Beginnings of a great adventure
Anjuna Travel Blog› entry 109 of 151 › view all entries
My approach was all wrong. I arrived here thinking India would be like Egypt/Turkey, assuming I would need to be aggressive so I would not get screwed over. I arrived in Mumbai and spotted a fella with a Texas shirt on, so I approached him about sharing a cab to Colaba (the usual traveler destination in the city). His accent quickly told me he wasn't American. He had already booked a hotel and arranged transport there. Me, none of the above. So we approached the tourist info booth at the airport, and I asked the guy working if he could find me a cheap hotel in Colaba. He joked that if he couldn't I could stay with him. He found me a place and told me what a taxi would cost, so off we went after watching a Californian slip him a 100 for some sort of liquor license he needed.
Outside Eoin found his transport and asked if I could get a ride as well. They said sure, no problem, but I demanded how much and he said we could figure it out when we got there. I said absolutely not, that we had to agree on a price before we left and I would not pay more than 325 rupees. He looked at me like I was a mad woman and asked me why I was so insistent, that I was in India and "we never say no." I quickly realized I needed to change my attitude, that India was going to be nothing like any place I have been.
The taxi fellas were very helpful, setting out on foot at one point while I waited in the car, looking for my hotel, which as it turns out was right on the harbor. I got a room with a view of it and then took a nap until Eoin called.
Speaking of which, after securing tickets on the 7 a.m. train, we ran into a taxi driver outside who talked us into a personal whirlwind day tour of Mumbai for 20 bucks. I thought we could have haggled more on the price, but it seemed like a good idea and way to see the city. So off we went, starting out by checking out the lunch-wallachs with all the lunch sacks prepared and ready for delivery for the men at work. I had seen this on tv and was so excited when I got to see it in person, along with the ear cleaners. He pointed out a guy in a red turban who was perched on a wall next to another guy, digging around in his ear.
We hit up a temple, the hanging gardens (called so because there are water tanks underground), and checked out more architecture, including the Gateway to India and the High Court. While at the gardens a family was staring at me with excitement and one of them finally approached, asking if they could take a picture with me. I had heard about this, so I quickly agreed. I was just as fascinated by them in their beautiful saris. I do get the stares here.
We then hit up a house Mahatma Gandhi lived in while in Mumbai, now a museum. Inside was a letter he wrote to Hitler. Very short and to the point. We also passed by the Tower of Silence where the Parsees leave their loved ones who have passed away.
I haven't gone into detail about the city. I don't know where to start and could not do justice in trying to get across what this place is like. Pick up Shantaram by Gregory Roberts. Everyone is reading it. It's a huge, 800 some page book about his escape from an Aussie prison and landing in Mumbai, and living in its underbelly for 8 years. I just started it (bought it off a young lad while stopped at a traffic light). Check out the first chapter and you'll get a sense of what it is like to enter India through the Mumbai portal.
After what amounted to about 8 hours of sight seeing, Eoin and I grabbed a cheap dinner (about 5 bucks for us both to eat some really good food!) and then we went to bed anticipating an early rise for the train.
At the station we met Paul, also from the UK. We were all in the same car but we quickly found out the train was running 4 hours late! So we grabbed breakfast to kill time before the 12 hour journey south to Goa. Once arriving, we were met by Helen and Co. They had secured us accommodation, with me having a single for a mere 150 rupees ($3.50) a night with a few steps out to the beach. We spent our first day on the beach chilling. Now I originally planned to head north from Mumbai, thinking I've had enough of beaches (yes, shocking isn't it, but I actually miss winter).
Day two we rented scooters. I've never been on a scooter, nor operated one myself. We paired up. Originally Paul was my passenger. I thought him insane since I basically did a quick one minute ride to figure out the controls and then he jumped on. I found having a passenger a bit unnerving, especially given the number of obstacles one encounters, including cows, autorickshaws, other scooters, bikes, cars and loads of people.
Before I arrived I thought I would stay for a month, but now that I am here, and I have a visa until March 15th, I will likely stay here until then, giving me about seven weeks here total. Not enough time in my mind, but I am glad I have at least that as India is a truly masterpiece of color, intrigue, chaos and flavor, deserving all the time I have to take it all in.