Posted by: Gideon | August 24, 2009

India with Kids: Domestic Flights – An early flight to Hubli.

Post #7:

We woke up early the following morning, packed and went to breakfast. There were both Indian and continental selections and the kids experimented and loved the Indian breakfast food. There was also a very useful free computer terminal with internet access. All in all our short stay at the Godwin Hotel in Mumbai was successful. The room was big, the breakfast was good and the people reasonably friendly. There were too many staff just hanging around though and like much of India, people were employed in jobs that we don’t see anymore in the west, such as elevator operator. Overall, for our budget, it was a good choice.

After breakfast we were met by the same two guys that had driven us from the airport and we retraced our way back through the craziness of Mumbai to the airport. We continued to be amazed by some of the daily sights of Mumbai – trains overflowing with people hanging onto anything they could find – and buildings – perhaps fine once, now crumbling on all sides, paint peeling and succumbing slowly to the humidity.

The constant variety of traffic is sight in itself – trucks, cars, motor rickshaws, scooters and motorcycles weaving in and out, and animals wondering about. On our first trip to India we had even seen an elephant in the Mumbai streets but not this time. The billboards advertise a very different India – cellphones, Disney movies on cable TV, the kings of Indian cricket. On our first trip the Ambassador car had been ubiquitous – an Indian produced car based on a 1950’s British model – but now every make and model of mainly Japanese and Korean cars can be seen on the streets of Mumbai.

Mumbai domestic airport is very basic – there is very little to help pass the time. A few initial checkpoints, a snack bar and some chairs, and then a final hand luggage check. It seemed like renovations were being done and hopefully the airport will see a radical facelift. Eventually our Kingfisher flight to Hubli was called.

Hubli is not exactly one of India’s best known tourist destinations but it is the gateway airport to one of India’s most incredible sights – the ruined imperial city of Hampi.

We were very impressed with Kingfisher Airlines. I had booked the tickets months in advance on the internet and our plane was modern and the service was excellent. The flight was short, and it was to be our only domestic Indian flight, but I would not hesitate in using Kingfisher again. On our honeymoon we had travelled on Indian Airlines and at times had felt happy to get off the plane alive. There are many private airlines in India today and Kingfisher, best known as the predominant beer company in India, run a mighty fine airline too.

Hubli airport is very small. It reminded me of the typical small provincial airports that one used to see in South Africa where I was born. The walk across the tarmac, the tiny conveyor belt and the one small room for arrivals. In fact, small town and rural India reminds me of Africa in many different ways. The landscapes, the rural villages, the dust.

The absolute highlight of our trip waited for us at the airport in the form of Raja, who would be our driver and company for the next two weeks in South India. Raja patiently loaded up his white Toyota minivan with all our stuff including kids car seats and stroller. He had cold water available and from the word go we were absolutely impressed. It would not be long before we felt that we had known Raja for years and that he was an old friend of the family.

While Hubli is the nearest airport to Hampi, it is still more than three hours drive away. Our destination was Hospet, the nearest large town to Hampi and where we would be staying. The family slept throughout the drive, but our initial views of Karnataka State were of a continuous glorious lush green landscape – South India at its best.

With dusk falling we arrived in Hospet at the Malligi Hotel. The hotel is the upmarket option for visitors to Hampi, and although we were still at least a half hour drive from Hampi, it suited us just fine. The hotel has a pool and a good restaurant. There were very few other foreign tourists and we met some local tourists from Bangalore. The kids were excited by the TV and found a kids channel showing Chota Bim, a cartoon which became a firm favourite of theirs, as well as crazy Japanese game shows which were hilarious.

In the evening the hotel burns anti mosquito coils throughout the public spaces and we felt that our decision to take malaria pills for the duration of our trip was probably a correct one. I had experienced some side effects on the first day in Mumbai but things were now fine.

After a good dinner in the hotel restaurant there was nothing to do except wander about the hotel – and there is not much to do except browse the bookshop and the small souvenir store.

We would be visiting Hampi the next day and were all very excited.

PS I’m now planning great family trips to India. For more info on what I can do for your famiy, visit here.

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