A bit of South Bombay; shopping opportunities, roaming and a bite to eat

One of my friends said that her sister’s family would be staying at the Taj Mahal Palace just before Christmas. I have a rage of envy, having stayed there previously, more so because I am missing out Bombay this year, keeping it simple with three weeks on the beach in Goa. I should not be envious.

So, I have quelled the envy and passed on a few tips that I hope may assist them or you. It’s a bit random, pulled from memory, no particular order, but nowhere is more than ten minutes from The Taj.

Almost on the doorstep from the Taj Mahal Palace –

●Theobroma Patisserie (on Colaba Causeway, South of police station, next to Parsi Colony) – amazing coffee and cakes, some of the best people spotting, all the rich Parsis meet for coffee and gossip here. The coffee is great, and the cashew topped Bircher muesli is worth a mention. I feel like Damon Runyon listening to the gossip about people I’ll never meet. I have also been here when the hunkiest naval officer officer in the world stepped in for coffee. Swoon. Be envious.

●Bombay Dyeing on Colaba Causeway. Their white hotel quality towels are the best in the world. You can buy an extra suitcase at the Samsonite shop a few doors away!

●Forest Essentials fragrances and skincare, all properly ayuvedic. Oudh & green tea spray lasts all day. Lemongrass or rose roomsprays are brilliant. Part owned by Esteep Lauder group now, apparently opening in London soon (but expect Jo Malone prices here). They have a shop airside at international departures, but stock there is hit and miss – check carefully as I once got back to London to find that the Oudh and green tea body spray was actually bath foam. I did not want bath foam. The rose room spray smells like Turkish delight….

●Good Earth opposite South end of Taj Mahal Palace. This shop is, in my view, overpriced but stocks nice home knick knacks. If you want to buy a cushion or a quilt, they have a machine that sucks all the air out for easy packing.

●Bombay Electric stocks a beautiful collection of overpriced shirts, bags and costume jewellery plus electro-plated tiffins at about £200 each! Good to look, lovely staff, a nice little courtyard garden too. It’s next door to Good Earth.

●There is a lampshade maker in Reay House, next to Good Earth/Bombay Electric. These are high end lampshade weavers. You do not know how much you want one of these, or all of these, until you see them, and watch them being made……

●Drop into the Methodist Church on Colaba Causeway to see the plaque to the Rev Clutterbuck, and his sad demise after surviving Bombay pastoral service for several years. Shipwrecked and drowned on the SS Stella. This is history and reflection in action. To think that he lived and worked in South Bombay in the days when that land was malarial, not to mention all manner of other tropical diseases and illnesses in the days before the discovery of antibiotics. By the way, I am not in the slightest bit religious, but love this little church.

●If you want a Parsi cafe on Colaba Causeway, go for Mondys (think the full name is Mondegars). Personally, I avoid Leopolds which is full of backpackers and young Indian guys drinking huge pitchers of draft lager. I have had a late evening in Mondys that involved friends who work or had worked in Bombay – it was like something out of Shantaram, lost and found wallets, job envy, lots of beer (not me – they had been drinking since 2pm) and one of the party falling out of the bar, breaking his nose etc and being bundled off to private Breach Candy Hospital. One of my friends and I then went back to my ocean facing balcony room at the Taj Mahal Palace to drink gin for the rest of the night….

Britannia & Co is worth a walk up to for lunch – the Ballard Estate upon which it is sited is about ten minutes walk, plus the very European styled estate provides great photo opportunities. I think Britannia & Co must have been part of the inspiration for the Dishoom chain in London. It is very characterful, even though the Parsi food was a bit too meaty for me to have too much choice. Try a dish with barberries – these are an Iranian delicacy, but tasted a bit like cranberries to my unrefined palate.

●A swift stroll up to Kala Goda will take ten minutes, more if the traffic is really busy and you are not so brave at crossing the road. It is full of little galleries and coffee shops. I like Artisans Gallery because it focuses on folkloric and traditional craft art from India, and it’s friendly and welcoming. Filter Gallery is good for prints and tasteful modern contemporary Indian gifts. Kala Goda is also the home of Trishna, a Bombay restaurant institution, well worth an evening. Do book though.

