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Touring Mumbai

Recs

6

February 03, 2014 – Comments (0)

Board: Macro Economics

Author: OrmontUS

Definition: Nanosecond – the period of time from when a traffic light turns green and a NYC taxi driver starts impatiently honking his horn.

Definition: Minute – the period of time before the light turns green and a Mumbai taxi driver starts honking his horn.

Also an apology to some: We have been to Mumbai within the past few months and did quite a bit of touring then. Our first stop on this trip was designed to allow us to recover from jetlag, was hampered by a full day of national holiday and we were just taking it easy. For those interested in more about the sights, see the write-up of our recent trip last year aboard the Holland America Rotterdam, the Lonely Planet (or other) tour guide and so on. Just to make life easier, I’ll tack a list of Mumbai’s “must see” sights at the end of our second Mumbai stay’s write-up.

For those who come here (even for a single day), I highly recommend taking a full day tour (or two, or maybe a night tour of the red light district?) with an outfit called “Reality Tours”. They are inexpensive, help the local poor areas with a portion of their earnings (they say, at least) and employ locals as tour guides. They will take you to portions of the city (in a safe fashion) that other tour groups never get to see. These tours (and much of Mumbai itself) is ill suited to those with mobility problems – this is an old, poorly maintained, overcrowded city with busted up (or non-existent) paving and sidewalks, where agility is the key to survival when crossing the street.

I think a clarification is in order: Not all of India’s population consists of the unwashed, uneducated poor. India, in fact, has more English speakers than any country on earth – though the intelligibility of that English by an American is VERY variable (and I don’t find it out of place to ask a restaurant manager to interpret the English of a waiter, for example, if things are getting a bit too confusing. Similarly, I can mangle foreign place names – at least as far as the locals are concerned – to be equally unintelligible – and always try to have place names written neatly on a card. In a country where many are illiterate and map reading skills are apparently not even taught to policemen, one needs to maintain a smile, patience and understanding that people are actually trying to save face as well as assist and not all directions head towards Rome). That said, there are many Indians who are well educated and some portion of the population ranges from extremely well-to-do to fabulously wealthy (and, in fact, both the first class compartment in the plane and the Taj Palace Hotel – neither the usual domain of paupers – were well populated with Indians, though a larger proportion of the hotel’s guests hail from the US, Europe and the Gulf States). Even the middle class, in a nation where the average daily wage is less than $3, have multiple full time servants and, in fact, in many ways has a higher standard of living than that found in the US. (In fact, a current diplomatic issue is being caused by an Indian functionary in the US who “only” paid her maid $3 per hour, thereby breaking US labor law, while in Indian terms the maid was making a very high salary for her position. Again relativity across the time/space continuum kicks in).

January 26th is Republic day – sort of an equivalent to the American 4th of July. All government offices and many stores are closed, there are military parades, huge fields full of white suited cricket teams and no beers served in restaurants (though the hotel still seems to serve).

The hotel served us a broad buffet breakfast with a variety of both western and Indian food. While not as varied as an Israeli hotel’s, it was still better than average (compared to similar class hotels around the world). I find it interesting how the hotel keeps things “in the family”. The water they leave us in the rooms is called “Himalaya” and is bottled by Tata industries. Similarly, the department store we were pointed to is one owned by Tata (in fact the whole building it is housed in is as well.

We then took to the streets looking for tailors in the neighborhood of the hotel. We were quickly “adopted” by a neighborhood tout – a pleasant, rotund, jovial woman with a talent for languages who tried to steer us to this shop and that – presumably to collect a commission for the service. As with taxi drivers who “get lost”, you have to keep aware of your surroundings to reduce any potential cost or damage, and then take the attempts as part of the local entertainment and just enjoy the local color. It turned out to be a sort of chess match ending in a polite stalemate. That’s not to say that all people you meet are problematic, and there are quite a few who are on the email distribution of this document who were well-met during our travels (not to mention the supporting cast of existing friends who pop into and out of the narrative along the way). Even touts can be useful – as example “David” (a man who resembled a darker complexioned, older, more emaciated version of Gandhi) who played a role in our stop at Sri Lanka last year. Both he and yesterday’s “imp” in Mumbai had the disconcerting ability to appear, no matter how successful you thought you were in losing them, just around the next turn (in the fashion of the desert guide in Fellini’s Satyricon). David was enough fun that we may make (at least a halfhearted) attempt to locate him in Colombo later in this trip (but I get a head of myself : -).

That said, in a place as crowded with poor people as India is, there is always a possibility of issues cropping up. We as travelers in a strange place, have to always be aware that the potential for trouble exists and to avoid first of all, drawing attention to ourselves and then avoiding placing ourselves in places and with people that make us uncomfortable. That still leaves a lot of latitude for interacting with locals, but one learns to trust instincts to tell which situation is benign and which is not (so far, so good – I guess you can take the kid out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take the Brooklyn out of the kid : -).

