The Travelling Teacher: Mumbai
This week’s blog is all about my time in Mumbai. I’ll be sharing my first impressions, transport experiences and some tips for how to get around here. In addition to all this, you’ll find out about my experiences of the sights I visited whilst here.
Are you a keen architect? Or, perhaps you just appreciate the beauty of a well-designed building? Definitely read on to find out about the buildings that Mumbai has to offer!
Mumbai: First impressions
With our ever-growing list of things to do and places to see, we only designated just under a week in Goa before heading to Mumbai. We took a flight to Mumbai which took us just over an hour. As we came into land here I was excited to see if the landing views it had to offer could compare to the views of landing in Goa. It was a completely different outlook, we flew over a mass of shanties and all that could be seen were thousands of tin roofs (this is no exaggeration!).
This airport is busy and the beeping of the taxis is a sound that still sticks with me. The drivers are eager to get in and get out to avoid the waiting fees. My top tip here is stand in the centre island of the taxi area for a better view of the approaching traffic and to flag down your ride amidst the mass of cars.
Mumbai: Mumbai life
This was a whole new side of India here. It was busy and not as clean as the other places we had been to so far. The air pollution seemed really bad here too, my phone even popped up with alerts to warn me about it. Accommodation was more expensive too, similar to our experience in Hong Kong, it was a luxury to have a window here and you paid extra for it! We ended up booking a hotel that looked ‘OK’. However, once there, we spent as little time as possible in the hotel. I did also have a little moan to the booking provider, as there are some standards to adhere to.
TOP TIP - I know when you’re away, the last thing you want to do is complain but it pays off. I contacted my travel provider and they were super helpful and we were able to receive some compensation for our stay. It’s always worth it! At the end of the day, they are supposed to be providing a service.
A lot of the men here seemed to white tunic style clothes and the women, which I didn’t see many of, mostly wore saris and some wore burkas. I would definitely recommend that women cover their shoulders, avoid anything too revealing and try to wear a skirt or trousers that are fairly long. As I was travelling light I didn’t have many tops that didn’t reveal my shoulders so I would often wrap myself up in my shoal.
TOP TIP - Think carefully about your clothing here as you want to remain respectful.
Here the best mode of transport is either by a rickshaw or if you’re feeling dangerous, you could hire out a bike. I was worried enough being in a Rickshaw at times! Traffic gets very close for comfort. It always seems to be busy too. The laidback days of Kerala were feeling long gone. Don’t be surprised if you see men literally hanging off moving vehicles or a mass of men crammed into the back of a vehicle.
Exploring Mumbai: The Fort Area
As we wanted to go exploring slightly further afield, we got a taxi to the Fort area. This was a pricey trip but SO worth it! There was some really interesting architecture around here. It was a real mixed bag, it had areas that seemed built up and quite classy then an area that seemed like a slum just next door. Though, at no point were the roads in a good condition! However, it did seem that they were in the middle of lots of road works.
More importantly, there is an AMAZING brownie place here with a lovely range of different types of brownie. Even a red velvet brown – yes, red velvet brownie! I have to admit, as I was on a budget I only had one and went for the standard double chocolate chip brownie as I was craving it. Once I had eaten my desert, we headed for dinner. Yes, I worked a little backwards here. But, in our defense, as I mentioned earlier we had been finding in India that many restaurants do not open until late and come on, it was a brownie! I couldn’t resist. We waited for a fish restaurant to open, it had good reviews and even had security on the door. Lots of places had security on the door here which did make me feel slightly on edge.
Let’s get into the good stuff - what food is on offer in Mumbai? For starters there is the crab soup. I have been trying more and more crab dishes since finding that the ‘dressed crab’ I’ve tried at home and disliked is not a good judge to go by. Crab soup on the other hand is such a winner! I ate this followed by my main, garlic prawns. And WOW, there was no mistaking these were garlic, in fact it’s all I could taste! Luckily I wasn’t on a first date!
Exploring Mumbai: Attempting to get the train…and bailing
After an intense day exploring the Fort area, we decided to try out Mumbai transportation. The Metro was actually really up to date and modern, not like the pictures you see with people crammed in and hanging off the sides of trains. For a whole 20 rupees each, yes, a whole 22p we got a trip on the metro. It was even more of a bargain as it had air conditioning, I would have paid 22p just for that alone! However, whilst on there we got talking to a young Indian boy. He started telling us horror stories of how we were likely to be mugged on the next train and how just the other day he had had his phone stolen. Very kindly he helped show us how to get the train ticket, which was not as advanced as the metro system. We headed to the platform and it was rammed! This was where it was like the documentaries you see on the T.V. After getting caught up in a very unpleasant experience on the platform, we decided to head home.
