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Published: August 27th 2013
After our nice relaxing time in Goa, we were bracing ourselves for the worst as our next stop was one of the most populated cities on the planet…Mumbai.
Before arriving in India, we made a vow not to travel to any major cities if it was possible, and so far we had done quite well on this front. Unfortunately though, Mumbai is a gateway to so many places in India that it was pretty much unavoidable, and so we boarded the train and headed north.
We decided to treat ourselves on this leg of the trip, and so decided to upgrade from second class sleeper to the 3AC class. This would mean that rather than having to have the windows open for air and letting the stench of the stations waft in, we would instead have AirCon which we assumed would definitely be worth the extra 10 quid or so….It was.
We arrived in Mumbai at around half 6 in the morning, having had a decent sleep and didn’t even stir when everyone else left the train after arriving. Getting off the train, we had to make sure that we was actually where we were supposed to be,
as having read the description of this famous CST building, this didn’t seem quite right? Where was the amazing architecture of the place, and where on earth could they have filmed the end dance seen in Slumdog millionaire…not here surely, it just looked like every other station we had been to and didn’t really seem that big? Having walked along the platform to the main concourse, we confirmed that this was the right place, as there were people everywhere and the station suddenly opened right up.
Batting off a few taxi touts on our way to the pre-paid taxi line outside the station, we were charged what seemed to be a reasonable 150R (About £1.75) to get to our hotel and so off we went with our driver. Driving out of the station threw up a healthy combination of day tripping families, businessmen and travellers mixed with waifs, beggars and people that called the station there home. Turning right out of the station and less than a minute into the journey, our driver pulled up towards the pavement and came to a stop. Nothing unusual there, perhaps he was going to buy his breakfast, chat to a friend or
top up his phone or something (all of these have happened on our travels so far). This time though, it was different. He didn’t stop to do any of these things as he got out and opened Donna’s door. Confused, Donna and I looked at each other and said ‘Aye?’
The driver gestured over to a building behind him and said the words ‘Hotel Victoria’. Now, we knew straight away that this was either some scam or that he had the wrong place. Firstly, we knew the hotel was on this road, however we were pretty sure it wasn’t this close to the station…..you could still see the station in the wing mirrors! Also, there was no way this could be our hotel as we had seen it on the internet and this was not what it looked like. Sceptical, we assured the driver this was not our hotel and asked that he take us to the correct one….Hotel Victoria. He was insistent, and pointed to the sign above the dark, dingy door which did, to be fair state that this was Hotel Victoria, and that the address was what we had written down. After getting out and checking
the address for ourselves, his logic was faultless and so we had to investigate further by going in and proving him wrong as we wouldn’t have a booking here……. We did. It was there in black and white, our internet reservation to this shockingly dark hotel, a stone’s throw from the station. We had been knocked twice in the matter of seconds – once by the cab that could easily have told us the hotel was a 2 minute walk and by the amazing website that convinced us that this hotel was top notch when in fact, it was anything but. To be honest, if I could find the person that took the pictures of the hotel as well as the person who made that website, I would shake their hands and congratulate them on a job well done. We couldn’t even be annoyed to be honest, they were geniuses!
So, after settling into our hotel (the room itself was actually sort of OK) we tried to sort out what to do with our two days here. It mainly consisted of walking around the city, taking in Mumbai’s numerous amazing buildings, in-between eating and drinking.
Walking round Mumbai
was a little surreal on the first day. We expected it to be crazy, busy, and complete chaos; however none of this was anywhere to be seen. Some parts were actually even a little too quiet, and we wondered if we had gone the wrong way or something. Then it dawned on us….it was Sunday. This had to be the reason.
Turns out, that was the reason! Monday morning brought a whole new meaning to the word busy. Stepping out of the hotel, we were met with cars, rickshaws, people, bikes, smoke, smells and heat all at once. This was more like it! We actually even enjoyed it too. We didn’t expect to, however the fact that everyone let you get on with what you were doing and left you alone just meant you could either walk in amongst it or just sit back and watch Mumbai do its thing…which is pretty amazing!
Whilst in Mumbai it would be Donna's official Birthday. We hadn't made any plans whilst here to do anything for the special day as we had booked something for a few days time, and so that would be faux Birthday that we would instead celebrate.
We did however manage to find a bar that wasn't too dark or full of men, and order ourselves a couple of cold ones to toast the occasion. At £2 for a large beer, we were paying well over the norm, however I unselfishly let that slide for the Birthday girl.....😉
One of the things we liked most about Mumbai was the great blend of old and new. There is everything there from old school market places and street vendors to uber cool cafes and bars. The architecture was also something we loved. This varied massively as you wandered around and it has everything from tenement blocks that are on the verge of collapse to beautiful neo-gothic buildings that are stunning. The buildings we loved most though as always were in the style of Art deco. Some of these old or new, were just amazing.
Apart from the buildings though, Mumbai threw up plenty more interesting things for us to ponder and witness. It seemed everywhere we looked there was something strange or unusual going on. Bicycle powered sharpening contraptions; barbers or the side of the street, and even a market stall selling vibrators are all just standard
things in the street here. It really was a feast for the eyes and ears. Sadly though, all too often you were pulled straight back to the reality of this place witnessing the extreme poverty that is so real here. I don’t think we will ever forget some of the sad things we have seen here from babies crawling through the rubbish to a guy with a severed foot covered in flies just sitting on the street seemingly waiting for the end. It really is a real rollercoaster ride coming to this place, and you certainly go through numerous emotions whilst here. We were glad we came in the end, and overall, we actually really enjoyed our time that we spent here.
Yet another surprise thrown up by this incredible place. What’s next India??!!
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