We spent most of our time in Mumbai on foot strolling around the neighborhoods of Churchgate, Fort and Colaba.
The Gateway of India was photogenic but not as eye-catching as the gaudy metallic horse-drawn carriages that were picking up tourists on the street leading to it. The carriages were especially impressive (i.e. tacky!) when lit up – imagine flashing fairy lights in five different colors. Quite a sight, but sad as well – the horses all looked so underfed and overworked.
We passed a lovely hour hanging out in the simple but good-sized park in front of the High Court called Oval Maidan, where there were probably about 25 cricket games of varying seriousness and skill being played simultaneously. Great fun to watch, although the game still confuses the heck out of me! Also neat were the bells from the court’s clock tower announcing the quarter hours – a sound we haven’t heard since we’ve left Switzerland.
We’d seen street cricket in Delhi and Varanasi, and I’d witnessed a couple of determined joggers amongst all the picnickers and people strolling in Delhi’s Lodi Park. So it made a change to see so much sport going on in Mumbai. We had a view of Marine Drive from our ‘penthouse’ terrace and I could see folks jogging along the water in the early morning. When we took our own constitutional further up the drive, after visiting Chowpatty Beach, I was happy to see that some of the joggers were even women in form-fitting workout clothes none-the-less! Mumbai definitely is different.
Chowpatty Beach was fun to visit. It was sun-drenched, full of people and colorful. After having read in Lonely Planet that the water of Back Bay is toxic, I was impressed to see some Indian people enjoying the surf – albeit just at the water’s edge; no one was swimming or in deeper than waist level.
It was also funny to see the place for myself after having read the novel Shantaram (which takes place mostly in Mumbai), comparing what the mind has conjured up versus reality. Of course the picture in my head was completely different. We also popped our heads into Leopold’s bar, which was the Shantaram cast’s main hangout. Also completely different from how I had imagined. 🙂 We didn’t stay for a drink though as it was absolutely packed and I was desperate for dinner at that point. 😉
Other Mumbai bits and pieces
-Bat watching from our hotel roof at night. There were a few absolutely massive bats (we think fruit bats) that staked out the long avenue below our hotel every night. The biggest one was around the size of a small cat with a correspondingly impressive wingspan. Incredible to see them gliding above the cars.
-I got a real kick out of the street vendors handling in massive, neon-colored balloons. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera on me when we saw them. The balloons were similar in shape to a butternut squash and probably about four feet tall. As the hawkers said, “Big balloon!”
-I also didn’t have my camera to be able to take shots of the banyan trees at night. I an’t do it justice with words but they were beautifully eerie in the dark with their vines backlit by street lamps.
Neighborhood in the Fort area of Mumbai; black and yellow cabs
View from inside a black and yellow cab
On Marine Drive
Chowpatty Beach and Mumbai skyline
The shore and sky line along Marine Drive
If you need balloons, you can call this guy
Spiral staircase behind our hotel
Mickey welcomes you to the office on our hotel’s first floor