Thursday, 8 May 2008
After Iran, the 1st thing that hit me was the thickness of the air. From 3 weeks spent at 1000-15000 metres to sea level was noticeable. The 2nd thing to grab my attention were the smells, many of them, lingering in the lazy humid air fighting for dominance with every inhalation.
Arriving at the hotel at 04:30 in the morning I crashed out. Later in the morning with a mouth feeling like a mouse’s backside I went shopping. Toothpaste, soap, pants, socks and a T shirt and then back to the hotel for a wash and scratch!
My 1st impression of walking down the street in India was just how rude everyone was. Those that wanted to chat were either street sellers of tourist tat or low level drug pushers trying to convince me “that it was really good shit man!” Guess I’ve gotten used to the Persian “relaxed way of life”
Aside from the initial Hubble and Bubble of life, which within a few days I’m sure I’ll get use to, I feel the heat might take a few weeks.
Hopefully with several flights a day between Dubai and Mumbai my gear will be on one of them and at some point tomorrow I’ll have my bag in my room. Otherwise it will be a day of shopping to replace everything. Well, not everything, just the essentials. Mind you this way I should be able to reduce the weight of the bag by halve!…you see…positive frame of mind (but if you add up all that I may of lost it comes close to £1500...be strong young man!)
I’ve booked a room at Bentley’s hotel in the Colaba part of Mumbai. According to the lonely planet it’s the best budget hotel in the area…now that is scary! It does have a ceiling fan in the room and it’s just around the corner from the sea. The sea is never going to win any awards for best place in India to swim. Imagine a water colour that you couldn’t believe fish would swim in. Try brown and then reduce it to a four letter word with none of the original letters left! After that add some rubbish and spilt diesel and that about covers it!
Well it’s only been 17 hours in India and I have to admit its starting to grow on me already (this may not be a good thing…it could be a growth!)
Beer: now I was wondering how it would feel to sink a pint of beer, the 1st in 3 weeks. I did so at an Irish pub in terminal two of Dubai airport…sad I know. The 1st beer I wasn’t sure of so I just had to have another, just to make sure you understand.
Friday the 9th
After a long peaceful night of sleep I awoke fresh and eager to explore. My feet 1st took me to the “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja Vastu Sangra Halaya” formerly known as the Prince of Wales museum! At the ticket office I had my 1st experience of tourist prices. An Indian national had to pay R15 to enter whilst everyone else had to pay R300. On the plus side you do get a free audio guide tour…what a bargain! (That’s me being sarcastic).
I spent about 90 minutes inside before heading out onto the mean streets of Bombay. Now I know it’s now called Mumbai but Bombay just sounds better.
I headed across the land from seafront to seafront and managed to get lost a few times. Form Colaba, through the ford and churchgate districts and along the waterfront to chow patty beach. After that it was into Kotachiwadi and the Opera House area. By 1pm I needed to hit the shade and let the sweat evaporate…
By now I was a few miles from my hotel so I caught a suburban train half the way back. Very scarily the train doors don’t close, even between stations!
So far the only locals I’ve talked with have been street sellers, drug dealers and shoe shine boys and I missed saying the word “yes” as opposed to “no” and “go away” (and mastering complete indifference, which I do so well!) So when a retired teacher started to talk to me on the train I was more than happy to while away the time with meandering conversations. We ended up in a typical Indian bar for a slow beer on a long afternoon.
Tuesday 13th in the evening…having a beer
It’s now my 6th day in Mumbai. I had only planned on staying till yesterday. I have still yet to get my rucksack. I’ve almost given up all hope of ever seeing it again. I’ve added up what the contents will cost to replace and it comes to over £1400. Emirates better pay up or I’ll go online and lodge a claim in the small claims court in england, which you can do in this day and age. To say that I am frustrated would be putting it mildly. In Dubai they have identified my bag but despite several requests they have continually failed to put it on the fu%king plane. However when you are in a situation that no matter what you do has no effect on the outcome you just have to relax and enjoy the experience…I’m trying real hard!
So today, for a change from the normal routine of the last few days, which is basically phoning up the airline baggage office (which can either take 1 minute or 3 hours as they don’t queue the calls…all you get is a ring tone or an engaged tone which is 99.99% of the time) I went on a trip to Elephanta Island which is found in the middle of the bay.
The crossing took about an hour and the cooling sea breeze was very welcome. The reason for the trip was to see the Hindu shrines cut into the caves and rock. Once off the boat you have a short walk to the 1st ticket office. Here everybody pays a R5 landing fee, this maybe the only time in India that happens! From there you walk up the 120 or so steps up the hill, which are crowded either side with tourist tat sellers, to the main entrance. For R200 I got the smallest entrance ticket ever. It was about the size of a large stamp but it got me passed the guards.
After the climb I needed to sit in the shade and cool off for 5 minutes with a nice cold drink. Unfortunately a thieving monkey grabbed the bottle which I had placed next to me. It then growled at me and for a small monkey it had very large and sharp teeth! It then proceeded to unscrew the cap and pour himself a drink…what a bastard!
Anyway onto the caves. The main cave or temple is fairly large with pillars carved from the rock. The ceiling had at one time been covered in frescos but they have long since disappeared. The real draw of the place was the sculptured reliefs hewn from the “living rock”. They are about 13 to 15 hundred years old and despite the cultural damage to some of them they remain impressive in both size and detail.
The boat ride back was cool and the fan in my hotel room kept me that way.
At this point we need a flashback to 19:30 on Sunday. There I was in the local sports bar surrounded by red shirted wearing locals watching the scum of Manchester win another league title. Lets hope that Chelsea win in Moscow!
Well it is my last full day in Mumbai; thank fu%k for that!
Yesterday morning I got a call from reception that someone from Emirates had turned up. Yippee…he’ll have my rucksack I thought as I raced to the front desk. Nope…all he had was a claims form…bugger!
I now have a new rucksack; well it’s a soft suitcase with some rucksack style shoulder straps. It only cost me R1000...think I was overcharged!
So now my bags will have clothes and a wash kit and nothing else. I’ll tell you this if at any point on my trip I die from exposure or contaminated water will someone sue Emirates!
Tomorrow morning I’m catching the 6am train. Yes I’m that keen to leave Bombay