Edit Blog Post
Published: February 14th 2011
Apart from an aborted landing in Mumbai because there was a dog on the run way, the 24 hour flight from Vancouver to Mumbai was relatively uneventful. There was a bit of a decision to be made in Vancouver when we were offered a fairly substantial amount of $$$ if ONE of us sat in economy for the 14.5 hour flight to Hong Kong. However, we had saved those frequent flyer miles for a long time and it was our first business class flight, so Kelly declined and both of us got to experience the lap of luxury- although it was somewhat antisocial as the design of the sleeper pods on Cathay don’t allow you to actually sit together.. One unforeseen advantage due to business class was having our own immigration/customs line in Mumbai so we got through the formalities quickly.
After purchasing a pre paid taxi, we ventured out into the taxi zone and were immediately bombarded with offers of assistance- we have learnt the hard way that even if someone takes over and pushes your luggage buggy for a few seconds, it is probably going to cost you. So no thanks. The driver of cab 92 had no real
idea of where he was going, except to the area known as Fort but he drove like a bat out of hell, horn constantly blaring, and manoeuving into narrow gaps that had us shaking our heads. He would be an awesome driver to have on Amazing Race as he reached speeds of 100km on city streets. As chaotic as the driving may seem, it all flows seamlessly as there are not the sudden moves, and erratic speed changes that we are used too. The same happens when you want to walk across the street – watch for a gap and walk at a constant speed, trying to ignore the bumpers that are passing within inches of you!
After checking into our hotel, it was time for some exploration. We were going on a tour the next day so thought it might be prudent to find out long it would take us to walk to the meeting point in the area known as Colaba. We found the street without too much problem, but finding the office was way more challenging. A few narrow very steep flights of stairs through a rabbit warren of a building, and we eventually arrived at our
destination – a 5 x 5 ft office in what was the very appropriately named Unique Business building.
We continued down to the Gate of India, a huge arch that looks onto Mumbai harbor. Since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the security in a lot of areas is quite intense and we had to go through security gates and have our bags checked. From there it was a stroll among the crowds, including “holy men” who offered a blessing (for a price) and the kids who always wanted to say hello and shake our hands.
During the evening we mingled with the crowds at a street festival in Kala Ghoda, watching dancing displays from different Indian states. A snack of samosas and a truly delicious Jaipuri Chat brought our eating to an end for our first day – we spent a total of $10.00 in food.
The highlight of the day was a tour of Dharavi slum which covers an area of 1.75 sq km and has a population of approx 1,000,000. It was extremely interesting to learn the difference between street people, pavement dwellers and the slums – the latter being on government land and the dwellers owning their own homes. Areas that we were taken through included plastic recycling , potteries and pappadam making – where women would roll them out and then leave them to dry in the sun. They make 20 rs for a kg of pappadams (about 100). Going through some of the residential areas, involved walking through extremely narrow alleyways 2’ wide where we had o watch where we were stepping (avoiding open sewage drains) and watch our heads (for low roofs and power lines). All in all, it was surprising to find out that this slum is really just another city with all of the expected infrastructure in place – albeit it is the best slum in Mumbai in terms of services (hospitals, schools etc). Photography was not permitted in order to respect the privacy of the residents.
On the way to the slum, we made a short stop at the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat – a huge human powered laundry where migrant workers (male) from other Indian states wash clothes in 1026 open air troughs.
Evening saw us promenading to the ocean and walking along Marine drive, appreciating the coolness and relative scarcity of people as had been walking in crowds all day. Getting tired, we decided to take the train from Charni Rd station to Churchgate. All the movies we have seen about the pushing and shoving involved getting on and off these trains in about 30 secs is all true!!!! (Gretchen has road rash to prove it. During a brief but intense venture into the bazaars, my big expenditure for the day is a 32 gig Kingston memory stick for $12.90 cdn- I don’t really need it but it was too good a deal to pass up – KD)
Our last morning in Mumbai we got brave and took the local train back to the Chowpatty beach area and then a cab to Haji Ali’s Mosque. Described as “floating like a sacred image off the coast”….. and accessed by a “long cause way into the Arabian Sea” conjured up images of something quite different from reality – a long causeway flanked by yet another garbage dump, and a mosque in disrepair.
At 1:50 pm we were on the Janshatabadi Express to Aurangabad – and that will be the next adventure.
Tot: 0.195s; Tpl: 0.015s; cc: 8; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0096s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb