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Rambling through Mumbai

India, Day 43 – Mumbai

The Cape Mumbai Express pulled into Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (or Victoria Terminus) at about 5:15 this morning – 45 hours and 5 minutes after it left Thiruvananthapuram. And what did I do? I hung around at the station reading and drinking chai, so that I could hope to avoid the risk of arriving at a hotel so early that they wanted to charge me for two days instead of one.

Mumbai is markedly different from anywhere else I’ve visited in India. The first difference manifested itself when I decided I’d killed enough time (‘Just killing ti-ime, just killing, killing time …’) and went to look for an autorickshaw. There weren’t any. Literally – Mumbai only has taxis (apparently, according to LP there are autos in the north of the city, just not down here). So I got a taxi to my hotel.

Or, at least, I tried to. I wanted to go to Maria Lodge. The driver took me elsewhere (despite his protestation of ‘100% genuine’). I know he took me elsewhere because this elsewhere to which he took me was the sight of at least three other hotels – stacked on top of each other – two of which are mentioned in good old Lonely Planet. The first one the doorman took me to, and which wasn’t in the world’s most accurate guidebook, was too expensive. Knowing that I’d been suckered once again, I said no to the two rooms I was shown and was headed for the stairs when the doorman invited up to one of the other (LP-sanctioned) hotels.

So I ended up with a room at the top (in the strictly spatial sense) hotel, Sea Shore Hotel. This is the second most expensive hotel I’ve been in in India (by the way, I’m writing this in a Barista with a mocha grande and Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’ has just come on the TV. Thought you might like to know) and by far the worst. It’s not awful, but I don’t have a private bathroom, nor do I even have a window. And the TV channels may best be described as sucky.

LP says that you should ‘recalibrate’ your ideas of budget accommodation in Mumbai – it’s the most expensive city in the country. And this ties into its main difference to the rest of India: like no other place, not even Delhi, Mumbai feels like a modern, cosmopolitan, dare I even say affluent city.

It streets have well-defined road and pavement areas and traffic lights, and they’re lined with large historical buildings – many of which I’ve photographed today … although, to be fair I’ve only been in the Colaba, Churchgate and Fort areas – the rest of the city may be more typically Indian.

gateway-of-india.jpg

My main activity for the day was doing the walk suggested in Lonely Planet, starting at the Gateway of India (which wasn’t terribly impressive. Yes, it’s a nice arch, but it was half-cloaked in scaffolding and surrounded by workmen at work, and tourists and tat-hawkers) and working north past the Prince of Wales Museum (officially and less catchily called the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. Seriously), the University of Mumbai, Oval Maidan and so on.

victoria-terminus.jpg

Along the way, and on my way back I began the process of buying souvenirs. I picked up a load of old Indian coins to satisfy my numismatic urges, and also got a gift each for my niece and nephew (a white and pink scarf and a belt with a large blue and red Batman-style buckle respectively … the Batman belt isn’t terribly Indian, but I think it’ll amuse Tom).

The day was spoilt a little when I went out again later to get some food and use the internet. Walking up Colaba Causeway takes you past a load of touristy shops – and they all have touts outside. It’s a good thing I’m leaving soon, because if I stayed much longer in India I’d end up punching someone in the face for saying, ‘Hello, friend.’ Well, I’m far too much of a coward for that, but I fantasise about it.

Tomorrow, I’ll check out of the hotel, put my bag in a cloakroom at a train station and maybe go into the … Prince of Wales Museum. Then I have a train at 16:40 from Mumbai Central.

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