Day 8: Mumbai - The city that never sleeps

Trip Start Apr 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 07, 2006

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Flag of India  ,
Saturday, April 22, 2006

Mumbai formerly known as Bombay is India's most cosmopolitan city. This place is happening and if you ask any locals they will say Mumbai never sleeps. It will even put NYC to shame.

Of the 5 nights in Mumbai, I am spending the first 3 nights in Bandra (North Mumbai). The next two days will be in Colaba(South Mumbai). Bandra is often described the posh side of Mumbai. Around Bandra and its neighbouring suburbs are where most of the Bollywood Actors and Actress lives. More on that later.

After the tour packed visit of North India, I wanted to chill out more in Mumbai for the first few days. I hailed down an AutoRickshaw (locally called Auto) and asked him to take me to Bandara's Shoppers Stop. This was recommend by one of my friend as a nice shopping complex. And that was something I noticed more of in Mumbai. There are lot of shopping complexes in Mumbai than in Delhi. The Auto guy told me that it has been busy and hectic morning for him because the buses were on strike today. The union were striking wanting more money leaving a lot of Mumbai commuters in anger. This added to the already crowded roads. The auto driver also told me that there are lot of developments going around in Mumbai and one day Mumbai will be like HK with all the high rise apartments and shopping malls. I wait for that day.

The 20mins ride cost about 15 Ruppes (50c AU). The autos are supposed to carry a conversion chart of meter fare to actual fare. This is because with all the hike in oil prices and inflation the fare has gone up, but they have not gone back and installed a new meter. As a rule of thumb, the actual meter fare has to be multiplied by 10 and then you subtract 1. That is how much you have to pay.

Shoppers stop is very similar to one of the department stores in Australia like Myers or David Jones, but not that posh or fancy. Everyone can shop here. Prices are reasonable. Fixed prices here so you can't bargain but then you know are not being cheated. Now can you get the same for cheaper somewhere else is a different question.

After a brief stop at Shoppers Stop I decided to walk the streets of Mumbai. This was scary. There were so much work going on the side roads. A lot of paving. Later I am told, this area is recovering from a bad flood from couple of years ago and rebuilding is going on. You would have thought that it is Mumbai preparing to host the 2010 Commonwealth games and not Delhi.

There were lot of open manholes and if you walk in the dark, guaranteed to fall in one if you don't look where you put your foot. Another common sight was spiting of "paan" A red tobacco like substance which local chew on and then spit. I even noticed the driver we toured North India with would often open the door and spit out of a driving car and then talk to us.

People urinating on the walls of the street was also very common. One local told me that if you visited Mumbai and you have not urinated on the walls then you have not experienced Mumbai.

Also familiar sight was security guards at all major stores who will open the doors for you as you walk in and walk out. I stepped into another mall and the malls are real welcome break after walking in the heat of Mumbai. This mall was in Linking road a street famous for its restaurants, bars and shopping. There are lot of street side shopping but they were mainly selling women's clothing.

In the evening met Suresh (friend of a friend) and he took me on a ride through North Mumbai and we drove around famous Juhu beach. There were lot of stalls here selling small ornaments to all sort of food. Apparently the Bhelpuri of Juhu are very famous. But I was not game to try this very early on my trip. I need to get to that wedding in one piece.

Autos are the best way to get around this part of town. They can navigate through the crowded streets...make stomach turning turns and if required go on 2 wheels (btw, they have 3 wheels). The speed limit on most roads is 40Km/h, but I don't think anyone could go more than 30 km/h. So why go by car?

Driving around Juhu area, my friend showed me the house of the famous bollywood actor Amithab Bachan. Also we drove past Sanjay Dutt's and Salman Khan's residence. The bollywood actors often visit Juhu beach and my friend pointed me to someone on getting off a jeep and said she was an actress. I did not recognize her.

Suresh picked up his friend Siddarth on the way we all went to get some snacks and had a drink to welcome me to Mumbai. Siddarth used to live in NYC for 5 years where he studied and worked a year. Now he has returned to Mumbai and says he prefers Mumbai to NYC any day. Me...I think I will stick with Melbourne.

I will find it very hard to live in Mumbai. There are no rules or order. I won't be able to drive here. The streets are so polluted and littered. The honking sounds of vehicles drives me nuts.

Suresh showed me where he lives. He lives in a Colony or locally called a society. Everyone in that colony are of the same caste and are related to each other in one way or the other. There are 8 apartments (each 4 - 6 stories) and a temple, a wedding hall, a park and a grocery store all within the complex. So you usually don't have to get out of the colony. I guess it gives you a good family close living feeling.

I took a auto back from Juhu to my hotel. The auto driver did not know where my hotel was, so he dropped me at the train station close to my hotel. I knew this station was only few minutes walk from my hotel..but the 1 million dollar question was in which direction. So this was my first challenge of the trip. I walked around and tried to familiarise myself with the surroundings. This was at 10PM. I did not feel theatend at any stage. I think I blend in well like a local until I open my mouth. So I walked around as if I was a local. After few minutes of walking and no luck, I asked one of the security guard at a nearby hotel on where 4th road was (this is where my hotel is located). Lucky for me I understood a bit of hindi. I nodded my head and said "sukriya" meaning Thank you in hindi and followed his direction and within 1 min I was a my hotel. That was a great sigh of relief. I think 1 adventure is enough for the day, so time to hit the sack.
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