Well, it took me a while to find a computer that a) had a constant electricity supply, b) had a keyboard that wasn't missing half its keys, and c) could handle such a 'complex' website as this one with its internet connection. :-)
Due to these various technical difficulties, I've missed several days of blogging. So I'm going to split up my journey thus far into a 2 or 3 separate posts and then hopefully carry on from now with a post every 2 or 3 days.
First off, the flight! Actually, it was two flights. One 7 hour leg to Bahrain, and a second leg of a mere 4 hours from Bahrain on to Mumbai. The first part of the trip was a pretty standard airplane experience, and therefore very very very very very boring. (Plus, the service on Gulf Air is highly mediocre, so that aspect wasn't thrilling either!) Free scotch, though, so I actually slept for about an hour. :-p
Anyways, the interesting part of the journey came on the flight into India. The two Indian men in the seats next to me didn't to write very well (or at all, I wasn't very clear on this part) in English, so they had me fill in their landing cards for them. (I got to use their pen for MY landing card as part of the bargain, which was good because I had somehow committed the cardinal sin of not taking a pen with me on a long-distance flight.) Anyways, the meal on that leg of the journey was a curry, complete with chapati and chutney etc, a standard Indian meal. I thought it might be a useful opportunity to practice eating with my right hand (I'm a leftie), which is the polite thing to do in India.
Twenty years of habitual left-handed eating cannot be undone in an instant, and the result was fairly predictable - curry and rice ALL THE WAY down my nice linen shirt. Bummer. (Don't worry, Mom, I'm sure you can wash it out for me when I get home.) ;-)
Landing in Mumbai, I was screened for swine flu by a guy sitting about 20 feet away, wearing a face mask and pointing what was apparently a long-distance thermometer (but looked like a taser :-O ) at everyone coming down the jetway. (Good news, guys, I don't have swine flu! Quelle surprise!)
The taxi to my hotel in the Khar area of Mumbai was a lesson in how car horns should (apparently) really be used. You want to turn? Use the horn. You want to change lanes? Use the horn. You want to scratch your nose? Use the horn. Seriously, the cacophonous noise of hundreds of horns drowned out everything else.
For the two nights I was in Mumbai I stayed at Hotel Samrat, which is thoroughly unremarkable, aside from the service - which was excellent. The facilities were dismal and in need of repair/refurbishment/controlled-demolition (take your pick), and I caught glimpses once or twice of what I *think* were cockroaches or otherwise some similar squirmy bug.
The single full day I had in Mumbai was spent making my way downtown and back, walking along the beachfront of Marine Drive, and seeing the Gateway to India. (For the Gateway, think Arc de Triomphe but made of sandy coloured stone.)
More interesting to me than these 'tourist attractions' was the experience of getting to and from them, for which I opted for the not-at-all-recommended-for-tourists option of taking commuter trains from the suburbs into the city. At 6 rupees (about 9p) each way, it was a bargain. But on the way back I found myself caught up in the evening rush hour train experience and let's just say it was not something to be undertaken by anybody who is squeamish about a) other peoples' body odour, or b) the notion of personal space. I could not physically move through the crowd of people when we arrived at my station, and therefore missed my stop and had to catch a train going the other way to go back one stop. I made it, and I saved a lot of money, but if you're ever in Mumbai, remember: taking trains at peak periods is not the sane option. Pay the 2 or 3 quid for a taxi!
Apart from the whole getting-trapped-on-the-train experience, the most interesting thing that happened in Mumbai was my chance encounter with a girl who went to - wait for it... - the University of Sheffield, and who lives on - wait for it... - Harcourt Road. (For those of you who aren't familiar with UoS's particular student ghetto, that's about a block from where I'm living on Crookesmoor road next year. Small world. No, tiny world. Well, you get the idea of the scale of the coincidence. She had very different travel plans, so we didn't have more than a few minutes to marvel at the randomness of meeting in a restaurant in Mumbai instead of at, say, Tuesday Club on a random week in termtime.