Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mumbai: Magic Mixed with Madness

A crush of humanity, over-zealous sidewalk touts, waves of  taxis, cows tethered to street light posts, the synchronized dance of the dabbawalas, 94-degrees and humidity to match. . .


Mumbai, India, home to sprawling slums and glitzy Bollywood, was sheer madness. 
Mumbai was sheer magic.

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A holy man on the steps of a Hindu Temple - Mumbai, India

We had two days in this city that up until 20 years ago was known as Bombay. It was one of  two ports of call in India on our 34-day Oceania Nautica cruise from Bangkok, Thailand to Istanbul, Turkey. 

We’d opted on our first day to take a cruise-sponsored shore excursion that  gave us an overview of India’s second largest city; a place said to be home to more billionaires than any other place in the world. Cruise sponsored shore excursions are not inexpensive. This eight-hour tour cost $209 per person and that's why I recommended in the 'repositioning' cruise post last week that benefits like on-board credits which can be used toward the cost of these tours are important.

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Cows on the Corner

As we rode in the air-conditioned comfort of a large tour bus we enjoyed a  kaleidoscope of scenes and everyday settings ranging from classic British colonial buildings to Hindu Temples, a public market and museum. We set out on our own the second day.

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Families on the Sidewalk - Mumbai, India
Some of the most striking Mumbai memories were those of  street scenes like the ones above. . . street corners hosting family gatherings or cows tethered to light posts.

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Mumbai, India

While we didn’t do extensive research about the place before we visited, I’ve since spent a bit of time reading about its history since our return home. One of the best concise accounts was written by Leo Mirani, for The Guardian newspaper in 2008:

“Bombay was ‘discovered’ by the Portuguese in the early 16th century, ceded in dowry to the English in 1661, and transformed into a thriving metropolis over the next 300 years by the East India Company, the Crown, Parsi, Gujarati and Jewish businessmen, mills, movies and money.”


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Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel - Mumbai, India
Two days here was simply not enough. We did regret not taking advantage of the independent explorations allowed on this cruise and wish we'd spent a night on land at the legendary Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel. This was another grand old hotel on my ‘bucket list’ and remembered as we entered it, watching the horrifying images on news reports of smoke billowing from it as result of terrorist attacks in 2008.

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Interior sitting room near the pool area - Taj Mahal Hotel
I can assure you its interior common areas are again awash in luxurious beauty.  Everyone enters through metal detectors and bags are screened as they enter the lobby (we’ve found this a common practice at most major hotels in the Middle and Far East these days).

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The floral arrangements were spectacular - Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai, India
YangontoSafaga2015 252The original hotel was the first harbor landmark, built before the Gateway to India and it was home to the first licensed bar in the city.

That iconic Gateway to India (pictured on the left) just across the street from the hotel was built in 1911 to welcome King George V and Queen Mary. As we approached the Gateway we were swarmed by tourist touts; several who came up while I was taking a photo to tell me not to bother – I could buy one from them.

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We didn't need a warning to keep us from eating street food in Mumbai, India
One of the most interesting stops was to catch a bit of the daily routine of the city’s famous food distributors, the Dabbawalas.


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Dabbawalas at work outside Santacruz train station - Mumbai, India
More than 5,000 dabbawalas, clad in white ‘Gandhi’ caps, cotton shirts, trousers and sandals, deliver made-at-home lunches to the office workers each day. Their name derives from the ‘dabbas’ or metal tiffin boxes that they deliver to the office and then return back to the home each day. More than 130,000 dabbas are delivered daily.  The photos above show the dabbawalas setting off from outside Mumbai’s Santacruz train station.

Our ship's tour was of Old Bombay and it was when we stopped at Khotachiwadi I knew more research about the history of this amazing city was in order after I got home. Such an interesting stop it was, it deserves its own post which is coming soon.

