Monday, 14 October 2019

Hilton Mumbai International Hotel (Mumbai, India)

I can only claim that I’ve been tired or unmotivated to write my blog for the past few days. To get caught up I’ll make one post and combine updates from Friday through today.

Friday, 11 October 2019:

Today Kaleed picked me up from the hotel and drove us to the Mall of the Emirants. I was interested to see how big a super-sized mall could really be. Well, I found out.

My goal was to find another pair of travel pants (with zipper) like the ones I bought in Geneva. I kept calling them pants and should have used the term, trousers. With Kaleed’s help we went to a number of stores in the mall but didn’t find any I liked. It seemed like we walked miles but could only guess we covered just a fraction of the whole mall.

I suggested we stop for a beverage and found a place to order a juice drink. He ordered fresh orange juice and I ordered a pomegranate juice. We sat outside the indoor snow arena and watched people playing on the man-made snow. Some were sledding, or using their bodies as a toboggan and sliding down a slide. Behind them were full-sized ski lifts taking people up a slope where they skied down.

The food court we were in, like the mall, was also vast. Kaleed said that people come to the mall just to eat. Every kind of restaurant can be found here in one place. No need to drive around the city to find a restaurant because you can find something here for everyone.

I didn’t do much after he dropped me off later in the afternoon. I’m resting up for a busy day tomorrow. Riding around the dunes in the morning and a helicopter ride in the afternoon.

Saturday, 12 October 2019:

My driver today (forgot his name) picked me up at 7:00 a.m. from the hotel for my ride in the desert. We drove for about 45 minutes until we reached the dunes outside the city.

The dunes stretched for miles in all directions with an occasional outcropping of rock but almost no vegetation. Before we started our drive on the dunes he let air out of his tires and off we went.

I was a little concerned when we drove over the crest of some of the dunes, thinking that we would flip over but the driver assured me that we would be fine. And we were. We drove over dune after dune and stopped for pictures once along the way. For me, the feeling was almost like skiing and going up one slope and down the next.

I mentioned to the driver when we started I would probably call it good after about 45 minutes, which it was when the experience was getting to get fairly routine. I don’t like overdoing. He filled up his tires again and we headed back to the hotel.

I was able to rest two hours before leaving for a small airport next to the police academy at noon. My driver today took me to the airport where I waited my turn (after a safety briefing) before my flight.

I was fortunate to be seated next to the pilot during the flight. Three others were on the flight, a family from Poland, in the back. I really enjoy flying in the helicopter and to see the city from another perspective. To see the Palm Jumeirah (the first of three islands to be completed) and also The World Islands could only really be appreciated from the air. Still much free space for more building but I’m sure that after another 10 years all of the land will be occupied.

I also had a better view of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah which is beautiful from every angle. Since I had been in Dubai for a few days I recognized most of the other attractions that we flew over during our flight.

After returning to the hotel I was satisfied that I had really seen most of Dubai. I was ready to move on to Mumbai, India tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 October 2019:

I had plenty of time to get ready for my flight to Mumbai today. My driver picked me at 1:00 and my flight was at 4:05 p.m. in the afternoon. As it turned out I almost needed the extra time just to get around the Dubai airport. I hadn’t realized when I arrived how big the airport really is. Dubai handles the greatest number of passengers than most any other airport. Other airports are bigger in size and have more flights but the planes that arrive and depart in Dubai are larger and carry more passengers per flight.

As a result of the airport’s size it takes longer to get from one part to another. I took a train to take me from the main terminal to the one that services the Emirates airline, the national airline of the UAE. The airport is very efficient and the boarding so many people onto my flight went very smoothly.

The flight to Mumbai was packed and I ended up sitting in a middle seat even though I checked in the day before. It happens sometimes that all the good seats are taken. The flight was only 2 1/2 hours and I was fine. Thankfully the people on either site of me were average sized. The flight went quickly and we landed at the Mumbai airport ahead of schedule.

Getting through the Mumbai airport was easy, though it was a very long walk to Passport Control. The visa that I completed online was accepted and I was at the baggage carousel soon after that and my driver was waiting for me just outside the airport holding a sign.

The hotel is very close to the airport but I wouldn’t want to pull my suitcase through the dark streets that surround the airport. The driver took me directly to the hotel and check-in was very simple. (My checkout at the Dubai hotel was not so simple. Two people from Reception and a person on the phone from Housekeeping argued how and what to charge me for the two candy bars I took from my room’s mini-bar the night before. The longest checkout ever from a Hilton!)

My room at this Hilton was very nice. Not as big as the one in Dubai but it was very comfortable and quiet. I ordered a bowl of mushroom soup from room service, which was very good, and enjoyed watching a couple of Star Trek episodes before going to bed.

Monday, 14 October 2019:

This morning I met up with Kannan, someone who I worked with 10 years ago. He stayed for several months in Portland and during that time we went on several one-day trips so he could see what was outside Portland. We met in the lobby and went up to the Executive Lounge for coffee and breakfast. Was good to catch up with him. We’re Facebook friends so I’ve been keeping track him over the years. We’re going to meet up again on Thursday and it will be his turn to drive me around.

In the afternoon I engaged a taxi driver to take me to the Mahakali Caves, a nearby attraction. I thought this was going to be easy to arrange but it wasn’t. Nothing against people from India, but sometimes communication is difficult. You need to keep explaining something several times before the other person will agree with you. I was told that the place was closed or it wasn’t there or they didn’t know where it was. But eventually I got to where I was going.

Along the way I saw much of the local community getting along the best they could. So much poverty, poorly maintained buildings, trash piles, and rough road. The driver did the best he could getting through the traffic. It took over 30 minutes to travel less than two miles.

I paid admission to get to the caves and walked into the site. There was some debris along the way but I ignored that and after a few minutes I saw a nice park and the caves beyond. The significance is that the caves are still somewhat intact and have survived nearly 2,000 years.

After the caves I asked to be taken to an ATM to get cash to pay the driver. This turned out to be difficult as well. The driver kept wanting to drop me off at local store ATMs and I said I needed to go to one in a big bank. Well, he said the banks were closed. I asked that he keep driving and I’ll let him know when to stop. We came upon two large banks and I went in and was able to use their ATM. One of the smaller banks that he took me to only accepted local bank cards.

He then took me directly to the hotel, though he tried to talk me into other venues where to stop. He then tried to ask for more money than agreed to but I held firm and paid him what we originally agreed upon. I realize it is how business is done and was able to play the game.

After a meal in the hotel restaurant I was ready for a nap. It was good to get out and become accustomed to the local environment. Tomorrow I’ve arranged for a driver to take me on a tour of the city. After today’s trial run I think I’m ready!

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