Mumbai terror attacks: The aftermath and travel information

It’s always been hard for anything to get in the way of the normal functioning of Mumbai. But the recent terror attacks paralyzed South Mumbai for about 3 days, and left the rest of the city home bound, shocked, and glued to news channels.

I was there when the attacks happened, but luckily not in South Mumbai. As schools, colleges, and many companies remained closed, the city was relatively quiet. The mess was over Saturday morning (29th November), after which everything has been back to normal. Trains, buses and taxis are back to their usual frequency, offices have opened, the airport is functioning as usual but with tightened security.

Some of the hotels are back to normal as well, others are not taking new guests until things are clearer. Many of the South Mumbai hotels are not allowing people to enter the restaurants and cafes unless they are staying at the respective hotel.

Especially since tourists were the target in Mumbai, most countries have issued travel warnings and even bans for people to fly to India. Post attacks, a British report has named India one of the top 20 most dangerous places to visit. There are currently many rumors floating around that the next attacks are being planned along India’s west coast, specifically Goa and Cochin. All of India’s big cities are on high alert.
But really, who knows? There were no concrete official terror warnings or alerts with regards to Mumbai before the attacks happened. Sometimes, as stupid as this may sound, when places are officially on “red alert”, I think they are probably the safest places to visit. Terrorists know that those places have heightened security, so attacks are difficult.

So what should you do to assure your safety as much as possible when you are in a foreign city?

Here are my thoughts:
1) Awareness and vigilance: Be aware of the socio-political situation, and have background on previous dangerous occurrences in the place you are going to. Keep track of local news and what’s generally happening by looking through the local newspapers everyday.
2) Register yourself at your Embassy: If you are going to be somewhere for at least 4-5 days, it’s worth the effort to take a trip to the local embassy of your country and inform them of your travel plans in the country. Should something drastic happen, finding you may be less difficult.
3) Stay away from large crowds during religious festivals: The pretext of much terror is religion, especially in India. Although it may be a great cultural experience to attend these festivals, when in doubt of safety, avoid being at the prominent spots.
4) Change your routine: If you are a foreigner in India, staying at the same place for more than a few days, it might be safer to vary your route when you go about daily activities (groceries, walk, etc).
5) Talk to locals: When in doubt about going somewhere in the city, talk to locals you can trust, for example your hotel/hostel staff and friends, they should be able to give you a reasonable idea of the situation and will help you make further travel decisions.
6) Take a taxi/rent a car: If the city you have been in has recently suffered attacks, it might be better to take a taxi or rent a car rather than take pubic transport in and out of the city.

If you choose to travel to Mumbai any time soon, you will feel the tremendous anger of the locals, and a general air of sadness and anguish. It seems that there will be a large demonstration tomorrow at the Gateway of India in Mumbai, where people will gather to express how let down they are and demand action.

FYI: The only place in India under consistent and official travel warning is Jammu and Kashmir.

Photo of the day (12.01.08)

“Oh run run run so you don’t fall in!” is what I’d be saying if I was watching this heron doing what it’s doing above. Such a great shot of the bird (known to be a “wading bird”) that looks like it’s walking on water, and has to walk really fast to make it to the other side without falling in!

Taken by flickr user LadyExpat in Daejeon in South Korea, it’s certainly a hard moment to catch so well.

Have any pictures capturing the beauty of animals in their natural habitat? Add them to our Gadling photo pool on Flickr and we might just pick it as our Photo of the Day.

Photo of the day (11.24.08)

This is an aerial shot of Lake Nasser, in Abu Simbel, Egypt, taken by flickr user BrittElizabeth. Great shot. But how must it have been taken? From a helicopter, or from a high cliff facing the lake? Or with some super lens?

I also like this shot because it’s not something you expect to see when you think of Egypt. In the glory of the Pyramids and the local culture there, we forget that there exist remote, dry, desert-like spots. I also find this shot interesting as it shows arid land next to water; makes you wonder why there isn’t more vegetation in this area.

