Rough Guide gets in spectacularly wrong - Mumbai


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February 5th 2012
Published: February 5th 2012
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After a long, hot and arduous 11 hour drive we arrived in Mumbai. We stopped enroute at the only fully fledged western style motorway service station we would stop at in all India. Normally none of us or anyone in their right mind would be excited about stopping at a motorway service station, however ub this instance the Indian services gave the group their first opportunity (and last for a long time after Mumbai) to eat McDonalds. Predictably (myself included) we all ate at the golden arches, some going back for seconds. I ate a fiery chicken burger, fries and coke. I was disappointed, although not surprised, to see that beef wasn’t served here, strictly chicken and paneer only. My meal was like all McDonalds meals, shit. However, I did enjoy the build up throughout the day of feverish anticipation and excitement at eating in a well known and for some reason much loved western establishment, despite knowing the end result would be disappointing. Much like a serial dater, the thrill was in the chase rather than the end result.

The Rough Guide describes Mumbai (population 16 million) as a “rite of passage to be survived rather than savoured” and Huxley described Mumbai city as the “worst of either hemisphere”, I can only assume they visited a different city altogether as my impression (and that of the group) was that Mumbai is a fantastic, beautiful and very green city. True the city is huge but it also has beautiful green trees lining most streets, fantastic colonial architecture and a nice stretch of beach in the city centre. Of particular note is the stunning Gothic style, British built Victoria Terminus train station which I sadly only saw from the outside and didn’t get any photos. I was enjoying my time in Mumbai so much that I decided I would stay an extra night and catch up with the group by flying down to Goa. Sadly I rather misspent my time in Mumbai after two heavy nights on the town resulted in crippling hangovers wherby I saw more of my hotel walls than the city. I did however find time to buy a nice new net book and also take part in a Bollywood dance class which was ridiculous but great fun. Ask me when I get home and I’ll show you my Bollywood moves, I’m sure you will be impressed.

An optional tour in Mumbai was the Dheeravi slum tour. Dheeravi is the slum where the excellent Slumdog Millionaire was based. I decided against the slum tour as I was concerned the tour would be voyeuristic and of little benefit to those in the slum. After reading a friends (Ola) dissertation on slum tourism in the Kibero slums, Nairobi I wasn’t convinced that slum tourism was particularly ethical. However those who went on the tour came back with very positive reviews of the tour company, the experience and the benefit to the locals, which in turn made me regret not visiting.

After surprisingly minimal spending in surprisingly cheap Rajasthan, Mumbai turned out to be a very expensive few days what with the purchase of my net book, extra nights accommodation, airport taxi’s and flight to Goa. We also ate out on one evening by accident at Indigo one of Mumbai’s best (and most expensive) restaurants. I say accidentally as we had been planning to visit a restaurant with the same name but considerably cheaper prices. It was however a very nice accident in the end as the food was superb, I ate a wonderfully rich and creamy lobster bisque, a fancy beef steak (yes I did say beef!), oxtail and pumpkin main and a gooey chocolate lovely thing for desert, we also enjoyed an endless supply of bread and roles as well as those free little mini snacks you get in between dishes (you know you’re in a posh restaurant when they give you free food!). The meal cost about 25 GBP, expensive by local standards but cheap by western standards considering the quality which I would say (given my expert opinion) was not far off Michelin Standard. Leaving Mumbai I took a taxi to the airport, I’m sure I overpaid but at the equivalent of 5 GBP for about a one hour journey I didn’t feel too hard done by.

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