Mumbai, is quite possibly one of the maddest places I have been to. Twenty two million people squashed into the city all coming to seek their fortune and a better life. Mumbai lies on the West coast of India and was originally formed from seven islands which were home to communities of fishing colonies. It is a melting pot of communities and cultures and hosts a permanent traffic jam soundtrack of excessive horn honking which makes your ears ring and your head ache.
|A large baggage allowance|
It is the wealthiest city in India with the highest number of billionaires and millionaires but it is also home to some of the poorest people too.
The British called it Bombay (apparently because they misheard the way the locals said Mumbai)
There are vestiges of the old Empire still apparent here with the grand railway station which looks like a slightly wilder neo gothic version of St Pancreas station. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus formerly known as Victoria Terminus, is the headquarters of the Central Railway and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s certainly eye catching.
|Station on steroids|
The Gateway of India is another large imposing structure – a basalt arch built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai. It was used as a landing place for British governors and other prominent people. In earlier times, it would have been the first structure that visitors arriving by boat in Mumbai would have seen. It sits next to the Taj Mahal Hotel, an opulent olde worlde sort of establishment, which was the scene of a terrible terrorist attack in 2008 when 167 people were killed. Security is high at the hotel, but they are still serving afternoon tea with impeccable service and it continues to offer five star luxury to the wealthy visitor with a fabulous view out over the harbour to the Arabian sea.
|Gateway to India|
Our hour long taxi journey from the airport costs us about £6 (12 US) and we arrived at our hotel the Residency Fort and we were shoe-horned into the last available room. The air conditioning was leaking and we had to call the maintenance man (you need air con in India) and he got the hairdryer out of the wardrobe and proceeded to dry things up that way. The TV didn’t work at all and we never actually got that fixed, but eventually we settled down after another astonishingly cheap and wildly spicy curry from a stall on the street. And some Masala tea, which goes with everything and is fits every possible occasion.
The air conditioning unit may have been a little under par but the staff at the hotel were not. They were super friendly and helpful and let us hang around in the bar for hours until it was time to go for our ridiculously late flight back to the UK. We kept on popping out then back for some more tea, some more of the automatic leg and foot massager and some more weird Indian TV featuring super hero gods.
|Perfect Pomegranate pile|
|A carrot castle|
We went to the Labaug spice market and got carried away buying huge bags of spices. I’ve got enough Turmeric and Coriander seeds to last a lifetime now.. Of course we all know exactly what to do with huge quantities of Turmeric and Coriander seeds – don’t we?
|Come try my Turmeric!|
We thought about visiting the Bollywood studios, but just getting out to where they are would have proved to be a logistical nightmare with the traffic moving at the pace of a disabled garden snail.
I cannot deny that Mumbai is an interesting place and I’m sure that there is a lot more to it than we had the chance to see in our 24 hour stopover but after the easy slow gorgeousness of Goa and Kerala it was a bit of a shock to the old system.
|Getting Chilli in Mumbai|
Our young smiley taxi driver told us about how he lived in the slums of Mumbai with his brother and was trying to make a living driving his Uncle’s taxi. He was quite charming and seemed unfeasibly at home in the crazy city environment. He took us back to the airport via the scenic route showing us the best side of Mumbai. We motored along back to the brand new space age airport terminal with a fantastic view of the lit up skyline across the bay with some banging Indian tunes on the radio. Good bye India – until we meet again!
|Happy Taxi Tour|