Posted by: Thomas | August 9, 2008

Sightseeing in Mumbai

Mumbai, previously known as Bombay, is gateway to this beguiling sub-continent. Today was sightseeing day and exploring Mumbai. We received a complementary 4 hours city tour from the Hotel we are staying at. Apparently if you stay in Junior Suite then hotel complements you with a city tour trip. Very nice of them. There was my friend, me and another guest from the hotel. He was from Bangladesh and visiting Mumbai in business. The tour guide was very young and inexperienced, but we learned a lot today about Mumbai and India.

Our first stop was Dhobi Ghat or the cloth washing area. There are about 200 people living and working in the area where they wash cloths. Apparently the government supplies them with the water from rain. They have been doing this business for years and generations and it is family business. For people here is more important to take care of the family business and make money fast than to go to school. Below are some pictures and a video of Dhobi Ghat place. This place was also featured on the National Geographic channel.

We continued our city tour towards the house where Mahatma Gandhi lived and worked. It was amazing to see the house and the room where he lived. Some pictures are uploaded below. The house is a 3-story building and one can go around and look at the life of Mahatma Gandhi trough the years. There are about 2,000 books written about Mahatma Gandhi. It was an amazing experience for me since I have read a lot about this wonderful man and his accomplishments. His life was not that easy at all, but he was one of the greatest leaders this World has ever seen.

Of course the traffic in Mumbai is extremely bad, but somehow one gets used to it. We went to see other attractions in the city such as the Hanging Garden, which is the largest garden in Mumbai, some stores, Haji Ali mosque, which is about 500 years old and famous Muslim shrine. The Haji Ali tomb is built on a little island reached by narrow causeway, which is completely submerged during high tide and one has the illusion of walking on water. The story is very interesting regarding the Haji Ali who was a Muslim saint. Apparently in his dream he saw that he would die on his way to Mecca. Legend says that before his pilgrimage to Mecca he announced that he saw his own death in his dream and that he wanted the casket with his body in it float in the ocean and where the casket stops there he would like to build a mosque and a tomb in his name. Legend says that he died on his way to Mecca and his body in its casket actually floated all the way to Mumbai and that a rock stopped the casket. On that rock they build his tomb and the mosque.

Another interesting story I heard today is about the tower of silence in Mumbai and religion called Parsi, which refers to Parsi people an ethno linguistic group from the ancient Pars province in Iran. Today we also passed by the tower of silence in Mumbai, which is known as the place where the Parsis have the custom of leaving their dead in the open. These particular places are called “Towers of Silence”, where wild birds such as vultures come to eat the dead. This is also a non-flying zone for the aircrafts. For the Parsis, this is apparently regarded as the final act of charity. The entry is only for the Parsi community people who live in that area where the tower of silence is. Nobody else can enter.

The Parsi people came to Mumbai from Iran in 9th Century and today there are a very few Parsis. The reason is that they cannot mix with any other religion or community. There have been lots of studies and DNA examinations about Parsis. Anyway, we continued our city tour down the Marine Drive towards the Gateway of India. The Gateway of India is the main attraction in Mumbai and it was built in 1911 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. The Gateway of India holds greater historical significance as the last of British troops that left India by sea, marched through its portals.

Just next to the Gateway of India there is another historical building, The Taj Mahal Hotel and Palace, which is part of Mumbai city’s history. The Taj Hotel is really work of art. We went inside to check it out and just there in the lobby in front of the Louis Vuitton luxury luggage store we saw my friend’s friend from New York. The world is so small.

The day was very interesting and we heard so many interesting stories. Unfortunately it was raining the entire day since it is the Monsoon Season, which starts from June to August. We walked through bazaars, shops and had very good Italian ice-cream. Our Dutch friends, Sanne & Gijs, recommended the Amore store in Mumbai so we had to go there and check it out. It was really great ice-cream.

We didn’t have time to check out the Bollywood film-making studios today, but maybe some other time.

Mumbai is much better than Bangalore of course but it is also much more crowded. There are about 18 million people that live in Mumbai. Yeah, very crowded and the traffic is just incredible.

After the city tour we went to a saloon to cut my hair. Unfortunately the saloon was not unisex, so the older lady who worked there recommended one of the best hairdressers in Mumbai. She was very friendly and she called the guy for us and made an emergency appointment. The taxi ride took about 1 hour to the hair saloon. The area was very nice and there were many foreigners. Since he was recommended and such great merits I trusted him; however, the haircut that I got was not that good and the color was bad. Yeah, I colored my hair too and not it is read. Although I was not that happy I still had to pay Rs 4,000 (about US$ 100), which is very expensive for India. I get it better and cheaper in New York.

So, my friend and I, little disappointed went back to the hotel. We got to the hotel late about 10pm. We took quick shower, changed and went for dinner. At the restaurant we met the chef, which said he would take us to the best nightclub in Mumbai. Actually, we met the chef, who is about 23 years young, yesterday for lunch. My friend dropped a bowl cover into a big bowl of soup, and then he almost broke the soup plate, so the chef saw us struggling with the soup and he came out to help us. It was actually very funny. And tonight I almost destroyed about 20 soup plates. The sound was so laud that everyone looked at me, but fortunately I got all the plates and none of them broke. The chef of course saw that and said that he personally would serve us. J He made very good food for us and served a special order of tomatoes. Yes, I love tomatoes and I asked him if he can get me some tomato slices. I felt like Sir. Elton John who orders special green tomatoes for him, and if he doesn’t get them, he changes the hotel.

Anyway, wee took the hotel limo to take us the club that the chef recommended. The club was called Poly Esther. Well, since this is India, we could not get it since the club allows only couples. We said we would pay extra, but no, they said only couples. We immediately called our chef from the hotel. Yeah, it is so nice to know the right people. I just called him and handed the phone to the big security guy. After a few seconds on the phone, the security guy looked at the manager and opened the door for us without saying anything. I love this. It felt so good. J

However, then the manager said that we could not dance since we didn’t have girls with us. Yeah, ok. The club was ok and the music was very mixed; everything from Rock and Hip-Hoop to House and Techno. We met some girls and we danced of course. However, when the girls left from the dance floor to grab a drink, and we stayed to dance little bit more, the security guy came and said that we could not be on the dance floor without girls. I am so over, not only Bangalore but the whole India in this regard. There were a few other foreigners and they felt the same way. Also, the party scene is not that great in Mumbai either. We got the around 12:30am and the club closed at 2:30am. Although, everyone says how great the club is and how great party life in Mumbai is and how the city never sleeps … hm … yeah, right. First, they close early, and then they don’t allow you to dance. I am so over, and counting my days and hours here in India.

Colombo, Sri Lanka, on the other hand was great and amazing. I want to go there again just for clubbing if nothing else. Anyway, the chef came as well, we had a few drinks, laughed a lot and made it fun. He took us back to the hotel and showed us Mumbai at night (well, nobody was on roads but the police, who were checking every car). He is actually Parsi, so he told us some more stories and history about Parsi people, their beliefs and religion.

Today was an excellent day and full of activates and I really enjoyed it. Mumbai is definitely worth visiting for a weekend.  

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Life and Thoughts of Thomas“, posted with vodpod




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