With the luxury of non revenue travel also comes the joy of spontaneous adventure. Our trip to India would begin with either a flight from Newark into Delhi or Mumbai. We had tentatively prepared an itinerary around Delhi being our entry point but when that flight was full and we were able to score the last two seats on the outbound Mumbai flight we had to rearrange things a bit.
The first of which was to find some place to stay upon arriving at nine pm after a 14 hour flight. A quick room was booked by Susan on her iPhone in her middle seat two rows behind me before the order was given to turn off all electronic devices. Since we were the last to board.... and had bags to stow... this had to be done in minimal time. Although we got an auto reply confirmation that the room was booked we did not get confirmation that transportation would be waiting for us upon arrival. I was hoping for a man with a Stork sign. See these guys every day but never had the luxury myself. Since all we had was an address and no international data plan we would be reliant on the prepaid taxi driver to get us to bed.
We chose the hotel based on a google maps search for its proximity to the airport and the number of positive reviews it had on hotels.com. All was set. Except our driver didn't know where it was as evidenced by his frequent stops to ask other drivers and his exaggerated hand gesturing to his roster with the hotel name on it. Apparently it wasn't where the dispatcher at the airport said it was and was more than the quoted "prepaid" fee. We were lost on the streets of Mumbai surrounded by traffic, congestion and stifling heat.
Bumper to bumper traffic in India is exciting enough without a lost and angry taxi driver who appears to be close to kicking you out for under payment.
From the backseat, we called AT&T and ordered some international data and secured not only our location on Google maps but that of our destination and were able to direct our driver to the red pin on the map. "A few more blocks," I'd say with no guarantee he understood me. What on the map was just a few miles took over an hour to reach.
Our first two nights in India were on Mumbai's Juhu Beach at the Sun and Surf hotel, which apparently is often frequented by Bollywoods elite (or so Wikipedia says). I naturally assumed any handsome couple by the pool was said "elite"... just as they naturally assumed I was a rich American tech startup guru. Although not the most conveniently located for exploring by foot it was easy to hire a driver to take us around and he waited for us at each stop to show us our next destination.
After two days on the beach we decided to research our next stop. Since Goa was an easy an affordable flight from Mumbai with lots of hotel options... we booked tickets on Jet Konect for the next day. Goa has plenty of resort options during the peak season with beach and water sport activities but we assumed those places would have limited offerings during monsoon season (now). To ensure we would be entertained we found an inn in the heart of Goa's capital city, Punajim. The inn is five generations owned and blocks from the market district. An open outdoor second level dining patio which according to the in room guide book allows guests to "sit on old style chairs and marble top tables over a beer or local feni or sipping a juice, one can observe local town people go about their mundane chores. A little imagination - down memory lane to better times, to an old fashioned world of chivalry and you can envision youthful Romeo's serenading comely damsels from below the balconies or perhaps almost hear the wistful lament of Portuguese Fado emerge from the shadows of twilight. A comfortable bed, good food and drink, an informal warmth and friendly and caring staff soon make the Panajim Inn a romantic home away from home."
The inn is amazing. Since it is off season we had our choice of any room for the same 'basic deluxe' price. Roughly $40 usd a night. We are on the second floor with a balcony overlooking a courtyard with a day school behind it. Having no clock, we are awoken each morning by the school kids running down the alley to class.
On the first day I asked a man down the street if I was going to rain today. He said it's going to rain for the next four months.
As of today, we have been here for two days with plans to leave for Mumbai tomorrow. Although the forecast has called for "rain with spells of heavy rain" we've had no trouble getting out taking a tour of a spice plantation, visiting 16th century churches and shopping the street vendors of Goa. We are off to talk to a friend we've made across the street and then hire a taxi to take us to see some temples. After we hope to have dinner at a local Goan establishment our new friend told us about. Although it's not as good as his moms food, he said.