My major concern about security is that we will, almost by definition be carrying a lot of cash between our hotel stays (most of it in pouches under our clothing, but quite a bit spread around in various zipped clothing pockets with large denominations in one shirt pocket, smaller in another and only a little bit in a zippered front pants pocket). We have to pay the driver in cash – ½ in advance, as well as most purchases in non-tourist shops and ATM’s limit their daily withdrawals. I am figuring that we will have the opportunity to pay our final hotel bill partly (or wholly) in cash to sop up any which is left over at the end. I’ve changed some larger bills to a bunch of 10 and 20 rupee notes. These are useful for taxis and tips as I find it impolite to pull out a wad of money and then peel off the lowest denomination to give to someone. It is also, in my opinion, risky to display a lot of money under any circumstance when traveling. Fortunately, while we are flying to Aurangabad for a number of days, I’ve arranged to leave most of our luggage behind at the Taj Hotel as well as leave our accumulated rupees as well as all of the other currencies we’re carting around for the trip in the hotel’s safe.

While most of the shops were closed because of the holiday, we figured that the Chowd Bazaar would ignore it. To get there, we walked through an area devoted to the breaking down of automobiles – in the fashion that a cyclotron breaks down an atom to its smallest components, this area is full of sledge hammering wallahs who break cars down to their smallest particles which are then sorted into appropriate piles for resale. For some reason, while the rest of India is beholden to itinerant cows roaming the streets, this area is infested with the largest goats I’ve ever seen grazing on discarded car parts. Once through the “Auto Land of Mumbai” area, we enter the antique area of the bazaar – and the reason for our trip. The shop keepers are all Moslem (maybe that’s why the goats?). The small storefronts lead into long cavern-like shops filled with collections of antiques, possible antiques junk and the jetsam and flotsam of the world which has somehow been tossed on the laps of this area’s shop-keepers. Fortunately (?), we do not have the ability to haul around any of this stuff and so, we leave as empty handed as we came.

From there, we went to Queen’s Road (behind Bombay Hospital) to an area of shops dedicated to supplying the saris and dresses which Indian women wear to social affairs and weddings. Though most of the shops were closed because of the holiday, one emporium had decided to open (named Roopkala). Luck was on our side (and this didn’t turn into a full day shopping adventure) and my wife scored a couple of nice outfits (embroidery and sparkly stuff, but not saris). This sort of place (we’ve been in a couple on our pervious trip) seems to actually be fixed price and negotiating (at least for our paltry garment or two, in the face of full wedding parties) is not allowed. Then we returned to the hotel to drink very overpriced, but cold and good, Kingfisher beers by the hotel pool (my beer cost what my wife’s dinner did in a restaurant in the evening).

Tonight we went to a local restaurant named Chetana (34K. Dubash Marg, Kala Ghoda) for thali – sort of an Indian equivalent of mezza, a load of (in this restaurant vegetarian) continually refilled plates of about a dozen assorted dishes. Mine was a mixture of local and Rajasthani dishes – and quite spicy. My wife’s was from a northern area of India and we were assured that none of the dishes were the least bit spicy. As Einstein once said “Everything is relative” and she was complaining about how spicy the food was. Well, I suspect our month long trip through Rajasthan will make McDonalds look like Mecca to her – I can only hope we can find mild food along the route – I’d hate to end up looking for Chinese food in India :-).

I dropped into a tailor behind the hotel and it would cost me about a hundred bucks for a new (bespoke) tuxedo out of merino wool, about $60 for a white linen sport jacket and about $10 each for tux shirts. Jury is still out as to whether I’ll have them made – and if so, whether it’s best to build the suits here or in Shanghai. (My wife has decided that the local fashions are different enough to warrant shopping in both cities : -(. While we were at the tailors the local tout dropped in with three Africans who were looking to buy long bunches of black human hair – apparently the tailor runs more than one racket.

I promised myself that there would be no more taxi stories for a while, but promises are made to be broken. I decided, as a matter of honor, not to pay more going to the airport than from it. The hotel guys warned me that taxies would give me a hard time about taking it on the meter and I should let them negotiate on my behalf. In a moment of questionable judgment, we simply walked out with our single small bag and I grabbed the first cab I saw (there’s never one further than about a meter away no matter where you are in Mumbai) and asked “domestic airport on the meter?” to which I got a nod. So I threw the boss in the back seat with the bag and plopped down next to the driver. We he looked old enough to be Moses’s grandfather – complete with a long white beard and a newspaper in Arabic script (I’m not expert enough to differentiate, but I’m guessing it was probably in Urdu rather than Arabic). As old as this guy was, his car looked older. It had never had seatbelts, both side mirrors were gone and here I was in the front seat with my head jammed up against the tiny cab’s roof (it was an old Ambassador – these are of Indian manufacture and only coincidently share a name with the now-defunct US car manufacturer). This dude was the template that the new engines which shut down on red lights to save fuel, only to serge to life as the accelerator is pressed are based on. He regularly pulled this trick each time he stopped and then spent his rolling time playing chicken with innocent pedestrians, large trucks and women wearing saris and sitting either astride motor cycles or side saddle behind male drivers (how they kept these garments from getting wrapped around a wheel amazes me. This guy missed so many people by only a couple of inches that it makes me give credence to the advantages of having a whole cornucopia of divinities simultaneously watching over you. On the other hand, his one God somehow kept his old egg-beater cranking along more damaged by rust holes than by traffic dings. I suddenly realized when we were half way to the airport that my toes were curling in my shoes and I was banging my foot on pseudo breaks as my body swayed to influence the motion of the car through body English.

