Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Final Day in Mumbai and Ahmedebad Days 6 and 7

I picked up some bug.. We got back to the hotel the night before and I was running a low grade fever with chills. Poor Ned...I crawled into bed and went to sleep. I was fine in the morning. Thankfully, our hotel was pretty far out of the center of Mumbai and close to the airport. Today Mr. Obama was due to arrive with entourage. We had a mid afternoon flight to Ahmedabad. We took it easy and didn't do much of anything. Jet lag had caught up with us.

We arrived in Ahmedebad and had our first taste of night driving to get to our hotel. We would have the same car and driver for the next 5 days. I can only reap high praise on our driver. He didn't speak much English but he was a real pro on the road. For the most part, I was able to relax and just had to close my eyes on occasion. Were were only spending a day and a half here and it was decided that we really did not need a guide. This was Diwali day and I forgot to mention that firecrackers were set off ALL night the previous night....turns out tonight would not be any different.

We got to the hotel about 8:30 p.m....just in time for dinner. I think we were the only non Indians in the place..this was a brand new Marriott property and everything was spanking new. The hotel staff fawned over us and the restaurant staff was unbelievably attentive. The head chef came over and cooked special dishes for me. I was learning what I liked and didn't like. Most things here are buffets...and we are not big eaters... They only charged us half the price. That would never happen in the US. Breakfasts were fairly normal and I had no problem. As backup food, we brought a jar of peanut butter and sealed packages of tuna fish. I wanted to make sure I wouldn't starve to death, but I could stand to loose a few pounds. When we finished breakfast I asked for 2 slices of bread... I was having my own sandwich for lunch. I did explain to our waiter what I wanted it for and he turned up with it nicely wrapped and a small jar of jelly.

We headed out with our driver to the old Bahdre fort....we didn't get far. There is a temple in the fort and this being Diwali, I think every Hindu was queued up to get in... Separate lines for men and women. The crowds were enormous. I have to say that the locals were very friendly and helpful.  They kept warning us to keep a tight hold on our belongings and suggested we not take pictures as the camera strap has been known to be cut off. I did put the camera away and gave Ned my wallet to stuff in his pants pocket with his. No one was getting into his pocket. The old fort is in the old city in the market area so we decided to walk around a bit. It was very hot and humid and we were both shvitzing buckets. It was Ned's turn not to feel well but I think he was suffering from dehydration with some overheating. He misplaced his hat somewhere. We found our driver and went back to the hotel to rest for a while.  Not all was lost... There was a new shopping mall about a block away so I took a walk over there later that afternoon. I found a lovely cotton outfit for peanuts. I was able to get free wifi in the lobby of our hotel so I sat down there for a bit and caught up with mail, news and Facebook. I was introduced to the only other Caucasian in the hotel..he worked for one of the pharmaceutical companies and came several times a year. He lived in N.C. and had just bought a new house. By way of the digital age, he was shopping..sending photos back to his wife. He made some suggestions were were could find some interesting things.

The chef was preparing a special meal for us for dinner. It was fantastic. I cannot ever recall such service anywhere I have travelled so Ned sent an email to Marriott commending this particular staff. We also left a very large tip. We got a response saying they were passing on our kudos to the appropriate persons.

Next morning we had tickets for the Calico Museum. They specialize in the textiles of Rajasthan primarily but have other textiles as well. This is a guided tour by the curator who is a very knowledgeable women, but she runs a very tight ship. There is no ability to tarry and examine anything closely. I suspect there might be a way around that but I will leave that for the next trip. They only allow 20 people in per appointment. There is one time slot in the morning and one in the afternoon. The museum needs a wealthy donor...their method of preservation is not up to modern standards and I fear they may be doing more harm than good.....but I am not an expert so what do I know? They have these hundreds of years old textiles mounted and wrapped in plastic. The climate is hot and humid. They do not charge anything to get into the museum but they do sell books and pamphlets with examples of embroidery. I did pick up a packet of these.

Next was the drive to Udaipur but we weren't in any rush so we stopped off at the store that was recommended to us. The overview is that I shudder to think what this guys house looks like. I did pick up yardage of lovely embroidered trim and some really cheap shawls. We also picked up some packaged munchies for the ride and the hotel packed us up our bread and jelly again. The quality of goods was not what I had in mind.

The drive was fascinating. This is harvest season. The sides of the road are filled with landless migrant workers. On the road were the Gypsies driving their ox carts laden with their belongings. I keep forgetting to mention that cows, water buffalo, goats, sheep, and dogs run free all over the road. It is more like an obstacle course. Nobody wants to hit an animal as it is someones livelihood. This was about a 6 hour drive. We were entering Rajasthan from Gujarat.

We were trying to use points for some of our hotels, and Ned's Mumbai office arranged for some. I did not like the ratings for the one suggested for Udaipur so I booked something myself online. As we were driving to it, I was starting to get very worried. We went down this single lane, potholed road that twisted and turned in the middle of nowhere. It was not till we got to the gate that I heaved a huge sigh of relief.

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