Mumbai formerly Bombay
Trip Start Feb 15, 2010
9Trip End Feb 25, 2010
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Where I stayed
Indian Maharaja Train
All our cases were loaded on the coach and we were taken for a morning tour of Mumbai. Our first photo stop was The Gateway of India located on the Mumbai waterfront. It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. The area around the monument is crowded and we were hounded by a particularly persistent beggar girl and her baby.
Across the road is the Taj Hotel, sadly recently in the news because of the Mumbai bombings where at least 100 people were killed in blasts and gun attacks in November 2008
Mumbai felt very different from the other cities we had visited. It was much more cosmopolitan and lacked the wandering cows of other places. The cows do still exist but are tethered and you can buy grass from a women to feed them - much more civilised!
Although we had come into Mumbai station we were on an outside platform and it was lovely to have the chance to see the amazing station building - Victoria Terminus. The design resembles St Pancras station in London and it took ten years to complete and was named "Victoria Terminus" in honour of the Queen and Empress Victoria. It was opened on the date of her Golden Jubilee in 1887. The station building is designed in the Victorian Gothic style of architecture and is very impressive. The coach stoppped for us to take some photographs.
It seems somehow strange that Mumbai has a beach front but it does - long stretches of golden sand around the bay
Our final stop was Mani Bhavan a museum all set in a simple two storied building where Gandhi stayed between 1917 and 1934. There is a library full of every book ever written about Gandhi and they do lend out if you want. There is also a room on the second floor which has been preserved as it used to be the living room of Gandhi and an exhibition of Gandhi's life through mini figures in 28 tableaux. There is also a picture gallery showing photos of him as a young boy and important events in his life.
Our next stop was probably the most amazing of al,l the Dhobi Ghat or washing place. The dhobi is a traditional laundryman who will collect your dirty linen, wash it and return it neatly ironed to your doorstep - all for a pittance
As we drove around we couldn't help but see the Mumbai street children - so happy and always smiling. Slums in Mumbai have always existed as people have flocked here to find their fortune - most don't. Incredibly slum dwellers make up 60% of Mumbai's population - that's 7 million people. Made famous by 'Slumdog Millionaire' these days you can take tours around them. It was strange to see five star hotels next to shanties but this was the contrasts of India - the haves and the have nots. It couldn't be more stark here. The largest slum settlement in Asia is Dharavi in Mumbai and it is now home to 100,000 people complete with markets, cinemas and schools.
Finally we reached the five-star Leela Kempinski on the outskirts of the city where we would end our holiday, even here there were slum dwellings adjacent to the site. The Leela was lovely and the gardens beautiful but here I felt detached from Indian life, in a hotel that could have been anywhere in the world. Relaxing in the surroundings it gave me time to think and slowly take in all that we had seen in the last nine days. The wonderful architecture, the history, the wildlife, the chaos and the colour and the people. It was an incredible experience and I vowed that I would return to this wonderful land.