A tale of two cities (Bombay/Mumbai)

My overnight train into Bombay/Mumbai happened not to actually take me into the city, but instead to a suburban station some distance out of the city. On my arrival at 4am, a group of taxi drivers saw this as their opportunity to make fast buck by ferrying me into the city, but I managed to push my way through to the station next door, where I was able to get a local train into the centre of town.

Considering it was so early in the morning, the suburban train was quite busy. There were similarities to the London tube, but of course nobody bothers to close the doors in between the stations.

After finding a place to stay (three times more expensive than anywhere else I’ve been), I set off around the city to explore. The Gateway to India is one of Mumbai’s main tourists attractions, and my hotel was 2 minutes walk away, so I had to go see that:
Alex at the Gateway to India

Two things that really amazed me about Mumbai:
1/ You hear Indians speaking to each other in English
2/ They have red double-decker buses!

Red double-decker bus in Bombay

After buying myself a copy of Time Out: Mumbai I really started to feel at home. After three weeks of travelling through villages and small/medium-sized towns, it was quite a relief to come back to a large city, as I’m definitely an urban person!

However, Mumbai does have it’s own beach (although I wouldn’t advise swimming), and sunset over the Chowpatty Beach was quite stunning.
Sunset over Chowpatty Beach in Bombay

Feeling all urban, I decided to go to the cinema to catch up on some Hollywood movies, and managed to get myself a ticket for Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Before the movie started, we all had to stand up to sing (i.e. listen) to a rather out-of-tune Indian national anthem. The movie was fun as it was good to see a (somewhat) scary movie again. Afterwards I decided to go to a trendy Mumbai bar … alone (shock-horror)!

I couldn’t stop laughing at myself for walking into a bar alone, and for the first ten minutes I was grinning into my glass of Sprite. Then an overly-friendly woman comes along and sits down next to me. After 15 minutes of politely turning down her offers, I managed to excuse myself.

I spent the next two days sightseeing around the city, which was not overly exciting, but fun to feel the vibe of the most cosmopolitan city in India nonetheless. Below, you can see me in front of the Chatrapathi Shivaji railway terminus (formerly the Victoria Terminus).
Alex in front of Chatrapathi Shivaji (Victoria) Terminus, Bombay

On my last night, I bought myself a ticket for the Bollywood movie Veer-Zaara. What a fantastic way to spend an evening. It really wasn’t necessary to understand Hindi at all, as the plot was quite predictable, and the actors know how to make the right impression (sort of).

Thoughts:
1/ Bus accidents are quite common in India, as two bus crashes occurred in the movie.
2/ Supposedly well-trained Indian airmen dangle off the end of a helicopter winch waving their arms frantically like an inexperienced actor.
3/ Travelling hundreds of miles to deliver your grandmother’s ashes to a river in her homeland, only to have all the ashes blow into your feet instead of the river, doesn’t seem to matter, as long as you have an Indian airman to hold you … tightly.
4/ The women always seem to get trapped in the monsoon rains, and their saris get quite wet.

The girl in the seat next to me seemed to be crying for most of the movie, but her boyfriend was having great fun looking after her.

Anyway, when are they going to start showing Bollywood in the West End?

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6 Responses to “A tale of two cities (Bombay/Mumbai)”

  1. enrica Says:

    hi Alex…
    how are you doing?
    it’s amazing…….you are in India…
    it’s obviuos you are enjoying yourself..
    i just want you to know i am happy for you.
    a big kiss darling
    enrica

  2. Ann Dixon Says:

    Daddy and I send lots of love. We are so enjoying our vicarious Indian travels through you! Atalandi and I put a small tree up in window of your room at PT yesterday….same old decorations!! Jenny and P. Blaker also send love. They adored their card. xxAnn

  3. cora feng Says:

    Hi Alex:
    I just heard it today that two of MoT students (Raymond and Rumore, still remember?)are going to India for an internship, an indian company in southern part of the country.
    It makes me even more wanna go there …
    anyway, did i tell you that i will do my internship in IBM? it is in the IBM Innovation Centre in(actually near) Amsterdam. for about 7 months, me and together with other two students(including aeneas) will do some consalting work there. I am looking forward to …(also my money deposit is also, i am so broke…)
    Have fun !!!
    take care….
    cora

  4. Helen Says:

    Hi Alex, the christmas is coming, yesterday we went to the center to celebrate “Delft candle night”, then raymond’s concert was shown in Den Haag. Good to hear you enjoy yourself very much in India. Not same as Europe, there are not much Christmas atmosphere in India, arent there?? Anyway, take care!!
    Merry Christmas and Happy new year!!

  5. adhish Says:

    its good to see that you enjoyed my city and am sure that my city enjoyed to have you over. next time you come to Mumbai email me if you need anything

  6. Stephen Smith Says:

    Yes, this is quite a belated response to your post, but I wanted to thank you for the personal impressions of Bombay/Mumbai. I am planning a trip to India and am scouring travelers’ reports for yours to glean tips and ideas. It’s so much better a resource, in my opinion, than the typical tourist board or tour operator propaganda. Thanks again!

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