08.02.2014 - 11.02.2014
We arrived at Bandra Station at lunchtime, aching and irritable from a poor nights sleep, knowing we still had about an hours tuk tuk ride through Mumbai to get to our hostel. We fought our way through the usual scrum of tuk tuk drivers and eventually managed to settle on a reasonable price and set off through the calmer streets of Mumbai. The tuk tuk driver dropped us off outside our hostel and we were immediately greeted by a 'movie scout' who promised us a days work as extras in a Bollywood movie! Stardom beckoned for all of five minutes until the hotel manager told us the guy was dodgy and we would be wise to stay clear of him. Our Bollywood dreams in tatters we headed off to see the Gateway to India, via a quaint little art deco bar called Cafe Universal that just happened to be next to our hostel. Although very similar in appearance to the India Gate in Delhi, the Gateway to India is not a war memorial. It was built to commemorate the arrival of King George V in 1911 and has seen many governors, viceroys and heads of state pass through it on their arrival to India. Unfortunately we were not considered important enough to walk through it and had to join the hundreds of other tourists simply walking around it. Afterwards we wandered around the streets of Cordaba and stumbled apon the infamous Leapolds. Although there was quite a queue we couldn't not have a drink there. We managed to squeeze into a table and enjoyed a beer whilst taking in the place. I always imagined it to be a seedy looking speakeasy kind of place and was surprised that it actually seemed to have more of a TFI Fridays feel to it!
Day two saw us sample some new Indian breakfasts - upmas and the sweeter sheera. Delicious! With our bellies full we returned to the Gateway To India, but this time we boarded the ferry for the one hour ride to Elephanta Island, another UNESCO World Heritage site. The boat ride itself is rather impressive, with views of the mumbai skyline, docks and naval yard. Arriving at the picturesque Elephanta island we opted to walk the 100metres instead of pay 100RS for the train and were glad when we almost beat it anyway! We were a little dismayed to be greeted by yet more steps up to the caves, but this time were distracted during the climb by the many stalls selling tourist tat.There are five caves in total that you can visit, all have rock cut sculptures, made during the 5th and 6th century's, dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. Without doubt the most striking cave was the first. Measuring an impressive 40 meters from front to back, supported by several stone columns. The masterpiece is the dominating 7metre tall Sadashiva, representing the three aspects of Shiva; the creator, the preserver, the destroyer. The other caves were progressively less impressive so we took a climb up to the gun mounts at the top of the hill for some more impressive views of Mumbai.We finished off the day with yet another blinding curry at a local cafe.
On the third day we tried our luck on the Mumbai metro where I casually jumped onto the women only carriage! Our destination was the Dhobi Ghat. This place holds the world record for most people (496) hand-washing clothes at a single location. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when we got off the train and walked over the overpass. My jaw dropped when all i could see was row after row of washing lines full of clothes. We took a tour of the place and where guided through the maze of hanging clothes and washing 'blocks'. 7000 people work there using 800 blocks to do the washing. A family working there will earn 2000rs per month gross (200GBP). Most of the clothes in mumbai will go through this place, every item is marked so it doesn't get lost and they achieve an impressive 24hr turnaround. It seemed like back breaking work and yet everyone i saw had a beaming smile, inspiring. We spent the afternoon strolling along the famous Marine Drive, a nice walk but the Mumbai skyline from here left me a little wanting.
Our forth and final day saw us partake in a little retail therapy. We headed to the Phoenix mall that initially seamed very small, that was until we realized the mall we were in was a smaller mall of a massive five mall complex. We took a stroll into M&S, and feeling quite odd quickly shot off to find some other shops whilst enjoying the air conditioning. I found it very odd to be in quite opulent surroundings when just outside we had seen homeless communities living under tarpaulin tents. Our shopping requirements fulfilled we set off back to hostel on route to the train station.
Mumbai is certainly a city of contrasts.We packed a lot in whilst we were there and i loved every minute of it.