on November 16, 2011
Difficult ChoicesHotels within easy reach of the Mumbai International or Domestic airport terminals come with a heavy mark up that gets even heavier when 15.5% tax is added on top. It’s actually more expensive to stay near the airport than to stay in the best areas of downtown Mumbai but since traffic is almost always gridlocked, it’s just not practical to spend an hour or more being driven into the city and then another hour or so driving out again next day. With growing frustration I searched the lists on an online travel site and found the Midland – nothing very grand but clearly a hotel that really wanted customers and was advertising both free breakfast and free airport transfers. I contacted them by email and reserved a room at the hotel, telling them that we would arrive at about one o'clock in the morning and supplying the flight details for the pick up.We arrived around 1 am and getting through the airport took a predictably long time. It was nearly an hour between touch down and getting out of the airport partly due to our parking stand being blocked after a passenger on a Singapore Airlines flight decided they weren’t so sure they wanted to fly and demanded to get off again.Hunt the Driver, Hunt the HotelWe'd been warned by the hotel to take great care to make sure we had the right driver when we left the airport. We've been told before that there's a scam where drivers for other hotels copy down the names on the pick up boards of other hotels and try to divert their customers so we knew it was important to be careful and to make sure that the collection board had a proper printed logo for the hotel. Leaving the airport building all the hotel greeters were corralled behind barriers and we didn't have much trouble to find the right person.He led us to the car park where the hotel car was soon found and – not something you can always assume – the driver was also quickly located. We once waited 45 minutes in the mid-day sun after a driver went AWOL so this was a relief. The car was thankfully of a good size. I say thankfully because some budget hotels will send a tiny little car that's way too small for two people and two suitcases. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the hotel in the Santa Cruz district of the city.The hotel is situated next to a busy road and an intriguing high level walkway. It’s not a particularly impressive looking building but at that time of the morning, who cares. We entered along a corridor to the reception area where the assistant was expecting us, knew exactly who we were and very quickly processed our passports and then sent us to our room with a porter. My husband – bless him – was tipping like a demon with notes for the driver, the porter and the chap who brought a bottle of water to our room. Room to RestThe room was small but tidy and (odd as it might sound) didn’t smell ‘funny’. There’s a general scent of mould and decay that permeates much of India and is no fun if you get it in a hotel. Fortunately this one was just fine. The décor was in good condition and the perfect plastering meant that walls and ceilings were beautifully flat and smooth. (You can tell can’t you that I hate my textured ceilings at home?) Nothing was dirty but the room was just a bit old and tired in places. The flooring was marble and there were floor to ceiling curtains blocking out the light. The bed was a double made up of two singles pushed together and was made up with slightly aged sheets and the classic light brown Indian hotel blankets. I was speaking to an Indian hotelier on a train a week or two later and asked him about the standard hotel issue blankets. He and his family burst out laughing – clearly they knew exactly the blankets that I meant. Both sides of the bed had bedside tables and on my side were the controls for the ceiling fan and the air con. We tend to switch the A/C off and stick with the fan for fear of freezing in our sleep. Other furniture included a desk, two chairs, a bag stand, lots of cupboards for storage plus a small fridge and a mini safe. We had a ‘right size’ wall mounted flat screen television. By that I mean that I didn’t leap up and measure it but when lying on the bed, it was just the right size to watch comfortably. The bathroom was small with a dark purple marble floor and vanity unit. The mixer taps were slightly wobbly but there was plenty of space for our toiletries. There was a loo and – as is typical – a wall mounted shower with no curtain. Always hide your loo roll before you take a shower in an Indian budget hotel! There was a hair dryer for people who care about such things.We slept quite well for the first few hours because there was very little traffic outside. As soon as the dawn chorus of car horns started we awoke. Noise is a problem but this is India – noise is always a problem. It wasn’t bad at 2 in the morning but pretty full on the rest of the time. There's a major road outside with market stalls and lots of passers by. We heard car horns from the road, building drills and equipment from the building behind the hotel and plenty of general buzz. If you can use ear plugs you may as well bring them.Up on the RoofWe received a phone call that our breakfast was ready which I think was a none too subtle hint to shift ourselves and go and eat. I resisted, double checked when breakfast service ended and delayed as long as we could. The breakfast is served on the roof and consisted of eggs (however you want them) or local south Indian breakfast of idli and sambar (a foul concoction that makes me retch every time I smell it). Coffee or tea and juice were also available. We sat at a table with big sun umbrella and the breakfast supervisor turned on the fan for us before serving perfect spicy masala omelettes and buttered toast.Other ServicesInternet is available with scratch card codes for the wi-fi at 100 rupees (about £1.50) for a running hour or 175 for two hours contact with multiple log-in. A full day is a ridiculous 900 rupees. Due to the strange times that we were there we didn’t eat any meals other than breakfast but the room service menu showed that the food prices were a bit expensive to me but I had to remind myself that it's Mumbai and that's to be expected.We were due to return to the airport at about 2 pm in the afternoon and our check out time as noon. We asked if we could use their internet room for an hour to pass the time and the receptionist kindly said that we could have a later check out and keep our room until we were ready to leave. This certainly made things a lot easier.RecommendationI did't feel strongly about the place – I didn’t LOVE it and it was very noisy but the room was entirely adequate for what we needed and I’m glad we didn’t spend spend 3 or 4 times as much for one of the international chains nearer the airport. My room rate of $98 dollars worked out at about £57 which made this self-styled ‘2-star deluxe’ hotel the most expensive of our two and a half week stay. In any city other than Mumbai I’d have said we got ripped off but for Mumbai airport area this was a bit of a bargain. The price included all taxes (rates advertised on the internet are often subject to an additional 14% tax) and both airport pick up and drop off and breakfast for two. At that price, I really can’t help but recommend this as a cost-effective clean option that offers friendly, efficient service.I have read reviews in which people have used the Midland as a base for a longer stay in Mumbai and travelled in on the local railway from the nearby Santa Cruz railway station. I wouldn’t recommend that. We got a nicer, cheaper hotel in a fantastic area of downtown Mumbai for a much better price. The benefits of the Midland pay off best for a short overnight stay between flights.
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