Driving to the hotel from the airport, you will see the poverty that people describe when they talk about India. There is a very busy population going about their daily activities. The traffic was something to behold. There are no lanes; it is a mass of cars, bikes, bicycles and pedestrians all fighting for their space on the road. Heavy traffic everywhere.
Next morning we left at 8:30 am and took a one hour ferry ride to Elephanta Island. The ferry was slow but the seats were comfortable and the breeze and view of Mumbai from the water was delightful. On arrival at the island, we boarded a small train, Disneyland style, and took a short ride to the entrance to the Elephanta caves. Being the princess that I am, I took a "chair" ride up. This is four men carrying me on a wooden chair up the 125 steps. The cost of this luxury at the time was about $4.00. On the way up there, were the inevitable souvenir sales stalls and I was able to get an eagle eye view of the merchandise. When the rest of them arrived at the top huffing and puffing, I knew I had made a wise investment. One of the others did the same thing and the ride was really quite fun. Once at the top, just a short walk took us to the caves.
The caves were dug out of the mountain and carved as a temple to the Hindu God, Shiva. Many of the statues are damaged as the Portuguese invaders used these statues for target practice. The carvings and stories they tell were very interesting and we really enjoyed the visit here. Our guide was good and gave us the right amount of information to make it interesting without putting us into overload of information. She lived 2 years in Topeka, Kansas and comes to the USA to visit relatives so her English was perfect and she had a good understanding of Americans.
After our ferry ride back we visited the Taj Hotel. This is an old hotel built in 1903 with a great deal of character and is very luxurious. It is the highest rated hotel in Mumbai. It is very large with 12 different food outlets, 565 rooms and many huge suites. We saw quite a few rooms and the hotel is beautifully maintained. The hotel has a perfect location right on the harbor across from the "Gateway of India" the principal landmark of Mumbai that was built to commemorate King George V's visit to the colony in 1911. We ate lunch here, not quite as exciting for me as it was an Indian meal and as one that does not even use pepper I was concerned about this due to the spices. However, I had Ken, the official food taster, taste it for me and it was not as spicy as I had anticipated it would be. By taking off most the sauce, I was able to get through the meal but Indian food is not my "cup of tea". I think this is my one and only Indian meal. However, everyone else in the group really enjoyed the food.
The Mumbai City Tour
The city has some incredible architecture, it does need cleaning up but the buildings are quite remarkable. Most were built in the late 1800's to the early 1900's. The key items of interest were the Gateway to India, a triumphal arch built to commemorate the visit of George V and Queen Mary, and the incredible central Railway station which is a huge building with amazing details. As with all major cities, there are many churches, temples, and places of interest. I enjoyed with a sitting at the children's park and watched group of ladies in their brightly colored saris sitting with their children. On the Marine drive as it winds around the sea coast and at night you can see the view of "Queen Victoria's Necklace" and by day the a panorama of Mumbai's skyline.
Accommodations in Mumbai
Arriving at the hotel, we were surprised by the luxury and ambiance of the Oberoi Hotel. The lobby, flowers and furnishing could rival any Four Seasons Hotel. Check-in was fast and efficient. Our room was great. King-sized bed, TV, nice desk with every type of plug you could imagine and large granite bathroom. This was far more luxurious than I had imagined. A butler turned up with complimentary juice and checked to see if there was anything else we needed. Wifi internet was available in the room for approximately $20 for 24-hours unlimited access or about $5 an hour. This hotel has a view of the water and is located in the business district of Mumbai.
More details on this hotel can be found on our The Oberoi Mumbai Review