Monday, 8 February 2016

Travels in India, 2016 - Salaam Bombay




When we saw £17 flights from Goa to Mumbai we couldn't say no. We'd been before but no matter, we're not bucket list types. We don't visit places just to tick them off and impress our mates. If we love somewhere we'll go back again and again. Some people claim to have "done" a country after staying in an all-inclusive for a fortnight, after 16 years and some 25 visits we've barely scratched India's surface.


Mumbai doesn't so much welcome you as smack you around the face and zap you with a cattle prod. There's an amazing energy to the city, it crackles with life. Every day over five hundred people move here, many fleeing lives of crushing poverty in rural India and, far from being oppressive and intimidating, the air is charged with optimism and high spirits. Clichéd as it might sound, Mumbai is the city of dreams.


Of course when 22 million people live in a city one third of the size of London then road chaos ensues. It took two hours to travel the 24 km journey from the airport to our lodgings in down-town Colaba but, you just take a deep breath and enjoy the ride, and we did. It was a Friday afternoon and on the rooftops of the slums were thousands of barefoot children flying kites and shrieking with unbridled joy.


Property prices in Mumbai are amongst the highest in the world and our budget required a serious rethink. Moti, a gorgeous Victorian-era colonial mansion, was recommended by both the Rough Guide & Lonely Planet and £30 got us a decent sized double room with an attached bathroom, fridge & TV (so we binged on Bollywood movies and pop videos) along with 24 hour hot water (a luxury!)


Our nearest neighbour was the magnificent Taj Mahal Palace hotel. The last time we'd seen the Taj was just days after the 2008 terrorist attacks, when 31 people lost their lives, and it brought tears to our eyes to see her restored to her former glory.


Built in 1903 after Indian philanthropist Jamsetji Tata was refused entrance to a "whites only" hotel and decided to create a hotel all of Mumbai could be proud of.


Directly opposite the Taj is the Gateway to India, built under British rule and completed in 1924. The first building those arriving by boat would have seen and the departure point when the British left India after Independence.



It attracts hundreds of people a day, none more so than at sunset when thousands of Mumbaikers and tourists flock for photos and a gossip.


Despite letting our bank know that we'd be in India until February the dozy b*stards blocked our card leaving us with £10 to our name but, accommodation aside, a tenner goes a long way in Mumbai. Access to the Gateway of India was free, local meals joint Kamat did a cracking veg thali for £1, the two hour taxi ride from the airport cost £5 and Moti had a fridge full of ice cold Kingfishers at £2 so we sat on the steps watching the world go by until we got through to the bank's telephone help line.


Next morning, after a puri bhaji breakfast & masala chai we walked to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, still referred to as Victoria Terminus or VT by many.


 It might sound a bit odd, hanging around a railway station when you're not planning on catching a train but not all stations are VT. A UNESCO World Heritage site, designed by architectural engineer, Frederick Stevens, in 1878 and finally completed nine years later in time for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.


Chhatrapati Shivaji is not only a Gothic masterpiece but also the world's busiest train station. You'll recognise it from the final scene in Slumdog Millionaire (and if you've never seen the film then you're clearly mad).






As in previous visits, her cathedral-like beauty rendered us speechless.






Next stop was Crawford market, a bustling covered market built in 1869 and, in 1882, the first building in India to be lit by electricity.


Taking photos of the exterior an elderly couple on their way to do their weekly shop came to see what we were doing. That frieze is by Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard's father, I told them. Good heavens, we've lived here all our lives and never even noticed it, they said.


Currently undergoing a facelift, the fountain is also by Lockwood Kipling.




Time for fresh lime sodas in Badshah, a cafe serving thirsty shoppers since the days of the Raj.


We walked back to Moti to feast on the fresh fruit we'd bought from the market followed by hot showers and a siesta.


Finances again accessible we could now afford to watch the sunset from a swanky roof top bar of a glamorous Art Deco hotel on Marine Drive followed by a delicious Lebanese dinner in hip & happening restaurant, Basilico.


More of Mumbai coming very soon!

(More photos HERE)

Linking to Patti and the gang for Visible Monday.

51 comments:

  1. Wow, went to the city this time! I love markets in any country in the world, the best place to get a taste of the local life.

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  2. I'm reading this on a dreary wet evening in Manchester and the photos and words are so vivid! Brightened up my evening.Love it. Soooo want to go.

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  3. Oh, I have serious trip envy now. Since discovering Mumbai has the second-highest number of art deco buildings of any city in the world (after Miami) I've longed to see them. Did you get photos? I've also just read a crime novel (a 'cosy', similar feel to Number One Ladies' Detective Agency) set in the city, which didn't help! It sounds like an amazing and diverse place.

