Incredible India #2 – Mumbai, the city of dreams

Our journey continues to Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. It lies in the state of Maharashtra, west of India. It is also known as the city of dreams, probably because many people came here to make a living or relishing their dreams especially film stars wannabes. Many rich & famous Bollywood stars lived here and lots of movies were shot here too.

Continuing my journey, I flew into Mumbai from Bangalore. It was my first experience flying with Air India. I was surprised to see the cabin crews wearing Sari’s, Indian traditional attire which I found it was quite unique compared to other airlines. The crews service was very efficient, as we got our food just within a nick of time. After nearly 2 hours flying, we landed at terminal 1 in Chatrapati Sivaji International Airport.

As we went out the terminal, the guy from Travellers Inn (the place where we were staying)was already waiting for us holding a card displaying my name on it. We followed the guy to his vehicle, it was an air conditioned 4WD vehicle. The pickup costs us Rs1900 which is considered expensive. Journey to the city center was about 30km. Traffic congestions in Mumbai was worst than Bangalore, probably the worst of all places I’ve ever been. Cars, bikes, tuk-tuks and pedestrian all are searching for domination of the roads.

Along the way, we came across slum area where people are living in real poverty. I’ve seen the Slumdog Millionaire and here is where I’m experiencing the real one. There were houses everywhere along the streets and even under dangerous places such as beside the railroad, under an electricity pillar and under bridges. Upon approaching the city area, there were no more Tuk-Tuk’s at sight. It was plentiful with the black and yellow top taxis and most of them are non-air conditioned.

After nearly an hour, we arrived at the hotel. The hotel was located nearby the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminul (CST) – the train terminal. We checked in the hotel and were guided to our rooms. The room was simple, clean & comfy for a backpackers lodge. It was an air-conditioned room with attached bathroom. An hour later, we were joined by Farah, Syahid & Shakir who arrived from Hyderabad via train. We were glad to meet them at the time.

 

Colaba district

We had our rest for few hours before we went out to Colaba, a popular district in Mumbai. Now that there are 6 of us, we had to take 2 taxis. The taxi dropped us at the entrance of the Gateway of India. There were no entrance fee but you will need to go through a security check. Security has been a serious issue in India after the Mumbai bombings in 2008.

 

We mingled around the area for like half an hour taking pictures. It was crowded so I had to wait for the right moment where there are less people in order to take my pics.

The Gateway of India area was also the ferry terminal for those who would like to go to Elephanta Island, one of UNESCO’s heritage sites. Unfortunately due to time constraint, we had to skip it.  Next to the Gateway was the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, one of the place that was heavily hit during the bombings in 2008.

Further up through the road was the Colaba Causeway area, the shopping area. Every stall or shop you passed by, people will be trying to sell you their things. I bought one Mumbai T-Shirt from one of the stall by the street at Rs300. We also stopped by a fabric shop to buy some sari’s and Punjabi suit.

This whole walking around the city experience is was overwhelming as we passed through lots of colonial buildings and also those which has been renovated into modern buildings. We also bump through lots of people selling foods and other stuff along the road.

Farah & Shakir bought one of the street food called the Vada Pav. It’s an Indian vegetarian dish which was made from potatoes plus some other ingredients and it’s served with bread.  It tastes nice though.

Chowpatty Beach

 

As it was getting dark, our journey carries on towards Chowpatty Beach, a popular beach in Mumbai. This is definitely not the beach full of bikinis or people swimming but it’s rather for family to hangout by the beach while having some snacks. It was the first time that I saw a man powered ferris wheel! The crazy guys there climb up the wheel and grabs the gondola and pull it down so that the wheel would spin for some time. There was also another ride which is a smaller version of the pirate ship and it was also moved manually!

People around there will be trying to approach you with a mat and menu where if you want to eat there, they will place the mat for you to eat and you can order food from him. There was also somewhat like a food court nearby the place we stopped. You will also need to sit on the mat at this place. We didn’t dare to try any of these street food because the fear of having diarrhea so we opt for one of the restaurant across the street where there were lots of foreigners eating.

We stopped a taxi and asked it to send us back to the hotel. At first he said he knows the place but lastly he ended up leaving us at the CST Terminus. I was really pissed off at that time but thinking the fact that its better that he left us at a place that we know rather than some freak places, we eventually got off the taxi. We had to walk another 10-15 minutes to reach our lodging place.

Dhobi Ghatt

 

After all the tiring walking around Mumbai, we had a good night sleep. The next day, we had breakfast at the Cafe Universal nearby the hotel. Their omelet was a great start for the day.

We hired a taxi to bring us to the Dhobi Ghat. Surprisingly this place has become one of the main tourist attractions in Mumbai. Mahalaxmi Dhobi ghatt is an open air laundry area nearby Mahalaxmi station area. It was said to be the largest dobi in the world with almost 10,000 people, called the dhobis worked here. If you send your clothes for laundry at your hotels, there are high probabilities that your clothes will end up being washed here.

Haji Ali Dargah

 

From Dhobi Ghat area, we walked a few kilometers towards the beach area and arrived at Haji Ali Dargah. The Dargah was built on a small island about 500m away from the mainland which is connected through a pathway. It is only accessible during low tides whereas during high tides it will be completely covered with sea water.

Along the pathway there were lots of people setting up small stalls selling various items. Plus, we also encounter lots of beggars. The Dargah consists of a mosque and the tomb of Haji Ali. We only spent about half an hour there taking pictures, reading a little bit about its history and then we walked back through the pathway.

Chor Bazaar

We took the taxi from Haji Ali Dargah area and heads towards Chor Bazaar, the thieves market. I don’t know whether it is really a place where they’re selling stolen items but looking at the shops there, I’m convinced that most of the items were not stolen items. We went there for the antiques shop which area selling rare antique items at a low price. Antique collectors should really pay a visit here. You will find items varying from oldskool cameras, vases from the Ming dynasty, antique decorative lamps, some old clocks and many more items.

As we have little time left, we had to leave the bazaar and get back to the hotel to check-out. We have a few hours left before our flight to our next destination, Jaipur. After being charged Rs1900 for the airport pickup, we opt to take a local taxi using the meter to the airport. Although it’s a non A/C car we don’t really mind as long as it could get us to the airport on time. Due to lack of space for our luggage, we had to tie our begs on top of the cab. Alas, when we reached the airport, it only cost us Rs550! We proceeded to check in our flight. This time we were flying using Indigo Air, one of India’s low cost carrier.

Next episode : The state of Rajasthan


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