Got a pic you want considered for Gadling’s Photo of the Day? Submit it here.

Photo of the day (11.17.08)

I have to admit that I didn’t know that creature on top of this shack was a crayfish. But I was sure that at this shack you would get seafood. At first I went “ewe” when I saw the image, but a second later I was licking my lips thinking of grilled garlic lobster. The picture has been taken by user The Wide Wide World in Waipapa Bay, New Zealand. Although it’s photo difficult to get wrong, I still think it’s a cool and sharp shot of an obviously unique shack.

Do you have a shot that should be considered for Photo of the Day? Submit it to the Gadling Flickr pool.

Small yet significant tips to make your long-haul flights better

All my life I have traveled Economy Class (only once did I get lucky and got an upgrade to Business Class). In my opinion, flights of up to 7 hours in Economy are tolerable, but more than that and the all the fidgeting and frustration starts getting to you.

Having lived in Australia for 3 years, I dreaded the 14 hour flights to and from Dubai (30 hours if you include transfers and waiting); that’s when I realized how seemingly trivial things could drastically change the quality of your flight.

MSN just published an article listing some of these small yet significant tips, of which I think these are the most important:

Be comfortable:
Wear loose, warm, long, comfortable clothes. Stick to flat shoes, preferably ones you can wear socks with. Being warm and comfortable in your clothes will change the nature of your flight. (It’s such a basic point, I don’t understand why so many people choose to make a fashion statement on board at the expense of being comfortable. Perhaps they should stop making movies that make people believe they will find “the one” mid air.)

Bring lip-balm: Even if you have never-cracking lips, on a long-haul flight darling, they will crack! I carry lip-balm everyday, everywhere I go, and always have it on a flight. Once I forgot it and my lips chapped like tree bark. (Yes, ouch). I kept going to the bathroom and putting that disgusting hand-lotion they keep in there on my lips. Didn’t work, and yuck, never again.

I never thought of carrying trail-mix on a flight, and I am queen of trail-mix! I always have some on me. Muesli, raisins, walnuts, and M&M’s. Simple, energetic, healthy, and tasty — it’s a great idea to carry some on a flight.

Meal choice on board:
I eat everything and am generally easy with food. But on a flight I always get the not-so-good option (or maybe it’s just that the other food looks better because I don’t have it?). So the MSN article suggests to ask the air host/hostess to pick for you. Why? Because they eat that food too so they have a good idea which meal is better. Doh!

Here are some other tips from my side that are also gold for long-haul flights:

Choose a plane with Video-On-Demand:
If you can watch movies whenever you want, and can start them anytime you choose, you will not realize how quickly time flies. Video-On-Demand is becoming more and more common in-flight these days, but it’s worth double checking whether your flight has it before booking.

Don’t put the hot towel on your face:
Yes, yes, I know it feels awesome, but don’t forget how your skin feels after! It gets super dry and unless you have moisturizer or very greasy skin, the towel on your face can leave your skin quite uncomfortable for a while.

Chew gum to keep your ears from blocking: Well, they will still block, but to a lesser extent if you chew gum as you take-off and when landing, so keep some handy!

Getting into Business/First Class when you have an Economy ticket:
Caution — try this at your own risk. I have never done this and cannot guarantee results, but I have a friend who does it often and he often gets away with it.

Wait till the last, last, last boarding call. Then go running in pretending you are late. When you enter the flight, everyone has taken their seat and if there are empty seats in First Class or Business Class, odds are that those seats are free. That’s when you go and sit in one of them. If you are unlucky, it could be that the passenger who should be in that seat is in the bathroom before take-off, but key is to think positively and act confident. What’s the worse thing that can happen? You will be asked to go to your seat and you will suffer 5 seconds of embarrassment. No big deal.

Hope these tips help! Happy long flight!