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  4. Who knew that Mumbai had such fantastic architecture. That was a really good travel write up Vix. I was hooked all the way and stopped breathing when you couldn't get your money. I bet you took it wall in your stride though.
    This year's trip has been a cracker so far. Next episode please xxx

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  5. What wonderful photos, Vix. India just looks so amazing; I've always wanted to go and now I want to go even more!

    I'm looking forward to next episode....

    xxx

    Veronica
    vronni60s.blogspot.com

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  6. Amazing!
    I've not been to Mumbai except for the airport.
    You firangis wanting hot water 24 hrs, I suppose you wanted 24 hr electricity too? Chee, chee, chee! xox

    http://calmlycookingcurry.blogspot.com/2016/02/our-daily-dal.html

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  7. I love seeing Mumbai through your eyes! It's all so very elaborate & lively....

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  8. It does look and sound amazing!!! I am so embarrassed and sad when I hear of the awful racism in the last, a white only hotel-urgh!!!

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  9. So much beauty and action, and you know I love a big city! The train station is remarkable, and is the Taj hotel - I got a lump in my throat seeing your pics. Thanks for sharing the beauty and adventure with us, xox

    -Patti
    http://notdeadyetstyle.com

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  10. You did well with a room right in the middle of the best part of town for only 30 quid! It's probably 30 years since I visited but it all looks just as colourful, noisy, fragrant and hot now as it did then - the market was my best experience - I had an ice lolly made by a man peddling a bike to generate the ice crush and then had to share it as was surrounded by lots of big eyed hopeful children! Thank goodness your bank is sorted out - that's really scary when you're far from home. Can't wait for next instalment. Betty x

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  11. It looks like such an amazing place to visit. I can see why you have fallen in love with it so much.

    X x

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  12. You write beautifully, with so much heart about India. The architecture is amazing! Both you and Jon look so truly happy, relaxed and in peace with yourselves. Thank you for sharing, Vix! Such a gift to us all. It is true that some people do not explore much the world right around them, and how wonderful that that couple you met stopped to appreciate the beauty.

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  13. Such beautiful architecture xxx

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  14. Love the photos, love seeing your travels to India. You've made me want to visit Mumbai, and in the shorter term, I'm so going to rewatch Slumdog Millionaire this weekend. Such an amazing, beautiful, fantastic film.

    Thanks for taking us with you on your travels.

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  15. I am loving reading your wonderful tales of India. x

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  16. Some of the buildings are beautiful , I am mad then as i have never seen the film slumdog millionaire , My daughter has it so i will borrow it xxx

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  17. I've been talking about why I travel with friends lately. There are places that feel like second homes that I go back to again and again. I don't do the ticking places off either. My country count is quite modest. x

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  18. I've been talking about why I travel with friends lately. There are places that feel like second homes that I go back to again and again. I don't do the ticking places off either. My country count is quite modest. x

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  19. how about that, I just bought Slumdog Millionaire for $1. I'll be watching it soon. The buildings look so beautiful.

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  20. wonderful!!!! enjoying it with a smile on my face!!
    thanks for sharing!
    besos

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  21. I love hanging around in railway stations when I travel, and I usually end up meeting interesting people that tell me places to visit the guide books would never mention.

    Isn't it funny how you can live near a historic site and never visit, much less notice? I'm guilty of it myself-I've yet to visit any of the Lewis and Clark sites five minutes from my home. Until recently, I didn't even know it was there.

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  22. It has been such a long time since I've been to Mumbai so I love these photos. And they really are terrific, Vix. They capture the rush and the dust and the color. And I have never seen the train station. How gorgeous!!

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  23. A great read Vix, I never made it to Mumbai but I know I would love it. The architecture you've shown us is staggering. Have seen them on tv as I am always interested in anything on India. (Have you caught up with the Marigold Hotel thing yet?....Jan Leeming is getting right on my wick.) Your photos are fabulous and really capture the essence of India, vibrant.. noisy...dusty....Alive! Looking forward to the next part. Xxx

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  24. I loved reading every word and looking at every photo in is post! Fantastic.

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  25. Hi Vix, what an interesting city. I have been watching Indian Summers on PBS and the scenery is just gorgeous. Many of your pics remind me of that. Looking forward to seeing more.

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  26. Slumdog millionare is actually one of few Movies that I've seen together with my husband. We can see conserts, travel and drink wine together but there are not many Movies ...

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  27. Your Indian posts are always full of colourful photos and interesting descriptions! Enjoy them very much

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  28. Wow, wow, wow!! Enjoying these photos immensely. I've not seen all of Wales yet despite living there for over 30 years, goodness know how people think they've seen all there is to see on a week long pitstop! xx

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  29. As I admire your photos of India, I long to visit at some point in my life. Your portray a country that explodes with color and life. You and Jon exude similar energy, and I am in love with this post. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures! You inspire me, as always!

