Mumbai Day 4

Continued from Mumbai Day 3 Part 2.

My last day in Mumbai. I am going to miss this city. I am going to miss my hotel. I am going to miss my potable water in my room.

I’ve got an 11AM movie to catch, so it’s time to get going with breakfast.


Best sponge pancakes ever! When I asked for 4 pancakes, my server asked if I wanted to have 6 instead(buffet style). Fuck yeah! Best hotel ever.


Egg white omelet.


The hotel told me that the theater is just a couple of blocks away.


Found.


Before I could even get in the theater, I was greeted with this prominent sign. Then I had to go through a metal detector. The 2008 terrorist attacks are still very much fresh on their mind.

They also took my camera battery and gave me a token to redeem it after the movie. They didn’t take my backup battery or my iPhone though…So, what’s the point? I’ve still got two working cameras on me.

Agent Vinod was fun to watch. Don’t remembered if I mentioned it, but it’s a James Bondesque spy film that is light on plot and heavy on action. Perfect for me since I don’t understand the language. I realized that I am starting to recognize some of the Bollywood actors and actresses. I recognize several faces in the trailers from my being exposed to India for 3 weeks.

They played the national anthem before the movie started and everyone stood up. Then I reluctantly stood up. There was an intermission, a musical portion of the film, and between the movie trailers, there were these crappy bureaucratic permit postings showing that the trailer is fit for audiences and what not. It’s just odd to see these crappy looking permits getting flashed for a few seconds before these colorful trailers.


There’s a The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in the mall with the movie theater. I’ve never been to one before, so why not make my first visit to one in Mumbai. I bet the food is relatively safe here.


Graft is a problem everywhere here.


I am #1. Duh.


Dynamite Chicken. I am sure my GI tracts love the sound of that…

FUCK ME! I just lost an hour worth of work because fucking firefox just crashed on me. AAAAHHHHH!!!! FUCK YOU FIREFOX!!! OK, time to move on and retype everything.

I came back after the movie and went to the concierge’s desk to find Roohi. Another concierge told me that she was running about 15 minutes late. No big deal, I’ve got my laptop with me so I’ll just do some blogging in the lobby while I wait. While I waited, a swarm of mosquitoes attacked me. I think there’s been more mosquitoes in Mumbai than I’ve see anywhere else in India.

Eventually Roohi arrives and she goes to work on getting me a refund. She asked me if I have tried to get a refund online again since yesterday, to which I replied that I tried but Kingfisher’s online system isn’t working and hasn’t been working. I suspect it’s not working on purpose so no customers can get an easy refund. I had also checked my credit card statements, so I know nothing for automatically refunded. Roohi suggests that we walk over to the travel agency attached to the hotel and see if they’ve got some ideas.

We walked over, and Roohi explained my situation to them. The travel agent replies back that no one has been able to get refund with Kingfisher because they are about to go out of business. I guess that’s the end of the road for me then. Roohi doesn’t know what No means.

We come back to the concierge’s desk and Roohi gets on the phone to Kingfisher. Of course, she’s put on hold. While on hold, Delna(I believe she’s the concierge supervisor) comes over and Roohi explains the situation. They start discussing this matter, strategize about it, and never stopped discussing this matter the whole time Roohi was on the phone with Kingfisher. They were more adamant about getting me a refund than I was! They were on a mission and no amounts of No along the way would stop them.

After being on hold for a while, finally, Roohi gets transferred to a living person. A living person with no soul though, of course. She explains the situation, and then I provide my ticket number, flight number, PNR number, credit card number, and what else number that’s attached to me. Then Roohi is put on hold again. Delna and Roohi discuss and strategize some more.

After a while, Kingfisher comes back on the phone, and says that they can’t give me a full refund. My flight was from Varanasi to Jaipur with a connection in Delhi. Well, only the leg from Delhi to Jaipur was cancelled, and Kingfisher only wants to provide the refund for that portion. As a foreigner, this is where I would have been defeated. Again, Roohi doesn’t take No for an answer. She pulls all the strings on the phone, and pushes all the right buttons, then eventually Kingfisher agrees to give the full refund.

To those of you who have never been to India, this whole ordeal may not have seem like much. It may even seem like it’s just me being lazy and I should have called the airline by myself instead of relying on the concierge. Well, to those of you who have been to India, you would understand my frustration and the triumph that I was able to get a full refund.