●And, if you’re staying at the Taj, play my favourite game which involves sitting in the lobby and looking at all the Chanel bags that other guests are carrying. Believe me when I say that you don’t get the same quantity of Chanel handbags at the Four Seasons nor at the Oberoi. This is Chanel country.

●Don’t miss out on the tour of the Taj either: this is for guests only and takes place early evening. It was quite fascinating and a surprising highlight of the stay there.


The Hell journey to reach Beach Paradise

It starts off so easily and optimistically. The painful dental infection has been checked, antibiotics prescribed and the dentist is not concerned about my impending air travel.  Friends and colleagues who claim better knowledge of such things  than any dentist have been telling me that my face will all but explode through pain as the cabin pressure kicks in.

A very quick minicab journey to my very local London City Airport and I should be airborne 90 minutes after leaving the house.

And we would have been airborne had not the runway lights failed, causing a 40 minute delay on  board. It is just one  of the vicissitudes of travel.

Do I see my house as we ascend steeply, elevating, over East London? Maybe, maybe not. The view is cool though, snippets of East London and the Thames as we head towards Southend.

There is plenty of time still to make the next flight at Frankfurt, even though the distance from.the city fleet aircraft terminal is 1.5Km to reach Gate C in the other terminal. Ground services have failed to arrange my  airport  assistance and the staff at Frankfurt International Airport wearing the red “May I help you?” badges fail. Curses on you. I do not know the collective noun for a grinch, but you are all worthy of the title.

Finally, at Gate C, apologies all round and the final short part of the transfer is in a golf cart. Bag Lady expects serious pain to be exacerbated during the flight as a result of this fail.  Frankfurt International will never be a travel option again. The return trip is via Munich, a modern compact airport.

But Lufthansa on board makes up for the Frankfurt Airport nonsense. Their aircrew is always professional, courteous and very human. And all in all, quite a smooth  flight, with a movie diversion from Absolutely Fabulous, total cheese but perfect in-flight entertainment with lots of celebrity cameos, product placement  (how much did Anya Hindmarch  pay for Eddie to carry all those handbags?) and a few laugh out loud moments. 

Masala tea is a post-lunch option, a nice nod from the airline to the flight destination. 


Arrivals duty free reminds us of the destination just in case long flights and time travel have caused memory lapses..

There is then another flight to catch, then a 90km taxi journey. Then a few hours dozing on a sun lounger before sunset strawberry daiquiris 

and then more strawberry daiquiris at dinner in the next village..

Ad  then, a good night’s sleep for Christmas day on the beach

Bag Lady loses her phone……

You almost couldn’t make this one up. Bag Lady goes to buy a new bag, tries the display model out for size by decanting her bag contents into it. Buys the bag, but gets a pristine new one from the stockroom. Noticing her phone is missing, retraces steps and returns to bag shop. Display bag also now sold.

Fortunately, the bag shop takes customer details and emails the buyer. Bingo. The phone is in the bag.

So, the bag twin will get the random phone collected and the bag company will send it back to a very happy Bag Lady.

Bag Lady loves Anya Hindmarch.

By sheer coincidence, a friend’s photo collection of the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival 2016 begins with the Anya Hindmarch shop there, so I have shamelessly stolen his photo!


The perfect strawberry daiquiri at sunset or later

Roll up, roll up. This is a challenge and a half. They are all good, all three, almost neck and neck, but I have to make a decision and pick one out, probably by, er, necking a few more of them down.

Something a bit Alice about this challenge. Drink me. Drink me.

Every day, I see the man on the beach who sells trays of strawberries, walking from beach shack to beach shack, selling to the kitchen staff and to those in charge of the cocktails.  Occasionally, sun worshippers, often strawberry pink themselves, respond to the passing call of ‘strawberries, strawberries’ and buy a box to enjoy at their sunbed. Me, I wait.

I wait until sunset approaches. It wouldn’t be decent any earlier. As part of the preparation, a decision has to be taken from a sunbed, whether to stay and slink up to a table at that shack just ahead of the sunset, predicting the time when it will not be too late to get a table facing right out to sea and the sunset, or whether to go elsewhere, not knowing how many other people have decided to go there too. Tough holiday decisions, I know.

