Review: Mumbai - Kerala
Mumbai - Kerala, India
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It’s dark, cold and too bloody early. Dave, my cousin and I are standing waiting for the National Express coach, which won’t arrive for another 40 minutes. This is David’s fault as he has overcompensated with the time needed to get here as usual, and we are now standing around in freezing weather surrounded by the grimy, grey, concrete, monstrous nuclear bunker that doubles as Northampton’s bus station. Actually, we are both rather excited as the coach is taking us down the motorway to Heathrow for our flight and our 1st visit to the teeming sub continent of India!!
The coach did have the consolation of tv and we were soon warm and comfortable and on our way. Dave and myself had been planning this trip for a while, well actually, unplanning it was more to the point, as we didn’t want to have an agenda. We decided to go with what seemed right at the time, serendipity, and come what may, to be fair we weren’t being that adventurous, although what we did do was a far cry from the package tour.
Booking the tickets for our return flights to and from Mumbai was as much as we had done, as well as deciding to take the train from Mumbai to Goa, and then onto Kerala in the bottom southwest tip of India. Everything else would be “suck it and see”. We wanted to visit Goa as we had heard so much about the fabulous beaches and the acid house rave parties that were all the rage decades ago. I think that they still went on, and had heard there was a small population of hippies that still lived there, remnants from the influx of the sixties, still looking for the guru or mind set, to change their lives and bring that so called everlasting and inner peace.
So to Goa first, to see what if and then further south to Kerala, which was supposed to be the unspoilt, non-commercialised new area of beaches and backwaters begging to be explored by the adventurous tourist of the affluent west. The National Express coach took the regular route to Heathrow via Luton Airport, then on to Watford Junction, before dropping us off at terminal 1 at Heathrow. This is when I start to become childlike in my excitement. The airport may be an aggravating series of queues and waiting, searches and questions, but it has that unique buzz of transience, people in motion, mixing the emotions, anxiety and excitement, everyone not quite certain about anything but going to do it anyway. Since the so-called terrorist bombings and atrocities of the past, the idea of security at the airport had become manic. We were virtually strip-searched 3 times as we went through this rigmarole of paranoia. After finally getting to the departure lounge I noticed a couple who were just wandering up and down the carpet between the seats, then the young girl decided to take a picture of the plane that was sitting on the tarmac outside the windows of the lounge. To my shock I then saw an obese, female, gum-chewing “security guard” wobble over to her at top speed and promptly told the girl she had to delete the photos of the plane! The security guard was most insistent and berated the woman to delete her photos. This country seemed to have turned into an anguished fascist dictatorship. What the hell has happened to our way of life and our so-called freedoms? We cannot take pictures of planes? The flight however, turned out to be delightful; we had plenty of legroom and spacious seats. Amazingly, we were served good food with metal cutlery and glass glasses for the drinks! What about the insane, radical, extreme, terrorist waiting to decapitate the pilots with a razor-sharp knife leaving us to plummet to the earth while the passengers are busy slashing their wrists with broken glass… Security? Funny old security when they are willing to confiscate all of those objects out of your bags at departure, to then give them back to you while at thirty thousand feet. I suppose out of sight out of mind! Dave and I sat and discussed our plan of action upon our arrival in India. The plane was going to land late in the evening, so the easiest thing to do was get a taxi, find a room for the night, and then go to the train terminal the next morning to catch the train for our overnight travel down the coast to Goa. We didn’t want to see the capital, Mumbai this time around as we were planning a future trip for that purpose.
