First days of India – Mumbai

1 09 2012

After a long time and skipping the fabulous trips to Costa Rica in 2011 and Greece earlier this year I will write about my first experiences in India. This is the first country I’m visiting on my 4-month tour through Southeast Asia. India is first for several reasons. The main reason is, that all other countries might be holiday in comparison to the hustle and bustle, the poverty, the sheer size, the touts, and whatever comes into your mind when thinking about India.

The first stop was Mumbai. After only 4 hours in this city of superlatives I already hated it… At first I was stupid enough to trust the official airport security. Although I had arranged airport pickup with my hotel, nobody showed up. So I was thaught my first lesson about India: do not trust anyone regardless how official the looks. The airport security led me to a taxi stand and as soon as I sat in the taxi I was sure that the driver was most probably the brother of the security guy and that I would have to pay a fortune to get to the hotel with no chance of getting out… and they didn’t dissapoint me… at least I did arrive at the hotel. The funniest thing was the driver asking if everything was okay and for a tip because he hadn’t earned anything until now… 🙂 he accepted my angry face as a „NO!!!“

Largest outdoor laundromat of the world

Largest outdoor laundromat of the world

I had to wait another 4 to 5 hours until my room would be ready so I decided to roam around the area… It took only half an hour to meet a friendly Indian guy who insistently claimed to be my little brother… as he had the day off he could show me some really cool places. Ah… and of course he was a teacher with references from an American professor and only had to be back at afternoon to teach some english lessons… I wasn’t able to get rid of him so I let him show me some of Mumbais less travelled attractions although I was again sure, that this might not be generous of him as it might seem. I must admit that the tour was really cool, passing by most of the british colonial buildings, riding a Mumai train after only one hour in this city, and seeing the largest open-air laundry with 5000 people washing linen, shirts, and whatever… We also managed to see the Haji-Ali mosque and Chowpatti beach, which I knew well from the book Shantaram. Last stop was the Ghandi museum. So I had a really good time in the first 4 hours in Mumbai but this almost changed on the way back to the hotel. In the taxi the so called teacher claimed, that he has to buy „books“ for his students and that I should support him. There it was again… but in the end I bargained him down to support him with one book for only 500 rupees 🙂 not too bad for a tour of 4 hours and a free train ride…

Gateway of India

Gateway of India

Taj Mahal Palace

Taj Mahal Palace

 

Besides the colonial architecture of some of Mumbais buildings, other buildings, like the Gate of India or the Taj Mahal hotel, don’t need to hide… except for the heat, the smell and the chaos in Mumbais streets, it seems very European at some corners. But the places I enjoyed most were the Sanjaj National Park and the Elephanta Island. Some really cool caves can be explored at both. I found the Sanjaj National Park pleasant… you can hire a bike and explore the wide area on your own, sometimes not seeing any other person (except for weekends) and the caves are more interesting. Elephanta is very touristic and you have to watch your food , otherwise bold mokeys will steal it. The advantage of Elephanta is the boat ride from the Gate of India. But riding Mumbais trains was also a lot of fun.

Mumbai's trains are fun

Mumbai’s trains are fun

Another must-do in Mumbai is shopping. I did it with a fellow from South Africa on my last day. Fashion street was quite disappointing… only „western“ stuff, ot at least what Indians think we wear… So we went to the Magaldas Market, a bunch of streets with thousands of little shops. There we were guided to a textile shop by a really old man, which was suprisingly faster than us navigating through the masses of Indians in the streets. After we were filmed by a TV team, had tea, and seen approximately a million different shawls, table cloth, and bed sheets, we haggled a bit and left the shop with beautiful new shawls… extremely important with around 30°C outside 🙂 next destination is Leh\Ladakh…

Shopping in Mumbai

Shopping in Mumbai

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