Mumbai was my entry to India. I was staying on the Queen’s Necklace – Marine Drive along the back bay between the Gateway of India and Malabar Hill, close to Chowpatty Beach – all landmarks familiar to me from Indian literature, but also a pretty post area of a bustling city.
I spent a few days exploring the area – the hanging gardens, the Banganga Tank pool going back to the 12th century, a highly decorated Jain Temple, Gandhi’s residence (now a museum), and the art gallery – while eating my way through street vendor chaat stalls and local restaurants.
Because I lost my wallet and green card in Ottawa, I had to take several trips to the consulate to deal with paperwork which was an interesting experience but took me to another part of town that I may not have seen otherwise.
One of the highlights was taking a boat to the Elephanta caves built into an island. The caves are filled with statues dedicated to Shiva, dating from the 5th century.
It’s fairly busy with tourists and the monkeys know it – one stole my popsicle and another tried to get my water bottle.
I also visited the Dharavi slum which made me a bit uncomfortable because I don’t feel like that is really an acceptable tourist activity, but having attended the UN Conference on sustainable cities and human settlements a few years ago, I was interested to learn more first-hand.
This slum is one of the largest and highest densities in the world and has issues with lack of fresh water, disease, and extreme poverty, but also has distinct economic areas such as a busy laundry and fishery where the main catch is pomfret.
Mumbai was hot and that took some getting used to – I went back to the art museum and a hotel cocktail bar because they had air conditioning, and I decided against seeing a 3 hour Bollywood movie as the theatre was hot and I would not have understood anything anyways – but the breeze off the water was nice and I enjoyed walking around in the evening and talking to the locals.
Everyone was very kind, although – being a big city – kept to themselves more than other places I visited later.