Mumbai – Story – My Gateway to India 2013

The Megatropolis of Mumbai (Formerly Bombay)

The Beginning

I hired a pre-paid taxi inside the airport, which one should always do if disputes over the fare want to be avoided. After long deliberation between my driver and various other drivers as to how to get to the destination (the general direction anyway), we set out.

Streets are a cacophony of movement in India. Various forms of mobility weave and mingle forming a mass of random-looking motion. Three lanes become five, as cars, auto rickshaws, buses, ox-carts, trucks, scooters, motorcycles, bicycles weave in and out, crowd in together, and entirely disregard the notion or existence of lanes. The vehicles don’t drive one-behind-another, instead the moving mass fits together like a large, ever-changing jigsaw puzzle moving its way slowly forward. The noise created is deafening, engine noises of all sorts and incessant horn blowing in a range of pitches and volumes. Bollywood music blares here and there, both from vehicles as well as from little vending shacks. The louder the better.

This is the beginning of my second trip to India and my first visit to Mumbai. From the airport to my first destination involves more than an hour of intense navigation. After we leave the heaving mass of movement that seems to be a highway, we enter smaller roads that meander through endless neighbourhoods, some ordinary, others maze-like. These smaller roads are still messes of confused congestion, on a smaller scale. There is more stimulation from the roadside now, with mostly shack-businesses lining the side streets. Rubbish is strewn anywhere, laundry hangs from string and if available on roadside fencing. Vendors sit on the ground surrounded by their wares, usually produce. Cows linger with dogs. People are everywhere, waking on the streets, sitting on the streets, selling, buying, waiting, going. Smells emanate continually, it smells like farm, now fish, now burning rubbish, now open sewer, now just traffic pollution. Heaps of rotting discards, hot from the sun, smell earthy. Cows pick through. So do people.

I feel myself becoming entirely engulfed by the chaotic humanity. Going deeper and deeper into the urban jungle; there is no quick escape from this place. This realization makes me feel claustrophobic. I am absolutely surrounded by high-density life for miles in every direction. This city will be my home for the next three weeks, from four different vantage points.

My first situation is a homestay in Charkop Sector 8, a North-West suburb. As we approach the general region the driver stops for directions. Not that we’re lost, this is actually the modus operandi of taxi drivers. I have found that addresses are of little interest to drivers, they just want to know the nearby landmarks. In fact, addresses very often include landmarks, officially as part of the address. (Whenever possible) My address here includes “behind MTNL”, a large telephone exchange. So it will be this, and not the actual address, that the driver asks for each time we stop. After three such stops and one U-turn, we have found the landmark. At this stage we phone my host, who now guides us in like an air traffic controller.

Well, nearly. Now behind the telephone exchange with street-side locals scratching their heads, we connect with the host one last time using the mobile. Another u-turn and a bit more searching and I am finally introduced to my new friend and host who is flagging us down from the sidewalk.

“I will never find my way home,” I think as he helps me into the building. During my first trip to India I stayed in hotels that were the landmarks of directions. Also, I was not travelling alone and our driver was always with us.

I am in for quite a local adventure.

January, 2013.

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Mumbai – Photos with Narration – Megatropolis of Bombay

With more than 15 million residents, this sprawling city is also a haven of interest for the foreign traveller. I stayed in four locations over three weeks and experienced sensory overload every day. A brilliant adventure for my brand of interests.

20130212-130116.jpgMy first Indian commuter train ride. People start to disembark before the train comes to a stop!

20130212-130323.jpgInside a train going from Kandivili to Juhu. The Indian railway is the largest employer in the world with 1,600,000 employees! 55,000 trains at the edge of their lifespans move millions of passengers every day.

20130212-130712.jpgThere are quite a few people who live in India.

20130212-134724.jpgThe Gateway of India is Mumbai’s most iconic landmark.

20130212-134958.jpgElephanta Island is a ferry-ride away from the India Gate. Famous for the Elephanta caves, so named because the Portuguese found an ancient elephant statue here.

20130212-135214.jpgAlways cute but mischevous!

20130212-135402.jpgThe Elephanta caves are elaborately carved into the rocks.

20130212-135545.jpgI wrote a story about my visit to Elephanta. I spent the day with German friend, Martin, and Indian friend Gautam.

20130212-135758.jpgThe docks of Elephanta.

20130212-135900.jpgSeagulls flying with us during our return to Mumbai. Check out the videos I made of them!

20130212-140055.jpgMen gather before going to temple on Sunday Morning at Vile Parle, Mumbai.

20130212-140227.jpgOops! I did not notice the instruction at the bottom of this sign until after I had broken it during my visit.

20130212-140440.jpgIt’s difficult to see through the bug screens into the nursery of this orphanage, but my videos are easier to see.

20130212-140751.jpgThe beaches in Mumbai are not for swimming, they are for taking strolls in the cool breeze. Juhu beach is one of several havens to escape the enormous city and is very convenient. It is also a venue for illicit trades in the evening, which were very out in the open.