On our way home we found a highly rated restaurant. The restaurant/ bar was so lovely and we ended up spending the whole afternoon and evening there just chilling, talking, working and of course eating! I tried some sweet chilli paneer…and I have to admit I’m still sold on paneer, as it doesn’t particularly taste of much. The kulcher bread however, was very tasty. If you guys have read my other blogs you will know I am a carb-loving sort of girl, so this was right up my street. It was similar to the garlic naans I’d had but denser and doughy with herbs sprinkled on the top, similar to a very doughy bread. This ‘lounge’ had the perfect view of the city! We overlooked the mountains and the city. We could take in the busy city life without having to get too involved whilst sipping on a cocktail – perfection!
Exploring Mumbai: The Gate of India
Sticking to our most reliable and quicker (ish) mode of transport, we took a tuk tuk to The Gate of India in the Apollo Bunder area at the end of Chhatrapati Shivaji Marg in South Mumbai. It took a little while to get there via a reliable transport app and a tuk tuk. To my pleasant surprise the gate was not as busy as I had expected. Don’t get me wrong there were a few people, but it was not overwhelming.
Upon entry of the gate you have to go through a security scan and your bag is checked. Inside, there’s a designated area for the pigeon feeding to help discourage them from the gate itself. There are many locals who have travelled to the see the beautiful gate and if you visit and are anything like me, a typical looking Brit (I mean with white skin, freckles and wavy ginger hair I can’t really escape being spotted) you’ll find that many of the people may request a picture. This happened frequently in India but in top spots, like this, it’s more prevalent. It’s crazy to think that maybe somewhere in the world, I am in a number of family pictures that could be up on someone’s wall. I wondered if they were even more eager for a picture with me due to the history of the gate. As the gate was originally built during the British rule and was built in commemoration of the visit of King George V and Queen Mary and was even built by a British architect.
The gateway’s arch stands 26 meters high and is joined by four turrets and is laden with intricate latticework carved on stones. It’s truly magnificent and it takes a while to walk around the gateway to really appreciate it. The surrounding scenery also adds to the beauty of this place with the gateway facing the Arabian Sea. After walking around, we took a leisurely stroll along Marine Drive which runs parallel to the sea. What a hard life!
Mumbai: The heart of the city
As always, we decided to walk and see what was around. Like I always say, you’ll be surprised what you can come across! Mumbai has some of my favourite buildings! I was in love with the architecture here. The High Court here is a fine example of beautiful design. Though I always go on about how much I love nature, I do also appreciate a good building! There was one building here that even had a ‘Harry Potter-esque’ winding stairway – I was very intrigued! If I wasn’t looking at the buildings, or watching the men in the park playing cricket, I was most certainly reading and taking in the awesome street art. There’s a lot of it here and much of the pieces hold a strong message that deserves to be given time and thought.
After a lovely day exploring the city of Mumbai we sat by the Arabian Sea on Marine Drive, had an ice cream and just took in the spectacular view across the water with the buildings lining the back drop and the sun slowly setting – it was definitely movie quality. We booked our ride home and we all had to do was wait. Little did we know how entertaining our wait would be.
"Then, in the distance we noticed some sort of small procession heading our way. As it came closer we realised it was a wedding procession. We could see the groom dancing in the open top car and they had a band playing, their friends and family dancing along as they approached the wedding destination."
We were pretty spaced out from a busy day exploring so we weren’t being as on the ball as normal but we could hear some loud banging and noises. The noises seemed to be getting closer, closer and closer. Then, in the distance we noticed some sort of small procession heading our way. As it came closer we realised it was a wedding procession. We could see the groom dancing in the open top car and they had a band playing, their friends and family dancing along as they approached the wedding destination. It looked SO much fun! I couldn’t help but move along to the music. This procession is called the ‘Baraat’ and it involved the groom and his family singing and dancing as they headed to the entrance of the wedding. This is just ONE of many colourful, energetic and downright fun traditions of an Indian wedding. Now, I am not a girl who has always dreamed of a wedding but when I saw this I definitely thought, if someone is ever mad enough to ask me to marry them and if I am crazy enough to say yes…I want this kind of fun energy at my wedding!
What’s up next?
I share a new blog every week. Next week I’ll be sharing with you my journey to Ahmedabad and the adventures I had whilst there.
Have you been to India before? Or, are you planning a trip? Comment or have your say. I can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org