Our last full day - & what a day it turns out to be!
Leaving Udaipur where some of Octopussy and also some of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was filmed. We have left behind the deer park, monkeys, peacocks on the roof and cricket pitch plus practice nets of the Shakbardi Hotel. A horribly early start, 4.15 wake-up call to get the flight to Mumbai.
Security at Udaipur Airport is intense - 5 checks, first one just to get into the terminal building, by sullen military personnel. Final security check is done for women by a surly female, rude actually! Great start to the day! Not much at the airport either. Hot water tasting of coffee on the flight, have to pay 60 Rs for it so good to reach Mumbai with the hope of proper caffeine to keep us going!
Mumbai (previously Bombay) is India's economic capital. It has a population of over 20 million now (so smaller than Delhi which has 70 million!) and is set on 7 islands and crescent shaped bays. The main bay is known as The Queen's Necklace for the streetlights that light it at night.
Flying in to the haze straight away you see both sides of the city - skyscrapers and high-rises with slums crammed into every available space around them, right up to the airport perimeter.
On the drive to our hotel, The Trident, we pass the old fishing villages, the poorer outskirts of the city then the beautiful Haji Ali island mosque and Chowpatty Beach (can't swim here because it is polluted!).
Now we are more central and the city is very clean, in complete contrast to Delhi. We have seen several initiatives for 'Clean city, Green city' in other places but it seems to be working here. We see our first rubbish collection vehicle!
The traffic is the same - Horn Please reigns! As well as the tuc-tucs there are incredibly old-looking panel-beaten double decker buses & smarter black & yellow taxis zipping round the hectic streets.
Our 5* hotel, situated on Nariman Point overlooking the Arabian Sea, is stunning. There is strong but polite security as it was one of the hotels attacked in Nov 2008 by terrorists. 32 guests & staff were killed in the 3 day siege.
Our group take a little stroll looking for a coffee but end up returning to the hotel for a fabulous breakfast/brunch which we are not charged for!
We reconvene for our City Tour with a local government tourist guide. We take in Malabar Hill in S. Mumbai where the Bollywood stars & the local Mafia boss live! A billion dollar private residence, 29 stories plus helipad, built for just 5 people by the owner of the Reliance company gives a flavour of the property prices here!! A quick walk around the Hanging Gardens here, so called because they are located on the top of tanks supplying water to Mumbai! Then we pass the Parsi Towers of Silence gardens. Parsis believe that the elements must not be polluted by the dead so they lay their dead out on towers to be picked clean by vultures. Our guide turns out to be a Parsi!
We stop at the local market, always interesting, then a quick stop at the house that Ghandi lived in for 17 years and Victoria Terminus, a remarkable Victorian Gothic structure opened in 1887 during Queen Victoria's Jubilee Year.
Lastly we get our guide to drop us at the Gateway of India built to commemorate the visit of George V & Queen Mary in 1911. We have opted to try and have High Tea at The Taj Mahal hotel, over a century old, in place of another museum visit and we are in!!!
The 'tea' turns out to be a sumptuous meal in impressive surroundings - not only the expected 3-tier tea stand but a huge variety of hot dishes & snacks, a plethora of tiny delicious desserts to choose from and endless tea or coffee. As we choose with difficulty our waiter brings up more delightful Indian canapés - and all for £33 per COUPLE!!!!!!! And a piano accompaniment too! The staff service is perfect attentive, helpful, friendly but not overpowering. It deserves it's amazing reputation.
The icing on the cake is a wedding celebration. The groom arriving on his horse with much loud drumming, shouting & singing. Even 'granny is dancing frantically having a superb time! He is met by the family dressed in their finest - incredible rich red & gold turbans for the men and stunning saris on the women with all their chic bling! One lady is wearing the most beautiful earrings that belonged to her grandmother. Hope she had a security guard with her! The groom is carried up the stairs on the shoulders of 2 supporters to his room. Sadly we do not get to see the bride who is with her attendants in another room.
The Gateway of India, opposite the hotel, is our last port of call. A party atmosphere reigns with tourists from near and far jostling to watch the changing lighting on the edifice. We are 'celebs' again but for the last time on this trip! There are 'silver' open horse-drawn carriages bedecked with Blackpool-illumination type lights travelling up & down the road. Pat wants to get one back to our hotel but the group persuades her they won't go that far so it is back for a last drink in The Opium Den (!) bar in The Trident. Much to Pat's chagrin the carriages are spotted travelling past our hotel - he isn't going to let us forget this missed opportunity!!
A long entry but it has been the most brilliant and fitting way to end an incredible holiday. Thanks for reading about just a few of our adventures!