After the bad weather, rough seas and strong currents we experienced since departing Penang, our arrival time in Mumbai progressively slipped from the projected 8am until about noon (even though the rather optimistic clock at the cruise terminal said it was 9am when we arrived)
Come to think of it we cant be sure whether it was indicating am or pm or, for that matter, in which month or millennium!
Sailing in whilst awake did have its advantages in that you could enjoy the entire process and take in the view. I wont bore you with the miles-long oil slick we sailed through, or the detritus on marine display, but rather show the skyline of this big and bustling city…………
…………With a special focus on the Taj Mahal Hotel – original (restored) section and the newer (restored) tower (post terrorist atrocity) – and the welcoming ‘ Gateway to India’.
This area, and the close at hand Colaba Causeway, were where we planned to spend our now (substantially diminished) time here.
We docked at the cruise terminal – specially decked out to welcome visitors to ‘Incredible India’
– with a group of workers sweeping up spillage on the dock just-in-time for our arrival and placement of the almost red carpet - and a group of officials to officiate and spectate
We had originally booked a tour in Mumbai but realizing that our curtailed stay would mean a rushed experience we cancelled and elected to make our own way.
The terminal offered a visitors center where we obtained a brochure on the city to see if we could pick up some pointers on how to spend our time. I must say, the brochure offered a view of a sophisticated, with-it high-end city that, for a visitor at least, must take quite a bit of time to find.
That it exists I have no doubt, the wealthy here are supremely wealthy – for example the CEO of Reliant Industries owns a highly visible home said to be the costliest on earth.
Our tastes and experiences ran to the more pedestrian. We walked from the ship to the “green gate” (exit from the dock) to catch a cab. This was a short walk – gangplank to terminal door; through terminal and exit into dock; along the road to the gate and exit. Five security checks of our papers for me, six for Merle in that distance! This is also an India Navy base with a multitude of vessels at anchor but even so………
When you arrive you are immediately surrounded by a horde of folks jostling you hither and thither. Cab drivers offering a ride; beggars, people selling stuff. We wanted a cab and quickly made a deal for a $5 ride to the ‘Gateway to India’.
It was a Sunday (and holidays) so the crowds and traffic were even more busy than usual.
Driving here must require nerves of steel – no Grand Prix chicane has more need for concentration on your ‘line’ than making a turn in Mumbai.
Some transportation is more romantic than the rest
Our first stop was the Taj Mahal Hotel where we needed to make a pit stop and experience a few moments of air conditioning. It was unbelievably hot and humid outside. This beautiful hotel is an oasis of elegant, cool and expensive – a taste of what the brochure offered in their take of the city.
Once back on the sidewalk there is a different experience – uncollected garbage with dogs rooting around…….
…… A dwelling place for some at the lower end of the social ladder…….
…. A step or two up the accommodation experience
From the Taj we walked a few blocks to the shopping area along Colaba Causeway.
There are Government stores here where handiworks are on sale that are guaranteed to be of quality.
There are also stores lining the sidewalk that sell whatever for whatever. Quality no consideration. Merle bought a funky pair of sunglasses with a sticker attached – glass fractured underneath the sticker.
This young man attached himself to me and just chatted away as we walked – he clearly wanted to be of some use to us because he waited outside the government store (just as patiently as I waited inside it) and reattached himself upon our exit.
Lady and monkey walking along the sidewalk for photo opportunity – we took the photo without either of us – gave her some money for her trouble – she says “no money, give me milk powder rather”. questions abound; why milk powder? Where does she think tourists are going to get it from? What is it for? The monkey? Home?
Finally had enough and its time to head back to the ship; flagged down a cab. How much to the “green gate”? $2 – answers he. Damn, got ripped off coming here thinks me.
Cabbie is albino; very chatty. Proud of his cab, son also drives. He has two cars (gave us his business card).
he says to us:- “we are his first passengers of the day” “ your ship came in late today” “ you had an expiry on the ship” – apparently well known that a passenger passed (and had to be disembarked here)
How quickly all the good news travels
Finally, as we arrive at the gate to the dock I look to the left side of the road and there is a cow standing underneath the shelter at a bus stop. Its brutally hot in the open and the cow has determined it needs shelter. Passengers lining up for the bus are standing in the open, direct sunlight, around the stop (and the cow). Its clear what has priority in ‘Incredible India’.