A few hours later while still in the darkness of the night the plane seemed to stand on the tip of the right wing and pivot around the lights, shapes and colours of the city of Mumbai below us. A wonderful, wheeling, kaleidoscope panned out below us, it was a gorgeous entrance. After landing at the airport and grabbing our rucksacks, we headed for the exit of the airport and this was when the taxi, the room and the train terminal found us! Then we started to notice the realities of the third world, as we made our way through the arrivals area. There were small piles of litter gathered up against walls and huddled in corners, the glass partitions and windows were smeared and dirty, and we thought we could detect the buzz of mosquitoes. There were gaggles of people standing around idly talking. The place looked like a tip, but then we are in the sub-continent of Asia, what were we expecting? We eventually found out that there was a strike in progress and all the airport cleaners had stopped work 2 days ago over pay and conditions. Sounds exactly like the fate of the exploited masses the world over. Shouldering our packs we made our way to the exit, to be greeted by a swarm of taxi drivers all claiming to know the best hotels, the cheapest prices, asking if we were Americans, Germans, aahh! English the best, come with me, come with me. We were eventually corralled to a small minibus and promised fine rooms for the night. The taxi and room had found us! The ride to this hotel was on one hand, terrifying, and on the other exhilarating. We realised that the rules of the road here just do not exist; it is a question of getting there without hitting something or someone. The roads are packed with trucks, rickshaw and mopeds, then throw in packs of dogs and a scattering of pedestrians, all snarling and clashing at one another, swerving and weaving to avoid the almost inevitable collisions. Dave and I sat there with our mouths open, eyes wide, uttering expletive after expletive as we wove our way through all this, while the driver was calm unpersonified, one hand on the wheel and one on the horn. We had arrived, and it was like being thrust into the front row of our very own travelogue, our own movie, an instant revelation of madness and mayhem, marvellous!
We could not get over the amount of nocturnal activity there was at 1o’ clock in the morning, it was more like Oxford Street at 3pm, Saturday afternoon on Christmas Eve with every shop knocking 90% off! Well, the hotel turned out to be overpriced with rooms like concrete cells but we bought some Kingfisher beers and sat and went over our first impressions, then slept, showered and then grabbed another taxi for the train station.
This ride was equally as exhilarating as the one the night before, but for a slightly different reason, the car. While it did not bother either of us that there was no speedo, or wipers, or the fact that this thing was as battered as a very heavily battered thing. It was the fact that the driver had to execute a 90-degree rotation of the steering wheel left or right in order for the car to respond by 1 or 2 degrees in either direction. The driver ends up having to execute an amazing sawing action left and right in order to keep the car going in a fairly straight line and on the road. Our appreciation of the driver’s skill grew and grew, as he missed trucks, dogs and buses by inches on either side, slicing through the chaos with uncommsumatted ease, while keeping up a chatter of pigeon English, an amazing form of running commentary. How we got to the station undamaged was remarkable, but we did realise why the car was so battered. The route the driver took to the station at Dadar led us around one boundary of the main international airport, and alongside this boundary there lived thousands of people, very poor people. The teeming thousands of poverty stricken families that survive only just, in their search of something. Housed under plastic, tarpaulin, corrugated iron sheets, pieces of plywood, anything that could afford any type of protection against the burning sun or the torrential rains of the monsoon. These shacks were pitiful and yet they had been built one on top of the other, stacked side-by-side, leaning and propped crazily together. Brown faces and flashes of coloured sari could be seen occupying these hovels, but still they smiled and waved. Dada station, and we weren’t sure about the next move, there were so many people milling about, most of them staring at us. There was no other white tourist in sight, and we became the main attraction. Suddenly a middle aged Indian gent emerged from the crowd and smiling, asked us if he could be of assistance. His English was good but his Hindi was better, and he soon established that a better train we could catch went from another station a lot earlier than the one from here. On thanking him I wasn’t sure whether to offer him some monetary recompense for his help but he seemed to read my mind and half nodding told me it was his pleasure, and wished us a safe journey. Another taxi ride.
The train Terminus had found us too. Lockmanya Tilak Terminus and the beggars we here as well. Small children approached at first, clutching their small round metal tins, tugging at our trousers, and pleading for money. We gave them some fruit and sweets, which disappeared but they still want coins, and which I finally relinquish. Trouble is, it is never enough, and the women start to join in. We try a distraction by taking some photos of them they love this and smile broadly at the camera, taking extreme delight in seeing themselves on the back of a digital camera. This occupies them and us for about twenty minutes and then our train is about to leave. We managed to book two berths in 2nd class sleeper with a/c, which actually consists of a large fan mounted on the ceiling pointed at the seats. The accommodation is made up of 2 long bench seats-cum berths, which are large, wide and comfortable, a small table resides underneath the window in between the seats with a reading lamp on either side. A passage way runs down the side the length of the trains carriage, which we are separated from by long, floor to ceiling, cloth curtains. The train consists of a huge old diesel locomotive dragging behind it about 20 old carriages, most of these are 3rd class, which means no glass in the windows, just iron bars, wooden bench seats and no fans. When you consider the population of India and the fact that approx 95% of them do not own cars or any form of modern transportation for that matter, it is no wonder most people travel by rail. Booking ahead is always advisable! The train –The Matsyananda Express- has slugged its way down the coast, this journey was due to take about 8 hours, we have been travelling for 6 and were just halfway, an express it is not. The railway runs between the fringes and fronds of greenery, large palms and paddy fields, dotted with the shacks and huts of the farmers and villagers, many of them smiling and waving, as we pass by.