So naturally, the Air India flight was (uncharacteristically) 45 minutes late.



Jan 27 Flight to Aurangabad, Air India Flight #442, Time: 15:00-15:50

Jan 27 Transfer from Aurangabad Airport @ 500 NIR

Jan 27-Jan 29 2 Vivanta by Taj Aurangabad Hotel

A while back I picked up a copy of “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” by Patricia Schultz and I make it a point to look at it when I visit a new country to see if I can squeeze a couple more of these bucket list items into the trip. Well it turns out that the Ellora Caves and the Ajanta Caves – both near Aurangabad – are listed, ergo we are making a detour to Aurangabad to see them.

While waiting for the plane (actually while going through security), my wife met a lovely young Indian woman named Rucha who recommended a few restaurants in Aurangabad and was kind enough to give a gift to my wife of “jumki” (I think) earrings which look like small bells. Its’ funny how, for the few minutes one travels parallel to another a friendship can start.

I have attempted to contract a recommended taxi driver (recommended from somewhere – TripAdvisor or Cruise Critic or whatever) a couple of months ago, but our single telephone conversation was inconclusive (as we were both apparently speaking different English dialects). That said, at least I now have a benchmark of costs (500 rupees – about $8 - from the airport to the hotel and 4,500 rupees – about $73 - for a day of traveling to and between the caves and back to the hotel. I have become convinced that many of those who write on these sites have no idea what services should cost and their advice about who to use misleads many.

Anecdotally, when researching ways to handle a month’s travel in India, I contacted a guide with excellent reviews. He told me that he charged $75 a day – a rate which might sound reasonable to an American for travel in the US, but is irrational in a country where his services are actually worth about 900 rupees a day plus about 250 rupees living expense – or less than a third his asking price. Similarly, I’ve run into some Canadians who swore that their Mumbai driver was “the best” and paid him accordingly at $125 per day – again a Rate that is so high that it causes all tourists coming after them to be targets for abuse. The important thing to remember about negotiating travel in India is that time has no value in the case of a driver who may earn $3-$5 per day – it’s distance that counts (so having a driver wait for you is no big deal, but adding another destination during the same day might cost more).

Well, no one was at the airport with a sign displaying my name, so I figured I was a free agent to acquire local transport through a taxi “packager” at the airport (Mohammed Ilyas Mobile tel: +91 9823865557) who supplied cars from a fleet of new air conditioned vehicles. I ended up with 350 rupees to the hotel and a total of 4,000 rupees over two days – the first taking a full day at the Ajanta Caves and the second day covering the (closer) Ellora Caves and back to the airport. While I had originally intended to hit both cave groupings on the same day (at a quote from him of 3,500 rupees), it would have been a rough day of running around, but more importantly, the Ellora Caves will be closed on Tuesday (the Ajunta caves are closed on Monday.

We are staying at the Vivanta, a modern five star hotel, nice, but not even in the same class as the Taj Palace. The room is about 1/3 of the price of the one at the Taj Palace in Mumbai, but is quite new, large and full of toiletry type amenities. While a modern building, the architecture of the hotel resembles an Indian fort with a white dome – reminiscent of the hotel company’s namesake rising above everything in the area. Our parting impression of the hotel is that it’s the best available in the area. That said, I would rate it as a 3 ½ star business hotel rather than a five star hotel. The breakfast was merely adequate – say on the order of what you might get at an embassy suites, internet was expensive – even in the business center where most hotels have it for free, the beds were not as good as most major hotels and they had a problem with billing me the right amount (their bill was 3,000 rupees too high – with different prices for each of the two nights - and it took about ten minutes to straighten it out). Not a place to be avoided, but not one to go out of one’s way to seek out either.

Many of the guests seem to be Buddhist pilgrims from somewhere in the Himalayas (Nepal, Tibet or Bhutan?) to pay homage at the Buddhist shrines in the caves.

We ran into a very young Thai gentleman (of a very effeminate manor who was traveling with an elderly Chinese gentleman – not an unexpected combination when taken into context) who assured us that the Thai issues were overblown and we should not have been concerned. Whatever – we’ll be back to Thailand sooner rather than later, but for now, we’ve been shanghaied.

