We arrived into Mumbai just before 10pm, only half an hour later than scheduled. Quite an achievement by Indian rail! As we walked to our hostel it was clear to see, even though it was dark and we couldn’t see much, that Mumbai was different to any Indian city we had experienced so far. Comparable only to what we had briefly seen in Kolkata. The streets were wider, cleaner and actually paved, it was quieter and the buildings weren’t ready to fall down. It didn’t have the Indian feel that we’d grown used to from our time in the north.
Day one in Mumbai was spent seeing the main attractions, the Taj Mahal Palace and the Gateway to India. We stumbled across the Taj not even realizing we had found it and after having a good walk round the outside we decided to explore inside making our way through the hefty security put in place after the terrorist attacks there. It certainly lived up to 5 star standards! As well as prices judging by the cost of a cuppa. We have this routine for when we arrive at a place where we haven’t prebooked our accommodation, we’ll go into guesthouses and ask “do you have any rooms? How much? Can we see a room?” I suggested we try this routine here just so we can see the bedrooms but we weren’t brave enough to address the smartly clad receptionists in our sweaty traveler gear. Maybe next time! The gateway which is just opposite the Taj was just as impressive once you got past the ocean of Indian tourists.
We had both noticed when walking around that Mumbai appeared and felt like India’s London. The architecture, the fancy cars, the streetscape, the restaurants etc. This was teamed with the fact that our daily budget was considerably higher here than other Indian destinations. This may have been down to the choice of places to eat as the choice was much more varied and up market so we treated ourselves once or twice.
Bringing things back down to the Indian way of life we decided to go to the Dharavi slum on our second day in Mumbai, Asia’s largest. We were told not to take photos there so you’ll have to paint your own picture of the things we saw. As with any place we visit we have a preconception of what we’ll be faced with when we arrive. I was expecting tin shelters for miles surrounded by garbage with people everywhere, what was actually there wasn’t too dissimilar to this only the tin shelters were brick buildings or blocks of flats and there were far less people than in the cities. We had a walk round, going In the tiny passages between buildings seeing all the factory’s where people would sew embroidery onto jeans or sort through a huge selection of beads etc. Emerging from the passages we came to an opening between blocks of flats where the floor was a dumping ground for all the local waste it seemed. Amongst this were a group of young boys playing cricket, we stood watching them till they handed Chris oil opdit pi k bat. He had a few gos and then they talked about English cricketers. This was all completely lost on me but it was nice to observe anyway. In summary we weren’t at all surprised by the Dharavi slum as we found it similar to the cities in the north. Things that may have once been a shock to our system were no longer as we’ve become desensitized to India. The people, especially so the children, were so friendly and lovely to talk to as we walked round.
On leaving Dharavi we found a high rise building to go up as we wanted a view over the slum. The building we picked hadn’t been completed with the 18th floor having no windows and exposed concrete frame but this made a good setting to enjoy panoramic views of Mumbai. Dharavi wasn’t clear to see which was disappointing but what there was to see made up for this.
Last day in Mumbai, the dreaded eye infection spread so I was now blessed with two gammy eyes one of which had swollen shut. We made a quick stop at the hospital where I was told I now had to put drops in both eyes every two hours, something that delighted Chris as well as me as he has to put them in for me! Before our 11pm train to Goa we decided to wander the selection of art galleries and museums that are on offer in the city. Declining all bar one because of high entrance fees. The one we did see, that was free, gave us more than our fix of paintings and photography so we didn’t feel we missed out on much by not seeing the pricey ones. Finding a nice cafe to relax in for a few hours, although I wouldn’t recommend the food as it made me sick on our night train, we spent a few hours here before heading to the station. Now we head to Goa for our first taste of the beach since we’ve started traveling. We’re both looking forward to some relaxation and a different side of India yet again.