While rocking along with the comforting, clicketty clack of the wheels, and the howling of the whistle we are fed and watered by a constant stream of “chai wallahs” (tea boys) and food vendors all selling their wares from one end of the train to the other, then getting off at a given point to return to where they started on the next train back. The tea was already combined with milk and lots and lots of sugar, and poured from a kettle into plastic cups, far too sweet than I would have liked, but there was no choice, and after two three cups it did become more palatable. Rice, curry and chapatti’s were on the menu for breakfast and lunch, and obviously not a restaurant meal but again it was o k, and did fill us up. The passing coconut palms and rice fields had succumbed to the darkness, and now and then the black canvas that rushed by was split by flashes of white light from single neon strip lights hung up in the villages. Dave and I settled down on our comfortable bunks with plenty of room, and as we had already been given a cotton sheet, pillow and blanket for the coolness of the night ahead we were more than cosy. The next evening as we were nearing our destination when a small Indian guy shoved his head through our curtain to ask us to pay for our tea and food. We told him we thought that this was included in the price of the ticket, no, this is separate, he told us with a flashing smile. We totted up what we had drunk and eaten, which amounted to; 6 teas, 2 breakfasts, and 2 lunches, the little Indian with a wobble of his head and another bright smile told us the total was 55 rupees, this we calculated was the equivalent of 70 pence!!! Extortionate!!! Dave and I took turns hanging out of the doors of the carriage to view the passing scenery and the curve of the train, snaking forwards and backwards with no one to tell you to get back inside, no warning notices to say that this was dangerous and you mustn’t do it, nobody telling what you can and cannot do. Freedom, marvellous.
We arrived at the station in Margoa, the capital of the Goan state at around 11pm, and decided to find a room for the night before exploring further. The station was busy even at this hour, with stick thin porters loads balanced on their turbans, carts and boxes being hauled about on rickety trolleys, cannibalised from one thing or another, ladies standing talking draped in colour soaked sari’s. Asking someone where we could find a taxi, we were told that the best thing to do was to pay for a taxi here at the station and then armed with a receipt, go out into the street to find one. It seems to be a way of avoiding a rip off practice, as he could only charge us what we had already paid and no more. We grabbed a taxi just outside the station, and noticed that there were an extraordinary number of people lying about all over the place. On the sides of the road, the grass embankments, the pavements, everywhere there were bodies asleep. We figured they were waiting for a certain train or…. what? It seemed like a rock festival of sorts had just kicked out. Then we realised, these people, all these sleeping bodies, were actually the homeless.
The hotel we were taken to be called “The Star Beach Resort” and didn’t look too bad in the dark. A whitewashed, square, two storey building, with large glass doors at the top of a small flight of broad, shallow steps. Tall ornate railings surrounded the hotel grounds. The lobby was large, airy and the whole place, very quiet. A sleepy headed Indian was aroused from somewhere and we booked in for the night. The rooms were large, but minimal, with bathrooms that again were OK, the beds quite comfy, so we just simply crashed. Come daylight, the hotel announced itself, worn and weary and in need of a lot of TLC. The restaurant area at breakfast was dotted with small tables with stained tablecloths and only a handful of guests. We took a short stroll after a mediocre meal of eggs and toast, but really we knew the score already. And yes the immediate area did not bode anything better so we decided to head for somewhere else.
Looking at the rough guidebook we had brought with us we decided to head for Bagar beach. The book promising good beaches, nice restaurants, and plenty of accommodation, and it was only a short distance from where we were. Nicola was a friend of a friend, who had married a goan local and was living in the small town of Candolim. We had her phone number and decided to give her a call to ask for some advice, as to where, what and why. She did us proud, even though we had never met, pointing us in the direction of “The Casa Esmeralda” on C S. M. road (can’t remember what it stands for, but we think It’s to do with the name of the hotel and apartments down by the beach.) in Bagar. This place we found easily enough and it was enchanting, as were the Indian couple that managed it. Sunni and Shanti, were both slim and handsome and extremely polite, with gorgeous smiles and incredibly white teeth. They said yes, they had 2 rooms, both en-suite, and the price per room per night, was 750 rupees- approximately £10.50! I think that will suffice!
