Wednesday, March 16, 2011

India (2010), part6: Mumbai



To Mumbai (formerly Bombai) we arrive before six in the morning. Time for the first cup of coffee in a cafe at the railway station and we go to search for cheap accommodation. Cheap? In Mumbai? Well, it wasn't cheap, but on a main street near the Gateway of India. Something for something. Just as I enter the hotel, I am offered a role in the movie, for 300 rupees (about 18 PLN) per day. I humbly admit that I was a little tickled. Then a girl catches me on the street, looking for people to play in a movie. Me? After a moment of talk it turns out that in the Mumbai film studios they make a movie, which action takes place in Europe and they need white stunts... I refuse. But maybe it would've been better to accept. How many of my friends were playing in the Indian super-production?

Good to know 

Most trains from central India arrive at the Victoria Terminus (Victoria Station, also known as Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus), some 10 minutes by taxi to Colaba district, where most of the tourist stay. Trains from the north arrive at Mumbai Central Station.
In the city there are
 yellow taxis with meters, in which you don't have to haggle about price, you pay the rate per kilometers, according to a special conversion table. (Fall rates were as follows: 13 INR for the first 1.6 km, and INR 8.50 for each additional kilometer, plus 5 INR for each large piece of luggage). We prefer, however, to haggle and set a price in advance, because if you don't know a city, you never know how many round you'll do until you'll reach your destination. At least, we are sure that we'll take the shortest / quickest route. In the center of Mumbai there are no auto-rikshaw, only in the suburbs.

In the center of Mumbai
Guides and forums advice tourists to stay in the south of Mumbai, from Colaba to Mahima Creek, near the Gateway of India. Most attractions are within walking distance from here. But you must remember that it's not cheap here, because Mumbai is the most expensive city in India.
The headquarters of Government Of India Tourist Office is located at 123 Maharshi Karva Road, near Churchgate station (Mon-Fri 8.30-18, Sat 8.30-14). We hardly find it, just because a building is being renovated and the office is moved. Everyone we ask, directs us to the ticket offices for foreigners. Lady in the office, yes, she's nice and smiling, but keeps repeating that Mumbai is a city of finance and business. She assures us that in The Bolivari National Park on the outskirts of the city there are lions and tigers. Well, we'll go.


Sculptures in one of the caves on Elephanta island
Elephanta Island - about 9 km from Mumbai, inscribed on the UNESCO list, caves with Buddhist statues. Ferries depart every half hour from the Gateway of India, between 9 and 14.30 (ticket: 120 INR; access to the caves: 250 INR). But beware! The ubiquitous monkeys can destroy the pleasure of visiting, coming against the tourists on the road and takinmg them whatever they can. We left the island disgusted by the behavior of guides, encouraging those mischievous monkeys. We left after seeing just two caves.
The view from the ship on India Gate and the Taj Mahal hotel (left)
Gateway of India - the most famous monument of the city is actually a square, which is full of phonies. There is also, just opposite, perhaps the most famous building of the city, the Taj Mahal hotel. Gateway of India may be seen for free. We do a lot of photos here.

Prince of Wales Museum (Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay, Tue-Sun 10.15-18.00, 300 INR). Apparently, the best museum in Mumbai, presenting the history and culture of India. We didn't enter, rebelling against the different prices for tourists and natives.
*From the museum you can go for a walk in the direction of Flora Fountain in the heart of Colaba Causeway and, near Martyrs' Memorial there's an imposing building of the Supreme Court and City Hall. At night you can stroll along Marine Drive. The station Victoria Terminus (Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus), is also interesting, being one of the most historic building of the colonial Mumbai.
Other sites recommended by guidebooks: Sephardic synagogue Kenentha Eliyahoo, Watcha agara – Parsis' temple of fire; Afghan Memorial Church of St. John Evangelist, Babu Amicand Panalal Adishwarji - Jain Temple, Dhobi Ghat – laundry under the open sky, Mahalakshmi Temple - the temple of Laksmi; the mosque of Ali Hajj.

During a so-called safar in Bolivari park you can see a sleeping lion
Gandhi National Park (also called Bolivari National Park, admission: 20 INR) is located on the northern outskirts of the city, very far away. A ticket for "safari" is strangely cheap (30 INR). The put us into the bus with barred windows. Along the way we pass a tiger (just one) in a cage and a lion (also one) lying outside the cage. First, we think it's stuffed, but it moves a tail, so it's alive.
Bolivari is the biggest dud of the trip. To get there by taxi you need over an hour, and the only attraction are huts similar to slums stuck wherever possible. It should be noted that Mumbai is huge and reserve much time for any travel around.
We return by train, there are no crowds, because it's not rush hour. It's several times cheaper.

We plan to go to Pushkar, on the eastern edge of the Thar desert, with the sacred lake, but unfortunately we can't get train tickets so we have to enjoy our eyes with the photos in a folder. From Mumbai we go back for almost a week to New Delhi. Again the night in the train. We set off on October 30, Saturday, just before five in the afternoon (ticket: about 1500 INR). We reach Delhi on Sunday, after eight o'clock in the morning.


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