That night we decided to try a restaurant named Kareem’s (in the Motiwala Complex, Nirala Bazar, just underneath KFC, but apparently a chain with branches in most large Indian cities) which was recommended by both Rucha on the flight down and by the hotel concierge. After dark, we walked out the front entrance of the hotel and I knowingly overpaid an auto-rickshaw (what tuk-tuks are called here) driver a couple of hundred rupees (about $3.20US or possibly half a day’s pay for one of these guys) to take us to the restaurant, wait for us to finish eating and then back to the hotel – the hotel guy who was supposed to negotiate on my behalf was useless in giving any assistance. The ride in this overgrown, underpowered, lawn mower was about as harrowing as the ride to the airport was in Mumbai. Aurangabad is a very rural type of place with a badly crumbling infrastructure and assorted two, three and four wheeled vehicles and brave souls on foot appear from all angle and directions as we speed through the crowded bazar. The bravado and subsequent evasive maneuvers indicate a reason for the survival of this particular flea, but the ride made me feel that I was part of an episode of “Amazing Race” or maybe “Globe Trekkers”. I was smiling as I was picturing a carnival midway’s bumper car ride where none of the cars actually ended up coming closer than a millimeter to any other object when my wife punched my arm and asked me what I thought was so funny about risking our lives – go figure.

The manager of the restaurant was kind enough to assist us in selecting dishes with “no spice” (turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration) for my wife. It turns out I can tolerate “medium” spicy OK, but very spicy is somewhat excessive for me. My wife had a grilled chicken kabob and a fried rice dish, I had a tandoori chicken (medium, but the accompanying onions could remove paint a meter away) and a vegetable jalfrezi and a sliced red salad with small lemons was tossed into the mix. All of the food was great, but it sort of came out of the kitchen at random intervals.

On the way back to the hotel, the auto-rickshaw driver (who’s English was actually surprisingly good for someone in his job) tried selling us on the idea of his taking us to Ajanta Caves for “only 700 rupees”. At some point, even I draw a line between being a cheapskate and being certifiably insane. Despite the savings, the thought of traveling 120 km each way over broken roads in an un-air conditioned glorified snow blower in the beastly heat compared to a modern air conditioned car didn’t require a lot of time to make a decision. But it was nice of him to offer : -).

We caught the last few minutes of an Indian dance show put on for those guests who elected to eat at the hotel’s outdoor barbeque buffet. There were only two people eating there and they weren’t clapping, so I felt bad for the dancers who were working hard at Bollywood routines when we dropped in.

We are still struggling to get a full night’s sleep (and likewise avoid napping during the day) to get over jet lag, but I still get questioned at 3am in the morning as to whether I’m awake. At 5:30 this morning the sounds of a bunch (pod, coven, herd? – I’m not sure what a bunch of monks is called – will have to look it up : -) of Buddhist monks started practicing their throat singing somewhere outside my room – sounds like an alarm clock that swallowed a variety of frogs.

We are still following extreme food and water protocol (including brushing our teeth with bottled water) as I am determined to, a month from now, throw away the Imodium we bought for the trip rather than use it. Breakfast at the hotel was adequate, but not up to the standards of the Taj Palace and while not mediocre, was not particularly memorable either.

Our driver showed up in a nice newish (2 year old) car and took us for the two hour ride through small towns. Most of the towns had a Hindu temple, a mosque and a nearby Buddhist temple. He said that he had studied in an Urdu school where he was taught Urdu, Hindi, English (not too well) and a bit of Arabic. We had some long conversations about Moslem culture in India (as it’s the second largest religious group, after Hindu but shares a lot of common culture with Pakistan, India’s arch rival). The ride took us through cotton fields (as well as a quick peek into a cotton refining plant), corn fields, sugar cane plantations and a wide variety of fruit and vegetable crops. There were numerous small dusty towns where many of the bearded men wore large white knitted cotton skull caps which indicated that they were Moslem and many others wore all white and front-to-back peaked “Gandhi/Nehru” caps which indicated that they were Hindu. One group of women wore black burkhas with just an eye slit showing and the other wore colorful saris. While each group made it obvious which ethnic group they belonged to, they seems to be pretty heterogeneously mixed in the towns. That said, there seemed to be sort of a flag flying contest in many towns with big green banners displaying a crescent moon and a star indicating Islam vs. saffron orange banners indicating Hinduism (the blue banners of Buddhism and the white ones of the Jain religion seemed to be lacking). Our driver also took a chauvinistic (but historically inaccurate) view of Urdu being the original language of India and of the large areas of India which were largely Moslem. I got the feeling that, while clearly Indian rather than, say, Pakistani, he placed his religion before his country. Before our trip to India last year, I had always assumed that the ethnic split with Pakistan in 1948 had been pretty clean. Since then I’ve learned a lot more about the large Moslem minority of India and its traditional Islamist views. While this does not dictate violence, it is a geo-political factor that has to be kept in mind when evaluating the consequences of the political actions taken by India’s leaders.

As we approached Ajanta, we noticed some pretty large monkeys (about the size of a five year old kid) in the trees and on the ground – these were even more in evidence in Ellora as there were concessions selling green branches which the monkeys seemed to prefer.

In the Ajanta Caves, camera flashes are not allowed in order to protect the ancient paintings, though I think they are in the Ellora Caves. I was happy that I took along my high powered LED “Tactical” flashlight which, for some reason the guards didn’t object, both to light the way and illuminate objects I was photographing. (I had picked up this flashlight which uses I high intensity Cree LED and is rechargeable for as few bucks the last time I was in Shanghai – primarily as a legal weapon to use on dark city streets at night, as the light, when the beam is focused tight, is blinding, but it can also be used as a flashlight as I think Sigmund Freud once said : -).