20130212-141310.jpgLocal colourful.

20130212-141434.jpgCreative wiring at my flat rental in Mulund. (In the building entrance.)

20130212-141635.jpgThe kitchen of my flat rental in Mulund, Mumbai.

20130212-141813.jpgThe squat toilet of my flat in Mulund, Mumbai.

20130212-142101.jpgColourful laundry hangs wherever it finds a place. Visual stimulation is everywhere and I will miss this kind of interest when I return to Canada.

20130212-142359.jpgMy neighbors in Mulund, Mumbai. Wherever there is an empty space, people will set-up home. Come to think of it, there is no empty space.

20130212-142613.jpgThere was a really nice feeling of community in the building where I had my flat rental. People kept their doors open to the hallway whenever they were home to come and go from each others flats. These flats were all one-room plus kitchen and bath, so the families were completely visible from the hallway. They only closed their doors when sleeping or when not at home.

20130212-142950.jpgThe open sewers don’t smell pretty.

20130212-143106.jpgFriendly stray dogs lounge in the street.

20130212-143223.jpgI rarely saw rubbish inside bins anywhere in India.

20130212-143412.jpgSuch a fun name for a dairy!

20130212-143715.jpgSmell the dairy freshness! Yummy!

20130212-143851.jpgBlending in with locals and with the sign at these caves in Sanjay Ghandi National Park.

20130212-144138.jpgMore ancient caves carved into rocks in this large park that separates the Western and Eastern suburbs of North Mumbai.

20130212-144519.jpgThe “lung” of Mumbai, Sanjay Ghandi National Park.

20130212-144655.jpgCrowds on the streets near Mulund station, Mumbai.

20130212-144926.jpgCheerful street art in the small back-streets of Bandra, a fashionable district of Mumbai.

20130212-145634.jpgBandra, Mumbai.

20130212-145739.jpgBandra backstreets, Mumbai.

20130212-145859.jpgHidden backstreets in Bandra, Mumbai.

20130212-150022.jpgI retreat to a five star to take a few days break away from the excitement and chaos of India.

Goa, Arambol – Photos with Narration – Hippie Beach Paradise

Nearly one hundred and one kilometres of sandy beaches run along the Arabian Sea along India’s West coast of a small state called Goa. Longtime a Portuguese possession, Goa has a unique culture within the Indian tapestry.

Arambol is the Northernmost beach and town of Goa. I spent nine days living amongst the hippies who seem to spend extended periods in this cheap, sunny paradise. Most of the tourists at this specific beach seem to be Russian and Eastern European, and they mostly kept to themselves.

I was cheated by a Russian woman who set-up a website listing accommodation. I paid her nearly four times the going rate for my beach hut, which was non-refundable and prepaid for a week. She actually had no connection to the facility at all, apart from her agreement to find them guests and keep whatever commission she could generate. FYI, as of February, 2013, beach huts run between $10 and $15 USD. I lost a few hundred dollars not knowing the going rates. I also lost my Blackberry, which disappeared from my locked shack. (It was my European travel mobile, not my Canadian cell phone.)

20130212-171139.jpgFlying from Mumbai to Goa, it struck m funny that I could buy small appliances from the headrest of the seat in-front on me.

20130212-171317.jpgDriving from the airport to Arambol.

20130212-171414.jpgReligious artefacts on the dashboard of the Goan taxi. Goa was a Portuguese colony for nearly 500 years so it has a Catholic demographic.

20130212-171717.jpgA town enroute to Arambol.

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20130212-171950.jpgMy suitcase on its way to my beach shack.

20130212-172137.jpgThe view of Arambol beach from my shack.

20130212-172440.jpgArambol beach comes to life with activity every night before sunset.

20130212-172614.jpgSome type of worly dancing on Arambol.

20130212-173037.jpgMy beach hut was the third on the left.

20130212-173416.jpgDaily dancing on Arambol Beach. I made a video of the same, as well as some videos of the other hobbies people adopt here.

20130212-175357.jpgGorgeous sunset with silhouette if a newby belly dancer trying out her new dancing garb.

20130212-175604.jpgJust a pretty little home on the backstreets of Arambol.

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20130212-175856.jpgSights on my daily walk to yoga.

20130212-180247.jpgMy daily walk to yoga, continued.

20130212-181229.jpgI know people don’t like to see rubbish, but it is everywhere so sometimes I am going to take a photo of it. Walking around the backstreets of Arambol.

20130212-181536.jpgDaily walks through Arambol backstreets.

20130212-181905.jpgPretty colours in someone’s front garden.

20130212-182051.jpgApart from when I was too sick to walk (food poisoning), I enjoyed private yoga sessions every morning. On Feb 4th, my yoga instructor wished my sister a happy birthday.

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20130212-182622.jpgSuch a pretty bicycle!

20130212-182750.jpgThe impressive sign of where I was staying. It’s all about attention to detail. But they didn’t actually have yoga, despite the high-tech name, I had to go find that elsewhere. The website scam was much more impressive.

