First Day In Mumbai

on Friday, 12 March 2010

We arrive in the centre of Mumbai at about 8:30am. The coach ride into the city was a bit of a shock, Bangalore was a pretty dirty city, but Mumbai is absolutely disgusting. The smell and dirt is just ridiculous, I saw quite a few dust carts driving around, but I have no idea what they do, because they are definitely not collecting the rubbish. Families are camped out under the overpasses with nothing but a rag to sleep on, there is piles of rubbish everywhere, men are just urinating in the street all over the place and the smell is just overpowering. Not to mention the river, or sewer, I am not sure which.

We get to our stop in the centre of Mumbai and again we have planned nothing and have absolutely no clue where to go. The first hotel we spot is 2000R for a non-ac room, so we get some money out and just have a walk down the street. We are a bit hungry so stop for some breakfast, and have an omelette, 2 omelettes, 2 rolls and a bottle of water come to 55R(80p). We carry on looking for a hotel or tour office, but the tour offices seem to all be close for some reason, after asking at several places we come across a reasonable place for 900R for an AC room, we have already decided we won’t be spending too long here and decide we will just spend the one night. At the hotel we ask about getting to Jaipur, but are told it is a 24hr bus journey and will be 1400R, so we decide to pick a mid way city and stop off there first.We have a ticket booked on an AC sleeper to Ahmedabad for tomorrow afternoon, about mid way between Mumbai and Jaipur. We decide to have a visit to Elephantra caves, we definitely need to be using the guidebook more to find the places to visit. We get a taxi to “The Gateway to India”, the traffic in Mumbai is the worst we have seen yet, there seems to be loads of these long, wooden, 2 wheeled things that are used to transport all sorts around on.

These share the roads with taxis, cars, motorbikes, cyclists, bulls and pedestrians in a totally unorganised mess. I cannot believe we haven’t seen a single accident yet. We arrive at the gateway to India and are immediately jumped on by a bloke trying to sell us tickets to the caves. I check a couple of the tour offices at the side and it seems to be the right price, so we buy the tickets.

As we are walking towards the gateway, he says it is not a good day to go and see the caves because it is very smoggy and we would be better of coming back in the morning. He says he will give us our money back, so we give the tickets back. Then he offers us a tour of the city, and surprise, surprise this is considerably more expensive, we decline but he pesters us constantly, at the same time we are caught by some holy men who give us some sort of blessing, then demand 500R, we end up giving them 100R. The tour guy is still bugging us and we have just been relieved of 100R for having a piece of string wrapped round our hands and a red dot on our forehead, so I am pretty pissed off. We eventually manage to get the bloke to go away and decide we will do the caves today anyway as we are limited by time and this is one of the main sites in Mumbai. The ferry journey to the island is about 1 hour and costs 100R for economy and 120R for luxury, I think the only difference is you get a seat on the ferry or a bench, we spent most of the time on the bench and actually stood up on the return trip, so we wasted 20R there, not to mention Indians were only paying 20R. We arrive at the island and there is a toy train, I thought the caves must be on the other side of the island or something, the fare is only 10R for a return trip, so we buy tickets. We get on the train and after a few seconds I realise that the track is actually only about 100 metres long, total waste of money. We then get to the entrance to the town and have to pay some sort of tax of 5R, to get on the island. By this time we have been latched onto by a guide. To get up to the caves there is a quite long flight of stairs and at the bottom we are offered a lift up on a chair with 4 men carrying us. It costs 300R for the trip up and 100R for the trip down. The guys waiting at the side to carry you up, half look like they are in there 50’s or 60’s. It is quite a long way up and is pretty tiring, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a 50 year old bloke carrying some fat American up there. We get to the top and surprise surprise another entrance fee to get into the caves. This time its 5R for Indians and 250R for foreigners! We pay and at this point I say to the guide, that we don’t want a guide and that we don’t want to pay, he just mumbles something about it being part of the ferry trip or something so we end up with him showing us about. Arriving at the caves reinforces our view that the guy at the port was talking rubbish and we are glad we stuck to the original plan of visiting the caves, there is no way you would not be able to see them. We have a look round the caves, which are pretty impressive, but have quite a bit of damage from when they were looted of the gold by the Portuguese we are told. The guide is actually quite informative and we learn a lot more than if we had walked round by ourselves.

There are also lots of monkeys roaming around about the caves.

When we are finished being guided round the caves our guide says we can walk on top of the caves to see a cannon, at this point the inevitable happens, he does want paying, 200R, he has the cheek to say he told me about it and I tell him I had told him we weren’t paying and I refuse to pay him anything, Tom ends up giving him 50R. We walk to the top of the caves, but can’t find any cannon, perhaps we misheard, but there was nothing up there except a couple of water tanks with 2 little puppies hiding behind them. We return back down to the bottom and get the toy train back as we have already paid for the return trip, we share a carriage with a couple of Indian blokes who are on holiday from Chennai. The ferry journey back we get talking to a bloke from Leeds who has visited India quite a few times, so we manage to get a bit of information on things to see and do and also kindly gives us a map of the city he has. Back at the port we decide first to try and find an internet cafe, before getting a cab to Victoria Terminus, the main train station in Mumbai, it is absolutely packed and is an absolutely huge place, we have a quick look around and try to get an idea on prices and availability. We enquire about getting a train from Ahmedahbad to Jaipur and find out a third class Ac sleeper is 750R, so we may try and book that before we leave. We return to the hotel and by this time it’s getting dark and the traffic is even more horrendous, still with people walking along pushing things in the middle of the road with cars and bikes racing around them, most without headlights on and just incessantly sounding their horns for what seems no reason. We make it back to the hotel alive, thankfully and as we have not really seen anywhere decent to eat, we have something to eat in the hotel restaurant. Then get an early night planning to see a few more sights before we have to be checked out at midday tomorrow.


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