Saturday, June 25

One more day in Bangalore, then our first sensations of Mumbai (Bombay)

Hello virtual travelers!  We're still alive and (mostly) well from Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, India's largest city at 18 Million people, the headquarters of their Bollywood film industry and, as the tour book reads, "the glamorous world of film stars and business tycoons exists side by side with the squalor of slums and shantytowns, where over 3 million people live".

We are now in the state of Maharashtra, having visited Andhra Pradesh (Hyderabad), Tamil Nadu (Chennai) and Karnataka (Bangalore).  Incidentally, they pronounce Karnataka very closely to the word "Connecticut" with the accent in the same places.  kar-NA-ta-ka. 

The weather in Bangalore was glorious - in the high 70's by American reckoning, 40%ish humidity, and a pleasant monsoon-induced rain in the evening.  The hotel we stayed at had tiered outdoor balconies for everyone and the entry to the rooms as also from theoutside, indicative of the generally pleasant weather.  And for those security-concerned among you, there was a guard as well as a butler for every floor.

Here's a few final shots of the Oberoi, a wonderful hotel with excellent food.  Worth the trip.  You also see what the downtown business district looks like from the hotel:
Oberoi room 1  Oberoi room 2

Exterior hall

View from Oberoi 1  Oberoi view 2

After doing our risk assessment the company took us up to the roof of their building to take some pix of Bangalore.  I also took some shots of the ongoing house construction next door.  So for my engineer friends, here are some typical shots of Indian construction techniques.  In the second shot the guy bending down in the pit is using a wicker basket to dig out the mud and throw it into a pile behind him.
construction 1  construction 2

Scaffolding  worker housing

Truck route  W

And a couple more shots of Bangalore from up here.  Most of the buildings you see around are actually houses, some of them really nice.  Each is unique, there are not many cookie-cutter homes around here, except in specially-designed gated communities.
Bag1  Bang2

After this it was off to downtown for lunch at a real Indian restaurant, called "Tandoor" where we had some very excellent northern Indian food (our hosts said southern Indian was too spicy).  Had Butter Chicken, a curry dish but somewhat sweet, the best chicken tandoori ever, some excellent basmati and a sweet fried rice dish that was served covered in actual silver foil.  mmmm Tasty.

In our drives I took some other shots I'm presenting in no particular order:

A donkey standing quietly
Anyone need a goat?
A monument to the Indian soldiers who died in "The Great War", which we call World War I.
Great War 1  Great War 2
There was a noticeable Christian community in Bangalore, with dozens of churches, cathedrals (both western and Orthodox), 7th day Adventist, even a Baptist Bible College.
Christian Church
We then went shopping for a bit along this very busy commercial street.  It was our first time actually setting foot into a real shopping district.  There were some amazing jewelry stores and places to buy just about anything and everything.  Yep, everything.
Shopping  shopping
Shopping 2
After shopping we were driving toward the airport and went by this hotel, which was our first choice but was filled.  It's the Leela Palace, and described by all as the only "7-star" hotel in India, on a 5-star scale.
Leela Palace

We had one more stop to make, at an Indin department store called "Kemp Fort" which is basically Saks, Tiffany, Bloomingdales, and that big NY toy store whose name escapes me at the moment, all rolled into one huge store.  They give you flyers for this as you get off the airplane.  So here's a few shots from there:
Kemp Fort  Kemp Fort
The advertising for their Kids area, and a big kid shopping:
Kemp Kids  A big kid
Some of the enormous variety of fabric for women's clothes. 
Fabrics  Fabric

Now that you've seen that, I want to put up, at Rachel's request, this pair of photos showing Alex at work this day, and Rachel at work this day:
Alex working  Rachel working

After this we were off to the airport for our 90-minute flight to Mumbai, formerly called Bombay by the British.  When we were on the plane, Rachel shook me and said "That guy has a bomb on the plane."  What?  "Yes, he even labeled it - B O M".  Rachel, that's the international 3-letter designator for the Mumbai airport, formerly called BOMbay....  She really needs to get out more.

The flight had been delayed nearly an hour because the planes were having trouble getting out of Mumbai to get down to Bangalore due to the monsoon weather.  Monsoon is really more of a seasonal weather pattern than a particular storm cell.  It basically designates the whole rainy season where storms will come in and out and dump inches of rain in an hour.  The rain was heavy that day so flights were delayed.  As I write this, the storm just kicked up and blanked out my view outside.  Previously I could see about 5 miles, now I can't see the end of the hotel complex due to the driving rain and wind.  Pictures will appear on the 6/26 page.

There's only 2 pictures for Mumbai for 6/25, one of the Batmobile, and another of a foot-deep lake that previously was our road:
Batmobile  Puddle
What else to say about Mumbai?  During our 90-minute drive from the airport (which was planned to take as long as 40 minutes due to traffic), I came up with a few comparisons I'd like to share with the folks from home in terms I think you'll relate to.  Sorry for any reading this who are not familiar with the New York area.

Imagine New York.  Imagine Manhattan.  Or even better, Brooklyn.  Imagine Brooklyn down by the docks.  Now imagine a street market with people selling meat, fruits, vegetables, pots, pans, clothes, bicycles, lubricating oil, children, animals, furniture, etc.  Imagine them never cleaning up from this street market and leaving the refuse on the street for everyone to walk in and for animals to eat.  There are no trash cans.  Now place this scene in an industrial area like the docks area of Brooklyn, intermingled with tiny hospitals, tire re-volcanizing places, slaughterhouses, internet cafes, metal grinding shops, hip cool trendy bars, and small houses of worship.  Now stretch it out for miles and miles and miles and miles.  Now add the people - everywhere there are people standing around, thinking of crossing the dangerous roads with traffic mostly going one direction on each side but not necessarily so.  The people are everywhere, standing, moving, sitting, sleeping, dying.  No one has more than a square yard to themselves and you have to watch out for the motorcycles driving on the sidewalk to get around the traffic that isn't going anywhere.  Add the beggars, some are women with children asking for 1 rupee to feed their child, or perhaps she's selling you the child for 1 Rupee?  We were not sure.  Add the lepers with no fingers.  Add the guys with no legs on crutches. Add the old women carrying bags on their heads. And the smells of all of that above.  Now <cough> add onto that the smoke and pollution from a million 2-stroke engines that are those little yellow 3-wheel tuk-tuk cabs and motorcycles, diesel smoke from trucks and buses, and the million other cars, scooters and motorcycles. 

Oh, and it's 10:30 at night, 95 degrees and 100% humidity.  As I get out of the car, my glasses fog up and stay so for 3 minutes.

We hadn't had any problems breathing prior to this part of the trip, but once we got to Mumbai, Rachel's asthma started acting up, and I've got a scratchy throat and I sound like I have a cold.  The weather forecast said "Smoky" and they weren't kidding. 

As we round the curve for the hotel, we are stopped by armed guards who check under the car with a mirror and ask the driver to open the trunk.   I guess they don't want their rich hard-currency traveling visitors to have any problems.  But once we get here it's beautiful - the hotel is huge, beautiful, and they  hand you cold wet washcloths to wipe your face as you check in.  Plus chocolates.  OK, we have at least one oasis where we should be all right.

Sunday should be an interesting day. Rachel's not leaving the air-conditioned, and hopefully air-filtered comfort of the hotel, while Alex will take the driver up on his offer of a few hours during daylight to see the few historic sights Mumbai has to offer.  When we return to our intrepid adventurers, you will know what we think of Mumbai.
All text content and images on this and any and all subpages, unless otherwise noted, are Copyright (c) 2005,  Alex Kuhn