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Ok. First things first. Mumbai is an awesome city. I loved it. Would definitely return some day. And the best part of all is that I spent less than $10 a day seeing it! Of course, I didn’t exactly do much of the standard “touristy” stuff, but then again I’ve never actually enjoyed being touristy. Just ask my parents.
For example, instead of flying I took 22 hour train rides there and back. My tickets were “Sleeper Class,” which is the second cheapest way to get around. “Second Class” is the cheapest, but there you pretty much have to stand the whole time! No thanks.
Inside, the train cars were a bit dirty and often somewhat crowded, but once everyone settled in, it wasn’t so bad. The windows were always open, so I got the pleasure of smelling whatever happened to be outside the train at any given moment (garbage, cows, feces…). In the night, I was able to sleep pretty well, except for when passing trains would scream by with their horns blaring, scaring me half to death!
Just about every 30 seconds (I’m not exaggerating), someone walked through the car trying to sell chai, newspapers, samosas, etc. Along with beggars asking for money and people stopping to stare at me, I never had to worry about feeling lonely!
When I got to Mumbai, I had the whole day free before meeting up with Sunil in the evening. So, I set out to see the “real” city. I wandered for miles through back streets and markets, stopping to try food or drinks from different vendors. I even went to see a Bollywood movie, although I had absolutely no idea what anyone was saying…
Another funny India moment… By about 4 or 5pm, I still hadn’t heard from Sunil (who was supposed to arrive by plane that evening), so I gave him a call. He told me that plans had changed and that we weren’t staying where he had originally thought. He said I needed to call Nitin (his brother) and meet up with him at the Hotel Oasis. Ok. Can do.
Well, Nitin’s phone wasn’t working, and nobody had ever heard of the Hotel Oasis. So, I had to get a different number from Sunil. When I called that one, the connection was bad and the guy didn’t speak any English. Finally I got him to put Nitin on the phone, but with the bad connection, all I could make out was “near GPO.”
So, I took a taxi to GPO and started asking around. Eventually I found the Hotel Oasis and a few familiar faces. Not exactly the American way of doing things (detailed itineraries, hotels booked months in advance, Google maps…), but it all worked out in the end.
The second day was spent traveling all over the city with Sunil and his entourage. We visited caste leaders, politicians and even attended a huge anti-discrimination rally. Basically, it was Sunil doing what he does best; using his influence and connections to slowly change the tide of caste and racism in India. Very cool.
My third and final day in Mumbai was another free day. I did a bit more wandering, and took a ferry out to Elephanta Island, which has some ancient Hindu temples carved into caves. Ended up being way cool. I felt a bit like I was walking onto the set of Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park or something.
I suppose this was the most “touristy” thing I did in Mumbai, but I tried my best to break the pattern. On my map I could see another hilltop with two more unexcavated caves. It looked somewhat accessible by taking a footpath a little way around the island.
So, even though nobody had any idea what caves I was talking about, I set out. Unfortunately, after a while, the path ended up being completely waterlogged. There was no way around without trudging through the jungle. Which I totally would have done if I wasn’t wearing flip-flops… *sigh* Next time Elephanta. Next time.
Well, all good things must come to an end. My time in Mumbai was over, and I had to get back on the train. 22 hours later, I arrived back “home” in Delhi. Super hungry after being warned to avoid the train food, I sat down to dinner, laughing when I found out what we were having. Goat brain.
Ah… it’s good to be home.
About the Author: Barry is the founder and director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.