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Published: January 5th 2015
Wow...what a place this is. More on that later...back to the 1st and leaving Dubai. I got my first full on experience of getting bumped off flight as a nonrev flyer. Seventeen years in the industry and some major traveling done before and I never had anything like that. There were 5 flights between two airlines and two terminals in DXB that I didn't get on and then got the last seat -88b- on and A380 to BOM on Emirates. Yes, I got on the A380!!!! That was exciting on its own. It was only a 2.5 hour flight but we got dinner and i was able to get a movie in. EK is definitely the way to go...even in economy to India.
We landed at 2:30am..yikes. Then the wait. With that many people on the plane the luggage sure does take a while coming off the plane and to the carousel. Got my bag and then out to the prepaid taxi stand. Booked my taxi driver and found him and off to the hotel at 3:30. It was close to an hour drive there and then he got lost. For those of you who have been to India before
you know what the road system is like....chaos!!! He spent 30 minutes asking people where the hotel was at. We even asked a police officer and he just shrugged us off and walked away. So much for helpful police. Got to the hotel and the door was chained shut and the lights were out...not a good sign. I banged on the glass door and someone woke up from on the floor and let met in and gave me a key and sent me to my room. Definitely not the Four Seasons or even a Best Western either. Got to bed at 5.
Up at 9 and had breakfast on the roof top deck of the hotel. (Have to remember that whenever you see other white people when traveling that they do not always speak English.). I said hi to a couple and they just looked at me funny and moved on. Kinda thought it rude but then realized they probably didn't understand my thick Canadian accent. Lol
Cabbed to the train station and as I was walking in towards it a driver approached and then India adventure no 2 started. He explained that I should have bought my
tkt at the tourist booking office dowe town, so he took me there. He came in with me and he did all the talking and got everything set up for me. Great guy. The actual train to Ahmedabad didn't leave until 2:30pm so I had time to kill. For 1900 rupees he did all my tkt work and gave me a tour of Mumbai and looked after my bags while I walked around areas. He was a great tour guide and host....all for $35 CAD.
I got to see The Gateway to India, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the High Court, the Oval, Chowpatt Beach and more. There is a lot of architectural and infrastructipure decay. I can just imagine what it must have been like here back ithe days of the British. I even got to a Starbucks! Had to go through a meteal detector to get into it but I got there. Iced Americano and a mug for my collection and I was set to go.
The train station was huge....so far as I know we have nothing like these stations in North America. Europe has massive trian stations but this was incredible. It seemed that
the plareforms went on for days. There were labourwrs moving things around on man powered carts, supplies being loaded and unload off the trains and people moving about everywhere. It felt like one of those train stations out of the black and white movies or from an Indiana Jones movie. Quite amazing to see how it all works.
While waiting I was approached by an elderly Indian woman and asked where I was going, she had her nephew with her and he was dropping her off and asked if it could help her with her bags on and off then train. Sure. She was Visiting here from Guam and here to see family. Super nice lady. Upon arrival in Ahmedabad she had her driver take me to my hotel.
The train ride was something else as well. The only other time that I reacall anything like that was on the ride from Hue to Hanoi in Vietnam years ago. I got on an air conditioned train for this trip and reserved a seat as well. I was the only white person on the train as far as I could tell. It was packed. After rolling out there would
be vendors come through the car selling everything from popcorn to tomato soup to other foods of some sort. It was a real train ride experience. To see India roll by as we chugged along was very cool. Sunset was spectacular through the dust caked windows as the rivers and coast of Gujarat Sped by. The bathroom on board was a whole nother experience. Let's just say I did a good job of holding it until I got to the hotel. The toilet on board was a hole in the floor that had a flap that bounced open and closed...when you looked down you could see the train tyes as we moved along. Just like Vietnam.
7 hours later we pulled into Kalupur Station and the journey had ended. it was now 9:30pm I walked out with Pram (the lady i met at the station) and we met her driver. The chaos around the station was beyond words. I am soooo thankful that I had her there as I would her never been able to get through that maze on my own. One thing I have learned so far on this trip is that India is not to be
attempted on your own. I am really looking forward to joining my tour on the 6th and being escorted around.
I am staying at The Ambassador Hotel, which is actually a good one, comfortable and clean. Once in my room I then called my cousin and got things squared away for the wedding the next day. By then it was 1am and time for bed as I had to be at the hall for 8am the next morning.
Morning arrived and I got up and dressed and then down to the front desk and got one of th 'Autos' to the hall for the wedding. They are very similar to the tuk tuks in Thailand and other parts of Asia. I was one of the first to the to the hall and watched as things got set up. Then people arrived and I saw my uncle and a family friend of my cousin. Someone to talk to. The ceremony itself took about 5 to 6 hours. There was a lot of colour and rituals involved. Many many people participated and then those that weren't just seemed to linger around and watch and participate when needed. I got to
be a part of the ceremony in a ritual where some relatives of the bride and groom had to raise them up and they did a flowers garland toss around each other. It was kind of like the shoulder fights we used to have as kids but much more friendly. It was extremely colorful and very musical at some points. There was food throughout the day as well....breakfast was some great south Indian food as was lunch. Lunch was eaten by hand off a large banana leaf. Your right hand only as your left is used for other things....
After the ceremony I was able to get back to the hotel along the same route that I took to get there in the morning...what a difference in traffic. And I think everyone here uses their horns to the excess! The streets are busy and super congested and I am really glad that I do not have to drive here. You think Richmond in bad....try driving in India. Completely different.
I returned to the hall around 6 for the dinner and evening festivities. Dinner was great. I got to sit at a table with Sarica and Mukul. There were
a lot of pictures with relatives and many aunties and uncles. Indian families seem to go on forever and everyone is a relative of some sort. Festivities ended around 12 and we said our good byes and everyone went back to their hotels.
The auto ride at night was just as intense and entertaining as it was during day. I really don't know how it all seems to work. As Sarica's friend Carmen at the wedding put it, it is like a ballet. They all seem to have their place to go. It is quite amazing how it all falls into place no nothing goes wrong (at least that I have seen).
Yesterday was a very quiet and relaxing day. I was finally able to figure out the internet and get connected with home. Slept in until 10 which was great and much needed. I went to Alpha One Mall and met up with my uncle, Carmen, Sarica and Mukul and we all had lunch at the Hyatt. It was a little oasis of calm right in the hustle and bustle of the city. We said our good byes and said we would get together again in August
at the church portion of the weddings these two are having.
After, I wondered through the mall....very high end on Indian standards and busy. It was nice and air conditioned. Auto ride back to the hotel and another really good nights sleep. Today is a relaxing day around town. Think I might venture out in an auto for a tour of parts of the city before I leave tomorrow at 730am to Delhi.
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