Thursday, November 3, 2011
Mumbai, day 1; Gothic Colaba
Getting a taxi from the airport wasn't as simple as I was used to in other places.
First, I was directed to a booth, where I had to state my destination, then they figured out the fare on a set price list. I paid there, then was given a receipt that I had to sign once I arrived and give it to the driver so he could claim his fare.
Driving south to Colaba, in the tip of the peninsula, in the rickety old Premier Padmini taxi, I was stunned by the Victorian and Gothic Colonial era architecture that began to emerge the further south we went. Churches, fountains, the old train terminal, my head was bobbing from side to side peering out the window trying to take it all in. Especially with the palm trees, it felt like a run down version of Rome, though that could be because Italy is the only European country I've been to.
I arrived at the motel, where a friend who'd also taught English in Korea was waiting, and we went out to explore the city and see if we could manage to book our tickets to Goa. Some locals told of that it was the hottest weekend of the year, in Mumbai, 35ºC, but felt like 42º in the humidity (nearly 108ºF). Even after a week and a half in Thailand, I was melting. There was no luck getting a train ticket, Diwali was approaching, but we explored the area, despite the heat, and got our first tastes of India, outside of a taxi.
We were amazed by the banyan tree, decorated with red and white painted stripes around their trunks, the old cars that gave a real 1960's feeling, the obligatory cows in the streets, and the people. The women nearly all had on traditional saris or salwar kameez, while the men mostly wore more western style pants and collared shirts. What we notice more than the clothes, though, were the eyes. I'd never been looked at more intensely in my life, and it was very unsettling in a place I hadn't become used to yet. I was often too nervous to take out my camera in front of all those piercing stares, though that says more about my nerves than anything.
After returning for a shower and chai, we stopped at an internet cafe around the corner where we met a couple travelers from Switzerland who were on their to Goa by bus the next night. We figured we'd join them, both eager to get out of the sticky mess (if you check the weather for Mumbai/Bombay, it's not hazy, humid, or smoggy, it's smoke!) and plop down in the sands of a tropical beach!