We arrived in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) on Wednesday after a long couple of flights (one overnight) from Kenya. Despite our tiredness, we were excited to get our first glimpse of Mumbai but we also slightly nervous about what to expect. We had heard that India would be a culture shock (for want of a better phrase) so we were a little nervous. However, we haven’t experienced any such shock yet. In fact Mumbai has turned out to be an brilliant bustling city with lots to do and the food is just amazing– much to the detriment of my waistline…
The 1st thing I noticed about Mumbai is that is it massive. 22 million people live here and as we were coming from the airport, it felt like a never ending city. The British influence is very noticeable in parts and despite the negative socio- economic effects of their reign, they did leave some spectacular old buildings and a well structured transport system. We were staying in the Fort area located in South Mumbai which is lovely and has lots of those colonial buildings I mentioned. This area leads into Colaba and down to the Gateway of India.
This area is noticeably richer area but there is some terrible poverty in Mumbai. They have one of the biggest slums in Asia –Dharvari Slum. You can get tours of the it but we didn’t want to. We have very mixed feelings regarding this type of ‘Slum Tourism’. The tour group claims If we had known a local from the slum area, we would have gone as its meant to be a city in itself.
While we didn’t get a tour of the slum areas, we did get a tour of Mumbai by one of the local taxi drivers yesterday and it was great. As we are only here for a few days, we knew we wouldn’t get to see everything without a tour guide. He was very good and drove us around both north and south Mumbai stopping at various points of interest etc.
It was really interesting especially the Dhobi Ghat. It’s a famous large area where laundry is done on mass production, mostly outside in big basin type areas but since it was monsoon, they were trying to dry clothes inside. One of the workers there gave us a tour around and it was fascinating to see. While the washing was done all by hand in the past, they do have some industrialised machines now to help with the tons of laundry. Its clearly extremely tough work though and some of the workers seemed far too old to be at it.
Aside from the sights the town, the other main thing that stands out are the weather and the food. It’s the end of monsoon season here so there is still lots of rain. Not just normal Irish style rain but serious downpours that mixed with the heat can hard enough to adjust to. It did mean that we needing to shop for an umbrella so I grabbed this shopping opportunity and got myself a love polka dot one. I also bought some new traditional Indian clothes seeing as I was in the shopping mood (Ger reluctantly yet obediently handed over the credit card .
The food was probably what we were most excited about coming to India and we were not disappointed. It is amazing, plentiful and cheap. We sampled some of the famous butter garlic crab in a nearby popular seafood restaurant, it was so good. Vegetarian food is very popular here so we went to a vegetarian restaurant and ordered a Thali. We thought translated this meant a dish with (a bit of everything). It was a bit of everything but it actually meant ‘all you can eat which explained why they kept coming with more and more until we were fit to burst. It was delicious. Every little dish was just packed with flavours, spices, wonderful smells. We didn’t really speak for about an hour and a half, we just ate… We also visited the famous bakery Theobroma for a feast of brownies, sandwiches and cakes. Ger’s eyes lit up when we walked over to the large display of brownies. I’m surprised I got him out of there at all!!! Its strange but they seem to very fond of their chocolate brownies here. I’m not complaining of course, I am always happy to sample the local favourites, but I just wondered why brownies?
We loved eating our way through Mumbai and exploring the city even if crossing the roads is a bit of a traumatic experience. Cars zoom past beeping and beeping and its like been in that old computer ‘Frogger’ trying to cross. It reminds me of Ho Chi Ming City in Vietnam except worse. I’m not sure I will ever get use to it. Luckily taxis are super cheap!
We couldn’t buy much here in the shops but it’s amazing place for fabrics/rugs/carpets etc if you are looking for them. They have a wonderful pashmena scarves for really reasonable prices, I find it so hard to walk past these shops! There are also the endless cheaper stalls which sell everything you can ask for. Absolutely everything!!! As you walk beside these stalls, it best not to browse unless you intend to buy as if you glance at all, you wont be left alone. Haggling is a must though !!! I am still adjusting to that although am getting better.
Our next stop is Trivandrum where I begin my yoga teacher training course for 1 month while the hubbie explores a bit of Kerala. I wont pretend I’m not nervous about this as I’m stepping way outside my comfort zone undertaking this course but hopefully it will be worth it. At the very least, it might help me lose those few pounds I gained as a result of Mumbai.
Dodging Mosquito Status: None so far that I’ve seen. They mustn’t like rain thankfully. I am told that they are about though so I’ll wait and see. The monsoon ends in September so I reckon they will be back in force!!!