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Gin, Beaches, And Canoes – The Tenacious Travelers

Gin, Beaches, And Canoes

March 31, 2018.Andrea.0 Likes.0 Comments

Location: Mumbai, India, Asia

March 31, 2018

From Udaipur we took an overnight train to Mumbai. Weary of the horror stories we heard about different travellers’ experiences in the city, to our pleasant surprise we both greatly enjoyed our time here.

We spent three days here in Mumbai, India’s largest city, in the infamous district of Colaba. The third most densely populated city in the world, it is easy to see why some are overwhelmed by Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Home of the biggest slums and most expensive house in the world, it is a busy and bustling, chaotic and crazy sensory overload. It’s also a beautiful interconnected sea of people, culture and history, with its own unique flow and flavour. To appreciate it, it seems one must just learn to flow with it, accepting its rhythms, faults and idiosyncrasies, simply appreciating the opportunity to be a part of it.

We spent our time seeing main sights such as the Gateway of India, the Taj Hotel and Leopold Cafe. We also spent an afternoon at Chor Bazaar, a flea market in the southern Muslim district that has stores crammed with every item imaginable from past centuries. Antique spyglasses, coins, cameras, lamps, carvings, clocks, it felt like the only limit to what we could find here was that of our imagination. We had a wonderful time exploring the shops stuffed with endless items, making conversation with the people who curated them. Apparently, the bazaar is often frequented by movie set decorators, who come in search of unique and authentic props for the many films that are shot in Mumbai.

We also did a tour of the Dharavi slum, one of the oldest and largest Mumbai. Recommended to us as an interesting and worthwhile experience, walking through the slum really was fascinating, changing our conceptions of what a slum is and how it works.

Dhavari is the third largest slum in the world, and the second largest in Asia (it is the largest in Mumbai). The slum is a fully functional city within itself, with highly success industries such as recycling and exporting. It is estimated that Dhavari has over 5000 businesses that produce an economy that totals over $650 million USD each year. Contrary to preconceived stereotypes, people here are proud of their properties and industries. Most consider themselves very fortunate to live here, and we felt very grateful to witness the ways of life here.

*Note that the tour company, Reality Tours, who pride themselves as a socially responsible company, have a no camera policy and therefore there are no photos of inside the slum*

We decided we could not leave Mumbai without having a Bombay Sapphire gin, and so on our last night we set out to find one, unaware that this would be an all-round disheartening experience. Our original thought was to treat ourselves to a drink at the famous Taj hotel on the waterfront – but the $20 price tag per drink had us running for the door. We checked out a couple other places, all of which were close runners up to what we deemed an unreasonable amount to pay for a drink. Eventually as a last resort we headed to Leopold’s, an infamous bar in Colaba known for it’s pinnacle role in the novel Shantaram, which every novel-loving backpacker trekking though India has read. Here we paid $20 for a modest single gin, a tonic water that came separately, and a piece of cake which luckily was delicious to make up for the drink we ended up mixing ourselves and sharing. It was an amusing experience to be sure, however the lesson is this: Bombay Sapphire is not a thing in Mumbai as the name might suggest, and anyone searching for one will end up thirsty, broke, and disappointed.

We spent our last night in Mumbai watching the sunset with the locals along the coast that lines the city, sitting along the breakwater as the sun dipped into the cloud-lined skyscrapers in the distance.

From Mumbai we headed south to Goa, where we spent almost a week relaxing at a hostel in Anjuna. This was the longest we had stayed in one place since we left Canada in December, and the break was most welcome. We spent the week relaxing, going to the beach, exploring Old Goa (mainly churches that were once the centre of a Portuguese settlement) and renting a motorbike to explore nearby towns.

Before long we were off once again, further south to Kerala, India’s beautiful province of backwaters. We spent one night in Alleppey, in the middle of backwater country that is both serene and beautiful (though not quite living up to the “Venice of the East” tilt that India is hoping will catch on…). After an amazingly lovely morning being rowed through the canals on a little boat, we caught another train to Varkala.

Varkala is a little beach town perched on the edge of cliffs that overlook the Indian Ocean. Here we continued to embrace a slightly slower pace, relaxing for four days in which I took daily yoga classes and experienced my first Ayurvedic massage (quite an experience, consisting of striping completely naked, putting on a paper loincloth thong and having every other inch of my body rubbed with unbelievably copious amounts of oil for an hour).

From Varkala we took an overnight train to Chennai, a city in the province of Tamil Nadu, where we planned to catch a flight to the island nation of Sri Lanka!


Categories: Asia, India
Tags: #Mumbai

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