If I had called Kingfisher myself, the moment they hear my English, see where I am from, I would have been written off instantly. I would have practically zero chance of getting a refund. They know that I am a foreigner, and therefore I am impotent to complaining because they know I’ll never be able to find the channels to do so. The red tape and bureaucracy in India is insane. As a foreigner, we are constantly stuck in this Kafkaesque nightmare because the de facto ways that things get done in India is often underground, and its well hidden from view. I know other travelers who have tried to get their refund from Kingfisher, and they’ve gotten the run around for hours. Yes, hours.

It’s not even the $111 refund that I really care about. I do, but I don’t. It’s the principle of it. It’s me getting constantly fucked over in India, and this time I thought it would be no different. I had accepted my fate. I had already bent over, pants around my ankles, ready to be fucked over yet again. Imagine my surprise when I turn around and saw that my assailants(Ha! How fitting of a word!)just had their ass kicked by Delna and Roohi. To feel so helpless in this country and be rescued by two incredibly nice ladies is a great feeling.

I’ve spent so much time and effort writing about this one event, but I truly feel like staying at the Trident and the services provided to me from the concierge has been a true highlight of my time here in Mumbai. Mumbai isn’t also the greatest sightseeing city either. It’s not like Delhi where there a lot of historical sights to see.

While Roohi was on hold, I asked Delna where I can buy a Being Human shirt that I’ve been seeing around. She’s never had anyone ask her that. She digs around, and starts making phone calls. I’ve got half of this concierge department working hard for me! She tracks a place down and gives me the address and nice explicit directions. Awesome!

At this point, I didn’t even feel like a guest talking to the concierge desk. They didn’t treat me like a guest either. It felt like they were just two people who are trying their best to show me a good time in their city that they love. It’s true. The people who are the best at their jobs are the ones who do not think of their jobs as jobs. These ladies rule at their jobs.

After I had gotten my refund confirmation number from Kingfisher, and Roohi had gotten off the phone with them, Delna asked if I had dinner plans tonight. I said that I had plans on just eating down stairs in the hotel and taking it easy. “No. I won’t allow you to do that. It’s your last night here, you must eat something amazing!” Yes ma’am! She then proceeds to write out a full course ordering menu to one of her favorite restaurant in the area. She was more excited than me that I was going to eat there. She’s a self proclaimed foodie.

I was all smiles the whole time that I had Delna and Roohi help me.


The awesome Delna(left) and Roohi! Look at how light skinned Delna is. She doesn’t even look Indian to me, but on TV many of the movie stars are light colored like her. I see a lot more light colored people here in Mumbai, and especially in my hotel. The privileged class is still decided by the color of their skin tone. Even the staff in my hotel is lighter skinned than the majority of people out walking the streets of Mumbai.


I was so impressed with the service that I had to ask for a comment card to fill out. I’ve probably only filled out 3 comment cards before in my life and definitely never one for a hotel. Well, exceptional service requires exceptional comment card. I feel embarrassed that I am being so sappy about this whole thing. But, it is what it is.


This are the specific things that Delna says that I have to order at Khyber. Done. Glad to have a local tell me exactly what’s good to order.

It’s about mid afternoon, so I’ll just go out for a couple of hours and do some light sightseeing.


Drove by Victoria Terminal again.


Crawford Market. This is the wholesale market of Mumbai. All the different products are separated into different parts of this area. Delna told me that there’s an illegal pet market in here, but I totally forgot to visit it while I was here. Doh.


Wholesale fruits.


I wouldn’t eat that.


They’ve got Diet DP here.


Didn’t see regular DP though.


Out of Crawford market. All the streets around here are other specialty markets too.


Indian lunch boxes. Made at home, then delivered to working husbands during the day. Top Gear did an episode on these lunch boxes, and it’s incredible how rarely they get delivered incorrectly, even while working with an antiquated logistics system.


Tons of people in this area pulling these long and narrow carts delivering goods.

 

 


There’s a mosque in this area.


I was offered one of these beans from above. You eat the white part and it’s a little sweet.


I didn’t go in. Didn’t want to take off my shoes.


Now entered the market selling all fabrics.


White is in!