The following three paragraphs are from some guidebook, but I forget which one (maybe Lonely Planet?):

The Ajanta Caves date from around 200 BC to AD 650 and, as Ellora developed and Buddhism gradually waned, the gloriously painted Ajanta caves were abandoned and forgotten until 1819, when a British hunting party stumbled upon them. Their isolation contributed to the fine state of preservation in which some of their paintings remain to this day.

The 30 caves are cut into the steep face of a horseshoe-shaped rock gorge on the Waghore River. Apart from Caves 29 and 30, they are sequentially numbered from one end of the gorge to the other. They do not follow a chronological order; the oldest are mainly in the middle and the newer ones are close to each end. At busy times viewers are allotted 15 minutes within each cave. Five of the caves are chaityas while the other 25 are viharas. Caves 8, 9, 10, 12, 13 and part of 15 are older early Buddhist caves, while the others are Mahayana (dated from around the 5th century AD). In the simpler, more austere early Buddhist school, the Buddha was never represented directly – his presence was always alluded to by a symbol such as the footprint or wheel of law.

Of special note are the Ajanta ‘frescoes’, which are technically not frescoes at all. A fresco is a painting done on a wet surface that absorbs the color; the Ajanta paintings are more correctly tempera, since the artists used animal glue and vegetable gum mixed with the paint pigments to bind them to the dry surface.

Back to Jeff: OK, that’s the propaganda which brought us on this side trip (along with a glowing recommendation from “1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die”. The reality is that there are two basic designs repeated multiple times. After the second or third cave, it became very repetitive. The place was mobbed with kids (which is always fun as they all love practicing English and having their photos taken). The rigmarole is that, after paying to park the car (30 rupees) and a nominal entrance fee (10 rupees a person), after running a gauntlet of aggressive shopkeepers you take a bus for about 4km (15 rupees a person). Then (as a foreigner) you pay 250 rupees a person to enter the grounds where you are accosted by teams of men who will carry you up the steep approach and from cave to cave in style in a sedan chair. Frankly the climb isn’t all that bad and despite the dire warnings from the chair wallahs about how difficult the climb is, most people should have no problems negotiating the ramps and stairs cut into the stone. While I didn’t mind seeing the caves – they actually are unique and the remaining portions of the paintings are ancient, it’s just that there is not enough differentiation between caves to keep the “wowing” going for more than an hour. If tomorrow’s Ellora Caves turns out to be more of the same, than I would have to vote that the effort/expense required to get here isn’t worth the experience (unless you are a Buddhist making a pilgrimage, I guess).

We had to select another restaurant for dinner and it was a choice between a Rajasthan style thali restaurant called “Bhoj” and a “global” dining style place named “Kream&Krunch”. Since we had had thali a couple of days ago and expected more as we roamed Rajasthan (especially considering it was known to be spicy and I wanted to give my wife a break), we tried the international place.

Well I tried something new tonight. The first auto-rickshaw that peeled off the line to pick us up had the meter removed and told me the fare was 400 rupees because the restaurant was 80km away (which I interpreted as a round-off error to 8 km). I said to the hotel “transport guru” who was supposed to be negotiating prices on our behalf that this was ridiculous and asked him to get a tuk-tuk with a meter. The next guy shows up and it turns out to be the same driver from last night. I (sort of forcefully) told him that I wanted to go to the restaurant “on the meter”. He reluctantly agreed (saying that I should see that “he was an honest man”), but said he wouldn’t wait for us – and the guy from the hotel who was supposed to negotiate prices seemed to think it was hilarious that I was asking a driver to use a meter. I figured, once I knew the true fare from the meter, I’d have no trouble repeating the feat on the way back. Halfway there he told me that he would take us back for the same price as would be on the meter when we arrived and would wait for us to boot. I figure (again, time not being worth anything here) that this way he’s paid to return to his home station whereas, if he abandoned us, he’d have to pay for his own petrol. The restaurant was at least as far as yesterday’s trip and the total round trip was 104 rupees (plus a 16 rupee tip I added for the heck of it). Along the way we politely asked if we would like to see a sari weaving factory and, having nothing better to do, we agreed and stayed the few minutes it would take for him to get his commission (interestingly, our daytime driver stopped at the same shop on the way to the airport and was a bit saddened when we told him we had been there the night before with the tuk-tuk guy). Another instance of the meter being cheaper than any negotiated price.

Long story made short, after passing on Italian and Chinese dishes (the first because it would have to compete with some of the world’s best that Italy and Brooklyn have treated us to and the second because between Shanghai and Hong Kong, we figured we’d do better there. I ordered a thali (which was a pale reflection of the excellent ones we had had in Mumbai) and my wife ordered a vegetarian sizzler platter which was not spicy (the good news), but consisted mostly of rice, a potato cutlet and French fries with a few veggies. Not bad, but a bit on the starchy side. I think the thali place might have been a better choice after all.

