Day 13 & 14 & 15 - Mumbai
Photo of the Day - Mumbai Train Station
As the business capital of India, Mumbai does not disappoint. After landing, the drive to our hotel showed us the great diversity of the city. Our first view revealed hundreds of cranes atop of new business and apartment skyscraper buildings under construction. Then moments later looking down, you realize you are driving by slums that are so dire you can hardly believe any humans would be living in them. The vast social difference does not make any sense.
Our hotel was located on the huge crescent shaped bay of Mumbai nicknamed the “Queen’s Necklace” due to its twinkling at night brought on by the lights of the buildings along the shore. We did walk the boardwalk to watch the sun go down, but unfortunately a complete sunset was not visible due to the pollution in the sky.
Driving around this fast paced city quickly presented us with what I believe is an architectural gem, yet to be fully discovered. The many huge buildings such as universities, colleges, government buildings, train station, etc, are so spectacular in their design, my jaw dropped around every corner. If the Indian gov’t could only find the resources to clean and repair these aging architectural wonders. Our initial tour stop took us to the working slums of Mumbai, both along the streets and behind the scenes. While the slums were very much what you might imagine (old unkempt buildings, dirt and garbage everywhere), the people were thriving in a unique live/work ecosystem. We visited a bakery where they work in seemingly inhumane conditions of stifling heat and overall living/sleeping conditions. That said, the resulting baked goods produced were nothing short of spectacular. We bought a number of their pastries and cookies - delicious. Our guide then took us on a walk through a small slum neighbourhood where we had the opportunity to meet with some of the local children, who just loved Paula. We found the young Indian girls and boys to be just so happy and beautiful. We then visited a couple who lived on the second floor, which was accessed only by a ladder with a rope, just think about that. They lived, cooked, slept and worked in only one small room. They made quilts out of sari’s which they sold to the locals. God bless this couple.
The next day was spent travelling 4.5 hours by car into the mountains to visit Sula Vineyards in the wine region of Nashik. We had a wine tasting and complete winery tour. Their Provence style “limited edition” Rose and the Sauvignon Blanc were very worthy wines. The vineyard holds an annual party at the vineyard called “Sulafest”. From the videos we watched, this bash in the vineyards is definitely world class. The entire winery has a wonderful California feel due to the winemaker being from Sonoma, CA. We had a fabulous time there.
The next day in Mumbai, was action packed. Arriving at the waterfront and the famous Gateway to India monument, which was erected in 1924 to commemorate the visit of King George V in 1911. We boarded a shuttle boat and enjoyed a 1 hour ride out to the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Elephanta Caves on a small sparsely inhabited island. These caves (approx. 9 in total) where amazing. The huge statues and wall murals that depicted many Indian deities and stories of their lives and celebrations, were carved out of the mountain rock. Arriving back into the city, we toured around to see many of the key landmarks including: Afgan churches, the Secretariat of the Maharashtra Gov’t, Jain Temple, Hanging Gardens, Chowpatty, Kamala Nehru Park, Mani Bhavan (where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during his visit to Mumbai), and the Mumbai National Museum where we toured numerous exhibits. The two most memorable stops were the Mumbai Main Train Station and the Dhobi Ghat. The train station’s main hall is absolutely stunningly beautiful, I hope the photos do justice to the high ceilings, stained glass windows, wood work and overall architectural design. The Dhobi Ghat, is the world famous outdoor laundry. This is where many of the clothes of the people of Mumbai, the hotels, and dry cleaners from around the city, are washed, scrubbed, hung to dry, ironed, folded, then packaged to be returned to their owners. This sight was something I had never seen before, just marvelous. We did wonder however, how could the clothes actually get cleaned when the pollution is so high in Mumbai and it’s located right beside the train tracks.
On our way back to the hotel we did get to stop by the most expensive house in the world. A 27 floor tower built by the Indian multi billionaire, Mukesh Ambani (India’s richest man and 4th richest in the world), and located in the ritzy part of town along the waterfront. The wild modern design while not well liked by the locals, was really something to see. He has 600 staff working to maintain the building and provide all the services needed. It is 400,000 square feet, with a garage for approx. 130 cars, movie theatres, ballrooms, etc. And for the price? A cool $1B USD.
We later walked along the beautiful waterfront to watch the sun go down. It was here that it really hit us – the Indian people of all ages, are totally obsessed with selfies and posing for pictures. We never seen anything like it. Selfie, selfie, selfie- wow!!
Mumbai is a beautiful city, with a wide range of disparity between the rich and the poor, but has a great vibe. It would be even better to see it after the monsoon and the air is clear.
Next stop is Goa, where have a bit of a break from the hectic travel and sightseeing, and we’ll get to spend time on a beach on the Arabian Sea.