Hello India

February 8, 2008 - Bombay, India

Dave:
It was very nice of Namita's parents to pick us up at the Mumbai (Bombay) airport, especially considering that our flight from Ethiopia landed at 4:45am. It was surprisingly cool when we got off the plane. Some of the airport employees were wearing toques - this is India? The country was going through an unusual cold spell. The taxi drivers were wearing scarves around their heads. My Grandma Olga would call them 'babouchka' (total guess on the spelling). It didn't look all that masculaine but I guess it was providing them some warmth. My hotel check-in time wasn't until later that morning so we all had a short snooze at the apartment that Mr. and Mrs. Parekh were renting.

We took two rickshaws from the apartment to my hotel. If I hadn't been to South East Asia I would have been much more freaked out about the driving. Still, it is rather crazy. Very few lights. Drivers don't acknowledge that lanes even exist.  Vehicles cutting each other off at every opportunity. Taxis, rickshaws and cars traveling within inches of each other so close that most cars have their passenger side mirrors permanetly folded in to not hit anything. An orchestra of horns blaring as drivers communicate to the each other. And, pedestrians everywhere crossing the streets in this chaos. Not to menion the cows that freely roam the city and the stray dogs that are everywhere.

There are 20 million people living in and around Mumbai!

I was staying in Khar, I guess technically a suburb of Mumbai, but not what you would imagine a suburb would be. It was on a very busy street with many shops and many people. Khar was about 45 minutes from the centre of the city by taxi (rickshaws aren't allowed downtown). Namita's parent's place was North of me. I joked with her saying that I was in Thornhill and she was in Richmond Hill but really it was much more dense and congested than most city cores.

It was a rather slow start to the next day. We had traveled the night before so I slept in to almost 10 o'clock (didn't sleep well as I was ravaged by mosquitos - bathroom window doesn't close). Namita had lunch at her relatives while I wondered the street for a couple of hours. The area I was staying in didn't get many tourists so I was constantly approached by vendors. One shoe shiner followed me for a block and a half asking me repeatedly if I wanted my shoes done - I was wearing running shoes!

Namita and I headed to an area on the way to the centre of the city to see Banganga Tank which are steps leading to water where people pray and wash. The area is surrounded by temples. As we were sitting on the steps a young guy, Amish, came up to us to chat. He was very friendly. It might have been a bit of a soft sell - he has about 5 jobs, one of them being a travel agent/tour guide - but it wasn't bad. Namita pointed out to him that I was not vegetarian. He put his arm around me and proceeded to give me the hardest sell about not eating meat that I ever experienced! I was saved by the sudden sound of some nearby drumming.  We followed it to find a wedding procession. It was cool to watch as it is a very colourful and celebratory event. It is wedding season in India and this is the first of many that I would see.

From there we headed downtown to an area called Coloba. I was investigating places to stay for when I returned to Mumbai after my tour ended. The city was very busy. Most hotels couldn't even show me a room because they were all occupied. It also wasn't as cheap as I thought it would be. One place we checked out, which was Lonely Planet's 'best pick' was rather scary. Namita said she wouldn't stay there, so I passed. We grabbed dinner before heading out of the core.

The next day I took a city tour with Soraya's father (friend of Namita's from Windsor and Toronto). We didn't know this before it started but the tour seemed to be targeted at people from India but outside of Mumbai. The sites weren't all that interesting but it was a good way to see a lot of the city. That night the five of us went to a Indo-Chinese restaurant (our second time being there, in fact). It was a nice place. The food was very good. The service was great, and it was very reasonable.

I had been in India for three days. Most of my meals had been vegetarian (which to my surprise I very much enjoyed) and I hadn't had one drink. Was this possibly a new Dave Kearns? Who was I kidding. The very next day in Delhi I had butter chicken and a large Kingfisher lager.

I said bye to Namita and her parents that night as I was leaving for Delhi the next morning. Namita was worried that I was now on my own and I needed to get to the airport on time.  Heeding her warning I gave myself more time than I normally would - ended up needing all of it. When checking out of the hotel, the manager informed me that they do not take credit cards (I shouldn't have been too surprised by this but yet again it caught me off guard - slower learner). The manager pointed me to the closest international bank. The ATM was down. Went to the next ATM, it also didn't work. At this point I started to get concerned. What do I do if I can't pay my hotel bill and I miss my plane. I continued to walk the main road. The next bank, an unlikely candidate, actually worked for me. Another lesson in carrying more cash. The rickshaw ride to the domestic airport which was suppose to take 15 minutes was more like 45 minutes due to traffic. I made the flight but it was a little tight.

(Better photos of Mumbai to come in future entries)


Pictures

Wedding in Banganga
Namita and Amish
Woman at Banganga Tank
Cricket on Banganga Tank Steps
 
 

2 Comments

Kristen:
March 7, 2008
Well at least you gave vegetarianism a try! I can't see you giving up a good steak for tofu or a nice grilled eggplant!
March 8, 2008
Dave,

I think that you probably got hassled LESS because you were in a place without tourists, rather then more. Try going somewhere with tourists and do a comparison!

Be glad you aren't staying in a hotel in Mumbai. The place I stayed there was my worst in India (washroom came with a used condom) and also the most expensive!

Be sure to stop at a dosa stand and have a lovely Masala Dosa for breakfast. My favourite Mumbai Breakfast!

Keep having fun...
Fuzzy Travel · Next »
Create blog · Login