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  30. The way you write about your beloved India fairly pulses with passion, I so enjoy reading your posts, Vix. And what sights there are to see! Lovng the hotel and the magnificent station, and the market looks fantastic. I think it's easy to live somewhere and miss interesting details - you have to stop and look, and sometimes people are just too busy. You and Jon look healthy and happy and relaxed in your happy place!
    Love you! xxx

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  31. You really capture the spirit of India, and see only the very best. Such a pleasure to travel with you.
    Much, much love and admiration to the two of you.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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  32. I'm speechless with delight. I've never been to India, and I so appreciate your pictures and commentary. Looking forward to more vicarious traveling. XXOO

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  33. Absolutely fantastic, you guys are wonderful! I share your view of the journey through the countries, it is often difficult to know your country, how can you know all that? And that's the best part, the reason for returning to the places that we liked and we were greeted with enthusiasm! And then these places are full of history, influences and colors ... even the misunderstandings with the bank will bear a little 'better with a good Indian meal, right?

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  34. Ah, this trip took us, with you and Jon, to the City of Dreams! Thank you for sharing both the delights of lives lived in dazzling colors and flavors -- and the rude realities of bank foul-ups and a situation that counts 24 hour hot water a luxury.

    A family member has traveled to Mumbai often in business. On his last trip he called from outside the airport where he reported a cow was sitting on the hood of the limo, contemplating the view... Like you, he says 100 visits would not begin to reveal the city's treasures.

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  35. WOW Vix this one has left me a bit speechless what a amazing city Mumbai looks I adore the photo of the ladies and the one man walking in the street so all looks so gorgeous and colourful and on a mission to somewhere. The 2 photo's of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel took my breath away what fabulous photo's of a truly magnificent building such a wonderful backdrop with the river and the boats to and the beautiful warm blue sky. Glad you were able to sort the bank out and that it didn't ruin your time here. dee xx

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  36. gorgeous pics! hubs was in mumbay - without me! now with you testing it it is on my list - yes i have one - but not to impress others - just my personal places of desire....
    xxxxxx

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  37. It's so nice to get another perspective on the city, my boss hates it so much she refuses to visit any more!
    When she was there she never left the hotel other than to go to and fro the airport, so sad.

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  38. Sounds like a much better way to enjoy Mumbai and your holiday as a whole. The Basilico restaurant sounds good too. Welcome back! x

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  39. Thank you Vix for sharing your adventure, so glad you got that dam bank thing sorted, twats! OMG the railway station is amazing, and I totally loved 'Slum Dog Millionaire' I have seen it more than once.

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  40. I would so love to visit Mumbaai, my Indian lodger just left on Monday, she feels sick with the smell and men peeing and pooing acceptably on the city streets.

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  41. Guess I couldn,t handle seeing men pooing anywhere.

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  42. The Taj Mahal hotel and the train station are two of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen - I imagine they are breathtaking in person. So glad you were able to get access to your money again - banks drive me effing crazy. So enjoying your India adventures!

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  43. Being able to be flexible sums up your life. No money? We'll sample the beach.
    Have just put that movie on my request list from the library. Yes I'm mad...never seen it!
    Thanks for these amazing photos of the station. And they have no idea of the beauty they live amongst.
    Xo Jazzy Jack

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  44. I love your opening paragraph...I could never mistake you for a consumer tourist because you are clearly above that mentality, but I do like how you put it. Some people are indeed like that, they just visit places to be able to say they're been there...( Joseph Conrad in his Lord Jim compared those kind of tourists with luggage, saying how they only collect stamps so they migh have as well sent their luggage to travel the world )

    ...India is such a large country, so diverse in terms of culture, history, languages and everything- I can imagine it would take a lot more than one visit to get to know it. So cool you have been going there for 16 years, visiting it more than 2o times.

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  45. Every new year I look forward to a trip to India, via you and John.... Thanks for your wonderful travelogue .... Just love it!x

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  46. Wow would live to see the buildings and experience the atmosphere of Mumbai

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  47. I'm late but dadgummit I wasn't about to miss this post! Believe it or not, I've never seen Slumdog Millionaire. I don't know why. Just haven't "gotten around to it" I guess.

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  48. This post made me so happy! This is what traveling is all about, seeing exciting new things and eating delicious food. Our upcoming trip to Hong Kong was booked due to very cheap flights so I can relate! It is weird when people say they have "done" a country when they have visited a couple of times. I lived in Korea for a year and NZ for the rest of my life and there is so much I want to see here too :)

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  49. I managed to catch up on all three episodes of the Real Marigold hotel and really what I loved more than anything about it was just seeing everyday life, going to markets, walking the streets, taking the train. So having seen it, I can just feel how wonderful all these experiences must have been for you. Lime sodas sound lovely, as does the roof terrace bar and Lebanese cooking is always wonderful. I've seen the film, so, phew, I'm not mad. So many wonderful places to go, when are you going back?! Xxxxx

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Don't be shy, if you enjoyed your visit leave a comment, I can come and visit your blog if you do.
Love from Vix
xxx