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As we lost track of days and locations the Ship's Navigational map was helpful
Leaving Mumbai our Magic Carpet Ride of a cruise did a two-day crossing the Arabian Sea heading to the true Middle East, heading to our next port of call in a country I'd had to look up on the map before our cruise: Oman . . .the next door neighbor to conflict-bedraggled Yemen.

We weren’t in Kansas any more, Toto! as Dorothy would have remarked about Oz.  We were heading to the HRA – High Risk Area and it was time to turn our thoughts to security aboard the ship and on land . . .but that’s another story. . .

As always we appreciate the time you spend with us and thank you for recommending us to your friends.  And to those who’ve shared links to TravelnWrite on Twitter and posts on Facebook, more thanks. Those shares are the highest forms of compliments. Until the next time, happy and safe travels to you and yours ~

Linking up this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens
Photo Friday - Pierced Wonderings
Wordless Wednesday

49 comments:

  1. How timely! I'm off to Mumbai in October so thanks for the tips. By the way, have you heard of any good food tours?

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    1. Karen you will have a super time - check out the district I am writing about next week as it is so totally unexpected. . .I'll look forward to your reports of the city.

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  2. I read countless novels placed in the ancient city of Bombay/Mumbai years ago and have always wanted to visit this city as well as the amazing country of India. You do a fabulous job of describing how overwhelming the experience must be even for seasoned travelers but it sounds like a fantastic experience not to be missed!

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    1. That was pretty much how I learned anything about Bombay was through novels and most were of the British Raj - it is amazing to learn of the influence of the Portuguese and others - so much to learn and so little time. Sigh! Thanks for the lovely comment~

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  3. Omygoodness...what a time this must have been. You see so many places. My little daddy got sick on ship during WW2, sleeping on the deck staying wet on their way to India...pneumonia, one lung removed in India and he spent 2 yrs in the hospital there. I am just sick that I can't remember the name of the town he was in....and no one left to ask. :(

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    1. BJ that is absolutely a fascinating story about your dad! Isn't is sad when you realize there is no one left to ask. . .that is one of the worst parts of losing older loved ones. Hugs. Jackie

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  4. It's hard to believe that you are still on THAT cruise. While two days may not have been enough, it sounds like they were a great introduction!

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    1. Yep, Irene, THAT cruise was an amazing adventure - a true Magic Carpet Ride as I have labeled it. We had seven more stops after Mumbai and each was more interesting than the previous it seemed. Thanks for the visit.

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  5. The clash between modern society and some old habits delivers sometimes strange images but very colorful. I like that.

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    1. S.C. I hope you'll return next week because as a retired architect you will find the tale of the Mumbai wadi of interest, I think (well, at least I hope).

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  6. Considering the size of Mumbai, the bus tour sounds like the way to go. Would love to see it someday.

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    1. We want to go back again and were amazed so many had told us not to bother with it because, drum roll please, 'there is really nothing to see there'!!! Thanks for the visit and comment - hope you do make it to Mumbai one day.

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    1. Our entire cruise seemed to provide us a world of contrasts - almost overwhelming contrasts. We were happy to have sea days in between the stops to process a bit longer all that we had seen. Thanks for the visit -

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  8. Hi Jackie. What a fascinating city. You could have knocked me over with a feather with your billionaire comment. I had no idea. I also did not know of the connection with Mumbai and Portugal. The Taj Mahal hotel looks absolutely gorgeous. I also love that first vote of the holy man. Thanks for linking up this week! #TPThursday

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    1. How strange, I wrote a response to this yesterday and Blogger ate it! It was a fascinating city and I can't believe how many told us to skip it as there 'was really nothing to see there'! See you soon at #TPThursday.

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  9. Very cool shots - thanks so much for linking up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/09/shake-those-tail-feathers.html

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  10. Fascinating read about Mumbai. Such contrasts - billionaires, and cows on the corner! It's on my bucket list!

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    1. It was an intense course in big cities, India and all that is wonderful about travel. You would love it, Amy!

