Back in India after 4 year. I’d forgotten all the things that challenged me while living in India: the smells, the staring. Funny how the do not urinate and the post no bills signs are blatantly ignored. One of my friends likes to count how many men he sees violating those edicts.
I was happy to see my friends in Bangalore after such a long time. Although some of them are Canadians, we hadn’t managed to meet during our summer vacations to Canada.
Bangalore did not feel like an old friend. She’s gotten some fancy furnishings. There are McDonalds all over the city (new within the last 4 years), a Hard Rock Cafe downtown, at least two new international schools, a new airport in Yelahanka (about 30 km from the city center). Canadian International School has a new campus outside of the city. It’s a nice space with a view of the water and with trees around. The drive there was long however.
Prices appear to have gone up. A 4 hour taxi (max. 40 km) cost me Rs 950. Some things remain the same, however. Traffic is still crazy (even more so than Sudan), rickshaws still try to rip up foreigners, the gobi manchurian is as tasty as I remember and the masala dosa remains as crispy.
Remembering my fabulous spa experiences when I lived in India, I went to Spa.ce for a spa package. I had a body polish, manicure, pedicure, facial and massage. For the price of the package (expensive for India), the treatments were mediocre. The lady didn’t put any moisturizer on after she did my facial. My nail polish application was poorly done (too close to the skin and not neat around the nail). I’ve had lots of massages; this one didn’t leave me feeling more relaxed. At the end of my treatment, I was brought tea while I was drying my nails but the therapist never returned to check on my progress.
I stayed in Bangalore for 4 days, the perfect number to visit friends. Thanks Liz and Jon for letting me stay with you even with all the moving craziness.
I flew from Bangalore to Pune (approx. $75 CAD). I stayed with a friend that I’d taught with at Canadian International School in Bangalore; she now teaches at Mercedez-Benz International School. I went in to work with her on the first day. On the second day, I went to Four Fountains spa for a sixty minute Swedish massage and facial. It was a decadent experience. The best part is that it cost me less than $40 for both therapies. The therapist explained what was going on at each step an was very attentive, ending with bringing me green tea after she escorted me to the reception area.
On day 3, I was going to do the Pune Darshan but it was sold out. As such, I didn’t see much of Pune althought there isn’t much to see as far as I can tell. There is an Osho ashram that I might have liked to see but I don’t think that I missed much. I left for Mumbai by bus the next day.
I had one day in Mumbai. I got off the bus in Borivali and went to one of the travel agencies there. I rented an 8 hr (max. 80 km) taxi with driver to go around Mumbai for 950 Rs. (Remember to shop around in India; the previous travel agency told me the cost was $1800 for non-AC!) I went to the Gate of India, saw the Hotel Taj, stopped at Hariman Point, drove down Marine Drive, walked around Chowpatty Beach, had lunch of batura, channa and paneer masala, and an ice cream soda at Cream Centre. It was expensive at 368 rupees. I discovered that I don’t like ice cream sodas; I should have had a fresh lime soda or lassi instead. My last stop was at a mall (whose name I did not note). I thought of going to the movies but there was nothing playing that I wanted to see. The zipper of my purse was broken and I needed a new backpack so I spent too much money buying those items. The adventure began as I was ready to leave.
The taxi driver had given me his cell phone number to call him to pick me up when I was ready to leave. I did not know where he was packed. I looked around for a phone booth but there are none at the mall. Before the Mumbai attacks, I would have been able to purchase a SIM card to put into my phone but it’s now impossible for visitors to India to purchase them. I finally went to the customer service desk and explained my predicament. The man on duty there called the number on his cell phone. It turns out that I had written the number incorrectly. I didn’t know the license plate but I knew the taxi number. I told the two men helping me this number and they told me to wait 5 minutes. It was a bit more than 5 minutes but they found my taxi!! Yay customer service agents at ?? Mall in Mumbai.
It turned out that all my travel around Mumbai costs Rs 1300 since it was 120 km. An organized tour would have cost me Rs 800 but I was too late to join one. I would have gone to Elephanta caves but I was told that it wasn’t worth the trip, and I didn’t want a hectic day. I checked into Hotel Suba Galaxy (a 15 minutes complimentary drive from the airport). I got a tiny room for Rs 3500 including taxes and service fees. The room was very clean with complimentary WIFI, chocolates, water and tea. Breakfast is also complimentary although I left too early to experience it. The room is expensive given its miniscule size but it was the cheapest that I could find online and the proximity to the airport is convenient.
I’m sitting at Mumbai airport waiting to board my (delayed) Turkish Airlines flight. I haven’t found a WIFI hotspot here so I’m just typing this up but will have to wait until I have Internet access to post it. My final destination is Tel Aviv, where I will take the train to Haifa. At this point, I’m hoping that the flight from Istanbul is delayed so that I don’t have to wait at Ben Gurion airport for the estimated 5.5 hours.
Pictures of Mumbai