Tour 1 of 3 – heritage sites walking tour, 1/24/15:
The Gateway to India, built from 1911 to 1924, is apparently the top tourist attraction in Mumbai. When he was a boy, our charming tour guide once took off his clothes, stashed them under the Gateway, and jumped in the water it overlooks (the Arabian Sea). The police did not like that.
This is the Taj Hotel, where everyone from John Lennon to Bill Clinton have visited, and which was one of several targets during the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Archival images hung throughout the hotel.
The famous Leopold Café, another site of the terrorist attacks (bullet hole still there).
During British rule, this impressive but now abandoned building was one that hung signs indicating “Indians and Dogs Not Allowed.”
On a table under this tree in 1875, the Bombay Stock Exchange launched. It has since moved nearby to a huge building. According to our guide, it’s the third largest stock exchange in the world, though online sources claim otherwise.
Tour 2 of 3 – Elephanta Island, 1/25/15:
Elephanta Island is a one-hour boat ride from Mumbai.
Yes, we did see monkeys.
The moment when the monkey discovered he
should be wary of himself.
This kind of tree never has leaves, only flowers:
He and the other inhabitants must wait till then to charge their cells and they do not have fridges. His diet is mostly vegetables, fruit, rice, and fish. At one point he described a Bollywood movie he likes…which, humorously, sounded very much like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (which he did not know).
There are no doctors on the island. To see one, inhabitants must take the boat. Emergencies must be particularly scary. Pregnant women go to the mainland a month or so before their due date and stay with family or friends till the big day.
I bought a pair of handmade bronze door handles and a handmade bronze wall hook thing for 2,600 rupees (about $42); a hand-painted piece of art on silk for 600 ($10); and a hand-sewn bag for 200 ($3). (First day I withdrew 3,000 rupees—$48. Later in the trip I withdrew 2,000 rupees—$32—twice.)
A sign on the boat indicates a different maximum capacity depending on weather:
Monday, 1/26/15 was Republic Day (marking independence from Great Britain). President Obama came to India for it, and for diplomacy. He was in Delhi or else I’m sure we would’ve had masala chai together. I thought the city would be even more crowded than usual because of the holiday, but apparently it was the opposite.
The day started with a traffic violation. Our kind driver got pulled over for using his cell phone while driving. The officer did not process the violation at the window like what we’re used to in the States. Instead he asked the driver to step out of the vehicle…and they proceeded to discuss the situation IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUSY STREET.
Dhobi Ghat, the sprawling, open-air laundry-washing area—stunning. People from all over the city send their dirty clothes here (Dhobis, as they’re called, come pick it up).
Last stop of the tour was Mani Bhavan, a large home in which Gandhi lived and worked (but did not own) from 1917 to 1934.
Next...touring the largest slum in India.