We landed in humid Mumbai at around 5AM on Sunday. As the fee was too high, I exchanged only 20USD to Indian rupees and thought I would exchange the rest later in a bank. That was mistake #1. Then we got on prepaid taxi that drove us all the way down to Colaba. India is less smelly during monsoon season as the rain washes the streets and I was truly enjoying our ride as roads were empty this early and view was stunning. That is - stunning until the sun arose. Until then I could only see skyscrapers with lights on and I didnt see the other India - the one without electricity. Once the sun was shining, I saw slums, dirt and cows everywhere. The scene quickly changed and Marine Drive with beach, palm trees and early runners filled my view. I almost felt like at Miami's Ocean Drive! Except the pollution...
The car stopped near our hotel - Hotel Everest. I wrote them email two weeks back asking about early morning check-in and they assured me it wouldn't be a problem. That was mistake #2. I woke up the young receptionist and couldn't believe what I was hearing. The hotel was completely full and we had to wait until noon to get a room. We were thirsty, hungry, tired and there was no place to go. All restaurants and bars were closed on Sunday morning and we didn't even have enough rupees. He could sense my desperation and offered alternative. He said there was another partner hotel - the same price and standard. We had nothing to lose so I agreed. Another man showed up and took us to taxi.
We drove for few minutes, the taxi stopped on main road and this guy pointed at dark stairs leading to first floor of very ugly building. I demanded a proof that it was really a hotel and he showed a sign "Venus Hotel.". Very strange name for a hotel indeed. I had a knife in my back pocket and I was bigger than most of Indian men who look like children so I walked up, left my mom with 4 men at reception with all our bags and went to check out rooms.
I entered a very small - probably 9m2- room without any windows, with mildew on a wall and tiny bathroom with squat toilet.
"There is no way I'm staying in this room!", I shouted at the guy.
"THERE IS A FUCKING MILDEW BY BED!", I was screaming at this point, lack of sleep and hunger affecting my usually polite behaviour.
"Madam, it's ok, this is hour hotel. You can stay for few hours and pay and then go back to the other hotel.", he offered.
Hotel Venus? Charged per hour? No windows? Shit!
I ran to the reception, grabbed my mom and bags and escaped to street. The guy from previous hotel was clearly disappointed and even asked to pay the taxi ride we took. I gave him 100 rupees only to discover hours later that it was worth only 30 rupees. That was mistake #3.
So now it was around 7AM on Sunday morning in Mumbai, we were still hungry, thirsty and tired. Once we calmed down a bit, we noticed all the homeless people on the street around us. As soon as we noticed them, they noticed us and circled around begging for money. They didn't speak English and so I couldn't explain we were basically in the same situation - without ruppes, without accommodation and without food, restaurants still closed. That was the real adventure I came for to India, wasn't it?
I noticed a bank at a corner and rushed there. If something happens to us, at least it will be recorded on cameras and they will catch the bastards!, I was thinking. We stood there, my mom was shooing beggars while I was trying to find some other hotel in my travel guide. I found few and tried to call them, but the numbers didn't work. I had a better look and realized they were too short. Fucking Lonely Planet listed hotel numbers without Mumbai city dial code! I knew the international code to India, but not the one for city of Mumbai. That was mistake #4. There were no phone booths around - I later realized they were in shops which were closed in the morning of course. Thank god there was a security guard in the bank who could speak English (not so common in India!) and knew the code and so I dialed a hotel nearby which had available rooms and few minutes later we slept like babies.
We woke up hours later starving and still with very few rupees. Taxi drove us to nearest shopping mall where we hopelessly searched for a bank. Couldn't find any. So we went to ATM and realized it's impossible to withdraw big amount of money. One is limited to 10 000 rupees (around 190USD) and we were actually lucky to withdraw 5 000 (ATM didn't have more money). At least we had enough for a decent lunch. Mumbai is the financial capital of India, but banks are closed on Sunday (I'm used to banks open on weekend in Slovakia) and when we finally did find one next day, they refused to exchange money after 2PM!!!! Another bank refused to exchange money unless I had account with them. We had to exchange dollars in Thomas Cook office.
After lunch we went back to Colaba to walk around shops (especially looking for toilet paper!), had very tasty deserts in Theobroma Patisserie and then visited Colaba Market, where we experienced typical daily life of Indians and the way they treat food. Eggs were laying on sun just like that without any cooling. After seeing this we didn't touch any eggs or dairy products for the whole trip and the only sick travellers we met were those who had omeletts for breakfast. We wanted to stick to european food for the first day just in case and so we visited delicious Italian restaurant Basilico.
That was the first days in Mumbai, then we headed to Pune, especially to Osho ashram.
(Despite the bad first impression I fell in love with India, especially with Kerala and Goa!)
Our hotel in Mumbai - Bentley's which was much better than the love hotel! It was clean, big and in quiet location.
Not so bad, is it?
DO's and DON'Ts in India