Chapter 1: Mumbai
to admire Mumbai's sights.
India had always been on my dream list of places to visit. Everything about it appealed to me: the landscapes, the colours, the people, the food. The list goes on. I always knew I wanted to go, but also thought I should make it a proper trip and go for at least a month, making sure I'd have enough time to experience the country properly. When it came to planning my trip, I decided that instead of flying directly from London to New Delhi, I would book a flight to Mumbai, with a quick stop in Dubai. So, there it was, my introduction to India would be one of its largest cities, and the beating heart of its Bollywood film industry. How exciting!
Now, let me explain. I knew I was going for a month, and I approximately knew where I was going to go. I say approximately because I didn't want to 'lock' my trip, I wanted to give myself some flexibility in case I loved some places more than others (And oh was I right). I knew I'd fly in on the 3rd October and that I had to be in Delhi on the 16th October to catch a flight to Goa, where I would scuba dive for a bit more than a week before coming back to London. I knew I wanted to visit Rajasthan. Things were meant to go like this: Mumbai - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jaipur - Agra - Delhi - Goa. But in reality, it went like this: Mumbai - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Pushkar - Barahptur - Agra - Goa.
The big difference between these two paths is that I quickly discovered I wasn't feeling confortable traveling on my own to big cities, where the crowds, the noise, the smells can be overwhelming. Instead, I adjusted my trip to visit calmer places like Pushkar or the Keoladeo Birds Reserve in Barahptur. But I will tell you all about this later on. For now, let's focus on Mumbai.
is in its architecture.
My first impression of Mumbai wasn't a great one. I had booked a rather cheap hotel in a neighbourhood that, I thought, would be close enough to all the sights and cool places in Mumbai. I was wrong, very wrong. Before even reaching the hotel (if we can call it that), I had my first experience with indian taxi drivers. They are one funny bunch. They rarely speak english, even when they are pre-paid from the international airport, but they are really good at pretending they know what they're doing or where they're going. They don't. They really don't. I won't have this post turn into a rant against taxi drivers, so let's just say that they drove me crazy for a month (perfect pun).
On the 3rd of October, my first day in India, I got dropped off near my hotel, not really knowing where I was or what was happening. Goats, cows, chickens, people everywhere. A stinky and noisy mess. I finally figured out that my hotel was at the end of a dirty staircase with a few cockroaches on the way up. I had read that the hotels in Mumbai were never quite good enough, but I believed Mumbai was a rather modern city, and things wouldn't be too bad. Well, that place wasn't great at all and it didn't help me adjust to this unfamiliar country I was going to visit for a month. I ended up having to walk a bit over an hour everyday to reach a few nice sights and lovely cafés. I wanted adventure, I got what I asked for.
near the Getaway of India, one of Mumbai's most famous sites.
Once I figured out where the nice things were (Mumbai being gigantic), I really enjoyed walking around in this bustling city. I loved visiting the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India or Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (I admit I had to google that name again), found a few really nice shops and cafés around the areas of Fort and Colaba. I splurged on some lovely indian clothing at Fabindia (great name, right?) so I could look more like a local for the coming month traveling around (yes, that failed. White skin, fair hair and blue eyes will always make you look like a tourist in India).
My introduction to Mumbai was really short (although I came back at the end of my trip, before flying back to London. My experience of the city was then totally different. I will write about this later on). I had to fly to Udaipur on the 6th of October and was really excited at the idea of discovering Rajasthan, having heard so much about it.