This has been our very first time in India and the 3 days spent in Mumbai (Bombay) was the most intense cultural experience I have ever had. Well-travelled people say – and they are so right – that you cannot prepare for this experience. After traveling in South-East Asia for several months Mumbai was able to show us a completely new dimension of chaos.
Our hotel choice near Crawford Market was not the best. Although it was in the relative proximity of the touristic area of Colaba, it looked and felt very different. It’s no exaggeration to say that I was the only white woman in the whole neighborhood; which implied lots of staring from the locals’ side making me feel uncomfortable. Indian women never show their shoulders no matter how hot the whether gets. To be honest, in that environment sticking to that tradition was not hard for me at all.
After taking 2 long flights and a 1,5 hour-long taxi ride to our hotel in the morning rush hour we were utterly exhausted, so the first day was mainly spent with sleeping. Luckily our bed was super comfy which kept us in the room even more.
Mumbai is THE Indian city for foodies. Even the small and pretty shabby restaurant right next to our hotel served really yummy food and the good news is that our tummies have enjoyed every bite of the spicy Indian dishes till now – no sickness, no stomach issues.
After the first lazy day we got more adventurous. It did not take us too long to realize that Mumbai is not the place where you just get in the local busses and reach every corner of the city. No timetables, no infos online. So as most tourists we took a taxi cab to get around the city, which seemed to be the safest and least stressful option. No need to mention that there are no seat belts in the cars and sometimes no window panes either. As Martin said, I can’t be bothered even to be scared in those cars; in this kind of traffic – no rules at all – anything can happen any time. Very true.
Anyways, we ended up taking a guided city tour by car, which was actually great. We had the chance to get into places we would have never found by ourselves or we would not have had the balls to actually get in.
I was most impressed and shocked by the Washing Laundry – Asia’s biggest open-air laundry – where we saw people washing all different types of clothes practically in concrete holes in a courtyard using their bare hands. The drying clothes were put out just around the whole place, even outside on the street in front of the laundry. I felt huge respect for those hard-working people.
The other thing I am really happy to have seen was the Gandhi house with its amazing exhibition on the life of this remarkable man – Mahatma Gandhi. (Reading his biography is definitely on my list now.)
Spending 3 hours in the city felt like a whole day trip especially that we were still quite jet lagged. So we were more than happy to be hanging out in our noisy but comfy hotel room watching funny Indian comedy series. This is another way of getting closer to the culture, right?
On our third and last day in Mumbai – being brave enough to walk around in the city by ourselves – we did a discovery tour around the touristic area of Colaba. Funnily, we stood out even there, at the Gateway of India, which is the most touristic point of the whole city: Martin walked a bit further away from me to take some photos literally for 2 minutes, and during this time I was asked twice by Indian teenagers if I wanted to take a selfie with them. Crazy.
The harbour in Colaba and the Gateway of India itself were stunning, accordingly really crowded. After indulging in some fresh fruit and yummy breakfast dishes in the western style restaurant called Cafe Leopold (that was previously recommended to us) we were just browsing around the busy streets for a couple of hours; and got blessings from 2 nice guys in at a random corner. (picture above)
As tough as these 3 day-stay in this huge metropole turned out to be, I am really happy we started our Indian trip with Mumbai. Experiencing all that poverty and extreme social differences helped us see our own problems ridiculously small and appreciate our lives even more.
Next time we come back, we will definitely devote more time and attention to the diverse gastro scene of the city and also discover the northern districts for some nice beaches.
All pictures here
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