We sat watching the sun rise behind the Gateway to India arch on our first day in Mumbai (Bombay). Our overnight train from Panaji had arrived at 5 am and it would be several hours before we could get into our hotel room. The city of millions was just starting to wake.
I wondered if I should be nervous as we walked down the empty, dark streets on our way to the arch. A few lone men stood in the shadows, but seemed harmless. Near the arch a chai stand was gathering a crowd waiting for their morning tea.
By the time it was light out, groups of locals and Indian tourists were crowded along the waterfront. A man tossed a large bag of seeds at group of pigeons causing a flurry of feathers.
Across the street the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel stood majestically. Turban wearing men clad in all white greeted the early morning guests. As cars entered the round about, guards searched underneath them with long handled mirrors, a safety precaution after the 2008 terrorist attack that killed 166 people.
At first glance, Mumbai was not what I expected in a big Indian city. We stayed in the tourist area of Coloba and it was not nearly as crowded as I thought it would be. The area was fairly clean and I only saw a few cows. The traffic wasn’t bad at all. I hardly had any trouble crossing the street.
Perhaps I am getting used to the craziness that is India, but this part of Mumbai seemed down right mellow. I would compare it to New York City’s Greenwich Village area, still city, but kind of laid back.
We spent the morning wandering around the area. We explored the art district, but the galleries were closed.
The architecture of the nearby university made me think Harry, Ron, and Herminone would be showing up any minute.
As we sat outside the cricket field, we were approached by a Bollywood scout asking if we would be available to be extras in a movie. Unfortunately (for me, at least), we were heading out to visit the Ellora Caves the next day. The rest of my family thought it would have been boring, but I thought it would be fun.
We took the opportunity of being in a big city to enjoy some American comforts like Starbuck’s, Dominos Pizza, and McDonald’s. McDonald’s in India is especially different with no pork or beef products. I stuck with fillet o’ fish, chicken nuggets, and french fries, which taste the same as in the US. I didn’t brave the Aloo Tikka or Paneer sandwiches. I considered the chicken Maharaja Big Mac, but “chickened” out.
We took a city tour to explore outside the Colaba neighborhood.
We were taken to see a huge public laundry, which our guide told us was the biggest in India.
We visited Haji Ali Mosque that is reached by a walking along a causeway out into the bay. The promontory was lined with shops on one side and handicapped beggers on the other.
We also explored the hanging gardens, one of the only green spaces in the city.
A highlight of the tour was visiting Mani Bhavan where Ghandi spent time while in Mumbai. The puppet displays were strange, but informative. Seeing the Ghandi’s room set up like when he was there was powerful.
I really liked Mumbai. We only spent a few days there and I feel like we only scratched the surface of this sprawling metropolis that with so few skyscrapers doesn’t quite feel like a big city, despite its population of millions.