Day 2 - Onto the streets of Mumbai
Mumbai Travel Blog› entry 2 of 17 › view all entries
Slept well, had set my alarm for 10.00am to catch breakfast. Bloody hot out there today. Got back to romm after an omelette for breakfast (not quite ready for the spicy stuff just yet!) and went for a little nap, just dozing off before getting woken up by workmen right outside the door - great! After a quick search, found the earplugs (thanks Miles!), stuffed them in and slept like a baby until 3pm - oops! Had a quick shoer and decided to go for a walk. Asked the hotel porter directions to the local train station and set off. Ok, had read the guides about the culture shock that comes with arriving in India, a slight understatement methinks! I had thought that the traffic was bad last night on the way from the airport, how wrong I was! Trucks, buses, motoerbikes taxis and hundreds of people everywhere, the noise and the fumes almost unbearable.Jostled my way up the road to the juction with the main road I'll call it a crossroads although I'm not sure how else to describe it really. Hundreds of people on the streets and pavements either crossing or trying to cross. Forget pedestrian crossings, pelican crossings or any other organised system - just walk or run! After standing for 5 minutes trying to decide if I wanted to die on day 2, I bottled it! I decided that I would take a stroll on my side of the road and see where I ended up. I tried to look like I knew what I was doing and where I was going ... not so sure I pulled it off though. The street was lined with small shops and street vendors selling food and drinks, although it was hard to tell what type of food or drink. Saw a couple of people operating contraptions that seemed to be pressing or squeezing some kind of sticks to get the juice or sap from them - sugar cane maybe? There were a few more with hot stoves and pots of what looked like either lentils or chickpeas bubbling away, as I watched the vendor would pick up what looked to me like a profiterole (without the cream or chocolate) scoop up some of the sauce with it and pile them onto newspaper for the many customers , maybe try one later when i gain a bit more confidence... Overall, I think the biggest business that I saw on this side of the road was corn removal - foot corns that is. Plonk yourself down, stick out your foot and out comes the sharp knife - crazy people! I wandered around for about an hour or so and to be honest was only approached a couple of times and offered drink or food, not too ad as I appeared to be the only westerner in a one mile radius! Eventually found what appeared to be a small park area, no grass, just dried dirt with two, maybe three impromptu games of cricket going on which I sat and watched for a while, they were all really into it and didn't seem to hold back on the bowling! "That is something you don't see back home anymore" I thought and "no wonder we are so shit at cricket these days"! Further on up the road found what first appeared to be a "real" park, grass and trees behind railings, but it turned out to be a small zoo. The crowds were massive, families of all ages strolling around inside and outside. I decided to have a little sit down on a stone wall and have a ciggy, hadn't seen anyone smoking as far as I could tell so wasn't sure if it was legal or frowned upon, I guessed someone would tell me if so. I seemed to cause a bit of curiosity sitting there, lots of backward glances with comments to each other but also lots of smiles too, maybe they were taking pity on me - glad I'm now blending in! They obviously don't get too many sweaty foreigners around these parts! Ok, time to find that train station to see if I can get a local train to the main station for tomorrow's journey to Pune. This means crossing the road, or two - no problem... tip - stand in the middle of the biggest crowd you can find and walk when they walk - safety in numbers! I found the small station hidden behind masses of fruit and veg stalls and motorbikes and wandered onto one of the four (I think) platforms. From waht I can tell, Byculla Station which is where I am is 2 or 3 stops away from CST Station where I am catching my train tomorrow. After seeing my first Indian train pulling in to the station with all of the doors open and hundreds of people hanging out (just like on the TV!), I decided that it would be wiser to get a taxi to the station, master one mode of transport before trying another - how do you get on and off that thing??! Ok, call me a wimp but I cannot afford to miss my train tomorrow and I really don't want to mess up my first train journey! So, it was back across the road (same procedure, there are enough people to be able to do this anywhere I think!) and back to the hotel for a cup of tea in the coffee shop. I told the waiter that I would be eating there later and he promised to serve me some real Indian tea, soulded strangely like "masala tea" to me - curried tea - interesting! He told me to be there at 7pm sharp and that he would call my room if I hadn't appeared by then!. Went back to the room for another rest and made it down by 7pm to find the same table reserved for me, how nice! Ordered vegetable clear soup, cauliflower and potato aloo and naan bread, veggy all the way!. The food was lovely, no different from back home haha! After the meal the waiter served me his special tea as promised and seemed very pleased when I was polite enough to tell him how delicious it was - in fact it was quite bitter and was apparently made with herbs and other stuff that I didn't quite catch - one to avoid in the future! Sorry Mr. Waiter! Just as an aside, after I had sat down at my "reserved table" I was immediately joined by another guest - the whole restaraunt to choose from and he sits with me at my table of two! I thought that it would be nice to have someone to chat to over dinner except it turned out that he was Russian and did not speak a word of English and spent the whole meal chatting to his mates on the next table - how rude! So, after I had studied the menu and decided on my dishes, he waves away the menu and places his order, I didn't quite catch what it was. My food came out which as I said was lovely and well presented, then the waiter brings my new friend a side salad and a plate with 4 fried eggs and a slice of dry bread, hmm, nice diet mate! He covered it completely with tomato ketchup and took longer to eat that all of mine combined! His friend on the next table had the tomato salad ( a plate of sliced tomato) and a chicken salad, all very normal until he called the waiter over and was trying to order something else which neither I or it seemed thae waiter could understand. Eventually he made himself understood and the waiter returned with 3 pieces of raw garlic on a plate which he sat munching on - if only I had realised that was on the menu haha! One for the menu back home I think! After dinner I went for another wander and found an internet cafe just opposite the hotel. Updated the obligatory Facebook status, mailed home a couple of e mails and decided to start my TB Blog :-) I typed for just under an hour about the plane ride and getting to the hotel and the rest and decided to "save draft" for a spell check next time I was on - bad move, could not retrieve it anywhere! After this disappointment I got chatting to a local at the next computer who reliably informed me that it was easier to travel by bus than train (thanks for that, I'm sure that that will help me sleep tonight!), I promised him that I would look into it at soon as I had travelled on my pre - planned route for which I had booked the trains from home in advance. He also told me after I told him of my travel plan that Aurangabad would be cooler than Mumbai or Pune - thank the lord for that!, and gave me a telephone number of a friend of a friend who would act as my tour guide when I arrived - what a nice man! Another piece of advice he gave me was that my taxi to CST the next day would be no more than Rs60. Went off for another wander before bed, the place was as lively as ever, all sorts of street cooking going on and taxi drivers offering me a lift to a disco for a "good time" I politely refused of course, after all, it is only the first night.... 170 more or so nights to go, let's see how I last! Time for bed, the workmen have finished for the day so a good nights sleep in order before tackling the trains.... Note to self, when travelling abroad and you want to charge your phone, bring the sodding travel adaptor!!