Two days left to see a bit more of Mumbai

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March 4th 2019
Published: March 11th 2019
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Last year we had just one full day in Mumbai so did the standard tourist trip down to the Gateway to India, Crawford Market and the railway station taking in Marine Drive and Bandra Worli Sealink.

This year we have planned two days to allow us to see a bit further into this massive city.

First on the list was Dhobi Ghat, the major laundry for the city. This is where the main hotels send their washing as it has the best reputation. We asked the hotel for a taxi to take us there and got a ridiculous quote of 6000 rupees so instead asked for an outside taxi. That one cost 600 rupees (£6).

With difficulty we persuaded the taxi driver that we only wanted to be taken there and dropped off. The taxis over here do try very hard to take us on a round trip but this time we won.

We got out, paid him and then we walked.

The laundry is amazing but we did only see it from above, all the whites separated from the coloureds and blowing in the sun, no wind round here. This is a man’s job we were informed as too heavy work for women. We were told we couldn’t go into the actual streets of the laundry so didn’t try but not sure if that was the case or not.

From there we wandered the streets just taking in the scenes.

We were also trying rather hard to find an ATM as we had very little cash. We actually only had enough to get us back to the hotel by the time we had finished walking, 900 rupees leaving 100 for a tip. That was it.

We didn’t realise finding money would be a problem, if we had we would have sorted it before leaving the hotel. First ATM had a 20 long queue. 2nd a very slow 10 long queue and when we got to the front it refused to serve us, wrong sort of bank and the bank said NO. Always a bit worrying especially when you know just how little cash you have in your wallet. Found another couple which were closed and one which had run out of cash. The last try also refused to hand over any money and we had to give up.

We discovered belatedly that it was a public holiday Maha Shivaratri which explained perhaps why the machines were so busy / empty.

We did have a really interesting walk while searching for a working ATM. A walk frequently interspersed with a check on my phone’s map to see if we were heading in the right direction. This was central Mumbai and the streets were filled with an astonishing mix of activities. Something to look at in every direction as we picked our way along the pavements, where we could get along them and otherwise in the road, avoiding the debris and unsavoury things in our way.

When rubbish bins are not provided then rubbish ends up where it lands and quite a lot had landed.

All very colourful, noisy, frequently smelly but always interesting. Did wonder if the air we were breathing in places could be a risk to health but didn’t hold my breath.

At last we were forced to give up on the ATM and decided to head back to the hotel while the bit of money we had was still enough to get us there. Back at the hotel we collected our Sterling from the room safe and went down to reception to try to change it. That is when someone pointed out the ATM standing off to one side in a part of reception we hadn’t been before.

Problem solved and now solvent again we headed back out.

This time we found a taxi based in the hotel grounds but a standard one, not an official hotel taxi and he took us to Juhu beach, about 4 miles due West of the hotel.

An absolutely amazing place. At the back of the beach an assortment of food booths serving all sorts of interesting things though we didn’t really fancy trying any of them.

The beach itself was full. Full of people. Mainly standing as the sand was mainly quite wet, the tide must come up a long way. Also the sand cannot be described as clean, it was streaked with much darker sand in many places and I was forced to conclude the darker bits were pretty mucky.

I went to the water’s edge and as one does, stepped into the water to paddle and quickly withdrew when I saw the colour of the water. Not the crystal clear waters of further down the coast in Goa by any means.

The lasting memory of that beach is of so many people just having an absolutely great time, enjoying themselves. There were ladies in the water in bright coloured saris, queuing up for speed boat trips round the bay. Men selling candy floss, cups of chai. Family groups taking photos of each other and themselves and occasionally ones with us on too, never with cameras like mine, but always with their mobile phones. It seems that though many people are very poor, a mobile phone is a must have possession.

A notable thing missing from this sea of happy people was any alcohol. Everyone seemed just happily drunk on the enjoyment of the moment. Brilliant and so glad we went.

I called the taxi driver on his mobile and he picked us up and took us back to the hotel. We arranged with him to pick us up at 9.30 am next day for a trip to the Elephanta Caves.

On the way back to the hotel we allowed the taxi driver to take us to the obligatory tourist shop. This allows him to earn some commission and have to say it was probably the best such shop we have visited so we weren't unhappy. Bought some stars for granddaughter Izzy as she is one.

Back at the hotel nicely in time for me to have a swim in the pool before dinner in the Indian restaurant. No thought of going outside the hotel to find dinner. There are plenty of excellent eateries to choose from staying in and the food is lovely.

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