We arrived in Mumbai just before lunch although it took about an hour to get from the airport to the hotel. On the way I saw a temperature gauge reading 41 degrees. It was stinking hot but it didn’t really feel THAT hot.
After lunch we took cabs to Victoria Station and had a wander round. This was the first time I had seen any rats and they were very brazen running about down on the tracks in full view. I wish I had been filming them because when a train came in (it didn’t go right to the end of the buffer) and released its brakes with a whoosh, all the rats jumped/flinched at the noise. So did I, but it made me laugh to see them do it too.
We had to be a bit surreptitious as the Indians are a bit sensitive about you taking photos in railway stations. We saw a wonderful photograph opportunity... a manky door leading to an equally manky room with a sign above that announcing it was the office of the Food Inspector. Unfortunately there was a security guard right opposite so we couldn't do anything about that one.
The cacophony outside the station was unbelievable; it's an extremely busy intersection so the tooting is at fever pitch and the hawkers were doing their best to deafen anyone within a 200 metre radius.
The Victorian architecture in Mumbai is just lovely (where it has been renovated/maintained). Unfortunately a lot of the Raj era architecture has been allowed to deteriorate as Indians don’t seem to get the concept of maintenance. Then we went along to the Gateway to India, which was built to commemorate the King’s George's visit in 1911.
Adrian gave us an interesting historical snippet; Bombay’s prime hotel back in the day was Watson’s and it was “whites only”. So a forebear of the Tata family decided to build a plush hotel for the Indians - the Taj. Of course the irony is that while Watson’s is no longer around, the Taj is a famous icon and is now well over 100 years old.
Janet wanted to have tea at the Taj. It was on the itinerary and is THE thing to do in Mumbai. But we were advised that it wasn’t possible as we would need to book and couldn’t simply walk in. After the group split up 6 of us decided to give it a go and despite what we had been lead to believe, we were allowed in with no problem at all. Guess who was there, having tea... and not best pleased to see us walk in!
Security is considerably heightened since the 2008 bombing but that is a fact of life in many places now. In India women are always vetted by female security personnel and it amused me to see these two security guards engrossed in their text messages and completely ignoring the women entering the Gateway.
Something I have remembered later, there was music playing at the Gateway... a Viennese Waltz... with Bollywood singing. So incongruous and so Indian. It made me laugh.
We had a fantastic Thai meal for dinner, it is really nice to have something other than curry or Bhutanese food for a change.