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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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!
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
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...
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.
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!
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.
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...
to sight see.....
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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?
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.
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.
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
of rest for the remainder of the day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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