The following paragraph is from the same guidebook, but I forget which one:

The Ellora Caves: Over five centuries, generations of monks (Buddhist, Hindu and Jain) carved monasteries, chapels and temples from a 2kmlong escarpment and decorated them with a profusion of remarkably detailed sculptures. Because of the escarpment’s gentle slope, in contrast with the sheer drop at Ajanta ( p812 ), many of the caves have elaborate courtyards in front of the main shrines. The masterpiece is the breathtaking Kailasa Temple (Cave 16). Dedicated to Shiva, it is the world’s largest monolithic sculpture, hewn from the rock by 7000 laborers over a 150-year period. Neither a simple cave, nor a plain religious monument, this rock-cut temple, built by King Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta dynasty in AD 760, was built to represent Mt Kailasa (Kailash), Shiva’s home in the Himalaya. Three huge trenches were cut into the cliff face and then the shape was ‘released’ with tools – an undertaking that entailed removing 200,000 tons of rock! Kailasa covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens and is 1½ times as high. Size aside, the Kailasa Temple is remarkable for its prodigious sculptural decoration. Around the temple are dramatic carved panels, depicting scenes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the adventures of Krishna. Altogether Ellora has 34 caves: 12 Buddhist (AD 600–800), 17 Hindu (AD 600–900) and five Jain (AD 800–1000). The site represents the renaissance of Hinduism under the Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties, the subsequent decline of Indian Buddhism and a brief resurgence of Jainism under official patronage. The sculptures show the increasing influence of Tantric elements in India's three great religions and their coexistence at one site indicates a lengthy period of religious tolerance.

Jeff’s note: The Ellora Caves redeemed this stop being included in our itinerary as worthwhile. They are a huge endeavor with multiple styles, huge rooms set up for rows of hundreds of Buddhist monks. The place echoed and I can imagine the sound of “om” reverberating and resonating thought the chamber. There are multiple levels of temples with Buddhist, Jain and Hindu carvings – absolutely fascinating.

My wife picked bought a small stone elephant carved with a second one inside from a vender for about $5. I didn’t protest, not because I liked the small beast, but because it gives me karma (I hope) down the road when I want to pick up some useless, but dense item and I can point to her elephant and say “but you bought that” :- ). (But of course I’ll have to lug the chunk of stone around for the balance of the trip to give me the ability to do that – everything in life is a trade-off).

Only about a half a kilometer from the caves is one of the handful of Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva, the god of war. We took a side trip here at the suggestion of a driver we had repeatedly bumped into. As there was a long queue, we never ended up getting into the temple, but we wandered around the shops (my wife was doing comparative shopping to see if she had gotten a good price on the elephant she bought from the itinerant vender). I noticed that a number of shops had what I thought were bear claws (complete with tufts of fur on some and a couple of whole paws) for sale. It took a moment to realize that these were tiger, not bear. I can see someone wearing one of these as jewelry if he had personally wrestled the tiger to the ground and taken his claws in a fight (heck, if I did that, I’d wear the whole tiger skin), but I don’t see the logic of buying the claws of a beautiful animal who probably lost its life in a trap being shot at close range by a poacher or farmer (it doesn’t say a lot about the virility of the person wearing the animal part).

The nearby Bibi-Qa-Maqbara was Built in 1679 as a mausoleum for Aurangzeb’s wife, Rabia-ud-Daurani. It is known as the “Poor man’s Taj”. This is a slightly ironic comparison considering it was Aurangzeb’s father who built the original shortly before being overthrown and imprisoned by his son on account of his extravagance. This was a sort of last minute stop and, while it’s largely plaster and doesn’t come close to its bigger cousin it’s still worth the 20 minute deviation.

The extravagance of the caves has made me ponder the proportion of the accumulated resources of the human race which has been devoted to religious edifices. Our trip through India will bring us, not only to these vast cave complexes, but also to the vast array of Hindu temples at Khajuraho (whose pornographic carvings would make the authors of the Kama Sutra blush – and the reason we are visiting there – just don’t tell my wife: -), the incomparable mosque of the TajMahal, and ultimately to the huge Buddhist temples of Thailand (to mention a few). Add this to the Basilica of St. Paul in Vatican City, AnkhorWat in Cambodia, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem with its two mosques, Paris’s Notre Dame, London’s Westminster Abbey, Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, the Temple of Karnack the Parthenon in Greece and the Pantheon in Rome (and who knows – maybe Stonehenge on Salisbury Plains) just scratch the surface. Imagine if all this energy had been devoted to the improvement of mankind (but then we would not have had the body of religious oriented art that we wander the world to admire).

Jan 28 Transfer to Aurangabad Airport

Jan 29 Flight to Mumbai, Air India Flight #441, Time: 17:15-18:10

Jan 29-Jan 31 2 TajMahal Palace Hotel

Well, we are back at the TajMahal Palace Hotel. They surprised us with a complimentary upgrade to one of the rooms in the old wing of the hotel (overlooking the pool which is nice, but not as nice a view as the other side of the hallway which gets to see the Gateway of India and the bay – but beggars can’t be choosers). The room is a rather long walk from the elevators we used and in leaving, I noticed a closer one. Well the chefs were nice enough to escort us through the kitchen on the way to the lobby : - ). Tomorrow, we are going to try to join the one hour free “heritage tour” at 5 PM which takes you through the hotel. I asked why small pictures and photos hanging on our room walls are matted to fill frames that are almost a meter square and was told that it was to prevent people taking the artwork home as souvenirs.

