Mumbai, India

Susan at the Gateway to India

March 11-12, 2010

After two years we are back in Mumbai.  When we looked out the windows this morning there was either heavy fog or heavy air pollution, and we are not sure which.  We have memory of bad air pollution here from our last trip.  We were greeted by the Mumbai Police Band, which played out on the dock for about 1-1/2 hours.  They are not a great band but they play well enough to be enjoyable to listen to.

In the afternoon we decided to walk over to the Taj Hotel (photo below) which we had visited last time.  Shortly after we had been there it suffered a terrorist attack.  Part of the once open lobby is walled off for repair, and one must go through airport-style security to get into the hotel.  That is completely understandable, and the security people were easy to deal with.

The sidewalk outside the dock’s green gate has many piles of cow dung to step over, but we saw no cows.  There were several of the brightly decorated silver horse-drawn carriages, though.

We must have encountered the beginning of rush hour when we went out.  The constant cacophony in the streets is amazing.  On our way home from the hotel we walked through an area where there were a lot of vendor stalls on the edge of the sidewalk.  The merchants were generally a pleasure to deal with; they would accept a “no thank you” offered with a smile.  The taxi drivers and beggars were far more persistent.  The one exception we encountered was the taxi driver who told us where the street was that we were looking for after we declined to ride in his taxi.  As in Bangkok, there were many dogs sleeping on the sidewalks.  We did see one cat that was very small and scrawny.  A fun sight on the last street going to the dock was a group of young businessmen sitting on newspapers on the sidewalk playing cards, with their shoes nearby.

We did not take the camera with us today, for security reasons and because we wanted to get the lay of the land before doing anything like that.  

On day two we went walking with our friend Ron Burton.  We went back to the Gateway of India (photo above) and Taj Hotel (the full name of it is the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower).  It is interesting to note that the word ‘mahal’ means ‘expensive’ in several languages.  From there we walked past multiple examples of English architecture to Victoria Station, which is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.  As you can see from the photos, we did go inside.  It is a very busy place.

Once again it was very hot and after realizing that we were not going to find any place close by where we could sit and have a cool drink we took a taxi home.  Even getting a taxi can be a complex task, between finding one when you’re away from the dock and negotiating the fare.

It was quite an experience to ride in the taxi and to see how closely they squeeze together in traffic.  To drive a taxi in Mumbai requires very quick reflexes, dodging and braking skills.  One is dodging in and out between pedestrians as well as cars.

The two things we saw that caught our attention were the man transporting laundry, and the stands where they extract and sell fresh sugar cane juice.  When the juice is served, it is light green with a foamy head.  The kind of cart used by the laundry man is a common one that is used for many types of large loads.  Push carts of various sorts vie for space on the road with pedestrians, bicycles, motor bikes, buses, taxis and trucks.  On our taxi ride back to the ship we also passed a long block of food stands, a rare place where the air smells really good from the spices they use.

The Indian people are serious about security.  Ron was stopped when he tried to take a photo of a bank facade.  There are security guards everywhere you look.  The number of people out walking at all hours is still an astounding sight.  In many places there are people sleeping on the sidewalks, or anywhere else they can find a space, including one man we saw on the base of a column supporting the roof over the sidewalk.  It will be interesting to contrast our next port with this one.

The Taj Hotel

© Susan L. Stone 2015