Friday, 3 March 2017


We're here at  the Trident hotel in Mumbai - next door to the Oberoi where we stayed last year.   We were a bit overwhelmed by the Oberoi last year with the Butler and the Housekeeper vying with each other to get our attention and fuss over us all the time.    

However, we really don't think much of the Trident (despite them treating us a privileged clients and sending a car/driver to collect us from the airport).   It's a business hotel and I stayed in enough of these soulless hotels when I used to travel a lot around South East Asia in my working life.      

We arrived here around 10pm and just wanted to sit and enjoy a drink and snack in a quiet bar but the only bar was packed full of delegates from some powerboat convention/race that's taking part in Mumbai this week.   They were noisy and obnoxious but I guess I've been on a few business conventions like that in the past so perhaps shouldn't be so judgemental!

Anyway, this morning we set off for Elephanta Island/Cave temples devoted to Shiva which are approx 11 kms north west of the Gateway of India (Mumbai).  Its a trip I wanted to do last year to 'relive' my experiences of 30+ years ago.   Last year we simply ran out of time in Mumbai.    

The ferries set sail from the Gateway to India but we inadvertently walked past the official ticket sales office and bought tickets at the dock-side  for a 'fast' boat to the island which was about to depart imminently apparently ... we were helped onto the boat  by the ticket seller who then disappeared.   We were the only 2 people aboard except for the 'driver'.   He became preoccupied with his phone and ignored us.    After 10 mins I asked what time we were departing and he said   "5 mins, 30 mins to Elephanta soon " ... which I questioned  ... 'do you mean we're leaving in 5 minutes?"   yes 30 mins to Elephanta was the response.    When it became apparent nobody else was boarding and the boat was going nowhere I checked the ticket and noticed the wonderful description 'touters' on the side so we clambered out and found the tout who handed our cash back without any hassle.  

 I think there is a big police presence in the area and no doubt had I raised a complaint about him he would have been removed from the area.   I'm sure the boat we were on would have left eventually but not just with the two of us on board - that wouldn't have been profitable for them.

We located the 'official' ticket office and boarded a regular ferry at 11am - the trip takes around 1 hour but once you leave the dock there is nothing to see because of the heat/pollution haze.  

There are dozens of ferries - they all look like this

This is the Taj Hotel and the Gateway to India photographed from our departing ferry:

The Taj

 I chatted to a lovely lady who told me that this ship was HMS Hermes, the flagship of the Falklands fleet which was sold to India in 1984 and continued in their service until last year.   Tomorrow is the official 'decommissioning' party .. her husband is/was in the Royal Navy which is how she knew about it.   

You can see how hazy it is here  -  the grey ship nearly disappears into the background

 The locals overcome the boredom by feeding seagulls who fly alongside the boat accepting 'cheesy wotsit' type snacks.   

There is a toy train (wally trolley) which carries people from the quay at Elephanta Island to the start of the main steps up to the famous caves.   We opted to walk instead although it was very hot/humid by then.   I'm not sure if I'd actually warned David that there are 120 steps to climb ... the steps vary from a few inches to around a foot high and are very worn from use over centuries.    

You can opt to travel up by sedan chair- we saw them 'parked' at the side of the steps - that must be a very tiring job for the carriers but as David said ... 'its what they do'!    

On both sides of the slope there are hundreds of small stalls selling tourist tat - 99% of them sell the same products

About a third of the way up the steps we stopped at a small cafe and had little cardboard cups of chai. 

David was amused by the little girl sitting at the table next to ours and her mum agree he could take her photo - he took a few but this is the one he likes best - so it may be the basis for a future portrait:

I was more fascinated by the monkeys.    Sadly India is a very littered country.   There is a huge drive to educate people not to throw litter (especially plastic) but its going to take many years to change lifetime habits.    A group of wealthy looking, beautifully dressed women had a picnic on the ferry.   They carefully bagged up all the rubbish and then leaned over the waste bin to throw the bag over the side of the boat into the sea!    

