Southern India here we come

Old Feb 10th, 2016, 07:37 AM
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Southern India here we come

We began our journey to southern India yesterday, flying business class on Qatar air. Living slightly over an hour from the Miami airport, we decided to try taking the tri-rail from boca to Miami and were
delighted to learn how convenient this was. It opens up an easy journey to an international airport for us. The flight to Dohar was easy and uneventful, service fantastic, food plentiful & good. The flat beds were perfect for making the flight fly by. The business class lounge in Qatar is beautiful and the airport itself new and modern. We will fly into Mumbai, arriving around 2 am. We expect to arrive at our hotel by 4:00 am, bright and bushy tailed, ready to head to the docks to watch the early morning activities. More to follow... Feeling excited to be back in India!
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 08:27 AM
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Have a wonderful trip! I'm looking forward to your report.
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 08:32 AM
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Hope you have a great trip!
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 03:08 PM
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Have a wonderful trip, dgunbug! I'll be following closely-- S. India is definitely on my radar!
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 04:15 PM
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Enjoy your time in India and safe travels. I look forward to following along.
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 06:49 PM
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Have a great trip. The highlight of my 5 days in Mumbai was dinner at Trishna restaurant, maybe you can fit it in.
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 07:42 PM
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Looking forward to your report...... S. India is high on my bucket list..... Thanks for sharing.......
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 09:30 PM
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Hope you have a great time and looking forward to reading about it.
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 09:42 PM
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Lucky you - off to a great start. Can't wait for the details.
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 11:49 PM
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Have a great trip. Looking forward to reading more.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 02:30 AM
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Our arrival in Mumbai did not disappoint us as we experienced all of the chaos and craziness that one who has already traveled to India can expect.

We opted for visa's on arrival and managed to find the correct line despite the confusing signage which I directed Pakastanians to use the line.

While the line was considerably shorter than the line for those who already have the entry visa, I don't think we got through customs any faster. The process was long and arduous and fingerprints were required from each person. Time and again we saw our agent unable to get proper finger prints causing long delays for each arrival. My turn was no different and I'm uncertain if the agent ever got my required finger prints or if he just gave up. My husband was approved without even attempting the finger prints and we were not sure if the custom agent was so flustered that he forgot or whether he realized it was futile. This procedure would have been really aggravating had we not gotten a good nights sleep and had such a nice flight, but instead we enjoyed the comical stereotypic head waggling when we tried to ask the agent whether he was able to get my prints.

We pre-paid for our taxi and headed to the taj vivanta presidential hotel, enjoying the fact that our driver went through the suggested red lights and drove in the middle of two lanes - a fine example of typical Indian driving. Arriving after 2 am, there was little traffic in the road and nothing to fear.

The Taj Vivanta is a lovely hotel, priced considerably less than the fancier Taj Gateway, but perfectly adequate, clean and comfortable.

More to follow
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 04:02 AM
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Ah, welcome to India! Thanks for the great description of your arrival!
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 07:28 AM
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Ah yes, India, lol. Interested to read about the visa on arrival, although I have a ten year visa that's still valid. Good that your flight went so well.

Way (way) back, when I applied for US permanent resident status, I walked into a local police station and told the desk clerk I needed my fingerprints taken. I gave him great credit for suppressing his laughter. The second time, when I applied for citizenship, an immigration agent took them, and he got really angry that he had so much trouble. (After a lifetime as a techie, I had done too much keyboarding.)
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 09:27 AM
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FromDC - thanks fo the restaurant recommendation. We will look it up and try to get there.
Thursday - funny that you should mention th keyboarding. We all seem to be on our computers and mobile devices quite often.
Thank you all for following along and letting me know you are out there!

Our first stop today was the Gateway to India at the port of Mumbai. This archway commerates the visit of King George V and queen Mary in 1911, although it wasn't completed until 1924. It was a nice starting point and we watched the sun rise along with many people there taking photos and waiting for the ferry to Elephanta Island (first departures not until 9:00 am). It's always fun to be the star of the show and many laughs were had when I allowed the local tourists to take pictures of me and with me. I always try to be helpful and offer to take pictures of couples and families, but find it so amusing when they ask me to either be in the picture with them or pose for them.

We wandered across the street to the famous Taj Maj Hotel to use the bathrooms and gather more information. The concierge desk here was much more helpful than the one at our own hotel and we got better maps and useful information from them. The hotel of course is beautiful, but we did not see the value in the substantially extra cost. We will try to get back for high tea here sometime later in the trip.

As it was our intent to take the one hour ferry over to Elephanta island to explore the Hindu caves and since it was still too early to go, we decide to explore the nearby streets. Much to our disappointment, the annual art festival which we sough out, did not open till 10:00. We searched for the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synogogue dating back to 1884, built by the Sassoon family and which stands out with its blue color, however, that too was closed, opening at 11:00. This is one of two temples that serves the few surviving Jewish families and is located off mahatma Gandhi road, just behind the prince of Wales museum. While we did not visit the museum, we read that the prince of Wales is one of india's finest museums.

While wandering through several of the small side streets, we noticed that I was the only female in sight, a rather uncomfortable feeling for me and I as glad to return to the safety of the larger streets.

We made our way back to the ferry docks, purchased tickets and embarked on the one hour ride to the island. I forewarned my husband of the many stairs and reminded him of the trip report written by Dogster in which he entertained us with his witty description of his ride up to the caves on a palanquin. Sure do miss his many delightful reports. As my husband has been dealing with a knee injury and has little cartilage left, climbing steps was not an option, in my opinion. Being the stubborn man that he is, my husband was difficult to convince and only succumbed to the indignity of being carried by four men, after having made his way up a few flights of stairs. It was money well spent!

The caves and the ferry ride were a pleasant 1/2 day outing, although we have seen other caves which were similar, if not better, both in India previously and in China. We enjoyed the trip and watching other visitors (mostly Indian). Of course along the stairway were local venders plying their wares, along with goats, cows and monkeys. The signage on the boat and on the island asked people to help keep the environment clean, but as in most everywhere in India, litter abounded and even the ferry boat drive threw his debris overboard.

Being overcome with jet lag, we made our way back to our hotel where we caught up on emails, read and napped. For dinner, upon awakening, we ate at the very good Thai restaurant on the premises. There is also an Indian and Italian restaurant here. While I hoped to have Indian food, my husband is not a big fan and Thai is never a bad choice. We will have plenty of opportunity to eat Indian food over the course of four weeks.

Off to bed....
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 11:49 AM
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Enjoying this report so far and I am looking forward to hearing about your trip as it unfolds. Good luck.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 12:29 PM
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I thought Elephanta was underwhelming, but I had just seen Ajanta and Ellora.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 03:09 PM
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reading along june..

what was the bottom line cost for each visa?
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 05:40 PM
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I'm enjoying your report too. You have me thinking about India again. It's been on and off my list for a few years now but we have not had the courage to make the leap yet. Maybe in late 2017, who knows...
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 05:51 PM
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Following and enjoying!
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 07:19 PM
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Bob - don't recall the cost of the e-visa, but know it was less than mailing it in as it saved mailing fees both ways (fed ex). We were able to avoid sending in passports - everything was scanned on computer and email confirmation of approval came within 72 hrs. Hope you and Karen are enjoying your tri.

Thursday - the Elephanta caves were a bit underwhelming after having seen so many others, but a fun day nevertheless.

As for hotel, I highly rate the vivanta presidential taj. The location is fine as everything is spread out anyways and requires cabs. The breakfast was sumptuous with a mixture of Indian and western style foods and delicious. The masala omelet was the best I've had. We left he breakfast table swearing off food for the rest of the day, or at least until dinner time. The service was terrific. Only drawback I see was at the concierge desk. There is a nice pool, gym and spa area and while we will be unable to get a check out later than 1:00 on our last day, we are told that we can use the spa facilities to clean up.

Today we are off to the laundry ghats to begin the day. When I told my sister, she asked asked why I needed to do laundry so soon! Back home I learned that my daughter in law is in the hospital after needing an appendectomy. Thankfully nothing serious.

More later. We're off.
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