● For full details on our route, transport info, hotel details, etc, look at our Google Maps page

Monday, 30 March 2009


28th - 30th March

It took almost as long to cross Mumbai as it did to reach it (just like being in London!) – well, that’s what it felt like and we were both in considerable discomfort by the time we pulled into the district of Colaba, Mumbai’s tourist centre. After even the shortest journey we’re never in the frame of mind to start hunting for a room, so needless to say after 11 hours riding we were not looking forwards to arguing with hoteliers over the price of their flea pits. Mumbai proved to be the biggest rip off yet, probably of our whole year’s trip and we ended up paying 1500 Rps (just over £20) for a basic room. It also proved to be rather damp and within 24 hours our clothes felt like they’d be left out in the rain.

Despite our previous nights respite from traditional Indian food (in the form of Dominos) Ady was eager to taste yet more MSG and dragged us into the first McDonalds we could find. Typically, there were m
ore western tourists here than we’d seen in the whole of our stay in India, but equally a number of wealthy Indian teens and twenty somethings, so we didn’t feel such heathens. Also in our defence, a trip to an Indian McDonalds is actually an experience in itself. The chain made famous by its array of beef offerings was faced by a fundamental problem in this Hindu dominated country of holy cows. So with beef off the menu we were intrigued as to what they would offer instead – spicy bean burgers every which way? We suppose the local population didn’t know any different and was more than happy with a McChicken Maharaja (complete with reformed chicken) and McAloo Burgers, but to a western brainwashed mind it was quite surreal! At least the fries were good! It was a Saturday night but after the long day, earlier laid plans to hang out with Bollywood’s A listers (and wannabees) in Mumbai’s hottest nightspots went to pot; we were in bed as soon as we’d swallowed our last mouthfuls of quarter pounder McAloos.

The following day was Sunday and our initial relief at being able to wander central Mumbai without millions of commuting office workers was sadly followed by frustration as we realised that almost everything was closed! Nevertheless we followed the Lonely Planet walking tour around the Gateway of India, the University, the High Court and a number of fountains and small parks, stopping briefly at an art gallery and the Victoria Maiden to watch some cricket. This being Sunday morning, the Maiden was home to not just one or two cricket matches but as many as twenty or thirty wickets were all lined up next to each other. It was amazing the fielders knew which ball to catch!

Part of the Mumbai experience is to watch a Bollywood movie at one of the many cinemas. We may have missed the point because we rather stupidly went around asking which films were in English language, and were rather disappointed when the only ones showing were (funnily enough, though most of the middle classes do speak fluent English and some even use it between themselves) mainstream Hollywood flicks. We should have brushed up on our Hindi, or at least just gone along for the laugh! Instead, we spent the afternoon at the famous Chowpatty Beach, along with half of Mumbai (the half that weren’t at the Maiden playing cricket). As are most city beaches, it wasn’t much to write home about, though it was popular with locals and you could even get an authentic Italian gelato. We sat down to observe the comings and goings but it wasn’t long before we’d attracted a few people’s attention, embarrassingly so for Sam as the gelato was now melting faster than the ice caps (comparatively speaking) and she was making a right mess. Without wanting to be rude, we made a hasty escape, before the small group had attracted a small crowd. This was the last thing we expected in Mumbai, which without question is India’s most cosmopolitan city.

Bizarrely, we’d been led to believe that Mumbai and its inhabitants would be a different breed to the India we’d seen so far. Clearly way too influenced by what we’d seen on local TV and in Indian Marie Clare, we were expecting to see some people dressed in expensive, fashionable western clothing, with cutting edge hair-dos and chemically whitened skin to match. This certainly wasn’t the case and sari clad women and men in typical check shirts and trousers were very much abound. The most radical behaviour we saw was a woman pillion passenger sitting astride a motorbike, instead of side saddle as is the norm. Perhaps we may have seen evidence of this side of modern India if we’d made it out to the clubs on Saturday night. Disappointed, we spent our second and final night in Mumbai in one of the few open restaurants, a cosy local affair where we tried Spring Dosas and Mango Lassis and were shooed out of the door by 9pm!

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