So what do you get for the “big bucks”(bigger bucks) to stay in the old wing? A far more reserved atmosphere. Long hallways lined with artwork and antiques. A pair of “towel swans” with rose petals carefully laid in a pattern around them and a complimentary bottle of bath salts with dried rose petals to soak your feet after a day of sightseeing. A private lounge with a couple of PC’s so you don’t have to trek to the business center and a private breakfast room – less variety than the big buffet, but you don’t have to have any contact with lesser human beings. Super obsequious staff.Also a private entrance – so you can enter and leave the hotel without being observed by riff raff. In short, nothing you can’t live without, but it does give you that rock-star feeling – sort of like the difference between business class and first class on a plane – unless the business class seats don’t fold into beds – not enough difference to warrant the additional cost, but still a discernable difference (at the same price, why not indulge?).

Well tonight I decided to try some local cuisine at a restaurant recommended by a manager at the Taj in Aurangabad who had spent eight years at the Mumbai hotel. He said this would be a “real Indian food experience”. When I asked the concierge at the Mumbai Taj about the place, I thought he would go into conniptions. He explained that Indians could eat the food there because they had built up immunity, but he couldn’t comfortably recommend the restaurant for foreigners. I asked if he ever ate there and he admitted to a few times a year. Those of the readers who know me personally understand that when it comes to eclectic food experiences, while there are lines I won’t cross, they are few and far between. So I took my faithful gun-bearer (the one with the stomach who doesn’t like spicy food) and walk to the restaurant’s location two blocks behind the hotel. I will go as far as give the restaurant’s name which is “Bademiyan”, but I do warn that this [place is not for the faint of heart (or stomach). It apparently started as a street push cart in the 1940’s and has grown to be two small stands (one for meat and the other vegetarian. I assume the meat one is halal and the veggie one for Hindus, but it may not be OK for Jains if they use the same plates. Sort of the distinction in NYC between kosher and “kosher style”, which to the observant is the difference between being pregnant and being almost pregnant) on the sidewalk attached to the side of a building. Hoards of Indians crowded around the stands mostly getting take-away or eating with the sauces dribbling down their sleeves (as there are only a couple of plastic lawn chairs to sit in). But, across the street, in what looks like an abandoned warehouse (with the paint chipping and the plaster falling off the walls in a fashion where the negative ambiance makes you hope that simple antacids and stool tighteners will be all that you require to survive eating there. They do, however, have metal tables, laminated menus in English (like that really helps a lot if you don’t know the names of the dishes in the first place and wasn’t much of an improvement over a Hindi menu) and, of course, a long queue waiting for a table. My wife is far from amused by this and thunderclouds are quickly gathering. We are seated rather quickly by someone who looked like he belonged in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and my wife made things perfectly clear by asserting that “if you think I’m going to eat anything here you’re crazy”. She pretty much stuck to her guns and ate one roti (sort of a large pita type flat bread) and a bottle of Coke. I followed the waiters advice on which dishes did not have a lot of spice and I had a butter chicken wrap (which had a chili and onion sauce rather than what I expected), a chicken kabob which was lightly spiced and some sort of vegetarian dish which was something like chunks of cheese floating in a spicy vegetable stew. There was also a pile of raw red onions and green and a red spicy sauces delivered for seasoning. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about dirty silverware here – as there isn’t any silverware – you just tear off a bit of roti and scoop the food to your mouth. As my wife’s mood had not improved much, I tried to mollify her by buying her a dark chocolate bar for dinner at a shop. While no meal is worth getting one’s wife bent out of shape, I will say that the food here was varied, tasty, inexpensive and it is now the “next day” and I seem to have come through the experience unscathed (other than by the figurative slings and arrows from my wife – I’ll have to figure out a better way to make it up to her than a tour of the slums of Mumbai). So anyway, to those of you who might follow in my footstep, I hesitate to recommend this place (unless, of course you are Indian, in which case I think you’ll certainly enjoy it) as it is far from what most would seek out (Indian street food, but no different in concept than say “Nathan’s Famous” on Coney Island beach where you can mingle with the sweaty unwashed masses from the beach and eat a wide variety of questionable food – from raw clams to frog’s legs to their “famous” frankfurter sausages made for all the parts of the animal that can’t be turned into real food – all either eaten standing or at a few tables outside in the baking sun). That said, as in the case of most street food served at a place that has been there “forever”, it is tasty and (presumably) survivable. For those whose heart (or stomach) can’t take the shock of this place, after eating, we noticed that they have a traditional sit-down restaurant a block away from the street place and, had we realized it at the time, we likely would have ended up there (and my wife might have tried some of the food and I wouldn’t be in so much trouble).