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  11. I think it would be the street scenes that would stay in my memory the longest, too. What amazing sights and introductions to a different culture. Indeed, the Taj Mahal Hotel looks fantastic. Hard to believe it was the scene of the 2008 attacks. Thanks for continuing to show me a world I've not yet seen firsthand.

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    1. We had a fellow cruise passenger who refused to go to the hotel because she didn't 'want to be reminded of all that horror' and how sad that she missed such an important place in Mumbai history and one of the most peaceful, luxurious places we've ever seen. Thanks for the comment, Cathy.

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  12. I've been to India quite often and always love visiting Mumbai. I haven't been back since we last stayed at the Taj the week before the attack but I will! The city is such a wonderful mix of old and new. I'm always fascinated by the dabbawallahs....how do they not get the meals mixed up....and the Dhobi Ghat or open laundry and by the fact that the next minute you are walking through a multi million dollar mall of super expensive shops! Sometimes the contrasts are hard to comprehend but I love it!

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    1. Oh Jenny, how I envy your many travels to Mumbai. Afraid it really is on the other side of the world for us and not the easiest place to reach. (India doesn't make its visa process easy or cheap for Americans either). We would love to go back and visit at a slower pace just to soak up all the wonder there is to be found there. Thanks for the lovely comment!

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  13. I'm enjoying your India posts SO much, Jackie. :-) I've never been to this part of the world and I'm mesmerized by your photos, historical tidbits, and personal observations. :-) The street scenes are my favorite. :-)

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    1. Glad you are enjoying India -- I was so taken with the street scenes, the people, the stimulation! Thanks for the visit Krista!

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  14. Very interesting! It would be so awesome to visit India. Like you, I would enjoy seeing the daily vignettes of the city. Things are so different there.

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    1. They are so delightfully different and that's what I think I loved most about the entire cruise - every place was so different from my day-to-day life that I came back thinking and feeling differently about so many things.

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  15. I am following your cruise progress jealously! Mumbai sounds fascinating!

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    1. Thanks Rachel for your interest in the cruise - it was a fabulous one, that's for sure!

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  16. India looks like a very interesting country to visit although it has never been on my bucket list. However you may have convinced me it is worthwhile touring!

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    1. It had always been on mine, but not Joel's and I am surprised that we'd BOTH like to explore further and for a longer period of time after our brief introduction to it. Thanks for stopping by Kathy!

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  17. I would love how frenetic and OTT this place is. I fully understand that I could never prepare myself for how very manic it is.

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    1. It was so crazy but so fabulous - you'd absolutely love it, Paula! Thanks for commenting!

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  18. This was fascinating! I've never seen India portrayed with such a variety of photos like this before. Great job! :D

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  20. I wasn't really a fan of Mumbai - It had its glitz but I found it just too overwhelming even with its occasional flashes of glamour. I much preferred New Delhi.

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    1. We didn't see the 'glitz' side of the city but that wasn't what we were looking for - we wanted history and got a large serving. We'd like to expand our explorations in the country - New Delhi would be an interesting place. Thanks for stopping by!!

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  21. A lot ofvery poor people while the rich live in splendour. I have been to India and saw it for myself

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  22. Well depicted glory and grimness! Wonderful photos. What an experience it must have been!

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  23. Jackie, I think India is an amazing country. I haven't been to Mumbai, but I would love to stay one night in luxury like that!

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  24. Some cultural extremes in Mumbai but for the most part you showed an interesting place to visit. To note, we wouldn't eat from the street vendors in Toronto - just to be on the safe side.
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday.

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  25. Thanks for this wonderful introduction to Mumbai. It sounds like a fascinating place. Love the photo of the dabbawalas...

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  26. I'm like you in that I often to research after the trip (especially if I'm writing a blog post about it). I like your pictures of the street life and also of that fabulously grand hotel. The men delivering the tiffin boxes reminds me of Penang as the Indians and Malays have that tradition, too.

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