Dude!!! Where do I buy one????? I would rock the shit out of this in Austin.


Another view of Crawford market.


Shiny.


This is the first cat that I remember seeing in the 3 weeks that I’ve been in India. I’ve seen a million dogs, but not cats.

I go try to find a taxi to head to Colaba. They are tough negotiating with me, but it’s my last day and I am tired of arguing over 20 cents here and there. Yeah, whatever, I’ll pay $1.20 instead of $1.


Finally, it’s happened!!! In all of this chaotic driving, and Mumbai isn’t even bad at all, I am finally in a vehicle that hits another vehicle. Rubbing in a rickshaw in Delhi doesn’t count because that’s a daily affair. Anyhow, this truck and my taxi collide. It wasn’t bad. Maybe a 2mph crash. My driver can be seen here yelling at the truck driver!


He checks for damage. Not too bad.


Took this photo of the taxi next to my taxi, they are the same make. These cars don’t have removable fenders. But yet, they all seem to be in relatively good shape.


My driver and his built in wood dash. I wouldn’t want to get in a wreck with that there.


Back at Colaba. Now I find Cottonworld.


Found one sign.


Another. Then I couldn’t find it.


Ah, yes. It’s located in the most obscure entrance ever. Without Delna’s help, I would have never found this place in a 100 years. How does a place this obscure stay open?


It’s quite a nice place too.


Yes, now when I am being human, others will know that I am being human.


Indigo, I ate here yesterday for brunch. It’s just obscure to find. Look, no signs anywhere!!

While trying to catch a cab back to the Trident, all the drivers quoted me expensive prices. One even told me that I am staying at the Trident, so I should accept that I’ll pay a really high price. Fuck that! I eventually found one that was more reasonable. I need to start telling driver to just take me to Marine Dr close by the Trident instead.


I came back to a gift from the hotel. Well, it’s just my laundry, but it came back in this nice wicker box.

I went to the gym before dinner. I talked to the staff working there, and asked him a little about the terrorist act here. He told me that everyone just ran out. A lot of guests ran out through the service hallways. This man had been working here 32 years. That’s a long time. There was also a cricket player in the gym working out. A real professional cricket player from South Africa for the tournament here. Cricket players are not all that big. Some of them are even smaller than me. I guess it’s all in the technique.


Khyber! Look at their small obscure sign. It’s like all the nice places in town purposely hide themselves.


Curd drink to flush down the spiciness.


The chicken with a almond and saffron based curry sauce. Creamy!


The prawns were AWESOME. The flavoring was spectacular. Oh, so good!


So very glad Delna convinced me to go out and go for with last excellent Indian meal before I leave India. This is an appropriate send off!


The stairs have no railings, even in this nice restaurant. This would never pass inspection in the US. Yay to design overcoming safety!


Even though I lived right across the street from Marine Dr. I’ve never actually crossed the street to take a look. Big hang out place at night.

I came back to the hotel, and looked for Roohi. I showed her my photos from dinner. She had never gone to Khyber before, and perhaps my photos created enough of an impetus to get her to finally try it. She lives in the suburbs, and eats out there instead. Sort of like how it took me literally 6 years to try Chez Nous, which is literally one block from my condo downtown.

I spent some time asking Roohi about all of my questions of India. I asked about what people think about Delhi from Mumbai and vice versa. There is a rivalry, of course. She told me that Mumbai is very different from even 5 years ago. There’s a lot more infrastructure going on right now. Everything is improving. She thinks that the new government that came into power 5 years had something to do with the change. I wonder if I’ll recognize Mumbai as I remember it today when I come back years from now?

We talked about the terrorism in this hotel. The Trident was the entry point, the gunman came in here shooting and bombed out the lobby. Then went through a hallway connection the Trident to the Oberoi and killed most of the people over there. Roohi had the day off, so she was lucky to not have been here. All the people who work in the lobby are fresh faces. Everyone who saw it that day in the lobby have either retired or have left for other jobs. Talk about PTSD.


The lobby, and now I am standing at the top of the stairs that leads to the Oberoi through a short corridor.


The entire lobby of Oberoi had been redone. Red Piano!


Last photo to remember Mumbai by. Taken from the promenade on Marine Dr.

To be continued at Istanbul Day 1.

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