Trip Start Apr 07, 2007
Trip End Sep 20, 2007

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Maharista - Mumbai (aka Bombay) 1-6th June

Staying in a 5 star hotel Le Royal Meridien which is lurvely with gorgeous quiet pool which we made good use of before the pre monsoon showers that kick in at 16:30 ....

Well Mumbai is exactly as the book 'Maximum city' (S. Metha) says it is. We are just back from an autorickshaw trip to Juhu beach which was a real white knuckle job plus I had my eyes closed a lot, the driver was so mental it was like being in a computer game and people were crossing the road everywhere in the middle of nuts traffic, I dunno how we didn't hit someone, and the traffic is mad for making 1 lane into 2. The guy knew what he was doing though and had a newer auto presumably with better brakes but oh my God I was petrified. But on the plus side we saw the biggest Bollywood stars house - Amitabh Bachanan or Big B the father of one half on AbhiAsh I mentioned earlier in the blog. He is huge star here and his image is everywhere from clothing ads to movies, I even read in 'A fine balance' (by R. Mistry, great novel by the way) set in 1975 he is described as the Indian John Wayne, so he has been a big star here for a looonnnggg time and he is always in the papers so we knew all about him - the latest story being he allegdedly pretended to have farming ancestors to get land for his summer house 20 yrs ago and now his relatives are no longer in power in that state so the game is up.

Anyway Juhu beach is in North Mumbai beside Bandra the Beverly Hills of Bombay as all the Bollywood stars live there (by the way in Tamil Nadu its called Tollywood) and so has lots of trendy eateries etc. After we watched the sunset on the beach with tonnes of locals we had dinner in 'Vie Lounge' over looking the beach, a very trendy place that apparently hosts a lot of Bollywood parties and which has really nice staff (can you imagine nice staff in an equivalent place in Dublin? I can't) and really good Italian food. So I guess we were mingling with the Mumbai cocktail set (ahem) even though I don't think we saw anyone too hot.

Our chests are knackered as the air is so thick here, we have not smoked in the 2 months bar some cigars in Goa and tonight we feel like we have fibreglass lungs. We read breathing the air here is equivalent to smoking 2.5 packs of cigs (presumably 20's) a day. But apart from that Mumbai rocks. The city is million times nicer than I expected, that are some gorgeous old romanesque and art deco buildings here, it's a proper old city like Calutta, and doesn't have flat sky line like Bangalore or Chennai. So we walked a good but of the city centre starting at the 'Gateway of India' which a very impressive building and is opposite the famous Taj Hotel which is much slicker than I expected, it's description in 'Son of the circus' (J. Inrving) makes it sound much more on the faded grandeur end of things when in fact it's the kind of 5 star hotel that has loads of really expensive designer shops on the ground floor. The grand stair case is impressive but I think that corridor of shops is cutting off it's lobby, I could be wrong but the area around the stairs looks suppressed to me. We had lunch in one of it's many restaurants 'Masala Kraft' and boy do they know how to charge, we later saw in interior shop 'Fabindia' we could have furnished our half our house for the same price as the lunch! But still nothing would do me only go there and I am still glad we did. Another good shop is 'The Bombay Store' which is dearer than the others but hopefully had better quality as we let lose in there for our new house in Oz wherever that may be.

Of course we saw all the slums too but the lovely buildings were in the museum district 'Kala Ghoda', where there is also the High Court and St. Thomas's cathedral and some other great builidngs like The New India Assurance building, The David Sassoon library and a Flora fountain erected in honour of the guy (Sir Bartle Frere) who dismantled the fort of Bombay and shaped much of modern Mumbai. Beside this is the stately Horniman Circle (giggle, giggle) and then we headed down to Churchgate station via 'Fashion Row' (or MK road) and the art deco Eros Cinema. And of course we had to see the sunset on Marine Drive looking out onto the arabian sea which did not disappoint, and saw the lights come on all around the bay which form what is called 'The Queen's necklace', again there's loads of old art deco built apartments here and this leads to to the famous Chowpatty beach at the foot of the really expensive neighbourhood Malabar Hill on one end and Nariman Point on the other. Easy know we were in a 'good' neighbourhood as this is the only time we saw jogging Indians.

I was told by some natives I knew from work it'd be best to stay in North Mumbai (near the airports) as it's anything up to 2 hours from town and can be more, don't know the distance but I'd say 20-30km but what I should have done was just book a hotel in that area for the last night as trekking in and out town to see the sights was a nightmare - sure we'd have got from Sligo to Galway quicker in the time the journey took here AFTER rush hour. But accomodation in Bombay is thin on the ground and expensive even if you book 3 months ahead (which I did) so I was happy to have got a 6 day booking in the first place so didn't bloody think it out. Would defo come illback but will stay in town next time and would still recommend the Royal Merdien for the night before the airport as it has a lovely pool and spa and 24 hour restaurant (according to it's better than the Hyatt across the road).

So that's it for this leg of the trip, but what a country and we will defo be back as we still have so much more to see ..... Kashmir, Kerala, Way more of Karnataka, Rajastan (there was trouble there 2 weeks ago though) likewise Hyderbad and of course Agra and Delhi and there's a number of WHO caves etc. we also missed and there's the states the LP calls te road less travelled.... But 12 nights Goa, 1 night Karnataka, 17 nights West Bengal, 24 nights Tamil Nadu, 5 nights Mahastra is enough to be going on with for now I think ;)

Next stop Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia for family wedding......

Spent our last 3 hours in Mumbai in the hotel spa getting buffed and polished to within an inch of our lives, which was a great idea. Then hotel limo dropped us to airport which really nice. Flight at 9.30pm (Qantas) was grand only I stayed awake for 11.25 of the 12 hours watching movies - Pan's Labyrinth (good but not as expected which always happens me with any movies talked up by friends), Little Children (good), Notes on a scandal (v.g.), The Dead Girl (grim but good), And a Bollywood one with a big long hindi name starring the aforementioned Big B and Little B and a bit of 'Perfume'. Other films on the Mumbai trip have been Oceans 12, Charlie and the Chocolate factory. (London-Mumbai in April was Blood Diamond and something else that for the life of me I cannot remember).
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