15.07.2014 37 °C
Natalie arrived In Mumbai about one o'clock in the morning and headed to a hotel near the airport. The next morning we had arranged to meet at India Gate at eleven o'clock. Our hotel was not too far away from there (although the driver seemed to go a very long route), but we knew Natalie had a fair way to travel and we were not worried when we got there and she wasn't there. It was the first day for us in Mumbai when it wasn't raining and it was quite sunny. We waited around for a while and then sat on a wall in the sun, where we had to refuse various 'offers' of trips around the city, cups of chai, large balloons, ice creams and having our shoes (flip flops!) cleaned. We even became a bit of a tourist attraction ourselves as we were asked to pose with three different groups of people.
We waited for quite a while and began to think we must have missed Natalie, and with Bill sat on the wall i(in the sun) I walked around a few times to see if she was waiting somewhere else, to no avail. This young girl came over to Bill and tried to sell him an umbrella, which he refused, but she stood staring at him for at least ten minutes after he refused, she then must have got tired as she then sat down next to him on the wall and tried to get him to purchase an umbrella. As this was going on, Natalie appeared in front of us. She had been waiting around the corner for about the same time as we had been waiting for her.
Now Bill and I are partial to a 'Lonely Planet' walk (I lie, Bill hates them as I always get lost and we miss everything), so with Natalie's support we decided to go on a walk near to India Gate. It was not too long, until I had no idea where we were (although I will never admit to it) and we were just walking around with the map asking strangers where we were and getting hot. We did see some great sights including the Rajabai Clock Tower, which was said to be Mumbai's equivalent to London's Big Ben and it was, indeed, modelled on the famous London landmark. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott for his mother and was built between 1869 and 1878. His mother was said to have poor eye sight and he became fed up of her asking him the time all the time, so he built the chiming Big Ben (all described especially for Natalie, who became exasperated by us telling her it was built by this man for his mother). We saw several Tiffin men, who were delivering tiffin tins to office workers and we spent some time in a kiosk which had an ATM machine in it; as well as air conditioning (which we really needed) until other customers made us move on.
We eventually made our way back to India Gate (more by accident than design) and more importantly to the Taj Mahal hotel, where we sat and had several Gin and Tonics and something to eat in the beautiful surroundings of the hotel. All around Mumbai there are old Fiat cars (over twenty five years old) that are used as taxis, Bill wanted to go in one, so we flagged one down to go back to our hotel. Natalie tried to get in her side and found that the door had been fused shut, there were no seat belts or wing mirrors and if the car needs to turn left it is the responsibility of the front seat passenger to stick their arm out. It had absolutely no suspension in the back and Natalie and I had rather an uncomfortable journey, but it was great fun.
After getting back to our hotel and sorting out the next day's arrangements, we decided to have another room service Tiffin meal. The poor butler could hardly carry in all the tiffin tins and plates, but we were very pleased that he managed, and we had a great curry. It was about this time, that we noticed that a Bill had an extremely red face from sitting in the sun earlier (he is still glowing today). Natalie decided to make her way back to her hotel, which was about an hours journey away as we had a very early start the next day. In the time between Natalie leaving us and letting us know that she was back in her hotel room, we managed to; go to reception and pay for the hotel room and extras, Bill did the packing, we sorted out the laundry with all it's packaging, we had an argument, I had a bath, Bill then had a shower, we had a chat with the butler (who came to say goodbye/expect us to give him a tip) and we had a glass of wine. It was at this stage Natalie let us know she had got back after over a two hour journey back to the hotel.
This morning we were picked up at our hotel at five thirty to head for the railway station to go to Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad is seven hours away from Mumbai, but we were in a first class carriage and were fed every hour or so, so it really didn't feel like any kind of ordeal. Natalie smugly pointed out to me, that on the tickets, next to our names, were our ages and my age was said to be fifty two (not for another month!) and Natalie's age was said to be fifty (she is my big sister and Myles is between us, need I say more) and I felt very indignant about it the whole journey.
We were told we would be met at Ahmedabad station by our driver and our guide for the next three weeks. Getting off the train we could not see anybody waiting for us and we stood around for a while waiting, as we waited the number of tuktuk drivers grew around us (I walked away at one stage and when I turned back I could hardly see Bill and Natalie, due to the growing group around them). Eventually our guide (Mohammed Ali) came rushing up to us full of apologies, as they had been waiting in a different place (yes, there is a theme going on here). Putting our luggage in the back of the car, we saw two large boxes of tonic water, which Natalie had arranged, as previous experience had shown her it Is a rare commodity in India.
Our hotel is called the House of MG and was once the home of Mangaldas Girdhardas and is across the road from the Sidi Saiyed Mosque and it is a Heritage hotel. It is very beautiful and as well as having a four poster bed, we have as swinging seat in our room. We realised that we had rooms next to each other and we eventually got the hotel to open the adjourning rooms. Bill and Natalie have gone off for a swim as we are going to one of the markets this evening. Tomorrow we have the whole day in Ahmedabad sightseeing.
Gujarat is an alcohol prohibited state and guests can only consume alcohol with a valid permit. This is going to be quite interesting what with Natalie's supply of tonic water, a litre of gin and not forgetting the champagne,