21.11.2012 - 23.11.2012 34 °C
Bombay or Mumbai...just a couple of days here and I've discovered the name change is contentious!
I'm happy to say that the spreadsheet is going strong. We went slightly off piste on Wednesday after we got chatting to a local in Leopold bar who insisted on showing us around all day. Amusingly and without realising it, he showed us all the places I had planned for us to see on Day 6 on Day 5, meaning we gained an additional day to explore...now that's what I call efficiency!
Bombay is a modern, trendy, friendly and very humid city. Full of lavish 5-star hotels and palaces together with slumdogs and extreme poverty. But very different from raw Delhi. I'm glad I've experienced the contrast of both. We are staying in Colaba in the south, close to the Arabian sea and a bustling district full of street stalls, markets and bars.
After dropping off our backpacks in the hostel and having a wash in the bucket we went to the infamous Leopold Cafe to get a fruit lassi. A bit too touristy for my liking, I sat next to the window looking out onto the street which still has the bullet holes from the 2008 terrorist attack. A lot of places in Bombay now have stringent security checks; it's like going to the airport where your belongings are scanned and you are fully searched. We explored the south of the city which is made up of some beautiful buildings, many neogothic in style. At the Gateway of India we agreed to have a photo with a local and suddenly we were swamped by teenage girls in colourful saris who all wanted a photo. A male photographer would pop up from somewhere and take the group photo and then we were asked by a new set of people. It became a bit ridiculous and we had to start politely refusing, but it was so funny that so many people want a photo with a couple of scruffy travellers from England! From the gate we went onto the Oval Maiden area where men and young boys were playing cricket in the sun, browsed the Crawford market and chilled out in the serene Malabar Hill district. We even got cheeky and used the toilets in the 5-star Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotels which were very nice and different from what we were used to! As beautiful and elegant as these hotel buildings are, they could be any expensive hotel in any city...we both agreed we much prefer seeing India the travellers way
A lot of local people are very keen to chat to us and show us photos of their families and ask about the UK. Very surprisingly to me, all the people we have met are really positive about when the British ruled India. When I travel I'm usually embarrassed to be British! As usual I gravitate to the subject of politics and the people we have spoken to have very strong opinions on India's current government, the divide between social classes and the economic growth the country has been experiencing over recent years.
At night we walked along the Marina Drive Promenade to Chowpatty beach and saw the most amazing sunset. As the sun goes down all the twinkling lights around the bay give it the name "the queen's necklace". Today we went to Elephanta Island and tonight we plan to experience the nightlife here which is apparently really good. Tomorrow we head to the Southern region of India called Kerala. I think it's predicted some thunderstorms until early next week, and while I would love to continue catching the rays, I do love a good tropical storm too. Hopefully we won't get into difficulties getting there, we are flying with Air India due to time constraints...they don't have the greatest safety record :S Thanks to those praying for our health and safety...all good so hoping that will continue!
The adventure continues....