The classic sunset choice has to be Boom Shankar at Colomb Bay, a ten minute stroll along the beach from Patnem, not allowing for distractions en route. There is a bit of a stampede for the tables overlooking the bay as the sunset view is one of the better sunset views on this planet, even without a strawberry daiquiri to mark it. But timing is all and it’s a bit uncool to be the first there. But you don’t really want to be sitting further back as you just don’t get the full panorama. There’s a happy hour too – I think you get a 20 rupee saving per cocktail. Not much to write home about, but an approximately 15% discount does equate to one free in eight, far better than a Cafe Nero coffee loyalty card. Boom Shankar, the undisputed original purveyor of the strawberry daiquiri in the area. A frozen cocktail, served, overfilled, in an old fashioned glass – you have to make a quick start on it before the overfill starts to melt and soaks the tablecloth. It is difficult not to make a quick start though. Rich in crushed strawberry content, I used to think this was the best in the world, easily beating a Manhattan bar’s offering at almost ten times the cost. But it is a bit like a grown up slush puppy, a bit on the sugary side, fairly light on the white rum taste. The view is unsurpassable though, more so  if there are a couple of local kids having fun and messing about in a rowing boat on the bay when the sun sinks to its final levels.


The second strawberry daiquiri in my top three is from Tantra, a Patnem institution with welcoming staff and, in the style of Cheers, a bar where everyone knows your name. I am not sure how they know my name, but they do. Definitely like being in your local, even if the view and setting is a million miles away from any local hostelry in this city. Served in a large tulip shaped stemmed glass, packed with strawberry purée and any strawberry lumps which have got stuck in the chopping blades of the blender, there is a good acidic kick from the squeezed limes too. An underlying taste of white rum finishes this one off nicely. You sometimes get a strawberry pushed onto the rim of the glass, not quite as often though later in the evening. I think they get so busy that they forget. Occasionally, depending upon the number of tulip shaped glasses already in use, it’s served in a highball glass. The combination of the sharp limes and the rich strawberry content make this one feel like a health drink, not at all sweet as far as cocktails go, and it is rude not to have a second. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of these as a sundowner though – it tends to be a gin and tonic or a beer as it would feel a bit too Del Boy to have a cocktail there that early! No photos of a strawberry daiquiri here though as it’s always a later evening drink, just a sunset view of the local lifeguard hard at work and a boat watching the sunset.

396575_316252901752020_1446787145_n[1] From phone 750

For beauty and looks, head to April 20. A fine strawberry daiquiri, the most expensive of the trio, served in a classic cocktail glass, always with a large whole strawberry set into the rim of the glass. Elegance in a glass.  This is one to contemplate before sipping. No rustic lumps of strawberry left behind in the purée, a good balance of flavours and a high rum content too. Not overly sweet, but missing the contrast of the sharpness of the limes marks it down just a notch from Tantra’s offering. Again, it is difficult not to have a second. This one feels wholly appropriate at sunset, an upmarket restaurant feel rather than a beach shack, looking out across the beach, maybe an on the hoof football kick about taking place, a standoff of local dogs seeing who can bark the loudest or a show-off doing some beach yoga poses or a bit of juggling. And, occasionally, a sunset to die for, not perhaps quite as breath taking scenery as that from Boom Shankar.


So, there are winners all round. Boom Shankar for the setting, Tantra for the taste, and April 20 for the presentation and style. And they do all taste fabulous in their different ways.

I may think about tasting some others next visit, purely in the interests of my research.

Bagging a tiger (Or, with apologies to Michael Rosen, We’re Going On A Tiger Hunt)

Well, no one expected it to be easy. These big cats are just about as rare as hens’ teeth, even if recently published statistics show a very slight increase in their numbers throughout India.

It is probably not the best time of year for tiger spotting, nor quite the best place either, and the thought of a week or two’s sunshine and lazing on a Goan beach helps push the tiger mission towards the recesses of my mind. I can imagine one of those tigers rather enjoying a bit of sun basking too, perhaps not on my beach though. But the time comes to leave the beach and head out to the boonies and to keep our eyes pealed.

Driving through the Western Ghats is exciting, a mix of countryside and forest, a lot of anticipation. I am ready to shoot at any point – you don’t want to miss the opportunity. Our driver says that there are big cats in these forests, that people he knows (or knows of, more likely) have seen them. I think we are getting a tall tale. If they are inside the forest today, they are staying there firmly and avoiding straying onto the roadside. The only wildlife that we see from the car is a rabbit and I am not going to bother shooting it. To be fair, there are a few troops of monkeys along the roadside, probably trying to look cute in the hope of being thrown a few treat bananas from a passing vehicle. Otherwise we see only domesticated animals, goats, dogs, and oxen. Where are those tigers? I know they are there. Come on, just pop your head through and make yourself known so I can shoot you quickly. We give up. Well, at least until tomorrow.

