The Gateway to India
Mumbai Travel Blog› entry 19 of 36 › view all entries
I landed in Mumbai at some ungodly hour in the morning after a not uncomfortable journey. Headed to a local hotel for some kip before heading into Colaba to find more permanent digs, at the Volga Hotel in the heart of downtown Mumbai.
This city is the heart of India's financial industry, and apparently accounts for 40% odd of India's income. This was apparent in the fact that it would be pretty much the most expensive place I would stay in India, although at around 4 pounds a night for accomodation and a slap up dinner avalable for under 1 pound this is all relative. Its quite a striking city, very cosmopolitan and clearly very wealthy in parts. Having said that the sqwallor of some of the suburbs passed through on route from the airport left one in no doubt that this is still very much a country of vast poverty. One big surprise was the vast numbers of cows walking the streets, with the traffuc weaving around them at breakneck speed - this is also another country where the rule of the horn rules the road.
I immediately felt at home in Colaba and resolved to spend a few days here before heading to Goa for a well earned beach break - yes, travelling can be tiring work and we all need a holiday from time to time - and Lord knows I have had few enough of these in the last few years!
On the Wednesday I took a long stroll around the city centre, visiting the Gateway of India, a wonderful structure down by the harbour, and visited the Prince of Wales museum, far more impressive than the Cairo Museum with a great (all be it) temporary interactive exhibit on Gandhi's life. The Maiden Oval, a kind of Regents Park covered with cricket pitches instead of football, was very pleasant, surrounded by the Gothic buildings of Empire. The shopping was also pretty good, although I am not buying much it has to be said, and the hawkers generally knew when to take no for an answer, unlike those of Egypt!
Wednesday evening saw the Champions League Final, and I popped round the well known backpackers hangout of Leopolds, immortalised in the book Shantoram which I am still to read (apparently there will be a film of it soon starring Jonny Depp). Here I met Ian and Tom, to lads from Essex and Derbyshire respectively, and we would watch the game together. These two will pop up frequently in my coming travels.
Colaba has some good places to eat and drink, including Leopolds, Mondys, Colaba Restaurant, many more too careless to mention. At every turn there would be a new impressive collonial building to view, and then there was Chowpatty beach and the harbour area, where hoards of locals would flock every evening for their promenades.
The CST, or Victoria Terminus, the main train station is worthy of special mention for its magnificence, and it was here that I headed to bool my overnight train ticket to Goa on the Konkan Express, and my first experience of the legandary Indian rail service, the world's largest employer. I headed to the window marked "foreigner" to book my ticket, and was intrigued to note this was also where "freedom fighters" should also book theres. Given recent experiences, I cast a glance over my shoulder to check on my local co-passengers! Friday night was the time of departure.