On Thursday we entered Mumbai, a vibrant, buzzing city of India to stay with our friend Katya and her parents. Mumbai can only be compared to a colony of worker bees gathering honey – except with more beeping from the seemly constant flow of traffic no matter where you are in the city, and at all times of the day or night!
We stayed in West Bandra, which is known as the Bollywood end of town, at the north of the city where everything is accessible either using a taxi, or a much more exciting (also described as terrifying) Rickshaw. The traffic here is crazy, it seems that everything goes and any kind of indication to other traffic or pedestrians is made by honking the horn. Crossing the road requires a lot of nerve, as the traffic is endless you really just need to pick a vehicle, make eye contact with the driver and cross in front of them with your hand raised as if to push them away. In the UK this would be known as being suicidal, whilst in Mumbia it just means you want to go somewhere.
Our first day was spent getting to know Katya’s family, eating some very authentic and tasty home-cooked Indian food and pottering around our new surroundings. Katya took us to visit the gateway of India, an arch on the south end of the city beside the main harbour, originally designed to guide sailors into the dock but now mainly a tourist attraction given the beauty of the structure.
Paddy got Delhi Belly (Mumbai belly?) on the second day, and was bed-ridden for the duration. At most opportunities people have been quick to remind us not to drink the water (unless treated) or open our mouths in the shower, but somehow he caught a bug anyway. After recovering the next day, we spent the time looking around the local markets and exploring more of the city.
Most of Mumbai looks quite similar from the outset. One could be forgiven as describing streets as a little dirty, or the store-fronts as a little shabby – but more often than not the most insignificant of doors or entrances results in entry to a surprisingly cosmopolitan bar, restaurant or quirky little shop. We had lots of fun discovering places like the bakery shop called Candies, our local chillout place ‘The bagel shop’ (great bagels as the name would suggest), eating a wide selection of indian style vegetarian ‘tasters’ in a shopping mall, or just taking in the culture around us.
We spent a day travelling to Elephanta Island, which involved a 1.5 hour boat journey to reach an Island filled with caves dating back to the 5th Century that depict Gupta stories and art. The island itself is as much of a marvel with monkeys taking every opportunity to steal unsuspecting tourists water, or whatever else they can pinch from bags. We left the Island in the late afternoon and were treated to a lovely sunset over Mumbai’s hazy city skyline.
Our final day was Wednesday, where we bid goodbye to Katyas family to fly to Goa, a tranquil region filled with long beaches, sunny cocktails and it seems a million miles away from the busy hustle of the streets of Bombay.
Katya is meeting us here for the weekend and we have some trips planned, but that is for another post