Tomorrow becomes today and we are all over Hampi, driving to every corner of the temple complex, shooting away, but keeping a serious lookout for one of these big cats. Surely there must be one here? We spend all day driving and looking and, finally, in a split second, approaching sunset, I see one, not even in hiding. In the car park no less. I get a great shot.


Having come to India to see a tiger, it seems unlikely that there will be more. But, never one to give up too easily, we watch the road on the way back  like hawks. Nothing gets past us. But no big cats. After about 4 hours, we decide to stop for a drink and, blow me down, if the little roadside café doesn’t have exactly what we had been looking for, right by the counter, guarding the Fanta. Lean and mean, staring right at me. This really is too good to be true. Another shot.


And so, it is off to Bombay, two tigers bagged in the space of a few days. This is really a high water mark and I do not expect any more sightings, especially in the city. An early afternoon taxi safari from The Taj Mahal Palace to The Four Seasons is a bit of adventure, jolting along in stop start traffic. Unexpectedly, a big cat. There, right in the city, looking out from the parcel shelf of a car, the driver quite possibly unaware of its presence and any danger posed. A tiger in a traffic jam. I manage to shoot it from the backseat of my safari vehicle. .


Exhausted and overcome by the sight of three big cats, three more than I was really expecting if truth be told, I know that there can be no more. I decide to shoot other things with the Nikon instead. I think that city bus destination signs will make for an interesting set of photos, but cannot get out there and shoot these (twisted ankle, feels like it has been caught in a gin trap, turns out to be fractured) but I do get a totally unexpected bonus sighting, a tiger on the windscreen of a school van, parked just outside the hotel. A final shot.


And then, gin and tonic in hand, the fascinating news that the tiger population in India is really on the increase, up about 30% in the last three years. Way to go. But possibly why I have seen quite so many.


Patnem Beach Road, Goa, a place where little happens

Patnem Beach Road is somewhere where nothing really happens, the narrow road leading between the main road, itself a small road, and the steps down to the beach. A place for tuk tuks to wait for people heading off to another beach or into nearby Chaudhi for an ATM or a pharmacy.  But, the more you walk up and down this little road, the more you notice and the more that does actually seem to happen in a very small understated way. 

Early morning, it’s more or less all closed, just an optimistic tuk tuk driver or two hoping that you want a tuk tuk in the opposite direction to which you are walking. Sleeping dogs. There are always sleeping dogs. The little shops which have evolved along much of the road are still closed, covered up in heavy duty plastic sheeting, often bright blue, the occasional flower garland or lime and chilli combo hanging from a rusty nail, vibrant in the early morning sunshine and against the blue plasticised background. The shopkeepers will remove the plastic later, also then beginning their almost constant task of sprinkling water on the road in front of their establishments to reduce the sand and dust. One or two of the posher shops have hardboard doors instead of plastic sheeting or even some windows.

Sometimes, the laundry/tailor opens fairly early and the tailor always has time to look up from his sewing machine outside and say good morning to any passers by. His wife, the launderer, decorates the threshold each morning with a ringoli, first of all chalking an outline of the pattern for that day, then neatly dropping differently coloured sands into the correct area to form a beautifully complex patterned graphic on the ground, all from sand and swept away at the end of each day. She is such an artist, so modest about her creations too. I always intend to make a photo collage from ringolis across the years when  I get home, but just never seem to get around to it. 

And this year, for the first time, a fruit shop too. Two actually. One is more of a stall than a shop, but its entrepreneurial owner offers a sideline in laundry.  The shop further along the road makes its entrepreneurial statement with a juice extractor to supply ready whizzed concoctions to those who have become too beach lazy to peel their own fruit or to eat it whole. 

On New Year’s Day morning, I noticed one of the traders burning a lamp just opposite his shop, part of a religious ritual and not one that I had come across previously. He was quite happy for it to be photographed. 

