Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Goa to Mumbai

INDIA | Friday, 17 September 2010 | Views [1019] | Comments [2]

Monday 13th September - Time to move on from Calangute. To get a foreign quota seat on a train leaving soon, we have to go to the train station at Margao (Madgaon). Cannot book on line as with other seat including the Tatkal quota. 

Our standard Big breakfast at the Eclipse bar before heading for the bus to Panaji. The standard taxi fare all the way to Margao is 800 rupees. One guy offered 300 to share with some others. It is so easy and cheap to do by local bus. Rs13 each to Panaji and then queue to get a non-stop shuttle service to Margao for Rs26 each, leaving every 10 minutes. Total Rs78 for the two of us. Once we arrived in Margao it was crazy. Honking nose to bumper traffic until we got off at the city bus stand near to the Municipal gardens. Fortunately, a local bus goes from there to near the railway station for Rs5 each.

The reservation centre was busy, but it was deceiving. Pass the mad queues to the far counter that says foreigner, disabled citizens, etc and request a booking form. Within 5 minutes I was attended to. I just asked to get us on the earliest train out to Mumbai. Total surprise when he asked if we were ready to go tonight. Was only Sleeper class, but at least we got on a train and saved the hassle of having to stay in Madgaon or surrounding area. Cheap tickets too at 576 rupees for the two of us including the Rs40 reservation fee.

Our train, the 0112 Konkan Kanya Express, was due to depart at 16:45 and arrive in Mumbai at 05:50. Killing time at Margao is easy as there is a good restaurant split with veg and non-veg sides. Great value for money and good quality.

The KKE train arrived as planned at 16:45 and departed at 16:55. Our sleeper class carriage was almost empty. Surprising considering it was fully 'Wait-listed' on the internet. Something I struggle to understand on the Indian train system, how so much of it is wait-listed when in reality there is plenty of space, and that takes into acount the foreign quota and the Tatkal quota.

Anyway, windows open and the fans on full. A lovely breeze coming through the carriage and the sun shining outside with a light shower adding a sparkle to the air. A nice start to the journey.

Shiera has been going through some sweats and chills for the past day or so, which is concerning me. Plus she is beginning a light cough. The usual signs of Malaria.

We shared our facing berths with a lovely indian couple who spoke good English. As usual the lady was interested in Shiera like a mother with her daughter.

The train stopped a number of times. Each time, darker than the last and progressively filling up our carriage. Around 9pm the guy opposite climbed onto his top bed, put on his cap and started praying to Mecca. I guess they must instinctively know where Quiblat is unless there is a sign somewhere. How accurate does a Muslim's direction have to be when praying...anyone out there who can tell me?

A regular passage up and down the carriage of Chai, Coffee, Pakora, Biryani, Gulab Jamun, did I mention Gulab Jamun...yep, bought some of those, cold drinks and other snacks. Actually, as I reported in a past journal, the real names of what these guys are selling is more like Frizzleworlybums.... brumbarumbadums....dahdyningnings. Does anyone have any idea what they are saying?

Along the way, occupying time is easy. The current job is working out the costs of potential businesses and also designing apartments for rent. Isn't life exiting...even on a train!

A gay indian dressed in a pink saree boarded the train at one station, resplendent with gold jewellery and was begging along the carriage. Now, who is going to donate a single rupee to that kind of misfit? As an incentive, she/he/it had some rupee notes wedged between fingers as if others had already donated. Perhaps it was a local bicycle? Come into the toilet for a bit of stand-up howzyafather between stations.. Cheap at 10 rupees a go

I had pre-booked four nights at the Lawrence Hotel near to the areas of interest. At 700 rupees per night with shared bathroom, it is one of the few cheap options in Mumbai. By the way, I still prefer the name Bombay. How different does it sound to buy my favourite snack of Bombay mix, if it was called Mumbai mix. How about the famous Bombay duck...a fish dish...if it were called Mumbai duck? Doesn't have the same ring to it. Why do cities change their names? Buggers up the maps, books, tourists, road signs. Like recently in Bangalore. Now called Bengalaru. Bangalore is the epicentre of India's I.T. industry. Will the world start calling it Bengalaru instead? Chennai was originally Madras. Has anyone ever asked for a chicken Chennai curry in a restaurant...instead of a chicken Madras? Doesn't work does it. Here's a silly idea. My home town is Liverpool in the UK. I don't like liver personally, so let's rename it boobpool instead...I like boobs better. Would it catch on? It must be late in the day...my brain needs sleep...goodnight keypad...Zzzzz...