With enthusiasm we found our rooms, unpacked and stowed our gear, and headed for the beach. The road down to the sea led us passed quite a few small bars cafes and restaurants. There were a smattering of guesthouses on either side of the road, and slightly larger hotels but only 2 storeys, none of ya hire rise monoliths stalking the place here. One thing that did stalk the place though was the resident stallholders that line the road and stand guard ready and alert at your footfall. Sliding out from between T shirts and towels, batiks and shell souvenirs, they come to tempt and tease you, telling you to come and look at the cheapness and quality of their goods and chattels. How they can equate cheapness with quality I don’t know? This gauntlet was to be run every day that we went to the beach, and at first it is good fun with a look see at stuff, jovial remarks about not having any money, we’ll see you another day, I’ve got three of those already. But as the days go by, the good-natured banter turns to curt and ever more stubborn, No. No. No. Not all were so persistent, in fact after a week most got used to seeing you and just waved, smiled and said hello, but a very few were a downright pain in the arse! One quite feisty woman, whose stall was the first we passed after leaving the Casa, was very determined and would not let us pass without badgering us to buy something. I admired the tenacity of this woman trying to claw her way above the competition, so took her one of my favourite shirts I had brought with me on holiday. I asked if she could replicate it and she was sure she could do a good job but could not tell me a price today. Three days later she told me the new shirt would cost me 1500 rupees, she must be insane or thinks I am, for that money I could buy a tailored, two piece suit in silk!!! After retrieving my shirt and telling her thanks but no thanks, she actually got quite rude, insinuating that I didn’t know anything about business. I certainly knew she wasn’t getting mine.
In Bagar there was certainly no lack of choice for restaurants, and we ate at different places, trying the different cuisines, but none came near the lovely, fresh flavours of “The Indian Impact” downstairs from our rooms. Beautifully spiced and cooked, their curries were gorgeous, the rice and vegetables perfectly cooked and the price nowhere near a fiver for three courses! This place was so relaxing, only having to worry about whether you had your book, towel and few hundred rupees for drinks and fruit at the beach. And at the beach there are other forms of entertainment, for example, Gitta. Gitta is the name of just one of the beach ladies who trawl up and down the sand everyday in the hot sun, dressed in their colourful sari’s with a large basket balanced expertly on their heads. The baskets contain coconuts, pineapples, mangoes, and bananas, a towel for a tablecloth and a vicious looking hatchet for attacking the coconuts and slicing up the other fruit with. Gitta adopted us as her property and our custom was encouraged by cheerful threats with the hatchet and what she would do with it when we didn’t want to buy anything. She was so cheerful and happy, we were delighted when we heard her high pitched broken English, chastising us as she approached, scolding us for not being there yesterday, and waving the hatchet at us. All along the beach there were individual beach shacks, offering their long chairs and umbrellas for free, along with an entourage of helpers, waiting on you, moving chairs, digging in the brolly, filling buckets with water or giving massages. We really wanted for nothing. The food and the drinks were well prepared and quite delicious, the breeze just enough, the surf refreshing. I will be definitely coming back here. Another entertainment on the beach was the wildlife, or should I say languid life.
