Mumbai, previously known as Bombay is in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The skyline when viewed from the air or the port stretches for miles. Easy to imagine with a population of more than 20 million. Toronto, LA, and NYC together could fit within the confines of this urban expanse. The financial hub of India and a booming port possessing a naturally deep water harbor with a distance of 150 square miles that opens to the south Arabian Sea. The port is also home to a large naval base.
The dichotomy of India is clearly evident in Mumbai. As one of the wealthiest cities and possessing the most expensive real estate prices in the world surpassing both Manhattan and Tokyo. It is also home to one of the biggest slum communities. If you want to know and experience diversity, visit Mumbai. This city also has its very own language that is the Bambaiiya Hindi. Known to be a city filled with warm and friendly people which was our experience whether on a walk about or just sitting in the lobby of our guesthouse. We were also just around the corner from Crawford Market which had the usual varieties of fruits and vegetables in addition to a multitude of clothing and fabrics. An oddity for us was the various dogs, cats, rabbits, gerbils, fish and farm animals for sale.
Chelle picked our lodging for its proximity to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, but still referred by many by it’s former British name – Victoria Terminus or simply VT. The Bombay train station is a UNESCO world heritage site and for good reason, it is architecturally gorgeous and while we there it was lite up in preparation for the Christmas season. We had an epic walk our second day deep into Mumbai and across to the waterfront.
We visited the Gateway to India, a mammoth archway that greeted Queen Victoria on her arrival in 1911. Adjoining the waterfront was another famous Mumbai monument – The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. A luxury hotel where a cup of masala tea costs Rs450 ($7 USD) I instead opted for the Rs175 ($2.60) bottle of Himalayan water. It must be stated that a cup of chai anywhere else in the city would cost between 10 – 40 Rupee and water about 25 Rupee…
We left Mumbai on Friday night, another opportunity to experiment with a sleeper bus heading to Aurangabad. We met a nice young lad on the bus heading home from a pilgrimage. Part of a larger group staying throughout the city and I had met another family from the same Muslim community in the lobby of our guesthouse earlier in the day. Waseem wanted to know all about our India trip and he talked about his trips to the US. It was as much about his interest in us as it was an opportunity to practice his English skills.
Mumbai was a short stay for us but as usual the people we encountered were helpful and generous. Chelle still copes with the unwelcome stares of many men here. However, she has had celebrity status in many areas we have visited that hopefully make up for some of the troubles. The following picture is one of several from earlier today outside the Mini Taj Mahal in Aurangabad. Her hat and sunglasses were also a big hit!