The Whirlwind Departure
Up early I was packed and ready -- but alas my dearest was not. We did leave later than I'd hoped to, but were at least able to get to see the Gateway of India (shown left.)
This building was surrounded by tourists and those selling their wares. It's men that are selling things - - again - - very few women are seen that are not either tourists, panhandlers or of a religious ilk promising to pray for you for a fee (see Dan being asked below.)
To the right you can see the men selling the peeled cucumbers, a cool snack on an already hot day. The men stood there gabbing and staring. Once ina while someone would say something which brought a smile to their lips, but I didn't see laughter.
There were also men selling toys and trinkets.
One man even selling bags of popcorn.
It is here that you would board a boat out to Elephanta Island. Next time we'll take the boat as is it's been recommended highly to me by numerous people.
Following the Gateway, our taxi driver brought us past this amazing Mosque. Amazing to behold. Below I've posted two photos -- one of the Mosque way out on the point, and one of Dan photographing it so you can see just how far away and large it was!
From here he brought us to a beautiful Jain Temple. One of the folks I work with here in Mumbai follows the Jain religion as did the taxi driver. I wish I'd known more about what I was looking at. The guide books we had spoke very little about this religion. I know it's followers are not only vegetarian, but eat no root vegetables. They also are known for being extreme animal lovers.
After the temple visit, we had the long ride to the airport. Long due to the tremendous traffic, not distance. I cannot stress enough the traffic here. WOW! Bicycles here, as in China, are used to carry everything! At left you can see the 3 wheeled bike carrying a load of gas tanks. They could be empty or full!
They also pile everything and anything on top of the taxis. They have too with the taxis all being so very tiny!! This was the car in front of us as we journeyed out to the airport.
I had thought as we passed these people cooking (photo right) that I'd really love to stop and buy some lunch, but this was one of the areas where the traffic actually WAS moving. We arrived at the Mumbai airport and had to pass all of our luggage through the scanning machines where they would be bound by a machine to show they had been scanned.
TRAVELERS NOTE: You are allowed 2 check-in bags and only 1 (one) single carry-on (either a purse or bag) unlike much of the rest of the world. Thankfully Dan had only one check-in bag so I could check in my second carry-on under his space. The fellow at the check-in gate was rather nice and really walked us through their different system. I usually only have one check-in bag - but with this trip being 6 weeks and many climates long...
After checking in, we made our way to the gate. Security check was at the actual gate. Men to one side, women to the other. We didn't realize this and Dan was quickly ushered to the other line. After a quick check of my bag we sat down to await boarding.
They announced the boarding was about to start and we all slowly gathered into a line. Another announcement was made in Hindi. Many faces around the room suddenly looked pained and went to sit down. Next they played a pre-recorded message in English. It mentioned that this was a practice effort and to listen to all directions from staff...the man standing in front of us told his English-speaking friend that in Hindi it said "there is a security threat, please get your hand luggage and leave the building immediately." We were brought into the boarding gate, but rather than taking us to the plane, we were brought outside and under the building on ground level. Now we've been moved steps away in to lot between the buildings. (I snagged a shady spot.) And we wait, outside, with no proper word as to what's going on. Never a dull moment. Military men mulled around a little. Staff from our gate all looked but confused and pained
No. I did NOT get any photos of this all. There were enough military handy to keep my camera in my bag thanks.
As we boarded the flight we passed by the fellow that had assisted us at check-in. Dan asked him if it has really been a threat or simply an exercise. The reply was got was only a forced smile and a nervous giggle with a head nod for us to move long. No formal answer.
From here we were hustled onto the plane, seated and voila! We're off to Sri Lanka!
This was the first flight I'd been on where they sprayed something into the air on the plane to kill any bugs that might be on it. It smelled awful -- I can't imagine it's "OK" for you to inhale. That poor flight crew! I passed out on the flight over. It was SO SHORT! Only about 2 hours.
We landed at the Bandaranayake International Airport and gathered our bags. I was pushing the cart and stopped to exchange some money while Dan went ahead to arrange a taxi. As I rounded the corner, a man with a safety vest came over and said he'd push my cart. I told him no thank you. He physically pushed me off my cart and took off ahead with it. (I was fuming!) We got through the doors to the taxi area where Dan had arranged a car and he stopped. Now he wanted to be paid for pushing the cart. I was so mad.
Dan paid him. Not only did he PAY HIM - but when the guy was handed Sri Lanka Rupees, he pushed it away and demanded US dollars. Which Dan paid him.
Sometimes I hate being a physically small woman. If Dan had been pushing the cart I guarantee you he wouldn't have been treated so. I do understand he was only trying to make a living, but do not appreciate his tactics. It made me very uncomfortable. Thankfully I can say we were not treated like that again.
The taxi brought us the 15 minute ride to Negombo and our hotel. The Golden Star Hotel lets out right onto the sandy beach of the Indian Ocean. Yeah!!! We were greeted with a welcome drink (think tang on steroids) and shown to our room. It was simple. Basic. Not fancy in anyway. It was also a room at the ONLY hotel that replied to the masses of emails and faxes I'd sent trying to arrange a room at all. Thus - IT WAS PERFECT! It had a private bath and a view of both the pool and beach in the distance.
We had a room with half-board (breakfast and dinner included), so we headed down to the dining room to see what was on offer. It had been quite a long day. Upon arrival at dinner we realized that we were the only guests under 65 in the joint. This was fine as it also meant there were no rowdy and obnoxious tables of overly drunk young travelers. The menu was small but complete and we hit the salad/bread table to start. I enjoyed my glass of local wine which I followed with a Pina Colada while Dan enjoyed the local beer. I tucked into the shrimp plate (above) and Dan enjoyed the curry dish he got. It was filling but not fantastic... which is not a complaint. I'm writing this having already been through the trip and can safely say the local, not tourist food, blew it out of the water. But alas, I'm getting ahead of myself.
After dinner we couldn't keep ourselves from the beach and ocean any longer, and suited up for a night time swim. Save for when my feet got caught in a fishermans net that was in the water (which freaked me right out!!!), it was relaxing and beautiful! We certainly weren't alone...
These little fellers were everywhere out hunting for dinner I'd guess! The swim tired us both right out! Time for sleep. We have an early wake up set to catch the sunrise!