Saturday, July 01, 2006


Recently we had a long weekend in Mumbai arriving on the 23rd of June and leaving on the 27th. It's been at least six years since I was last there, apart from the airport, so it was interesting to return. The last time I had been there was 'winter'. The problem with Mumbai's climate is the humidity - it is not any hotter than Pune but the humidity really makes things uncomfortable. The relatively cool temperatures of winter provide little respite. This time we were there for the monsoon and it was much better. Still humid when it wasn't raining, but not too bad, and positively pleasant when there was a light shower. Heavy showers were another matter...

After checking into the hotel Roshni carried out the important business of testing the hotel beds for bounciness. That took about quarter of an hour. Next up was lunch high up in the Hotel's tower. The restaurant served Arabian fare, it was good enough if not as spectacular as the view from the twentieth floor. Later we went for a walk in the streets of Colaba, the district we were staying in. The hotel was on the coast and the main street was a couple of blocks behind and parallel to the sea-front. Hordes of hawkers selling various items of tat. Brass was big: items included mock antique gramophones, telescopes and swastika key-rings. Other big sellers were wooden elephants, enormous balloons and saffron of dubious quality. We managed not to buy any of that, but San did get some clothes for herself and Roshni. Those who have read 'Shantaram' ought to be familiar with Leopold's Café. It was on the street, but adorned with World Cup posters it looked far from the den of iniquity and shady deals depicted in the book. We finished off with a meal at a Chinese restaurant. The food here was good but suffered the typical Indian problem of being over generous. My fried crab claw starters would have sufficed for a table of six! Fortunately doggy bags were provided and would keep us fed for most of tomorrow.

The next day we took a boat from the Gateway of India to Elephanta Island. It takes about an hour and the weather was kind. Embarking was slightly exciting as you had to time your step on to the boat with the swell of the sea. The other end was easier as the boat was moored much tighter alongside another boat against the quayside. There was a toy train service from the quay to the steps leading up to the island's main attraction - the caves. The caves are manmade chambers carved out of solid stone with some large statues. Sadly the statues tend to be missing various limbs as they were used for target practice. Not by the British but the Portuguese who were the first Europeans in the area. The old name Bombay comes from the Portuguese for 'good bay' rather than being an English corruption of Mumbai. The place is a UNESCO world heritage site, making two in the Mumbai area. The other is Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus also known as Victoria Terminus and still commonly referred to as VT. You can see panoramas of both here and here - QuickTime required. The other attraction on the island are the monkeys. They expect food and will not feel shy about attempting to steal a bag from the tourists. Here's a picture of the initial stages of an attempted raid.

The next day we took a taxi to see some more of the city. There are some splendidly grand, if faded, buildings in Mumbai and we saw some on our ride. Marine Drive, as it's name suggests, runs along the coast and has a number of good looking buildings in varying states of wear. At one end of Marine Drive is Chowpati beach where Roshni has a ride on a toy car. These cars blare out Bollywood hits using the most distorted speakers I have ever heard. When three of them surround you trying to sell a ride you just want to disconnect your ears. Still, Roshni enjoyed it.

One evening we went to a restaurant behind the hotel for a European meal. It was quite a fancy place and the prices reflected that. Still. the food was excellent and the Australian wine an improvement on any local varieties. There is talk of good wine in Maharashtra - I haven't found it though!

We intended to visit some markets the next day, in particular Crawford Market and Choor Bazaar (literally Thief's Market - a comment on the dubious provenance of some of the wares). Sadly Roshni was very ill and vomiting continuously so we had to stay in the hotel. It was so severe that we had to call out a paediatrician who gave her an injection to stop the vomiting. The hotel staff did an excellent job in continuously replacing soiled bed sheets and towels. The injection did the job but she was still unwell for the next few days. Happily I can report that she has made a full recovery now.

The journey home was back along the expressway I mentioned in my very first post. This time the hills were surrounded by dark clouds hurling down torrents of water. Waterfalls were cascading down the sides of the hills and the road was awash. It all added to the fun. I encourage you to take a look at the Google Earth link below, it gives a good feel for the road.


Google Earth Links

Expressway - this is a three lane motorway remember!
Taj Palace Hotel and Gateway of India
Elephanta Island
Chowpati Beach

Photos are here


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