We were supposed to go sightseeing since morning, but jet lag did its job and we caught a tuk-tuk at around 12. Just so you know, to get to downtown Mumbai we first had to get to Andheri station and then ride the city train to Churchgate, which takes about 40 minutes.
We started our tour from eating chicken rolls and a walk along Marine Drive. We weren’t there for long since the sun was really frying us and there’s no shade on Marine. Too bad we couldn’t come here in the evening, since it’s supposed to be beautifully luminated and looks like a gem necklace (at least that’s how one Indian described it).
Since it was a beautiful day, we didn’t take any cab (there’s no tuk-tuks downtown), instead going on foot to see Victoria Terminus. When you look at the massive amount of stalls you start to think that you don’t need to bring anything to India – you can buy everything on the spot 🙂 From VT we went to the center and saw a bollywood scene in the making. We also got to see an amazing view of Churchgate, sticking out from behind the Indian city jungle (literally). By the way, some cities could take Mumbai as an example of extraordinary foliage management! Sometimes you feel as if the city just directly out of (but didn’t replace!) the jungle.
After a while we reached St. Thomas Cathedral, built with difficulties by the British. There’s even masses held there, but very early in the morning, so we didn’t participate, instead satisfying ourselves with a couple of photos, even thogh the cathedral itself is kind of crude.
The last landmark we vicited was the Gate of India, which was built in 1924 in honor of king George V, who came to India in 1911, and through which the last soldiers left India in 1948.
Opposite the Gate stands the wonderful Taj hotel, which was built by a Parisian manufacturer, J.N. Tana, as revenge for not admitting him to the best hotel at the time – Watson’s. Ironically, Watson’s is long gone, while the Taj stands proud to this day and looks over the shore.
After all this sightseeing we decided that it’s time to relax. That’s how we wound up in the Regal cinema, one of the few that have a chance of showing English subtitles in movies. Unfortunately the movie they were showing was an action film, Ab Tak Chappon 2, without subtitles, but with an Indian version of Jean Reno, “Leon the Professional” style 😀 It was still fun, because we saw that the Indians really do treat cinemas like their front rooms. They laugh loudly, whistle, comment and yell at (what we guessed were) the best scenes in the movie.
While searching for a restaurant after walking out of the cinema, we got caught by an agent that was gathering Europeans for a bollywood movie that had hotel party scene in Europe. It’s cheaper to just get some extras to be a “white background” – the magic of movies 🙂 Unfortunately, we got a text message the next morning that filming is postponed by 2 days, and we aren’t going to be in Mumbai by then. We lost our chance 🙁
But we consoled ourselves with yummy chicken and mutton thali in the Majestic Restaurant, which lies – the irony – opposite the famous, but so overrated Leopold Cafe. That washed down with Coke (which really does taste a bit different, albeit not worse, than ours) and “special tea”, which resembles delicately, but very well spiced tea with milk.
With our stomachs filled, we headed back to Churchgate, bought some hot samosas straight fromthe oven, and got on our train back home. In the train we were lucky to meet a so called hijara (read. hee-jah-rah), which is the lowest of the lowly castes, cursed and a bit scary to Hindus. More precisely, it’s a man dressed as a woman (which is the result of the curse, not the other way around), who collects ‘donations’ and either blesses or curses the one she catches, depending on whether they gave her some money or not. The blessing is her taking your life burdens on herself, and the curse on the other hand means getting the ones she accumulated so far. We donated a small amount (“ten rupees pleaaaaaaaase!”) and received the former. Let’s hope it comes in handy for the rest of the trip 🙂 [I still can’t forget the feeling of her handshake – Chimp]
With that pleasant accent, we arrived at Andheri, after which we took the standard tuk-tuk ride home.