With as much confirmation as we could get – in the form of a few bobble heads from the men-, we decided to squeeze ourselves into the van, 7 of us in a what can only seat 6, and even 8 people at one point. I couldn’t stop laughing as, I was sat beside two of the Chinese guys, one on the seat beside me and the other crouched on his backpack in the aisle on the other side. We all laughed when their friend in the front passenger seat was joined by an Indian guy who claimed to be going 1 minute up the road, but had taken whatever personal space the guy had, away from him. Whether it be for 1 minute or longer, we felt sorry for the guy, being thoroughly squished by the man, and we felt is relief when the man did eventually hop out a few minutes later! We drove an hour into the city, surrounded by jam packed traffic and the usual honking horns. At one point, to be certain I asked the driver about the three hotels which he then said no to, and told us he would drop us to only one hotel. Kicking up murder, and with my other comrades as back up, we demanded to be dropped at our hotels as we had agreed, or else he would get no money from us. He agreed, and after a long and hot journey, we finally arrived at the German’s destination. Following this, we got to our hotel and we waved the boys off and hoped they would arrive safely and hassle free too. It was one of those situations that we had all imagined to turn out so horrible in the end, but in actual fact, It was surprisingly okay!
Walking yet another ‘stairs of hell’, we got to the reception of India guesthouse, where we were told a higher price, for cell sized rooms, different to what we had read in the L.P. Proud and stubborn, we declined and walked all the way back down, to compare some other hotels, which were indeed extortionate prices. In the end, with our tails tucked firmly between our legs, we made our way back up the ‘stairs of hell’ and took the damn room. The bathrooms were shared but were very modern and clean so we didn’t mind and the rooms were very small but had clean beds for us to sleep in which was all we wanted at this stage. After a well needed shower, we headed out to check out the Taj Mahal Paace Hotel, located right beside the Gateway of India. Two things we had read great things about. Both were spectacular and I couldn’t help but think If I had the money, how I would love a nice sea view room at The Taj. We were staying in the area of Colaba, a very safe tourist area where both sights are also located. As soon as we took a stroll around the area, I couldn’t help but grow a fondness towards It. I had imagined a city similar to Delhi, and couldn’t imagine the cosmopolitan image I had been hearing about. Until now! There were no rickshaws anywhere, the people were friendly and the general atmosphere was very chic. The buildings were very modern and after a walk to a nearby restaurant in Colaba called Sahakar, we could see more of what people were talking about. We ate in Sahakar which was a very American diner style restaurant with friendly waiters and large portions of beautiful food. We then spotted 6th Street Yoghurt or 6SY which was a variation of my favourite ‘Yoghurtland’ in California. We ordered Indulgent sized cups with various frozen yoghurts and toppings which we enjoyed while reading the post it notes from travellers on the wall. It was after this, that we took a stroll to the Gateway of India, meaning the Gateway of the British to India. We spent some time, taking pictures of the Taj Mahal Palace and the Gateway, before deciding to opt into the half hour boat ride around the coast. The choppy seas made it seem that the boat rides would be off for the low season, but we were somehow on the last boat, heading out into the rough ocean. There were a lot of people on the top deck while some of us opted to stay on the lower deck for the duration, luckily enough because the waves were so strong, that throughout the trip, we had to grip our seats to avoid being flung across the wet boat. A few people ended up hanging off the side of the boat with sea sickness while some of the group laughed at how crazy this all was and a chubby little boy screamed in horror as he got drenched by the water at the edge. The whole thing was crazy and even the getting on and off the boat was a hazard in itself, having to jump the gap from boat to safe ground, to avoid falling in. Craziness!
