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India: Marvelous Mumbai!

Immersing in the wondrous, enormous, suprising, enchanting, multi-layered, multicultural megatropolis.

sunny 34 °C
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Mumbai

Population: 16million

Journey to Mumbai

The train to Mumbai was 9 (or so) hours.
Whilst most of the group drifted into slumber (we departed at some unholy hour), I got talking to a group of Air Force cadets in my berth, who were on their way to a maths exam (they had to get up at 4am for their 5 hour journey to the exam hall!).
They were really interested in Australia; our culture and values - particularly around family and marriage, and of course they were keen to discuss cricket (they were a little saddened at my admission of not really following it).
It was a great first hand cultural lesson, maybe on both parts, but certainly for me; a real insight into Indian values and customs. They also explained the caste system, parental care and dowry obligations.
With the aid of my Lonely Planet map the fellows also explained India's military concerns and protectorate, borders and how India acts as mediator within the complex relationships between neighbouring countries. :-)

The cab journey from the train station in Mumbai was fast, rattled and furious. Cab rides in India are an adventure in themselves!
It was surreal to see the city approach in the haze of pollution, on a bright cloudless day.

Gateway to India

We walked the long journey from our hotel to Gateway to India - a huge monument where British Governors would land and be greeted during colonial times.
It is still a significant site in India and there were also many local tourists taking photos.
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Chowpatty Beach

We then headed down to Chowpatty and, as it was Sunday there were many (MANY!) folks on the beach - families and friends, all congregating and eating together at one of the many open air beach-side restaurants.
It finally felt like non tourist India, as we seemed to be the only goras (foreigners) around.
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Leopold's

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If you are a fan of Shantaram (or even if you aren't), no trip to Mumbai is complete without a visit to Leopold's - Linbaba's favourite hangout where all those friendships and loves were forged (and some lost), shady deals done, and almost every aspect of existence scrutinized to the nth degree.
It didn't feel as edgy as the book describes (you can buy copies from the counter hehe), but the menu, food, and service were all excellent!
There is a "secret" area - like a concealed loft. I don't recommend going up there. It was shady, but not in a cool gangster/dodgy-currency -deals kind of way.

This is how you share beer in Leopold's:
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The next day we explored some of the major sites and areas with assistance from a local guide:

Haji Ali's Mosque

Built in the 1400's, this was an interesting place to visit - though the long talk to it (along a footpath build over the water) was more so: interesting touts and sellers (some with singing children to advertise), and even a beggar who can give you change of any rupee note - so you can't use that excuse: "sorry, I don't have any change"....Donald Trump would be impressed - ingenious!

Haji Ali's Mosque:
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Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat

This is Asia's largest outdoor laundry, employing over 6000 people across many contractors.
Dhobi Ghat services pretty much every hotel, guesthouse, restaurant, hospital and clothing manufacturer (they do all pre-washing), etc in the city and was recently certified for processing over 1 million items per day!

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At Dhobi Ghat amongst a set of pre-washed shirts about to hit the shops:
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Dharvi Slum

I didn't know how this was going to pan out. I had a moral dilemma about visiting a slum.... like it is a museum, with the community fair game for unwanted photos and intrusions - however most of the time we were met with welcoming smiles.

A visit to Dharvi would perhaps quash some of the myths around Indian slums.
Dharvi Slum is the second largest in the world; and a thriving, interconnected industrial workhorse, which (according to official documentation) turns over USD$665million+ per year!
We saw all kinds of enterprises from leather makers to a woven bag making shop; where they use recycled plastic as source material and produce for corporations/councils/etc who do bagged up giveaways as advertising (we all got free samples to take - oh the irony!)

It was crowded, and living conditions may not be ideal for the average (lucky) westerner, but you could sense folks were happy contributors to a thriving, harmonious and enormous(!) community. The air was full of chatter, laughs, music, machinery, etc and the atmosphere was really great!

Dharvi sits on prime, valuable real estate, and opportunistic corporations recently made bids to purchase (and subsequently clear out) the area. However, considering the enormous economic output of the slum plus the humanitarian concern, the government has protected the area and Dharvi will safely continue as is:-)

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Mumbai was everything I thought it would be and more (and we really only touched the surface!)
No wonder there is a 1000 page love story dedicated to marvelous Mumbai!

You can see all of my Mumbai photos here.

Posted by SkinnyFists 10:54 Archived in India Tagged mumbai gateway_to_india chowpatty_beach dharvi_slum dhobi_ghat haji_ali_mosque leopolds_mumbai shantaram

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Comments

Nice photos. They are amazing.

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by vicbus rental

wow it,s looking great.
amazing guys.thanks for share with us.

praveen
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by kumarpraveen

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