Friday, May 11, 2018


Mumbai, 17 million strong.It is an Alpha World City, home of Bollywood and a victim of a horrific terrorist attack in 2008. It is modern, busy, has limited cows and exactly what I needed.

All my enthusiasm waned when our taxi driver, from a pre-paid service, asked us to find the hotel on her phones GPS. It was Varanasi all over again. First she took the inner city route because she did not want to pay the 70 rupees toll on the expressway that we were told she would do. Then as we got closer to our destination Caitlyn had to work the GPS while the woman drove. The driver made wrong turn after wrong turn and my "spidey senses lit up".  There was going to be a request for more money at the end of this ride, I could see that coming.

The trip should have taken an hour but 2 hours later, like Varanasi, we were still in limbo. Even calling the hotel did not help, she gave us the phone to ask directions. We were close, stopped and asked many of the helpful local men hanging about and they pointed us in the right direction. Like Varanasi our hotel was not accessible by taxi as we were in the heart of the Muslim quarter.  As we pulled our bags from the taxi to walk the 5 minutes and right on cue our driver shouted that she wanted 500 more rupees because of all the extra driving she had to do. Called that one a mile away. We paid the extra because arguing in the middle of the street I was not worth the effort. Add Mumbai to the cities where I have been ripped off by a taxi driver. Whatever, we were hungry.

This was a hard core neighborhood. It was safe and there would not be any issues but it not what I had envisioned to begin my Mumbai downtime. Rutted narrow streets filled with garbage and open sewers filled our noses with the worst smells. It was one huge market but like everywhere else a smile was greeted with a helpful smile. It took a bit to adjust but when we did it was fine, except the traffic and noise made Varanasi seem like a paradise. Food was no issue. Outdoor cafes carving up shawarmas the smelt outrageously delicious. We were called into a small family restaurant that was busy. Helpful smiles and offers to go through the menu created an instant positive vibe. The shawarmas were the best I have ever eaten. That was followed by chicken, rice, boiled egg and veggies. This was not the trendy touristy area I wanted but it was going to be fine.

Caitlyn had a friend here who she knew from working on the cruise ships. We met Hanif and he took us through Colabra. Our first stop was for a beer  at the Leopold Cafe.  This was the first place the terrorists opened fire in 2008. Bullet holes in the walls are reminders but the skeptic in me thinks they remain to attract tourist. Hanif agreed. We walked to the river front and the and the Taj Hotel, another landmark that was bombed in 2008. We drank at a few more cafes and agreed to meet the next. Caitlyn and I literally ran the 30 minutes back to our area, found our restaurant and devoured late night shwarmas.

To meet Hanif we decided we were going to challenge ourselves and take a local train. After a bit of work and some helpful advice by security and station staff we boarded the train with our .18C tickets for the one hour ride. The train doors always remain open and during rush hour it is not uncommon for people to be accidentally pushed from the train to their death. We also had to change trains halfway which we did like champs. At our stop we jumped in a tuk tuk (who Hanif said over charged us) and headed to a western style mall. Seriously, it was filled with western shops, a huge food court and happy middle class Indian shoppers. On the train were passed the poorest of the poor garbage strewn shanty towns. Fifteen minutes later I was sipping a $4 coffee in an air conditioned mall.

Hanif had one plan, drinking. He took us to a pub where it was buy one get one free...pitchers of beer. So we drank 8 of them while Caitlyn experimented with Indian whiskey's. We contemplated attempting the train home but Hanif put our drunk asses into an Uber for the hour ride home. It was $8C.

After 3 nights in Muslimtown we moved hotels into tourist town for 2 nights. We wandered he streets, browsed open air book shops, drank to many MacDonalds Ice coffees of which I am now a fan, snacked on street food and marvelled at the old British constructed buildings. Finally we spent time at the CST train station watching the madness.

Our last day we hopped in a rickety old tourist boat to Elephanta Island. Here we could view the ancient caves and carvings dating back 1000 years. It was unbelievably hot so when we came upon the guy selling frozen fruit ice cream it was a no brainier. As we started walking the 120 steps through the markets towards the entrance a monkey appeared on the ledge 3 feet beside me, eyes fixed on my delicious frozen snack. Seconds later he hopped on the path directly in front of me. I was 3  bites in but knew the next step for monkey boy was climbing on me. I tossed my ice cream over the wall and off the little monkey asshole went. "He was not leaving without your ice cream" said the smiling tourist behind me. "You did the right thing". Upon seeing this 10 second episode unfold Caitlyn devoured hers in one bite and suffered through a massive brain freeze. Losing mine was worth watching Caitlyn suffer for 15 seconds.

Our final day we went to watch the new Avengers movie in 3D. It was good but I don't know much of the back stories. I especially enjoyed listening to the Indian kids scream, shout, laugh and get ever intense. It's how movies should be. 

Mumbai was not what I expected but was everything I needed. It helped me recharge and unwind after more than two weeks of sensory overload and having my version of reality questioned. 

There is nothing else to say about India except "holy shit".

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