Afterwards, we decided to take a walk down Colaba Causeway where we spotted tonnes of trendy bars and restaurants ,among streets lined with market stalls selling everything from fruit to jewellery. Having come across Leopold’s Café and Bar which was recommended for travellers in the Lonely Planet, we decided to go in and have some beer. Upon entering this beautifully decorated bar, we began to notice a lot of foreign tourists which was always a good thing. The place was pretty full but we got a seat and after a little promotion from a staff member, we opted to buy the exclusive Budweiser Magnum which was only available in India, and would ensure us a free glass with every two purchases. Why Not! Leopold’s Café, was the unfortunate site of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks which left a lot of civilians dead. Sitting in the Café you can look around you and spot the bullet holes in the pillars, and a pane of shattered mirror on the wall, left as mementos. We were enjoying our beer, when out of the corner of my I spotted our table neighbours staring at every word we said. Feeling weird, we sat there, watching what we were saying and laughing hysterically as the two chicly dressed men, eyed us up. It was during this time, that we got talking to a group of three India guys beside us, comparing beers with them. They told us that they had also noticed the weird staring action we had being receiving from the guys next to us and we couldn’t stop laughing as the two men continued to stare, either out of jealousy or whatever, we couldn’t figure that one out. Indians like to stare, but this was different.
We spent most of the night, -and by most I mean, we were the last people to leave the bar- chatting with these hilariously funny guys about anything and everything, listening to stories about Indian culture and answers to our ever inquisitive questions. We continued to drink together and at one point spotted a group of guys who we thought we would make a bet about where they were from. Guessing Ireland, Australia and England between the 5 of us, we decided Eliza would go and ask them, to which they replied –Spain!! Booo!!! We then got some more beer to carry on the shenanigans with, and by looking around the room at all the near empty ‘beer towers ‘ on the tables, we could tell we weren’t the only ones feeling merry. We had some great laughs with these guys and found we had a lot of things in common. They told us some truly hysterical stories about the time one of them at 5 omelettes out of sheer hunger when nothing else was available and how another had gained a ‘maximum belly’ from living in The U.K. They conversed with us in a way that made everything hilarious, and with lines such as ‘So I was shit hungry one time’ or ‘I was shit thirsty this other time’, we found ourselves gasping for a breath. It wasn’t long before we had talked through the night and the bar became more and more empty, leaving us the only people there. We said farewell to the guys and caught a taxi back to the hotel where we had a short night sleep before It was time to check out. Our time in Mumbai would be short but we had such an amazing first day there.
Our last day In Mumbai took us back to Sahakar restaurant for some more delicious diner food, followed by 6SY for some more yoghurt before we continued on in a taxi to the Marine Drive and Mani Bhavan- The Ghandi Museum. Mani Bhavan was the former residence of Ghandi when he lived in Mumbai and the depiction of him throughout the house was amazing. I hadn’t known much about him until now but I was very intrigued by his presence all over the house. He was an amazing man! We took a walk from the museum back up to Marine Drive which was a highway dotted with palm trees people, and a view that seemed it would be incredible in the summer months. Nonetheless, we walked the beach, ate some luminous pink candy floss and sat on the wall watching the wave’s crash as some locals ran in and out. After walking further we came across a bar called NY Bar and Grill which was quite hidden and seemed like it was closed, although it was well and truly open. We spent a good while there using wifi to check out hostels in Goa, drinking one ‘mocktai’l each and sharing an Itaiano Job sandwhich. The bill was quite a surprise and we couldn’t help but regret coming here. We took a taxi back to Colaba and decided to go for dinner at `Bademiya’ a local place renowned for amazing cuisine. So renowned that people queue outside for it to open at 7pm and the guys we had met the night before had travelled 20km to eat there. The place opens from 7pm until around 3am and is very popular among locals and travellers, so much so that as soon as we got in at 7pm exactly, the place took 10 minutes to completely fill up. I got the famous Veg Shikh Kebab which was ‘normal’ spicy as the waiter had mentioned, but by Indian standards still blew my head off. The kebab was beautiful though and I got over my numb tongue to finish my 4 yummy kebabs. We headed back to Leopold’s for some cheap vanilla cups, a walnut brownie, and some refuge while we waited to catch our train. Our time In Mumbai was incredibly short and I will vow to go back someday soon, and next time I WILL stay at The Taj Mahal Palace! Mumbai certainly lived up its cosmopolitan image and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of Déjà vu from waking along the promenade at Copacabana in Brazil. I will definitely be back in India during the summer season, and I think that It will be very interesting to compare travelling in India during high and low season. But so far, It has been such an incredible experience, everywhere is more different than the next and I can really understand the term ‘Incredible India’ now.