Friday, March 7, 2008

I made it!

Hello all from Mumbai!
It's a sweltering 90-something degrees and I'm in non-a/c-ed internet lounge overlooking a main road in Colaba, Mumbai.

Plane ride here was pretty easy actually. The plane was practically empty so everyone had their own row. I slept a lot even though I said I wouldn't. Things got a little rough flying over Norway. I do not like it bumpy.

No problem with airport pick-up, but I will never ever think NYC taxi drivers are crazy ever again. I don't know why they bother to have any lines on the roads here because everyone just squeezes into whatever spot they can. If you think you're never going to make it through that tiny space, you will. Somehow. Physics apparently don't apply here. Insanity. Somehow made it to hotel in one piece. Watched a little tv to unwind and tried to sleep on the hardest mattress EVER. I might as well be sleeping on the floor.
Woke up at crack of dawn (Roosters outside helped). After my room service (toast and instant coffee, included with price of room) decided to head out. IMmediately accosted by small girl who wanted money or something. She walked with me all the way down the block before giving up. Wandered over to the Gateway to India monument. It's under construction, so that's a shame. Had myself a little cup of chai and pondered what to do. Decided on a boat trip out to Elephanta Island. One hour boat ride each way - about 3.50. Unfortunately, it seems it was a holiday so everyone and their mother (and grandmother) was on the Island. It was a mad house. I wandered around the caves a bit before escaping the mountaintop cafe for some veg biryani and a bottle of coke (cost: aprox 1.20). Then I escaped. I'm sure there will be more 8th century carvings elsewhere. Listened to my iPod mixes on the boatride home. Terrible smog hanging over Mumbai. Decided to wander back to the hotel. I thought I'd go see a Bollywood flick, but I wanted to take a short nap as the jetlag was hitting me hard. Short nap = four hours. Oops.

When I woke up I was pretty ravenous and kind of lonely so I decided I'd head to one of the known backpackers' haunts: Cafe Mondegar. I was seated by myself and moments later, a portly, 40-something, sleazy-looking character asked if he could join me. I didn't know what to say so I nodded, but as he went to the jukebox and a waiter brought his beer, i asked if there weren't other seats and is that why he wanted to sit with me? The waiter got my meaning and moved his beer to another table. I ordered some masala potatoes and a beer and about 10 minutes later, a young British woman was brought by my table. This time there really were no tables so she sat with me. Casi also just arrived in India and is also on a 4 month journey -- but she's just doing India. She and a Dutch woman "March" (I'm afraid I can't remember how to spell her name) had gone to a bollywood movie the night before and said it was pretty great but 4 hours long! And instead of singing and dancing like they wanted, they ended up seeing some sort of epic war movie. Just then, March appeared and we all moved to another table that opened up. March is a surgical resident in Holland. Since I'm not terribly familiar with folks from Holland, I just kept thinking of that character Gold Member in the Austin Powers movie with the Dutch lisp. Interesting...

The jukebox at the restaurant has (it seems) only three songs: Kiss, by Prince; Wake me up before you go-go, and Summer of 69.

We decided to go check out "Indigo", a bar that all of our guidebooks recommended. However, the books did not warn us that it was so swanky so we all felt a bit grubby and out of place. Plus, if I wanted to pay New York City prices for drinks, I'll stay there, thank you very much. We left without ordering and went to another backpacker's favorite, "Leopold's." We all ordered our drinks with out ice, however the waiter apparently didn't hear my order. I tried to send it back and he argued and argued with me that i did not order it without ice. (March had actually reinforced my order by saying, "All three without ice please" when he'd walked away the first time). Apparently the customer is never right in India. Finally he brought out a drink with no ice, but i'm pretty sure it was the same drink. Alcohol kills bacteria, right?

Put on tv to unwind again a little. There was some sort of show with a guy talking about his life in the East Village in the 80's. He spoke towards the camera as he wandered the EV's streets. I fought homesickness (too soon! too soon!). I slept pretty well last night, despite the terrible mattress.

Today I decided on sightseeing. I called my taxi driver (the one who picked me up from the airport) and first he took me to the train station to get my ticket to Goa for tonight. Unfortunately - sold out. One more night in Mumbai I guess. I'm a little concerned because I don't think he sold me the correct ticket. I think he sold me a sleeper car without a/c -- which might not be too bad but I'm worried. Maybe I can upgrade.

After the train station, Alavar took me to down past Chowpatty beach and up into the hills. We stopped at the Hanging gardens (meh.) and I had a lovely little lunch of dosa (kind of like a potato filled pancake/burrito) and another bottle of coke (aprox. 80 cents total). Next, we went through a rather slummy area so he could show me where they do laundry. Then to his brother's shop to sell me stuff. I am usually not afraid of confrontation, but I don't think I'm any good at "bargu-ing". It's intimidating because you know they're gouging you for being a tourist, but at the same time, who am I to nickel-and-dime these folks?

Got back to the hotel and had to re-register for another night -- moved to a new room overlooking the busy busy main street. Sleep ought to be interesting tonight. See, everyone just honks honks honks as they drive to warn people in front of them that they're coming. It's a constant cacophony. I guess that's what the earplugs are for.

Headed back out againt to find an ATM and an internet cafe and got accosted by a young woman who tied a jasmine-flower bracelet around my hand and demanded money. She followed me up and down the street until I was almost at the point of tears.

I do not think I like Mumbai. Or maybe it's just a bit hard to get used to. It's a bit overwhelming. Okay, it's a LOT overwhelming.

I'm pretty hungry so I'm going to get going. This place is 24 hours so I will probably be back either later today or tomorrow.

I could really go for a slice of pizza right now...

1 comment:

stuart said...

Glad to hear you are well. You are making me home sick for traveling. Travel sick? No, that does not sound right. The worst culture shock for me was always coming back. But I never have gotten as far as India. Best, Stuart