And the bigger tailoring shop closer to the beach steps has a quite scary display collection of dummies dressed in examples of the available tailoring. Some of the clothing would not look out of place as stage costumes in a retro 1970s pop opera, pure Jesus Christ Superstar or Hair! Still, there must be a market.

And some evil road potholes, a fall into one of which caused me to fracture my ankle. Boo hoo. 

But, otherwise, nothing really happens here, nothing much at all. 

The road to Hampi

We begin in pitch black at 4am or 5am. The first shock in the land of no-time-for-health-and-safety is seeing a parade of people walking along the small back lanes just beyond Patnem, Goa, carrying torches and sticks. Apparently, people carry these when walking to work very early in the morning, but do not at other times use a torch in the dark. The stick, I was told, is to beat off attacking dogs.
Onto the highway, not exactly the biggest road in the world but the biggest road in the far south of Goa, soon crossing the border into the neighbouring state of Karnataka. The smell of salt hits us, quite refreshing and astringent, as we reach Karwar Port, still pitch black and quite nippy. I mistakenly think that the air conditioning is on, but the driver’s open window is providing the chill air. Uphill, the ghats appearing in silhouette as the black sky lightens slightly, becoming pink, then apricot, then lemon, with ethereal mists and dramatic ghat formations appearing almost from out of nowhere. We say it looks like New Zealand, not that either of us has been there. Daylight breaks gently as we hit flat land again, pure countryside that feels much more like India than Goa does. Overladen trucks, buses, scooters, bicycles, ox carts, wildly decorated tractors pulling trailers packed with people. Monkeys, pigs, dogs, rabbits, goats, bison and oxen. Endless forest and amazing trees lining the road. Churches, temples and mosques. Morning roadside ablutions, mainly people standing outside their very small village houses brushing their teeth, well away from any obvious water source.
Approaching Hubli, where the driver says we’ll stop for breakfast. Not a mammoth city by Indian standards, it feels huge compared to the rural areas we have just driven through and even boasts a couple of traffic roundabouts in the centre. Tuk tuks everywhere, railway and bus stations, a small airport, quite the metropolis in the middle of nowhere. There is even a traffic jam approaching the railway level crossing in town. We stop adjacent to a bus and all the passengers are waving to us, grinning away. A few optimistic hitchhikers try their luck at thumbing a lift too.
We never do stop for breakfast there, something about the particular restaurant being closed. Back in open country, quite different as the landscape changes, we drive past sugar cane fields, cotton fields, chillie fields and picked red chillies being sun dried, sunflowers past their sunny yellow best. Vast endless plains. We decide that this landscape is just like the southern states of the USA, not that we have been there either. As we continue through small villages, we see kids in smart school uniforms waiting for school buses or school tuk tuks, ox carts, dried up rivers, fields full of laundry drying flat on the ground. We try, unsuccessfully, to count the number of adults crammed into a tuk tuk – some in the front with the driver, at least three inside and two more sticking out of the back. And, then, in a small town called Gadag, a huge towering modern Buddha statue, quite incongruous with the area.
Against the rural landscape, scarecrows in saris, pairs of oxen, horns painted pink or blue, wearing ploughing yokes and being driven along the road, suddenly the surreal sight of modernity in the form of turbine wind farms everywhere, harnessing energy from the air. Hundreds and hundreds of them.
Then back to rural village landscapes again. Stopping in a small town, we buy some coconuts for about 20 rupees each, goat herds being driven along the main road as we drink coconut water, our lives seeming about a million miles away from the people of this small town, almost as if from different planets, even though we are standing physically only feet away.
And, slowly, it becomes less rural until we hit a proper town and stop to buy fruit from a roadside fruit shop. Industrial quantities of bananas and of oranges for a ridiculously cheap price. Breakfast, eventually.
And then a wide toll road, taking us the final distance towards the cultural excesses of Hampi. About 7.5 hours of fascinating road journey before we think about the treasures still in store.








A taxi or two in Bombay (or Mumbai if you must), January 2015

Well, another visit to Bombay is over and done with for the next year. The taxi drivers are quite something, creating an impression whether good or bad. 

A proposed overnight trip on arrival morphed into just a few hours (thanks to an 18 hour flight delay) at the hotel to save spending quite as long waiting at the airport. Went with someone I had met on the flight who had missed his onward connection the previous day so had booked a replacement domestic flight about the same time as mine. 

