formerly known as Bombay
14.01.2009 - 16.01.2009 23 °C
Our flight to Mumbai didn’t leave until 1:40 so we got to sleep in late. What luxury!
On one hand I was looking forward to seeing Mumbai – it would be very different from anywhere else we’ve been because it really is a very cosmopolitan, sophisticated, worldly (expensive city – condos go for about 100,000 rupees a square foot).
But on the other I sort of dreaded it because once we get to Mumbai our wonderful vacation is almost over.
Two nights in India’s answer to Chicago, LA or New York, and then off to the South (Kerala) for a week and then home. I can’t believe we’ve been gone for three weeks already. And, in fact, for Paul and Melanie Wray (from Australia), Mumbai signified the end of their vacation – that’s where they left us to go back home.
We landed around 3:40, 4 pm and I was immediately struck by the size of the airport – and also how modern it is (it was also noticeably warmer and more humid). We could have landed in any big city. Once out of the airport we also saw modern cars for the first time – Mercedes, Honda, Porche, Volkswagon – you name it, they drive it – no camels on the streets here.
The traffic was also horrendous – our hotel is really close to the airport (when Mumbai was attacked by terrorists we unfortunately had to cancel our reservations at the Taj and rebook at JW Marriott) – but it took well over an hour to get there – in bumper to bumper traffic all the way.
But along the way we saw interesting restaurants and shops carrying just about every international designer label you can think of – and also passed local boutiques who promote talented local designers and more traditional sari shops, as well.
I felt instantly at home – Mumbai (India’s seaside financial capital and every trend-spotting, trend-setting fashionista’s paradise) is a city I could live in easily – if I could afford it, of course.
At first we thought we’d go downtown but once we got to the hotel we decided to hang around there. It’s a HUGE hotel – a ‘business’ hotel – and they have a magnificent pool – an infinity pool that leads right into the Indian Ocean.
Haidee and Cynthia decided to go swimming. I went to my room to re-pack for the umpteenth time. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve packed and unpacked – living out of a suitcase is a pain in the …
Anyway we were all packing now for a week – Rashmi told us that there was no way we could take all our luggage on the houseboat and even some of the other places we’re going to in the South are difficult to get to – no way we could drag those bags. So the plan was to pack everything we need for a week in one bag and leave the rest of our luggage at our last stop in Cochin, the Taj Malabar Hotel.
It took me two hours – not because I started off with a lot of clothes – but because of all my shopping. India is a shopper’s paradise – gorgeous things, very inexpensive – at least at the markets we went to. Mumbai would be very different, obviously.
So we all did our own thing and then we met for dinner at the hotel.
In the meantime Rashmi found out that there was a Bollywood party in our hotel – it’s right in the heart of Bollywood and the celebs hang out at the hotel bar. It was an invitation only event but that didn’t stop Rashmi from trying to get us invited.
Her charm didn’t seem to be working so Cynthia and I decided to pack it in and go to bed – we have been constantly on the move for three weeks. So what happened?
Rashmi, Haidee and Marney not only got into the Bollywood party they ended up crashing a wedding – they got to meet the bride and groom, their parents and even had their pictures taken – years from now that couple will look at those wedding pictures and wonder who the heck the three women in jeans were!
The next day was action-packed! Lots and lots to see so we had to be downstairs, ready to go at 8 a.m.
We had a fabulous breakfast – you had to see that buffet to believe it:
Eggs cooked to order, every kind of fruit imaginable, five different flavours of yoghurt, bagels, Danish, four different kinds of bread to toast, croissants, coconut croissants, porridge, oatmeal, three or four different kinds of cold cereal, muesli, bacon, chicken sausages, fruit juices, compotes, crackers, cheeses, smoked salmon, capers, vegetables, cream cheese, and about ten or fifteen different Indian breakfast specialties.
Then we met our guide – a woman, this time and we headed off to our first stop – an opportunity to take pictures at Dhobi Ghat, a spectacular outdoor laundry.
Never have you seen anything like it!!
That done we went to use ‘the facilities’ at the Taj Hotel – it has re-opened – and I am so happy to say it was crowded and bustling – you would never have known there’d been any problems here just a few short weeks ago – except for the tight security at the gates and door – pretty consistent throughout India, by the way.
I wish we’d changed our reservations back once it re-opened but it just means I will have to return to Mumbai. If the lobby is anything to go by, it is a truly majestic and magnificent hotel.
We saw the Gateway to India (right across the street from the Taj) – which was built in 1911 to welcome King George V to India.
Our next stop was Elephanta Caves – an hour’s ferry ride and a relatively short ‘train’ ride away – and well worth the trip. Dating back to the 7th Century these cave temples were fabulous – as was the chair ride I took up the more than 125 steps you need to climb to get there.
It was a little after 3 pm when we finally met up with Rashmi again at the Taj Hotel – and then we spent some time at one of the 8 synagogues in Bombay.
I have to tell you, I really enjoy the visits to the synagogues (we have another one coming up in Kerala). It definitely gives you a ‘connection’ to the city. As part of this ‘sightseeing expedition’ we also saw the gorgeous Victoria Terminus – Mumbai’s main train station and the very house that Mahatma Ghandi lived in.
A short shopping spree at a government price-controlled store followed and we then went to check out Crawford Market – a series of bazaars that sell everything from fabric to diamond jewelry.
Zonked by then we went for Chinese food (yes, in India) … and headed back to our hotel. We needed to get to bed because we had to meet in the lobby at 4:15 a.m. (no, it is not a typo – I meant 4:15 a.m.) to catch our very early flight to Cochin.