to India before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. From my first experiences in the taxi on the way to the office on Monday morning I was sure that I would never go back. In fact, had I been travelling on my own I’m sure that I’d have hated the place. However, once I settled into things I started to realise what a truly amazing place Mumbai is. It’s vibrant, packed full of friendly people with a real warmth and sense of humility about them. The culture is very different to the UK and I did find the level of service hard to get comfortable with. For example, it is very normal to ask my junior office colleagues to ride in to town to fetch a can of coke for me. This is something that you’d never dream of doing in the UK but in India, not only is it not rude, it is expected. Often I was challenged on why I was doing certain things for myself, “we can send one of the office wallas”. It’s almost as if, by doing it myself, I’m keeping someone out of a job. It is all part of the culture.

A word about the contrast between rich and poor. Well, it’s huge. On the way to work I watched as people washed themselves in the street and saw the huge crowds of people waiting for someone to come along and offer them work. I found this uncomfortable but felt that it was just part of life in Mumbai, in that, without it, Mumbai would not be Mumbai.

Would I go back to Mumbai and India? Definitely, without a doubt, 100% yes. I’d hope to spend more time exploring and less time working. One thing I know, I would not travel alone and would try to organise to travel with my Indian friend.

To follow - the flight back to London

Last edited by matthandy; Mar 28, 10 at 5:19 pm
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Old Mar 29, 10, 11:19 am
  #11  
 
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Absolutely fascinating and well written TR !

Thanks,
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Old Mar 29, 10, 1:32 pm
  #12  
 
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Great report!
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Old Mar 29, 10, 2:33 pm
  #13  
 
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Very interesting report. Strange that your company would only let you fly in economy, but they put you and your colleagues into the JW Marriott and Grand Hyatt.
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Old Mar 29, 10, 2:49 pm
  #14  
 
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Loving the report.... fingers crossed I'll be flying BA to India on the 14th... subject to Strike.
Looking forward to the BOM Lounge review.... particularly if there are showers and Gin!
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Old Mar 30, 10, 6:11 am
  #15  
 
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Excellent TR. Very Nice.



Would I go back to Mumbai and India? Definitely, without a doubt, 100% yes.

To follow - the flight back to London[/QUOTE]


Try AI / 9W / IT for your next trip.

RAJRS
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