A prepaid taxi from outside the international arrivals hall, fairly unmemorable, probably more down to tiredness on my part than the journey or the driving. Used the Sealink for 55 rupees, noticed the early morning power walkers along Worli sea face, then spent a few hours at the Four Seasons Hotel, leaving bags in room, sitting by the pool still in travelling clothes, followed by breakfast. 

The hotel called us a meter taxi back to the airport. I think it cost about 340 rupees back to the domestic airport plus the Sealink toll charge. The driver was quite a character and asked if we had heard of The Guardian newspaper, pulling from behind the sun visor a copy of an article from the Guardian Online edition from November 2014 in which he had been interviewed about his life as a Bombay cabby. He spoke quite good English, was a happy chatty soul who was doing his best to offer us trips to all the sights in Bombay notwithstanding we were on our way to catch flights elsewhere. I read the article later and it seemed that he was quite probably the chap in the article, even if he looked older in real life than the 28 years he was said to be in the article. The Guardian is quite famous for copy mistakes! 

Then, 2 weeks later, I was back in Bombay at the domestic airport. The prepaid counter just inside the arrivals hall had a paper bag stuck on the wall with the manuscript legend ‘Lady taxi drivers available’. I have previously used Viira Cabs, a fleet of female drivers, but had got no reply to an email request a few weeks earlier. I asked whether I could book a lady driver to be told that they had not bothered to turn up that day! I paid my money for the taxi to Worli and asked whether there was a seatbelt: cue loads of laughter from the drivers and other hangers on out at the rank. I decided to sit in the front as there was a working passenger seatbelt there. Put my wheelie bag on the back seat. Just as we were about to leave, someone dressed in a security guard uniform who I assumed was security on the taxi rank jumped into the back seat, either hugging or guarding my suitcase throughout. He took off his uniform shirt during the journey so I was not sure whether he had quit life as a taxi rank security operative or whether he just blags a cab home at the end of each of his shifts and changes into mufti en route.

Another taxi soon after arrival to Colaba Causeway. An interesting journey as the traffic was quite busy as everyone was probably heading off to work. Got out at the petrol station just beyond Theobroma Patisserie for the grand sum of 148 rupees on the meter.

After shopping, I was quite impressed to find a choice of meter taxis close to the Taj Hotel, just by Bombay Electric. Perhaps I just look less like a green behind the ears tourist in Bombay than on previous trips. Last year, we were just unable to get a meter taxi in this area. Of course, the driver could not find the hotel  as we approached Worli and I noticed that we had shot right past it and were heading towards the Sealink. I think the situation was remedied by what seemed like a highly illegal u-turn. About 165 rupees on the meter, probably because of the slightly extended route back.

And an evening trip to the Phoenix High Street Mall, the meter cab called by the hotel. Not far at all. 21 rupees on the meter. Possibly the cheapest taxi journey in the city. I upped the fare myself as I was impressed that he had take such a short journey on a meter. No such luck on the way back – the cowboys outside all wanted 200 rupees back to my hotel. I nipped back through the mall and picked up a cab in front of the Palladium Hotel (in fact, their lovely doorman even called it for me), no meter but the doorman agreed 50 rupees with the driver.

And the journey back to the airport was very jolly indeed. The doormen at my hotel put my bags inside the car, showed me that the meter was switched on and started at zero. A youngish driver, said he was Bombay born, married one year, baby due in February, showed me a picture of his wife on his smartphone, said he loved her, phoning her and saying over and over again ‘I love you’,  saying in a mix of English and Hindi that he was driving the madam to the airport and that she was going to London. He asked me if he could get a job as a driver in London. He also said he was going to work in Dubai in the construction industry. When we arrived at the BA drop off area at the international airport, I noticed the meter had been switched off. He played dumb and said it was not working and must have broken on the way. I asked how much and he said I should pay whatever I wanted. I think that the previous meter journey from The Four Seasons to the domestic airport had been about 340-ish rupees on the meter so I said I would pay 350 plus 50 tip. I had a 500 rupee note. He had no change. I said I would get change and a family on their way back to Switzerland kindly changed the 500 rupee note and Mr Switch Off The Meter looked a bit miffed that I had actually managed to get some change! I am not sure who the winner was overall in this one – I expect I got fleeced rather than the other way around. 

Now back in the land of the working taxi meter, the land of the seat belts, the land of the cold .