Touring the city of Mumbai

Trip Start Oct 31, 2011
Trip End Mar 16, 2012

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What I did
Railway Station
Seafood Market
Crafot Markets
India Gardens
Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat (Washing Place)

Flag of India  , Maharashtra,
Friday, February 24, 2012

Hi there

Tonight's blog is written by Alan...

Today we hired a driver to take us on a tour of Mumbai, I began my day with a run along the waterfront, I left early as the sun is already hot by 8:15 am. There is a 3km stretch of sidewalk called the Marine walk, along the sea, which is a popular place for locals to walk, jog, stretch or just hang out on the concrete railing.  It was nice to have a chance to run outdoors, as there is usually nowhere suitable to do this in congested cities of 20+million people. 

After breakfast in our room, we left on our city tour, shortly after leaving we arrived at our first stop The Gateway to India.  We walked by it last night, but decided to see it up close and in the daylight today.  It is a huge stone arch similar in size and concept to the Arche de Triomphe in Paris.  It was erected to commemorate the arrival of King George the V and Queen Mary.  When we arrived here, a Hindu man in a robe approached Jackie, placed candies in her hand, tied colourful string around her wrist and placed a red dot on her forehead telling her it was for luck, and then asked for money, he became quite agitated when I had no money for him! I have learned to have two pockets of cash when we go out, one for expenses and the other for small bills to tip and for the homeless, which are absolutely everywhere.

Nearby are the Colaba Markets where we shopped last night, our driver took us to the Chor Bazaar which sold jewellery, area rugs, clothing, and figurines, it was very nice but expensive.  From there we went to the pier where they have the commercial fish market, this was yet another experience. As we walked up to the pier we wondered why security officers dressed in military garb sternly told us "No Pictures", well let me tell you this would not have passed an Ed Grabinski Health Inspection, to put it mildly.  Violations include: cutting fish and shucking shrimp on the dirty bare concrete, everyone working is bare feet, pretty much sitting in the pile of fish, the workers are women and small children who do not attend school.  The seafood is stored in buckets of water sitting in the hot sun, no ice present, probably in ocean water which resembles the color of “grey water” dumped from an RV.  We curiously asked our driver afterwards if the fish was exported, to our joy, he replied “Only within India”. 

Smelling badly of fish trapped on our shoes, back to the car and off to the Crafot Markets, which sells fruit, spices and other goods.  I ended up buying five different Indian spices, which I cannot wait to cook with at home, so bring a bottle or two of red wine and come on over!

Well it was now lunch time and the “Sans Beef” Indian McDonald’s, was around the corner, I had a wonderful cup of espresso to compliment my spicy paneer wrap, interesting to note that the McDonald’s was located in an ancient building and had waiters.

It was interesting to see all the European architecture, evidence of the British presence until 1930, when India reclaimed its Independence. There are many unrivalled structures built in the 19th century, scattered throughout the old center of Mumbai, my favourite being the railroad station which has a UNESCO designation as a world heritage site, I could have stared at it for hours.

Next, off to Chowpatty beach, which is at the end of the Marine Walk, this is a public beach about 200-300meters long.  There were people milling around, no one in bathing suits or in the water, I guess even though it is 32 degrees here, it is still the tail end of winter here.

From there, we arrived at the Gandhi Museum, which is located in a house Gandhi lived in when he returned to India in 1917 from South Africa. We spent an hour here; Jackie’s fascination with Gandhi has rubbed off on me.  Although most people know of him as a peacekeeping activist, I only here found out that he drafted the India declaration of Independence presented to the British in 1930, ultimately resulting in India’s independence.  He is also responsible for the changes to the national flag in 1931, which aside from a minor change in 1947 stands today.

Next, off to the “Sir Phirojshah Mehta Garden” or “Hanging Garden” which is a large garden area sitting over a 30 million gallon water reservoir which services the area.  This was a beautiful park, and after spending a half hour here, we walked across the street to another park that was filled with school aged children and featured a 30 foot tall boot that you can climb up.  At this park, there was also a lookout point overlooking the city.

Then another interesting experience bestowed itself upon us, our driver suggested we go to see the Ajali Muslim Mosque, located on a mini island at the end of a 1km pier.  We often receive many stares, but half way down the pier, we figured it out... Zandrea was wearing shorts, and Jackie was in a halter dress.  Every other woman in sight was covered from head to toe and providing evil stares towards Jackie and Zandrea.  This made us all very uncomfortable, even the men all had long pants and Mikkel and I were in shorts as well, at this point we agreed to not proceed any further down the pier out of respect for their beliefs, and I took a photo from where we were standing.  I got the impression that they do not receive many, if any, non Indian visitors. 

After dusting ourselves off from this experience, we took a ride to the Dhobi Ghat (washing place), this area is 136 years old, and is where much of the cities laundry is washed, outside in rows of open concrete tubs, and is then aired to dry.  After a brief stop at another shop, we made our way back to the hotel for a quiet evening of left over pizza, and fruit, a Simpson’s episode and some reading, it is off to bed.

Tomorrow evening, we leave for Dubai.

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