The first shock after our arrival in Mumbai: We couldn’t move into our hotel room. So far, India has always appeared very open-minded towards me, towards a foreigner. Indeed I felt like an alien on the road, but whenever I showed a little bit too much leg or presented myself to “un-Indian”, people usually overlooked. But this time it was different. My Brazilian and I had already searched for a hotel room in Navi Mumbai a few days before our arrival. The district is quite far from tourist attractions, therefore the hotel was extremely cheap. An invincible price and we booked it. However that was a huge mistake, because the hotel was run by Muslims. Nothing unusual people think. Especially if you live in a country where a quarter of the population is Islamic. This time, however, the religion was a big problem.
Like packhorses we dragged up our bags to the second floor. An elevator didn’t exist. But therefore several, really high steps. After 10 hours in the bus, this was a real act of desperation for us. When we finally arrived at the front desk, we were overjoyed. But then the shock overwhelmed: The man on the reception told us that only married couples are allowed to sleep in his hotel. At last, you must preserve the morals. And an unmarried couple sleeping together in a double bed run afoul of the house rules. Of course the hotel had no single rooms. Since we had already paid 1000 rupees or more (My memory of the price is unfortunately declined) for the room, we insisted on it. But it didn’t work. And so we were standing on the street again – jam-packed and with a few hundred rupees less. Because to top it all we didn’t get our money back.
11 o’clock in the morning. In the middle of Mumbai and the GPS worked sparingly. In sheer desperation, we walked down the road looking for a hotel, then the next street and another one, too. But every hotel was booked out or simply too expensive. So we decided to go to the next McDonald’s and there we will talk with our Indian friend. He will surely have a solution for us. We were totally burned out and our stomachs’ growl could be heard several meters. A burger indeed couldn’t be bad. During our lunch we were looking frantically for a new hotel – on the internet and with the help of our Indian friend. And we were successful.
Our hotel was located in central Mumbai, in the choicest location and of course kilometres far away from where we were sitting. To get there we had two options: Either we would be exploited by a rickshaw driver or we jockey for position in one of the completely overcrowded trains. Since we had already spent money at the hotel, we decided for the latter option. Walking to the station turned out to be an adventure. We had absolutely no idea where to go – and a map also couldn’t be found. But somehow – thank to Google – we reached the station and got lost on the way only once. On the train, to be exact in the Metro, we were finally able to catch a breath for some time. It took a half hour to go to the city centre. We got off on Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
As soon as we got off a crowd of rickshaw drivers flocked towards us. Always looking for a good income opportunity, they sniffed a chance. Foreigners are just an easy prey and often willing to pay more. Because India, especially the transport prices, are tremendously cheap compared to all European countries. No taxi driver would ever start the engine for 30 rupees, or even drive a single meter. But in India this is normal. Many rickshaw drivers work twelve hours at a stretch or even sleep in their rickshaws.
We knew the taxi price for our ride to the hotel. We had asked our Indian friend. That is the advantage if you have a native friend. I recommend to everyone – when staying longer abroad – to look for a local reference person – for questions or problems, if you have communication difficulties or when you just need a party attendant. Of course you should be looking for someone trustworthy!
After a twenty minutes ride in a overcrowded rickshaw – our bags occupied the whole seat bench – we arrived our hotel, finally. And stayed there for two nights. A way too short time for visiting Mumbai, but it is absolutely worth it.