We arrived in Mumbai's CST station shortly before 7:30am. The final crawl into CST is a horrific sight on an empty stomach. We saw maybe half a dozen guys pooing next to the tracks, everything on view to the passing train. The squalor and stench is stomach churning. The irony about all of this is that there is a TV campaign at the moment to stop public spitting and to clean up the act. Who is that aimed at? Do the people perpetrating the offensive acts watch TV? They are uneducated homeless beggars. It has to be stopped in some way. But that is about education and trying to build standards.

For some reason my watch is now 10 minutes wrong ompared to when we arrived in India. In Chennai on 2nd August it was exactly the correct time. Now I have lost 10 minutes. India's Stretchable time (officially IST) again!

There is little option from here other than a taxi. Supposedly Rs100 to get us to the Lawrence hotel, which I had booked ahead. Not that far and was stunned when we got there. Yuk. Shattered windows, filthy building. Took the lift to the 3rd floor and hated it as soon as I walked outside the lift door. The room wasn't available yet, but from what I saw, there was no way we would stay there. Back to the taxi and off on a drive around. The choices here below Rs1000 are fairly dire. What is worse is they have no concept of a good standard. They will try and argue that what you are seeing is really clean and great value for money. To be honest I wouldn't want to be found dead in some of them. To cut a long story short, and ordering the taxi driver to just stop taking us to crap places and follow instructions, we ended up at the 'Traveller's Inn' in the Fort area. Really friendly staff, clean and secure rooms, hot shower and internet available, for Rs930 per night. Close to Colaba causeway and the main sightseeing area too. Pheww...sorted eventually.

Showered, shaved and laundry sorted, we hit the streets. Didn't get far as we needed to eat and luckily enough, the excellent Universal café was right next door almost. Just about any food you could want, and at reasonable price. Artistically designed wrought iron door and window panels and a cool breeze coming through. Aahhhh....relax...

Replenished...off to sight see.....

The Colaba causeway is the arterial route through the Colaba district and is about as central as you could want for seeing the major sights. The huge naval base...off-limits. The Indian Mint....off limits. Bank HQ...off-limits. Some grand buildings. But the grandest along the way is the taj Mahal palace opposite to the grand Gateway of India. After security checks, it is worth going into the 1902 built Taj hotel just to see the lovely opulent lounge area.

 The Gateway of India is a bit of irony...built in 1911 to commemorate the visit of King George V, it was re-used in 1935 when they paraded out the last British regiment as India won its Independence.  The Gate is closed to the public, but the surrounding area is a gathering ground for ferries to local islands and numerous photographers offering group photos of people and the gate. Plus the normal beggars scrounging for rupees and following to the point of annoyance. Can buy enormous balloons and  scare pidgeons too!

After a bit of window shopping...don't really need to buy a window...we moved on to the Maidens. The focal centre of some of the most grandest buildings in Mumbai, mainly legal, and a nice place to chill and watch locals play India's favourite game of cricket. Nobody playing today, but we passed at the wrong time of day. An infusion of energy with a pint of Sugar cane juice for 12 rupees. You could almost survive on sugar cane juice if you had to.

Time for a coffee, and none better than the Mocha café on Veer Nariman road. Also a great place to see the young locals in the smoke room vanish into a cloud of sheesha pipe smoke, whilst the Fez wearing attendants smoke themselves into an early death by demonstrating how it's done.

Veer Nariman leads to Marine drive. The main waterfront road between Nariman point in the south, to Chowpatty beach. Fairly quiet this afternoon and a gentle breeze wafting in from the Arabian sea as we strolled along to the south.

When I last came here there were ornate horse driven carriages ferrying tourists along the front. No sign of them today, and not sure whether they have gone from the scene. They were a quaint sight, especially in the dwindling sun. Maybe it is too hot for them during the day, or they have moved on somewhere else.

Shiera wasn't feeling too good. Sweating and chills inside, plus a developing cough. We had picked up some medicine earlier in the day, and too early to say if it is taking effect. Will have to see tomorrow. Had done enough for today, so grabbed a taxi back to the hotel. Remember never to trust their meter! The price for our 4km ride was only about 100 rupees, although the meter read 300!

Dinner at Universal café again and then on walkabout. The whole country is celebrating the Ganpati festival right now. The elephant god 'Ganesh' is worshipped all the time, but during the festival people decorate their homes and businesses and street displays are erected. Mumbai is one of the best places to observe the rituals and spread around the area are marquees housing Ganesh idols and even animated storybook displays. The finale of the festval is on day 10. Which happens next monday, when all of the local Ganesh idols get a ritual bathing in the sea at Chowpatty beach, and other waterfronts in other parts. I am sure it is quite a sight to see many hundreds of elephant idols accompanied by the pilgrims en-masse. We haven't decided yet whether to stay in Mumbai that long, as we will have done all we want in a couple of days and want to escape the city.

