Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Awake In Mumbai

I pretty much never go on the internet while we travel, I'm a firm believer in being in the moment. It is one of the reasons to travel. What would be the point if you are checking your email and your Facebook all the time? Might as well stay at home.

But here I am awake at 4:30 in the morning in Mumbai. I keep waking up super early, not from jet-lag but from some pretty crazy dreaming caused by the malaria meds - a known side effect but one that has not been an issue for me in the past. We're all (the wife, the kid, and me) also a little stir crazy from spending the entire day yesterday at the hotel due to a serious monsoon rain storm that shut down schools and government building, and cancelled a meeting my wife was supposed to be attending.

And we have our laptop with us since this is a work trip for my wife, so as long as I'm awake I might as well use my sputtering old blog (which I keep telling myself I'll be better about posting) to do a little bit of journaling. I normally like to try to have a notebook for writing about our trip but since this trip came up so quick I didn't plan ahead.

So here are some thoughts from our first four days in India, all of which has been in Mumbai so far.

Mumbai is an insane city. I've been in some pretty nutty cities in Asia but the traffic insanity and the crush of people here takes the cake over other places I've seen. This place is in serious need of a metro system about three times the size of New York's, but right now they've got one about the size of Seattle's. Which just doesn't cut it.

This place smells pretty much how I expected it to, spices mixed with sweat.

Mumbai seems like Gandhi's worst fucking nightmare about India's future come true. It's hard to imagine that this place could be anything less like what he wanted for India.

I'm reminded of how much I don't like staying in luxury hotels. Since the accommodations are arranged and paid for by the company that brought my wife over we are staying at a high-end, 5-star hotel by the airport (which also really sucks for sightseeing, needing to go really far in that traffic to see the stuff one comes to Mumbai to see). First and foremost I really don't like workers who are forced to act so subservient to me. I find the whole thing very embarrassing, especially when visiting a country of brown people who have a history of being oppressed by white people like myself. It is just so unnerving. I know some people (assholes) like being waited on hand and foot like that but since I am a Socialist at heart I hate everything about it. I'd prefer to unfold my own napkin and put it on my lap myself, I'm not a 2-year-old. I've actually been asked to feel the beer bottle before they pour to make sure the temperature is to my liking.

And about those beers. Another thing to hate about luxury hotels is the cost of everything. In a country that is super cheap we have paid about US$100 for dinner for the three of us, which we've been left with no choice since we got stuck in the hotel because of the monsoon rain. And the small bottle of Kingfisher (India's biggest local brew) runs about US$8. Seriously, eight freaking dollars. I get a big bottle back at home in a nice Indian restaurant and I pay less than that. I came to India to be overcharged for Kingfisher.

I doubt all that extra money is going to the staff. So I'm tipping well, likely better than most people who stay here. Which is only making some of the staff fawn over us even more, exactly the opposite of what I want. Especially the waiter at the pool, where my daughter wants to spend all of her time. Super nice guy but totally hovers when we are there. I really want to pull him aside and say that I'll tip him even more if he stops kissing my ass.

Oh well, not a normal trip for us in that sense. But we have managed to get out a few times and find some places on our own, eat in restaurants without any other tourists in them.

The food has been just as awesome as I'd hoped. Probably even better than I imagined.