I’m sure Bombay is a perfectly lovely city: warm, colorful, with plenty to see and do.
I just can’t really tell you much about it. Because after the canceled flight, and then the other canceled flight, and then the three-hour delay, I was left with about seven hours of daylight to explore.
Make that six, actually, as my lovely hostess had some trouble getting to the airport on time to pick up her exhausted, semi-disheveled friend.
“Oh?” she said, when I finally got up the nerve to borrow a businessman’s blackberry. “You’re here already?”
Yes, Amruta. If by “already” you mean three hours – and two days – late.
We went back to her grandparents’ house in a neighborhood called Andheri -apparently like the Brooklyn of Bombay – and I had my first home-cooked Indian meal of the trip: cauliflower, peas, dosa and rice.
Amruta had taken the day off from work and initially claimed to have a whole itinerary planned for us. But upon further investigation it was revealed that “full day itinerary” really meant “bar picked out for tonight.”
She did escort me through one authentically Bombay experience though: a rush hour ride on the metro. The trip, in the “ladies first class” car – first class, no; ladies, yes – was like nothing I’d ever seen and I really wanted to take a picture. But these women were ready to cut a bitch in order to get a better spot in the jam-packed, doorless car and I wasn’t about to get my precious Nikon in their way. So for now, I’ll leave you with this inadequate description -brightly colored saris pressed together in some sort of claustrophobic rainbow, women hanging out the door frames, women grabbing onto other women’s arms, hips, anything to propel themselves deeper in the car – and this slightly more adequate video, and let you imagine what it’s like inside.
The next morning, we had a 5:45 a.m. flight to Cochi – in the Southern India state of Kerala. This was the only flight of my entire trip that didn’t get canceled or delayed, which obviously meant that I had to lose my boarding pass just prior to security. Thanks, India, for keeping me on my toes!
Despite the country’s best efforts, I did eventually make it to Kerala, which was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was what I imagine Fiji or maybe parts of Hawaii must be like – a lush tropical oasis with forests of palm trees, winding back roads and rough seas dotted with fisherman’s boats.
Our hotel was like a little island of five-star goodness smack dab in the middle of the aforementioned natural beauty. The lobby had no windows or doors, just big gaping holes to let in the light and colors from the outside; private sitting areas were nestled behind dense plants and flowering trees; and a breathtaking infinity pool made me feel like I had accidentally stumbled into a Conde Naste travel photo shoot. The (complimentary!) breakfast buffet served pool side included the most glorious fruit table I’ve ever seen: bowls of pomegranite seeds, fresh guava, three types of bananas – none of them Chiquita. I was only sad it wasn’t mango season.
It was perfect – the definition of paradise, really – but, as I’d learned in previous days, there’s not much perfection Delhi isn’t capable of spoiling. As Amruta and I were lying in the sun by the pool, Sarah was stuck in the Bangalore airport. Her flight out of Delhi was only delayed five hours, but that was enough to botch her connecting flight in Bangalore. For a while it looked like she might not be able to make it to Kovalem at all, and be forced to meet us straight in Kumarakom the next day, but some good old-fashioned yelling scored her an evening flight and an eventual midnight arrival at the Taj Kovalem.
By then though, I was already asleep, tucked away in my dark wood bed in our villa. It was the one night of the trip I would sleep soundly, passed out for a solid eight hours, dreaming of infinity pools and fresh-squeezed watermelon juice and the complimentary shell necklaces the hotel staff put around our necks when we arrived.
The next morning would mark the start of what I thought was – finally! – the relaxing, vacation-like portion of my trip. We sat by the pool in three parallel, cushioned lounge chairs, snacking on extra chocolate muffins stolen from breakfast and chatting like three old friends who haven’t been together in 17 months tend to do. When the sun started to fade, we made our way up the coast to Kumarakom, in a five-hour-long car ride through back roads dotted with sugarcane juice stands and religious processions of colorfully-costumed women. I was enthralled with the scenery, slightly sunburnt and blissfully happy. And if I knew then what I know now, I would have savored every second of it.
Next up: The One Where I End Up In The Hospital.