 

Wed 15th Sep - Took the train from Churchgate station to Mahalaxmi (only 4 rupees each!), to visit the infamous Dhobi Ghats. I remembered from my last visit that it was the washing machine of Mumbai. Unique in the whole of India I think. 10,000 workers, 90% male, work from 4am through to midnight every day, washing upto 1 million items of linen, clothing and servicing to the hotel businesses of the city. It is an amazing sight, sitting right next to the Mahalaxmi railway station. Tourists have to pay 200 rupees to have a guided tour of the place. They are a bit abrupt if you want to take photos or walk in without paying the fee for the guide, claiming that it is dictated by the government. Not sure if that is true?

Hundreds of concrete baths in rows are used for soaking the washing. Numerous machines run continuous to dry the. The sea of clothes hung up in the sun to dry is colourful. Apparently, not a single item goes missing. That is an amazing fact in itself. Outside of the washing compound there isn't that much to see. Just a functional village are that I guess mainly supports the washing businesses.

The idea was to aim to the Mahalaxmi temple a kilometer or so away. The road follows the train line  south and then heads off west to the coast. Along the road is an interesting shanty village. A conglomeration of patchwork shacks, piled one on top of another, offer a rather rough home to many people. Manufactured from anything they can get hold of, they are barely holding together. The tenants were bustling around outside washing and cooking like anywhere else. But their lives, and many with young families, is a different one to most more affluent folk. Their children dressed in school uniform looked ready for school, or just come back. What a place to come home to...but they do their best in the circumstances. Mumbai's population statistsics are incredible. The poverty figures even more astonishing.

Shiera started the day feeling better than last night, but a combination of the heat and the revolting smells as you walk the street, started to make her deteriorate. We didn't get much further when we had to abandon the rest of the day's plans, and took a taxi back across town to the hotel so she could go to bed. Worrying as expected, and will need to keep watch over her symptoms. Another thing learnt...check the sort of meter the taxi is using and make sure it is one of the modern ones. That journey, a very long way, only cost 102 rupees. At that price it is hardly worth struggling to walk anywhere. The older meters don't work and over inflated prices get charged.

 

Thursday 16th - Shiera's health isn't good and had to go to the local St. George's hospital to have her checked out. The walk there is an ordeal in itself. A guy was taken for dead lying on the pavement, covered in a plastic sheet. People just walked around him almost not noticing. Human excrement in the gutters on a busy main road and noxious vapors were too much for Shiera and just added to the ill feeling. The hospital for a foreigner seems chaotic. The locals know how it works. Window 1 to get a paper/register. We were told to go straight to room 3. Room 3 sent us to window 18. Window 18 sent us to another window. Got fed up with that and went to room 24 after the instruction of a guy behind a closed window and bypassed everyone else to see a young female doctor. Blood pressure       . Heart etc and then filled in a scrappy bit of paper with some diagnosis. That I couldn't read. Off to room 27...a long way through the hospital, for some blood tests. They wouldn't be ready until 10am tomorrow morning. Free prescription medicines given after a long queue at the pharmacy at window 9. Males in one queue, ladies in another. We both got in the queues in case, and the males won the race and I got served. I argues with him to just give us the medicine and got Shiera to join our queue. He wasn't going to, but I wouldn't budge, so he gave in and give it to us. Now, considering that many people coming here are a bit low on education ( hope I’m not being too unfair here), the medicine is launched through a little opening in the window, and individual tablet prescriptions were wrapped up in screwed up paper. Nothing identifiable on the paper or on the tablet, and so you have to remember what medicine is in which piece of screwed up paper, and the dosage to take each day, with nothing written down in English. The likelihood of getting it wrong is very high. We had five medicines! The nurse who took the blood sample said the lab was only doing Malaria tests. Shiera has not got Malaria. I can almost guarantee it. It is most likely to be Typhoid. The problem is that many early symptoms are similar for many diseases. Even Dengue fever seems similar to others and cannot be treated.

Plenty of rest for the remainder of the day.

