A morning from hell…OMG…OMG…

An older man was walking his cow down the road.

Last night when we went to bed, we assumed we had a solid plan in place. By noon, we’d have our bags packed, have paid our hotel bill, and be ready to head to the Espresso Hotel, which had booked us a room for a month, according to the Sun-N-Sand staff.

At 8:00 am, having slept later than we’d expected after awakening several times during the night, the phone rang. The front desk informed us that our checkout had been moved to 10:00 am, not noon.

We bolted out of bed to begin to take turns showering, dressing, and packing. By 8:45, we headed to the restaurant for our final breakfast at the Sun-n-Sand Hotel. It appeared we were the only remaining guests in the hotel.

At the reception desk, we asked why we were rushing for a 10:00 am checkout. They didn’t say much other than, “We’re closing earlier than we’d planned.”

A Marwari horse with curly ears at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Service was slow at the restaurant, although we were the only patrons. By 9:30, Tom went back to our room to finalize the packing while I approached the front desk to pay our bill. He told me to go back and wait in the room until they were ready for us.

I refused to go back to the room. I insisted on waiting for Tom in the lobby after the bellman had been ordered to pick up our bags. The man at the desk seemed nervous and confused, telling me to “go wait in the room until they were ready for us.” Again, I refused.

This worried me. I insisted on paying the bill. Moments later, Tom came off the elevator wheeling our bags. The bellman hadn’t arrived in time to help him. He joined me at the desk to assist in sorting out the bill.

As it turned out, we had a credit when we paid for an entire week last Friday and still had three nights remaining. The only charges we’d incurred were for dinners and one batch of laundry. They paid us several thousand rupees in cash rather than put it on our credit card. 

An Indian Roller.

After completing the transaction, the man handed us a piece of paper with the name of a different hotel, The Orchid, explaining that’s where we were going. A reservation for one month had been arranged for us, and we were to leave right away. They’d managed to find a driver to move us to the new location instead of using a police vehicle as mentioned yesterday.

We checked out The Orchid, a hotel online, and it looked very nice. We were satisfied it would work for us. Tom was disgruntled about this last-minute change from one hotel to another without notifying us, but based on our situation, we had little choice but to move along. Hotels all over Mumbai were rapidly closing, one after another.

With the roads empty of vehicles, we arrived at the beautiful Orchid, feeling relieved as soon as we drove up. Although all bars, most restaurants, pools, and facilities in hotels had to be closed, we’d be content with a room with air-con, WiFi, a comfortable bed, and a place to eat breakfast and dinner.

Our bags were unloaded from the van, we paid the driver, went through security, had our temperature checked, and approached the desk to sign in for our one-month reservation.

Statues made from stone and granite are offered for sale to locals and tourists.

They had no record, whatsoever, of any reservation in our name, not for one night, let alone one month. Nor were they able to book us a room when they are closing tomorrow. Sun-n-Sand had pulled the wool over our eyes to get us out the door so that they could complete.

There we were, hotels closing like dominoes falling, all over Mumbai, along with owners of holiday homes not responding to our inquiries and nowhere to go. My heart was pounding in my chest. Tom kept reminding me to stay calm while we figured something out.

As much as the staff at The Orchid wanted to help us, there was little they could do. The fantastic hotel manager/concierge, Mr. Wesley Fernandes, immediately worked with the utmost effort to find a solution for us.

I had visions of us standing outside the US Embassy in Mumbai with all of our baggage, pounding on the door, trying to get help. 

Gorgeous leis of flowers offered for sale for offerings.

Partway through Mr. Fernandes’ diligent calling, he approached us and said he’d located a hotel the government had required to stay open… For suspected cases of Covid-19 required quarantine. 

Tom and I had agreed that, no matter what, we would not stay in one of those toxic situations. Mr. Fernandes didn’t think we’d willingly remain in such a facility. Subsequently, he continued the search. After a highly stressful hour, he found us a hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott, close to the airport.

He suggested we book it online right away, which we did, after which he spoke to a reception staff member who confirmed the reservation had come through and we were good to go.

Not only did Mr. Fernandes make these arrangements for us, but he also arranged a complimentary ride using a vehicle owned by The Orchid. Finally, we breathed a sigh of relief. Moments later, we were on our way to the most beautiful Courtyard by Marriott we’d ever seen.

Women were weeding the peanut fields.

During this entire stressful period, we both wore face masks. With lobbies of most hotels in Mumbai not air-conditioned and the high heat and humidity, we were both sweating profusely.

The kindly reception staff member at The Orchid Deeptka, provided us with both will bottled water, and we were on our way. The staff at the Courtyard by Marriott were welcoming, but here again, they made no assurances as to how long they’d stay open. Also, they explained there is no laundry service now or soon.

Today, we’ll begin contacting more owners of holiday homes to see if they’ll take us last minute, next time we have to move, which we expect will happen within the next week or so.  

Whew! Now, we’re comfortably situated in a beautiful hotel with all services suspended indefinitely except for an open coffee shop that will serve us breakfast and lunch. We’ll stay in our room unless we’re dining.

A termite mound in Kanha National Park.

If this hotel stays open, we could be here a month or two or longer, depending upon when South Africa opens its borders and when international flights are available in Mumbai. None of us know our fate at this point, and indeed every one of us feels cooped up and uncertain about the future.

If and when you visit Mumbai, we’d highly recommend staying at The Orchid. Nowhere in the world have we seen this caliber of customer service at a hotel, let alone the fact we weren’t staying with them.

Temporarily, we dodged a bullet, for how long? We have no idea. Stay safe. Stay indoors. We continue.  

                        Photo from one year ago today, March 24, 2019:
Fourth Baby, who’d been separated from his family, often sits in this goofy pose when eating pellets. This was how we knew it was him. The others kneel but don’t set their butt down while eating. He was never reunited with his family, from what we could determine. For more photos, please click here.