Trip Start Apr 10, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Wed 12th April 2006

I have been planning this journey for a long time, and consequently it has always seemed a long way off. Now, suddenly, i find myself two days in, sitting in a popular Mumbai guest house. Our digs are a generously sized room in Bently's Hotel, in the Colaba district of South Mumbai. We arived in the city yesterday morning and took a taxi straight from Chhatrapati Shivai Airport to our pre-booked accomodation. The room is fine, large, pretty much what i expected and by all accounts a lot cleaner and better run than many others.

There was no shortage of scaremongerers coming out of the woodwork before i left to tell their own horror stories of arival in Mumbai or Delhi, and indeed such stories are well documented. With these in mind, i feel i must have escaped relatively lightly. We were sent back to the end of the immigration que to fill out a long form which we had no idea was neccessary, and the clerk at the desk had run out of. We had a little trouble finding our pre-paid cab, and once we did were bribed by an imposting driver to take us. After the real driver turned up, a cramped, hot and very dangerous one hour and thirty mins drive, we were dropped at the hotel, checked in, and we had arrived.

Later in the day we took a walk around the surrounding area and to the Gateway to India, Mumbai' icon and a huge lasting stamp of colonial rule. The harbour area around the monument is packed with locals, including beggars, touts, photographers, stray dogs and for some reason a not insignificant amount of people selling huge oversized balloons. It was very hard not to feel totaly out of place. I had, perhaps naively, assumed there would be a significant minority population of other travelers milling around Mumbai, as it is a major city and for my purposes atleast a hub into South East Asia. This doesn't appear to be true and we have been on the end of a lot of strange looks from locals. Particularly around the Gateway i seemed to get a lot of attention from men, a lot of whome were holding hands. I thought we must have stumbled into the wrong area until i later learned that it's quite common for men to hold hands in South India, and is infact an accepted expression of friendship.

Exhausted from a long day of traveling and constant unwanted attention from sellers on the street, we stopped in Tendulkar's. For those who don't know, Sachin Tendulkar is Indias most famous cricketer, he holds the record for most test centuries, and in cricket mad India, the Mumbai born batsman is revered as some sort of God. Tendulkar's is the Bar & restaurant he has endorsed, which is a kind of cricket version of the Hard Rock Cafe, with its own gift shop attached. A little on the expensive side but reliable and very comforting, exactly what we both needed at that point. England have just finished playing a series of test matches in India, some of which were held in Mumbai. The barman was eager to explain that he had half of the team in here last week, including Kevin Peterson and Fredie Flintof. Can't blame them for choosing here, the beer was reasonably priced and the food was very good.

After chatting with the barman about cricket, my job back home, how much i earn etc.. (the Indians are very interested in your proffesion and comparative salary to their own. Ninty nine percent of the time this comes across as genuin friendly intrigue, rather than competative and rude as it might seem at home)... i told him we were planning to catch the Konkan railway south to Goa. He asked if we already had tickets, and when we told him we did not he said it would be very unlikely we could get one at such short notice (we wanted to leave the day after tomorrow). He suggested a sleeper bus instead which would be cheaper if a little less comfortable and classic. No sooner had we been hit by this problem than it was time to head back into the jungle 5that is the Mumbai street scene and fight our way back to the hotel.
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