20130212-183021.jpgA happy home in Arambol.

20130212-183215.jpgMy second beach shack in Arambol, much nicer than the first. I wanted to extend my stay by two days as to not miss a festival, but I also had to move. I paid 2400 Rs for the first shack per night, 700 Rs per night for the second, nicer one.

20130212-183700.jpgMy suitcases leaving Arambol.

20130212-183920.jpgFinal glimpses of the Arambol market streets as I leave for Panaji.

Goa, Panjim – Photos with Narration – Goa’s Capital City

Panjim, also known as Panaji, is the small capital city of the Indian province, Goa. With nearly five hundred years of Portuguese heritage, Goa is a unique Indian destination, Old Goa is situated very nearby, a city that rivalled London and Lisbon during its heyday. Several disasters led to its decline, including two plagues and the siltification of the working harbour. Today, Old Goa is mostly covered in overgrowth.

20130212-195134.jpg Carnival is a several day festival celebrated yearly before forty days of lent are observed. The festival consists of a parade, dancing, nightly fireworks, and culinary celebrations.

20130212-195638.jpgCrowds gathered all along the river road for the parade. This view was from my hotel room window.

20130212-195909.jpgA parade float tribute to fish, a staple of the Goan diet.

20130212-200100.jpgA tribute to smoking, “Don’t make your lungs like an ashtray . . . . Journey To Death”

20130212-200404.jpgYoung people finding the best vantage points everywhere to view the parade.

20130212-200547.jpgMany of the floats were unlabelled, just people dancing on flatbeds to really loud music. Incredibly loud.

20130212-200703.jpgThe parade took hours longer than planned. Crowd control was not effective and the crowd kept crowding the street slowing and stopping the floats. (Rope barricades were not very effective.). I only stayed for a few moments at a time, it was too loud for me to endure more than a few minutes before retreating back to the hotel.

20130212-201029.jpgEvening Carnival festivities at a nearby bark. (As for me, I took this photo where I had dinner overlooking the park. Behind nice glass windows.)

20130212-201240.jpg I’m not sure who she is.

20130212-201348.jpgJust a colourful scene near the hotel.

20130212-201441.jpgI missed the “hanging” float that was shown in the newspaper the next day.

20130212-201606.jpgThe open ditches along all the sidewalks and also where the sidewalks came to corners were deep (often more than 2 feet)
and I had to always watch my footing. This was not always easy with so much stimulation everywhere. The only other place I’ve seen this was in Jaislamer.

20130212-201926.jpgWatch your step! The sidewalks abrupt endings may be completely in darkness at night!

20130212-202146.jpgPerhaps if he stacked these plastic buckets his load would be smaller. It would be much less fun to look at though.

20130212-202339.jpgI didn’t stay at this hotel, but it is very convenient to, and surrounded by, Panaji Market.

20130212-202521.jpgNothing like the original.

20130212-202608.jpgSeveral casinos are located on defunct paddle boats moored offshore. I’m not sure, but I’d guess that gambling is perhaps only legal offshore?

20130212-202758.jpgIt’s a kitty! On a roof!

20130212-202849.jpgIn some streets of Panjim, I was really reminded of Northern China.

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20130212-203412.jpgOther buildings showed Portuguese influence.

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20130212-203729.jpgStrolling around Panaji.

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20130212-203954.jpgPanaji Church. This is one of the only photos that I would be approved to take in Panaji. My other photos are too candid and are of sights that one should ignore. Sorry for not being blind!

20130212-204242.jpgIt was time for a haircut, which meant also time for dye unless I wanted to be white-haired again. I was a source of entertainment for five salon staffers while I had my hair done. The kid, who did a great job, was only sixteen!

20130212-204651.jpgPanaji street art.

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20130212-204946.jpgA visit to Dona Paola, South Goa.

20130212-205050.jpgThe backs of the jetty vendors at Doña Paola.

20130212-205158.jpgViews I’m not supposed to notice in Doña Paola. But one walks past them from the car park to the jetty, so. . . .

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20130212-205929.jpgJust as I was about to get out of my seat and start dancing on the hot, crowded bus, I noticed this sign. Party poopers.

20130212-210115.jpgThe only impressive part of the Abyss Marine Aquarium was a sculpture that greeted visitors as they exited out the side door.

20130212-210407.jpgThe sporadic stream, directed on exiters, was actually quite wetting!

20130212-210544.jpgNot quite Madame T quality, but just as fun!

20130212-210651.jpgColva Beach. Ninety minutes was lots for me there.

20130212-210759.jpgStill Colva.

20130212-210904.jpgThe second largest Christian church in Asia, located in Old Goa.

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20130212-211035.jpgAnother large church in Old Goa.

20130212-211129.jpgThere was a wedding at the red stone church.

20130212-211256.jpgSome vendors in Old Goa. Just typical, but I had a good elevated view inside the bus.

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20130212-212059.jpgDoggies!

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20130212-212300.jpgBaby cow!

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