Back to the hospital in the morning. What a shambles. Yesterday we had been told to return to room 27 to collect the results. On arrival at room 27, we were told that the results would have been sent to the doctor in room 24. Off we go to find the doctor we saw yesterday. She wasn't back in until Monday and we had to see her for the results and nobody else. This is Friday and she was the one who told us to come back today for the results ! Not good enough, so insisted on seeing another doctor as we are due to leave tomorrow. He came out with a classic statement for a doctor... 'The results of the tests do not matter, just keep taking the medicine'. What a great line eh! So what if she doesn't have Malaria, and you tested her for Malaria...it doesn't matter, just take the medicine. I screwed up their diagnosis paper and threw it at them and walked out. Now, on the way into the hospital yesterday, a guy looked dead on the pavement about 50 metres from the hospital and was covered in a plastic sheet. I guess he gave up hope of being treated in the hospital and decided to save the crap medical treatment and die anyway. Sorry if this offends anyone, but it isn't good enough. But I am lucky enough to come from a country with a good health service, albeit at a price, and not everywhere can provide to that level.

Onwards...the plan was to go to Chor Bazaar. Got a taxi and was dropped off in an area that, to be honest, was the pits. Ugly, filthy and noxious smells every few metres. Then it began raining. We didn't find anything that looked interesting so jumped in a taxi to Malabar hill Hanging Gardens, the other side of town. Really pretty and some beautiful butterflies out today. A clear view of the Chowpatty bay area from one of the parks, plus a lovely little shoe house. Meant for children under 12yrs of age, but enough for Shiera to squeeze in.

Walked downhill along the Ridge road to the Waikeshwar Jain temple. On my last visit it was having some work done. This time it was clear. An interesting design with decorative doors throughout.

There is one thing that is an absolute must do in India, and that is to stuff your face with Kulfi. Got another taxi to the New Kulfi Centre on the Chowpatty beach road. Sorry to say that we had three plates of it, in different flavours, Pistacio, Mango, Blueberry...Yummeee....the rains stopped so we aimed across the road to walk on the beach. Seemed like a good idea....read on....As mentioned already, day 10 of the Ganpati festival culminates on Monday in a mass dipping of the Ganesh statues. Some people who cannot make Monday are already dipping their statues, so the place is a mess of reverie and coloured dye that they ritualistically scatter over themselves and everyone who passes. Whilst stood watching a group and their merriment, we noticed a plastic sheet on the beach with what looked like a body underneath it, apart from the extremities poking out. It's a statue one guy said as he passed us. Really? It looks realistic, although the arms and legs and face protruding from it were almost pure white. Suddenly police appeared and began clearing everyone away. It wasn't a statue...it was a real dead body. Our second in 24hrs! As the police uncovered it and lifted it into the back of a medical truck, the decomposed flesh became really clear. His extremities had turned white, and the rest beyond words. Enough description I think. Shiera was retching at this point. Couldn't look. All of this was going on amongst the most horrible filth imaginable on a beach. Groups of people were trying desperately to clear some of it away. I guess that most had collected during the festival, and they were clearing it ready for Monday. The stench was revolting. Seeing a dead body amongst this at a time when groups are celebrating their god is a paradox. At this stage Shiera was feeling ill and couldn't take anymore. 2 dead bodies in such a short space of time, and enough smells to make her want to vomit regularly. Sorry Mumbai, there is a lot needed to turn this city around. Taxi back to the hotel.

There were a few things I wanted to do before leaving Mumbai. First, was a meal at Leopold's café on Colaba Causeway. A bit of an institution amongst foreigners and locals alike. Not the cheapest for a meal, but great food and a nice atmosphere with a lively buzz.

Next was a ride on a horse and carriage. They used to run along Marine drive, but now run around the Gateway of India area, beginning outside the Taj Mahal hotel. We negotiated a ride for 200 rupees. Lasted about 10 minutes plus photo session afterwards. It depends on the driver and how hard you bargain. Either way, most of them do the same route, no matter what you pay. Really sweet and lovely to share it with Shiera. We are moving on tomorrow to Nasik, so had to head back to the hotel to pack up. Have managed to everything planned, so not bad, apart from the couple of mortals along the way and the hospital experience!

Bye for now folks

 

Comments

1

Crickey Jeff , I thought Mumbai airport was bad enough (especially on one occasion a couple of weeks after 9/11) but sounds like the city isn't any better. Must send you an e-mail btw.

  bondy Sep 19, 2010 4:51 AM

2

Hi Paul. India doesn't get any better as you can see. I doubt it ever will as it is too big, not enough funds and those that are available as usual go on the wrong projects. Life for most people though is still about survival. Some don't make it!

Let me know what is happening to you. Will be nice ot catch up.

Cheers for now
Jeff

  jeff bradshaw Sep 25, 2010 3:30 PM

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