Mumbai – I am a criminal on the run

I’ll get back to that title further down, but I’m not exaggerating. I am a law breaker. I am on the lam. And it’s not as exciting as you’d think!

As detailed in the Accommodation for India page, the Hotel Pearl we opted for is good but a little out of the way. We hadn’t realised how out of the way until this morning. After lazing for too long, watching the telly an reading the free newspaper, we set off for the Crossroads Mall (no relation to the motel, so I’m told).

Well, finding a rickshaw around here just isn’t the same as getting one in Delhi. Nobody hassled us. Nobody tried to sell us anything or beg off us. Nobody in the gazillion autorickshaws spoke English.


After walking for some time, we found another hotel and they kindly organised one for us. They also recommended we go to another mall as it was just as big and a lot closer. Good advice, and much appreciated. Off we went with our autorickshaw man at the stick. Brooooom….

An hour later the tuk-tuk stopped. In the middle of nowhere. Certainly not a mall. Not unless three tyre repair places and a shop selling ou-of-date chocolate classes as a mall. Hum. It seems he’d been given a district to take us to, but it was miles away so he didn’t know it that well.

We managed to get “mall” across to him and off he drove. After asking around four other people, we eventually lucked out with a man who spoke English. He explained that the hotel had told him to go to the InOrbit mall, but the guy didn’t know the area. He got us close and we moved into a “local” tuk-tuk who dropped us off where we wanted to go. Overall journey time was somewhere over 90 minutes.

Our travel fun didn’t stop there.

After lunch at Nando’s and a walk around the shops, we asked at reception how to get to Colaba, the touristy area. Their advice was to get a three-wheeler to the nearby train station, a train to Churchgate and then another autorickshaw to the Gate of India or thereabouts. Cheapest and fastest route. We thanked them and flagged down another psycho in a three-wheeled mobile horn.

The driver worked out where we wanted to end up and told us he’d take us to a different train station as the one we’d been told to go to would mean changing trains partway down the route. This was good for us (and turned out to be true as well – he wasn’t fleecing us) so off we went. Almost an hour later we were dropped off at a bustling railway station and set about sorting out tickets.

This turned out to be nice and easy. Queue up for a while, ask at the front for “Churchgate – second class” and pay a whole 8Rp. First class was 78Rp. Big jump!

With the help of a couple of nice members of the public who saw our confused glances, we made our way to Platform 5 and awaited the correct train. It arrived, we hopped on.

When it turned up, our thoughts were “uh-oh”. People clinging to the sides and exploding out of the open doors. It turned out that the trains were actually quite spacious, just that people crowd the doors to ensure they can get off before the ones on the platform force their way on board. Fans on the ceiling, even seats though we didnt’ get one. Not bad. Health and safety in the UK would go mental about the people jumping on and off at the train moved, and I don’t think it had doors let alone closed them.

Before we pulled into the next station, the ticket inspector walked up. We handed him our tickets and he turned away. Shame, I wanted mine as a souvenir but never mind. Then he turned back.

“Your ticket second class. This first class. You each owe 300 Rupees. You pay now. 600 Rupees. Give me now.”

My response: “Erm, no. The carriage has no signs on to say this is first class. It’s an honest mistake. Where is second class and we’ll change at the next station.”

Hans’ response: “This guy’s trying to rip us off. 300 Rupees?”

Inspector’s response: “No, give me 600 Rupees. You pay now.”

Me: “With what? I bought second class as that’s all we can afford. I have no more Rupees. Let us move to the second class carriage. It’s just a mistake anyway.”

Inspector: “No, you come with me. Get off next station. Come to my office.”

Hans: “Let’s just walk off.”

So we did.

After all, this was one short, overweight middle-aged man who’d collared five people with the wrong ticket. He was holding on to one Indian guy who was quite young – I assume he just thought he’d run off. There was another, older, man as well who seemed to be helping the inspector, but he never identified himself or anything, just insisted we followed on and walked behind us.

As we crossed the bridge to the main street, the main part of the group veered right towards “The Office”. Hans and I just kept walking in a straight line and out the door.

We are bad, bad men.

The old guy at the back tried to grab me, but it was a half-hearted effort. I turned and stared at him and he just let me go.

So we ended up in a taxi after all, which cost us a fair bit but still nowhere near what you’d pay back home.

In Colaba, we saw the Gateway to India. A huge archway at the harbour built to commemorate a visit by King George V and through which pretty much all the Brits walked when they left Mumbai twenty years later. Unfortunately, I don’t think you can take photos of it without a license and I’d already broken the law once today. I wasn’t about to stretch my luck.

We then did the usual – email checks, and so on. We managed to get our passports photocopied and faxed to Bhutan for our visas. That’s going to be an expensive trip, but we’re both looking forward to it, mainly as nobody ever goes there. Yet it’s meant to be amazing. I guess we’ll find out!

I also managed to get hold of Indy’s parents in Sri Lanka and they’ve very kindly said they’ll collect us from the airport despite our arrival time being 6am. Thank you both so much and it’ll be wonderful to see you again after so long! And Michi, nice to speak to you again, too. Keep thinking about SE Asia early next year!

For dinner, we settled on Leopold’s (on Shahid Bhagat Sing Marg) near the Regal cinema. Amazingly, this place isn’t in Lonely Planet yet it was still heaving with tourists. The food was good, a little expensive (but this is Mumbai) and the atmosphere fine. Hey, even the toilet was clean. I had a chicken ticka masalla and Hans went for chicken biryani – we can recommend both. Also the grape juice was a delicious drink. And the fruit salad desert was generous in proportion and fresh as you’d like it.

While we were waiting for desert, a girl on her own sat down nearby. I’ve spent long enough travelling on my own to recognise the lonely looks being cast about, so we invited her over to our table for some company. Time flew with an extra person to speak to – nice to meet you, Isabel! – and it was gone 11pm by the time we sorted our taxi back home.

We used a trick we may well employ later on. If in doubt about getting a taxi who’ll understand English… go to the closest posh hotel and ask the staff their to sort one for you. The Taj Mahal is a glorious palacial hotel that we could never afford to stay in, but the doorman was only too glad to flag us down a taxi and explain where we wanted to go. We even got a reasonable fare of 350Rp for the hour-long drive.

And back to the hotel. We check out tomorrow at midday and will have to leave our bags here to go wandering. Our flight to Sri Lanka is at around 3:40am so we’ll aim to be back at around midnight to collect the bags and head to the airport.

Again, apologies for the lack of photos. Annoyingly, the mall we went to today has a wireless area that I think is free, but I didn’t have my laptop with me. I did manage to get a photo up for the Taj Mahal day, as the uploading on Blogger itself seems to be ok – I just have to get the pics to a PC. However, I was using Picasa before and with a recent update they seem to have shafted the picture uploading pretty much totally.

I’m trying to keep the Accommodation Page up to date, though, and it’s correct as of last night.

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