Thursday 14th June
Our first day in Mumbai and I already love it more than Delhi. We decided to use the train which was straightforward and we got a five day tourist pass which was cheaper than cheap. Our hotel was located in New Mumbai and we wanted to get to Colaba which was quite a distance but the journey was around 40 minutes by train.
Upon getting there we met our driver who showed us around the area, both tourist and otherwise . First of all we headed to the Taj Hotel which has historical importance. Unfortunately most of the exterior is under renovations so pictures could only really show a fraction of the beauty of the place.
Afterwards we drove around marine drive to see the sea and the small beach attached nearby. It was a lovely sight and everyone seemed pretty much chilled. We were then taken to a holy lake which is much revered by Hindus and where we saw a few people bathing in it and paying homage.
We then went to the slums which I actually did not want to visit as I am not a fan of poverty porn. Our driver wanted to take us there as that is where he lives and of course I could not say no. I'm glad we went however as we were also able to see how clothes were being washed and dried for large companies and hotels using simple methods amongst other things. There really is a community feel throughout the slums which is akin to the one in council estates that are situated in and around London. In all honesty, you don't need to go to the other side of the world to see poverty. It exists here, in London so I'm always wary of travellers who come back and suddenly realise that poverty exists. Granted, every city has their own unique challenges but make no mistake, poverty is a common thread around the world. It may just manifest differently in various cities. I did however have to question myself and why I felt uncomfortable going to the slums whereas I would not feel that way if someone invited me to a mansion or a more 'socially acceptable' standard of living. Maybe because it's easier to rationalise a poorer standard of living when you're not faced with the reality of it. Maybe because I also felt helpless about it all, but I digress.
The physical difference and gap between the rich and the poor. Literally.
The Kamala Nehru Park, (part of the Hanging gardens complex) was our next point of call and we spent some time chilling there and just taking photos before heading off to another garden which was directly opposite. It was a nice short and sweet tour especially for our first day.
Friday 15th June
Today was a fun day. We headed off to R City Mall where all the fun happens. Our first stop was the Red Wax Museum which was good fun. They have a decent amount of wax models and two 3D paintings which is always worth trying out. For 300 Rupees I don't think it's bad. There were a few international wax figures and I think every race was well represented as there was something for everyone.
The museum had a few 3D paintings so of course I got involved ;)
Our next stop was the click art museum which is a 3D museum. Hmm, what can I say? It is much harder than it looks! I will say however that the paintings were way too close together making it a challenge at times to participate in the drawing for fear of another painting being in the picture. Maybe I'm just waffling and making excuses for my poor attempt at 3D pictures ? You can be the judge of that by looking at some of the pictures below .
It gets worse from here on out. You've been warned.
We had some lunch and then headed off back to the hotel but not without first going to Keventers because Keventers is life. Naturally.
Saturday 16th June
Today was the Elephanta caves day which we had anticipated for a while. The ferry to the island where the caves are is around an hour and a half so do factor that in when you plan your journey.
Before that I took a standard picture by the Gateway of India as it's all in the same area. The history behind this monument is once (again) tied to the British and was built to commemorate the time that Queen Mary and King George V landed in 1911.
Somehow I have succeeded in looking like I've been photoshopped into the picture but I can assure you that was not the case.
The queue to get on the ferry was something else but we persevered and got on in good time. Upon arriving at the island we took a mini train which I wonder what the point is as it doesn't take you much further and there is still quite a bit of walking to do too. Before entering the mini village of shops you have to pay 5Rs entrance fee. Once you have entered it's literally souvenir shops everywhere and a few restaurants too. The walk isn't too long but the stairs are steep which can be tiring and also means it is not wheelchair accessible which is a big shame. The cost to enter the caves is 500Rs for foreigners and 30Rs for Indians.
The first cave was the biggest cave with quite a number of carvings inside. Tour guides kept trying to rip us off with inflated prices and some of the security staff were in on it too. The other four caves were a lot smaller in size but they are worth checking out. All in all it was a worthwhile trip and it is nice to see that for the most part the caves have stood the test of time and remain a testament to history.
I guess by now you can tell that I love monkeys. Well, if you didn't know, now you know. We came across these cute animals just outside the caves.
Different God's carved into stone. This was in the first cave.
Outside one of the smaller caves
Our journey back started off smoothly but it quickly turned into a nightmare. For some reason the ferry personnel could not land efficiently and found it hard to land in one place. We actually wasted an hour and a half trying to land. I wish I was kidding but it is nothing but the truth. All I could do was laugh as there was no point in getting angry. It all made for a very memorable last night in India
Final thoughts on India
Things I will miss about India are :
- Keventers! -My love affair with them started in Nepal and it has continued in India where they began. Quality milkshake at a good price. I don't know if you can say you've been to India if you haven't tried them. Seriously.
- Massala Chai. -I absolutely loved this tea! The right blend of spice and regular tea and just what I needed. I'll definitely be drinking this back in the UK.
- Lassi- I love me a good lassi! It is a traditional Indian drink that consists of yoghurt, milk and spices. Indians love their spice. There are fruit variations of it such as Mango but nothing beats the original in my humble opinion.
- Sari's. - By this I mean the casual everyday type that is worn. I saw women of all shapes and sizes wear one and I think it's a great thing especially as a body positive statement. Coming from the western world where certain things are sometimes deemed as not 'appropriate' for certain sizes it was refreshing to see that all types of women wore their saris.
- Ladies only coaches.- This grew on me and it was quite nice to just be in a coach carriage with just women.
Things I won't miss about India
- Racism: I've gone into enough detail in previous posts. Admittedly Mumbai was fine and was the best city in that aspect. I actually felt like a normal human being lol. It is really bittersweet that the country that I enjoyed the least ended up being where I spent the most time but life. I don't regret visiting India and it is a beautiful country but they need to fix up with their attitudes towards black people. Some will say that I am generalising but when 90% of my experience was negative I can say that it is an issue that needs to be addressed. It is what it is.
- Ladies coach. - Whilst I like it I also wonder why it's needed. Is the safety of women not guaranteed otherwise? Can men and women not travel together? I don't believe that it can all be down to religious reasons as there are a number of different religions so I think it has to be something more. I'm genuinely wondering and it would be great if someone could enlighten me.
All in all India was an experience and a deep learning curve with regards to patience on my side. In many aspects it reminded me of Nigeria. It actually made me miss it a lot and I think I'd definitely like to visit home sometime soon.
P.S. Next week I talk about my time in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.