As you may be aware, in India the cow is considered sacred, I don’t have any sort of problem with that, although I must say I do like a good steak, but it’s something else when the cows come down to the beach to sunbathe. I kid you not. There they were only a couple of them but they were excising there status here, lolloping up and down the sand until deciding which of the beach umbrellas shade they wanted and drinking out of the large plastic buckets of water used to rinse our feet. Cheeky buggers! Still, there was plenty of room for all. Each evening after a shower, we headed out for a few beers and the awfully difficult decision of where and what to eat. Seafood was plentiful and of course local, and usually an irresistible dish, with an assortment of recipes and cooking methods. Bagar is small and the bars, restaurants and guest-houses occupy only a few roads that meander back and forth, and after ten minutes of gently walking you come to an abrupt end to the properties, and there the electricity also seems to end, because at night the edge of the village is like a dark wall, where the jungle begins. Mind you the village turned into a dark wall sometimes, and fairly frequently the lights went out. When this happened a man on a rickety old push-bike would arrive right outside our guesthouse and donning a pair of rubber gloves, would fiddle with a bunch of very dangerous looking wires hanging from a lamppost. It looked as if everyone had illegally plugged into this source of power and it seemed to run the whole of Bagar. Bob and Margie Titchener, from Newhaven, were also guests at Casa Esmerelda, and we soon made friends and would meet them at the bar after a kicked back day on the beach. Bob and Margie had been coming here for years and had met a gent by the name of Timothy Hawk-Griffin who apparently was a former butler to the queen. This guy is as camp as a row of tents and certainly plays it up, but is such a laugh and a genuinely very nice person. He drops by the bar some evenings and entertains us with his stories and revelations, that went on at the royal residencies. He may be very effeminate, but he wouldn’t stand for any old nonsense. Bob told us that one year, while Timmy was here on an extended holiday, the Goan council decided to levy a tax on the tourists if they stayed for over a month. This had to be paid before leaving the state of Goa, or you weren’t allowed to leave. Timothy took exception to this and decided to do something about it. He made some enquiries and realised this new tax was actually illegal, so he fired of a letter to the Head of the Indian High Commission using British Embassy letter-headed paper he had acquired from someone he knew at the British Embassy. The tax was quietly abolished. Like they say; Not what you know……
Well 2 weeks had glided by and we were tanned and certainly relaxed, but we now decided to check out somewhere else and to head off for the southwest Indian region of Kerala. We were aware of the unreliability of the train getting anywhere on time and were considering getting a flight back to Mumbai from Kerala’s main city, Trivandrum. In Bagar there were e few Internet cafes, and we dodged into a couple trying to find a cheap flight on the web. No luck Indian airlines charge tourists extortionate prices for internal flights, subsidising the native travellers, the price for us being 3 times what they charge the indigenous. On the way to the beach for a swim and some hectic sunbathing, I noticed an Internet café we had not visited and ducked inside. To my delight I had found a site with a really good deal on 2 seats from Trivandrum to Mumbai. Paid with my credit card and got a print off acknowledgement, this was so much more reassuring that relying on the train to get us there on time. To get our train tickets for the journey to the South West, we had to go into the town of Panjim and on arriving at the train station we were approached by a small, clean cut Indian man who asked us, in perfect English where we were going. We told him that we were heading for Trivandrum the main city of Kerala, and before we got a reply he had started to fill out a Konkan Railway form that we needed in order to book a ticket. He knew train times and platforms, and the prices. Dave and I looked at each other and without a word between us understood that both of us were starting to get suspicious. Making the excuse that we needed to go to a bank to get some money, we made our way across the terminus and on spotting a tourist information office went inside. We explained to an officious, sari draped lady what had occurred and she assured us that we had done the right thing and told us to queue at the Konkan desk and to ignore the ticket touts. These guys were not exactly illegitimate, but were not in direct contact with the railways office that the passengers relied on, getting you a seat was by more luck than judgement, and if the train was full you would not get a seat or your money back. They were basically shortcutting the queues at the official desk, but not knowing whether there was any reservation for the seat they were filling your form out for.
Most of India moves by train and it is definitely wise to book ahead if you can, and the internet makes this really quite easy, if you know which railway website to hit. The railway stations are a throbbing mass of people on the move and it’s quite something to see whole families, in abundance throughout the carriages, eating, sleeping and chattering, sharing their food and drink, using the whole carriage as if it was their front room, at home, this would be a space people only occupied for the express purpose of getting from a 2 b and not daring to actually use it as their own for that length of time. We had booked 2 a/c sleeper-berths, as the journey was to take 15 hours or more and we needed to sleep, fortunately for this journey we had no other companions, this meant we could spread our chattels out and lie comfortably on our bunks, writing, reading and talking. The steward in charge of our carriage had given us a blanket and a pillow for the night ahead and the temperature had dropped enough to actually need the blanket. It was a delight to lie there and listen to the driver let loose with the whistle and we shrieked our way through the night with the noise of our approach clearing the way to the next station. The journey to trivandrum had actually taken 19 hours, heaven forbid if there was an appointment to keep, but I suppose being used to this uncertainty would give you the forewarning, and arrange timekeeping accordingly. We had decided to head for the small coastal resort of Kovalaam, down the coast a little way, and grabbed a rickshaw- or I should say that the rickshaw driver grabbed us. We explained that we wanted to go to the Maharaja Palace, but the driver was having none of that and took us to his preferred and obviously profitable places to stay. The first being the very Indian sounding, Wilson Court Homes! We didn’t like the look or the price, so he then took us somewhere else, but these were smelly, old and drab. We tried again to get him to take us the Maharaja but he explained that this was miles away and you could only get to it by foot. With our weighty packs and the sun grilling us we were pouring with sweat, but we were determined to find something better. So having shaken off the ricky driver, we plodded on down the beach feeling very conspicuous, with our rucksacks and our sweating brows, but lo and behold, ended up at the even more Indian sounding “Seaview Hotel” This place was great! Right on the beach, with not even a road to cross, large balconies with every room, and as the hotels name suggests, with views out to sea, large double beds and ensuite-£12 a night, now you can’t beat that with a stick! The coast here is very much like Devon with sandy beaches separated from one another by rocky outcrops. Not exactly cliffs, but promontories. Sat on the southern rock pile to our beach, was a tall red and white-banded lighthouse, which had something to do with the name of the beach. Lighthouse beach, has an array of guest-houses, bars and restaurants all facing the sea and we spent very enjoyable evenings wandering up and down, picking a different place to try for food and drink, although we both agree that the food and service here seems a long way behind the accomplished eateries of Goa, but after all they have had a much longer time to get it down pat and over the years it has become polished. We lazed away most of the time on the beach and swimming in the sea was much rougher than it had been in Goa, and because of this there were lifeguards out every day with a chair, parasol and a whistle, which they used enthusiastically. We wondered how much swagger and bravado this whistle blowing consisted of, but on the second day there we watched as they whistled and blew at a man swimming in one area we had been warned not to go. The lifeguards waved at him to come in but he ignored them. The lifeguards sprinted into action pulling off their shirts and shorts, (they were sporting trunks I may add) and raced into the water, swimming hard and fast towards the swimmer. After they had hauled him out of the water and escorted him back to the beach, the man actually walked by and told us himself that despite trying his hardest to get back to the beach the current was too strong and he could make no headway at all. We heeded all requests from the lifeguards after that little episode.
The local people are obviously occupied with various ways of making a living in Kovaluum one of these being the obligatory fisherman, and they ran their nets out into the sea at night and them pulled them back onto the beach early in the mornings, hoping for a bountiful catch, well, Dave being up early wandered down the beach to where they were starting to pull the nets back in, and ended up helping to haul the catch in. He told me the fish that was to be divided between 6 fishermen would give them maybe, 2 or 3 meals each if they were to eat the fish themselves, not very bountiful at all.
For a change from the normal hustle and bustle of sunning ourselves and swimming, we decided to go to the nearby town of Trivandrum and visit the museum and the zoo. We caught a bus from up the road and paid a whopping 5pence for this ride into town. The bus was of antiquated sorts and the seats were really small to us, and as the driver ground his way through the gears we realised that the bus was so old all the rubber holding the glass in the windows had perished and fallen out, this meant the racket from the shaken panes was considerable, but we found this highly amusing and with curious stares and smiles from the locals we thoroughly enjoyed our trip into town. We found the zoo easily enough and I presented the lady attendant with a ten rupee note, and as the entrance fee was 2 rupees each waited for the ensuing change, I politely interrupted the fast and furious conversation she was having with another lady, and held out my hand only to be given a 2 rupee coin. It was obvious I was not going to be given anything more, so shrugged and gave in, they of course, and rightly so, know that we can afford the discrepancy. As we walked round one of the paths we were met by a long line of smartly uniformed schoolchildren who, on seeing us crowded round smiling and chattering in English, asking us about the proverbial football and were we on holiday etcetera, their small brown faces lit up by there white toothed smiles, they were a sheer delight. The museum actually turned out to be an Art gallery but just as interesting to wander around though. Well our time here was rapidly running out and we packed our rucksacks and made our way to the airport, but Kerala had a nasty kick to send us on our way. On arriving at the airport we were told that the tickets we had bought online for the flight back to Bombay were only valid for Indian nationals and not available to foreigners! We had to buy 2 more tickets at the correct price of £150 each!! 3 times more than the original. I must say I thought this piece of discrimination a little too much and told the staff at the airport so, and to my amusement they agreed, but they had no other choice.
Uneventful flight back to Mumbai, and on again home to the U.K. We both loved our break and our first glimpse of the Indian continent, and both agreed wholeheartedly that we would come back.
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