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Mumbai – Full of puppies

The anticipation for Mumbai was intense – what would it be like, is it as noisy, and hardcore, as everyone seemed to suggest, how would we cope, how long before we got food poisoning??? All these things were racing through our minds as we landed in Mumbai Airport at the antisocial hour of 2am to the slightly sweet sour sulphurous smell that is big city India.



Before we arrived, one surprise for us was the price of the hotels in Mumbai. A half decent hotel in the touristy centre was well outside our budget, often in excess of £150 per night, so we settled for a better hotel in the still fairly scruffy suburbs – and whilst it was an hour outside the city centre, the hotel was clean and for us newbies, this was essential.

It is fair to say, Mumbai is properly busy place, but the surprise for us was that it was certainly calmer than Saigon, calmer than Hanoi, probably calmer than parts of Bangkok too! Even better, the temperature as we emerged from the hotel was a pleasant 23 degrees in the morning (afternoon a bit hotter at 32), and the overall feeling was quite relaxing.(Jo and I disagree on this one).


The local train into town was a bit of a rude awakening. The stereotypical trains with people hanging out of the doors and windows came true. We could not get onto the first two trains, after which we changed strategy, Jo, Elena and Theo went for the ladies carriage, and Kai and I joined the scrum for the second class men’s carriage. The strategy worked to perfection, and I have to admit, it was one of the more hectic one hour journeys I have been on. All I can say is that I am glad I am tall and well above the armpit zone – poor Kai was not so lucky. As we neared the terminus the train cleared and Kai and I were able to hang out of the sides just like the locals. (no doors on these trains)


The ad-hoc cricket oval


Once we got over the completely mad journey into town, the city revealed some of it’s faded beauty. No one told us, Mumbai  is stunning. Yes there are slums, but we never came across them, in the same way that if you go to Liverpool, you don’t make a bee line for Toxteth. The parts we saw around the courts, the university and libraries, clustered in what is known as the Fort area of town, are awe inspiring colonial buildings of grand proportions overlooking the oval, a green open area covered in a web of overlapping cricket matches. It is a pleasure to behold the red dust kicking up as an old boy chases down the ball with the backdrop of the magnificent peeling colonial buildings.

Some of the classic colonial buildings in the Fort area.

We only had a day and a half, so we packed it in; first on our tour the City Museum (also known as the Prince of Wales Museum), another beautiful Indo-Saracenic building with gallery after gallery of superb exhibits, the Indian Miniatures Gallery being our highlight. It was then only a short walk to the impressive India gate, an Indian Arc de Triomphe where they waved the last British soldiers good riddance, overlooked by the palatial Taj Mahal Hotel. This is where we encountered our first hawkers – we almost burst out laughing: compared to the Dobermen of Vietnams sellers, this lot are mere puppies. A meaningful shake of the head and a stern glance and they scurry away –now that was unexpected! We had to soften our “no” technique to be more gentle – how different to SE Asia.

A quick taxi ride in an Italian built masterpiece, the PAL, and we were at Ghandi’s house with a concise history lesson for us all in this thought provoking house, done really well through a series of mini scenes describing his life, and we were all wiser as to why the Indians have such reverence for the man.

in the back of the classic Mumbai taxi

Winding back through town, we found the blue synagogue, then a cathedral followed by the gothic Victoria Station – all in all it was one beautiful building after another, one lively corner, a face full of smells, another stunning view – the senses were alight.

After a well deserved sleep we headed back into town the next day for the Festival of Holi, the festival of colour. This involves throwing coloured powder over each other and making everything purple. It also means that everything is shut! We only had about 6 hours before our night train to Delhi, so we wasted no time in getting down to the Haj Ali mosque, reached by a causeway, we were thwarted by the tide, we did not fancy wading through a foot of toxic water.

Haj Ali at sunset out of the side of a rickshaw

the same mosque, with the reality of daylight

Next stop the world famous Dhobi Ghat washing ghetto. Being Holi, everyone was on holiday and there was no washing to be done. Disappointed, but consoling ourselves that a picture of no one washing is far more unusual than with them all washing, we headed to the central Museum –which was shut!!!! It was all  conspiring against us, so we headed up to the Hanging Gardens for a view of Chowpatty Beach (translated as Beach Beach) before dropping off at Mumbai Central Station for the overnight train to Delhi.

Ghandi's House, Chowpatty and the Holi Revellers

view of Chowpatty Beach from the Hanging Gardens (notice the purple dye coming off the bathers)

part time at Dhobi Ghat

To guarantee a decent trip, we booked a First Class Compartment on the famous Rajdhani Express. The faded glamour was obvious, but the service was definitely first class, we were very well looked after. The magazine article described the train as “Long and lissom, shapely and sensational, she whistles her way through the crowds. She is the one and only, the country’s most prestigious train, the Rajdhani Express”. It certainly felt pretty special as we cruised through the Indian landscape, first watching the sunset and then the full moon rising. It was luxury and we were relishing the 15 hour journey as a break from the unrelenting pace of Simpson’s tours.

Dinner time on the Rajstani Express


Categories: India Tags: , , , , ,
  1. Joe & Verna
    March 14, 2012 at 10:25 am


    • March 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      Delhi is harder – far far harder. Saying that, you get used to anything after a couple of days.
      India is going well so far, still getting used to the intensity of it as well as all the attention we are getting. I have a huge sympathy for celebrities now. Getting surrounded and photographed all the time can be really stressful – we just keep telling the kids that they will miss it when they get home.

  2. nick miles
    March 28, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Alan, Jo & Kids

    what an amazing experience, i have heard many stories from my work colleagues what our office is like in Mumbai, but with your pictures and more “delving” knowledge this trip is sure to be one heck of a memory.

    looking forward to seeing you all on your return.

    Happy hols

    Nick tasha and kids

    • March 31, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Hello Dear Miles’,

      Brain now definitely pulled in 2 directions. One half in Sandbach, other half in India. Looking forward to going home, but not wanting to miss the traveling – I suspect settling may be tough.
      Looking forward to seeing you all, one upside of returning will be a nice beer at the Limes.

      Love to you all,

      Alan, Jo, Kai, Elena & Theo.

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