This sign at the dock at Elephanta says it all really ... look beyond the sign to the 'beach' area where all the plastic has washed up.

Monkeys are opportunistic and although I'm sure it can't be a healthy diet for them, they've learned to turn mankind's laziness/dirty habits to their advantage 

To be fair, this monkey had found his snack in the bin, not on the floor

But this one picked up a half-empty fizzy drink bottle which was thrown over the wall of the cafe ... not only did it drink the 'pop' itself, it also fed some to the youngster

 It gave us a chance to sit and catch our breath and cool off a bit before tackling the next section. 

 The sun shining through the blue tenting overhead has turned the pictures a funny colour

    At the top of the 120 steps there was a restaurant/bar .. selling beer!  so we had another break.   

Having got this far, David then didn't want to continue on to see the caves/religious carvings so we headed back down the steps (much easier this way) and stopped off to do some serious haggling for a few items we wanted.      I do the haggling .. last time David got involved we ended up paying more for the item than the starting price (long story, different country (Tunisia) so I ended up with a very tasteless camel shaped ash tray)!

We got the 2.30pm ferry back, spent a little while wandering around the Gateway to India (looking for 'beautiful people' to photograph) and then we went to the Taj Hotel for afternoon tea.    

I LOVE this hotel.   OK its big and grand but it is friendly and comfortable and has really got everything right!   Other hotels could learn a lot from them.

Afternoon tea is a real experience - to start with there are around 30 teas to choose from and as many coffees.   The 'spread' is organised buffet style and starts with 'Indian street food, Taj style' so we had 4 different local savoury/spicy delicacies prepared in front of us.     Then there was an enormous selection of beautifully presented tropical fruits, cold savoury snacks/sandwiches, and then plate after plate of gateaus, small cakes, biscuits, chocolates, caramels, fudges ...... the selection went on forever.  I didn't take photos of the buffet array as thought that might be a bit 'tacky' ...

I don't eat sweet things but quickly filled up on the savouries and left David to make inroads into the cakes/chocolates.    He soon admitted defeat though!    The tea just kept coming - the servers were very on the ball but not intrusive.   Perfick way to spend 90 minutes.    We had a table next to the window overlooking the sea and the Gateway to India so took our time and 'people-watched'

so ... as usual, this is a selection of photos I took throughout the day, people and scenes that took my fancy

Even on Elephanta Island the cows like to disrupt transport

This little terror was on the return ferry and looks as though butter wouldn't melt .....

Bubble machine seller

view from the window at the Taj whilst enjoying afternoon tea - the light was very good at around 4pm

Cat 'guarding' the small pile of items on sale at the roadside

The Oval Maidan - lots of people playing cricket and football here as we walked past on our way back to our hotel

Whilst waiting to cross a busy road/junction I tried to photograph these 2 guys walking/carrying their dogs - but I kept getting thwarted by vehicles crossing between us just as I clicked the camera button

At last ... so cute (and the dogs aren't bad either)

What a brilliant smile!

Well that's all I have time for tonight.     We were both still full from afternoon tea so just had a quick drink at the bar in the hotel and polished off the bowls of popcorn and chilli crackers that they serve with drinks.

Tomorrow we will check out in the morning and leave our baggage with the porters.     We have the day to wander around and will freshen up/change clothes later in the evening.    We have a car booked to take us to the airport at 9.30pm (although our flight isn't till 2.15am on Sunday (local time) so lots of hanging around but it is a night flight so hoping we can sleep for a few hours.


  1. Lovely photos again Sue. Will you be staying at The Taj next time

  2. Oh Sue I really wish you had taken photos of the afternoon tea! The more I read your blog, the more I would love to go but not sure we could afford to, sadly.

  3. I'm not sure we'd go back to Mumbai - simply because the airport experience is always so horrible. BUT if we did go back then, yes, the Taj will be our hotel of choice (maybe staying in the new tower building which is considerably cheaper)