Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Day in Mumbai

Ravi Shankar's Sitar at the Taj

Very Young girl, tight rope walking

Street Food

Sunset over Arabian Sea from Roof of Intercontinental Hotel

Crab Cakes

Hyderabad Fish

Garlic Shrimp

Garlic Naan

Yesterday was our last full day in Mumbai before completing our trip around the world. Tomorrow we are off to LA via Bangkok then Shanghai. At the Taj, we miss the Club Room, on the 5th floor. After the fire caused by the terrorists, they rebuilt it on the 1st floor. We told the manager of the poolside restaurant about it, and he said he would show us something that would make up for it. Today he took us to the reconfigured room that is now an ultra luxury 3 floor suite. It is called the Ravi Shankar Suite for a reason. They have on display, one of Ravi’s performing Sitars. This rare instrument was a real treat to see. The suite is unbelievable, I always joke with Courtney that our room has a Jacuzzi in it. This one actually does. I don’t know who could afford to stay in it, but I am sure it gets it guests.

The Taj is owned by Ratan Tata. Tata owns many industries besides the Taj Hotels, Automobiles (Including Tata Cars, Jaguar and LandRover), telecommunications, etc. He is a multi-billionaire. As we were going through security, entering the Taj, he walked out. I immediately recognized him. He was dressed in a casual shirt. I expected to see him surrounded by armed bodyguards and walk to a bullet proof limousine. Instead, he walked through the crowd opened the back door of a Honda, helped someone get in, that walked around to the drivers seat, and drove himself away.

I mentioned to our manager friend about seeing Tata, and he said, he comes to the Taj often, that is a very simple man in taste, he doesn’t try to impress anyone. Several other people said the same thing. He is definitely the anti-trump or anti-Ambani.

We shopped a bit at some new stores (at least to us), then returned to our hotel suite. We planned to join a walking tour of the Deco Style buildings in Mumbai (being a new city by Indian standards, there are many Deco buildings here). We taxied over to the famous Eros Theater to begin the special tour. There was a large crowd their, and it was clear the event wasn’t well planned. We decided to skip it and returned instead to the hotel to get ready for our final penultimate dinner in Mumbai (we will have a final one tomorrow night with our Bollywood Actress friend, Kashmera Shah, before going to the airport).

First we taxied to the Intercontinental Hotel, for roof top drinks overlooking Marine Drive and the Arabian Sea. It was a warm night and it was wonderful having the beautiful view, especially for the sunset. After a couple of martinis for me, it was off to dinner. We love the seafood at Trishna, and the previous night we had a great dinner. Our waiter (an old timer at the restaurant, who really made us feel welcome) was exceptional. We told him we would return again tonight, would he arrange a special dinner for us. He was happy to comply and we had an even better meal than the previous night. Crab Cakes, Garlic Shrimp, Hyderabad Fish, Naan, Kulfi for dessert. We were curious about Hyderabad fish, we didn’t particularly remember fish when we were in Hyderabad. Turns out Hyderabad fish, is the way the fish is prepared, not where it came from!

A brief word about travel directions in India. No one knows where anything is! Drivers don’t consult maps and don’t have GPS. In Japan, every cab has GPS and the taxi drivers use it to find addresses. In London, taxi drivers have to pass a special test called “The Knowledge” proving they know the streets. In Hyderabad, Mumbai and almost everywhere we travelled directions were given like: “Go past the Temple turn right at the \ stand where they serve the extra spicy chilies, turn left where you see three goats and a cow.” Our drivers would go in the general direction then roll down their window and yell to the driver of the tuk-tuk, motorbike, or pedestrian – Brother (bhai) where is x. The person would sort of waive his hand in a general direction and give some directions, and we would be off again. We experienced it repeatedly. Our driver isn’t bothered by not knowing and who ever he asks is happy to assist. The system works!

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