By the way, next door is a bar named Gookul, recommended by the same fellow who told us about Bademiyan. It was crowded when we walked past, but we didn’t go in. Apparently, this is to Western style bars what the street restaurant is to Western expectations. He explained that the economical way to drink here is to buy a “quarter” (250ml, I think) of local whisky and share among a few friends as it costs almost the same as a single shot. We probably won’t end up there (since we are not big drinkers), but I just thought I’d throw the idea out there for others (maybe become drunk and then the restaurant would look real good?).

I have also been informed that the food in the stalls on Choupaddy Beach use filtered water and the street food from the stalls there is safe for foreigners to eat. We don’t have time to return there on this trip so we’ll (well, OK, I’ll) have something to look forward to.

We’ve booked a tour on Jan. 30th of Mumbai’s slums with Reality Tours (who did a great job on a general tour of Mumbai we took the last time we were here). One million people live in the 240-hectare Dharavi slum, one of the world's largest slums with cramped squalid properties and appalling sanitation. Just one per cent of the tiny properties have their own toilets and there are open drains. There are more than 20,000 small businesses in the district - and almost no beggars at all. Recycling is the biggest industry of all with an estimated 50,000 people working in plastics alone. When discarded materials arrive in the slum they are is sorted into color and quantity by teams of low-wage workers and then processed to maximize the return on the recycled products.

The tour started with around a 20 minute commuter train ride (ten stops) starting at Churchgate Station. Since this is the beginning of the line, our group of nine (plus our guide) all got seats in the same section. As the train moved from station to station, it got progressively more crowded to the point that it surpassed even the packed conditions of the Manila transit system. Interestingly, there seemed to be a willingness of people to squeeze into a small sliver of seating so that benches made for five would end up with eight or more with people more or less sitting on each other’s laps. (For those reading this who might have “been there”, it rivals the conditions of the tuk-tuk we shared with Jan/Gerard in Sri Lanka or the taxi we grabbed in the rain while walking towards the slums of Manila a few months ago). In these conditions, all of the trains doors (you know, the ones that close while a subway car is in motion) are kept open on both sides of each car. People first hang out of the doors whiole the train is in motion to get the breeze and afterwards because there is no longer physical space or them inside the car. At the station before we are to get off, negotiations are held with nearby passengers to create a path to the door in exchange for our seats. As the train only stays exactly 15 seconds in the station, we’re told to stay on the train with the guide (who followed last) and be guided back. People started jumping off the train before it came to a halt and my wife did as well. Franklyn this concerned me as she had never jumped off a moving train and there is a knack to it (which learned the hard way jumping off a freight train in Laramie Wyoming during my somewhat misspent youth), but fortune smiled on her and she didn’t end up rolling down the platform. From the train station, we crossed a bridge which gave us an overhead view of the vast slum. We then entered a rat’s nest of paths, alleys and narrow streets which lead through the part of the slum which specialized in recycling toxic chemicals. Plastic of all sorts is sorted, washed, crushed, dried, dyed and processed into colored wire which is then sliced into small pellets and sold to manufacturers. Likewise aluminum is melted down in large cast iron pots using charcoal (coke?) as fuel and an electric blower as a newfangled bellows. The air is full of toxic fumes from these and a number of other similar primitive factories we walked through. The streets are lined with trench type sewers, generally covered with concrete blocks as a walkway (except where it isn’t). While there might be other paving, there’s enough mud and dirt that there might not be.

The inhabitants of the slum originally lived heterogeneously as squatters on government land. When the government finally figured out that there was no way to get rid of them, it made the inhabitants as of sometime in the 1980’s “legal” where they had to paid (as in our concept of eminent domain) to give up their hovels (the average family home here is 150-200 square feet (15-20 square meters)). Newer arrivals are not granted legal status (to discourage a mass influx to Mumbai from the hinterlands) and can be thrown out of their housing without compensation.

During 1992 (I think), the Hindus in a town in northern India decide that a mosque was sitting on top of the birthplace of one of their gods (Brahma, I think), tore down the mosque and began erecting a temple. This caused an eruption of riots with thousands killed in both religious camps (those who have seen the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” which was about life in the Dharavi slum will remember the riots near the beginning of the movie where to two brothers lost their mother). After that, the slum realigned itself into “quarters” with Hindus, Moslems, Tamils and northern Indians (from Uttar Pradesh – called “UP” here - and adjacent provinces).


From the “toxic area” we walked to the light manufacturing area. Most of the workers in the slum are illiterate peasants from UP who work on farms during the growing (monsoon) season. On the off season they travel to Mumbai and work as illegals in Dharavi for about 200 rupees ($3) a day. They sleep in the factories – both saving money and providing security for the factory. The light manufacturing area has an area which specializes in leather, another in making suitcases, another embroidering on shirts (a long string of computer controlled sewing machines with a bunch of wallahs feeding and removing garments for each run) and another sewing pairs of shorts on a production line basis, yet another processing expired soap bars and casting them into bricks of industrial laundry soap and another sorting used cardboard boxes by size and quality for reuse. Apparently, when shipping containers from India land elsewhere, the Indian shippers are paid to take them back filled with trash to India, where they head here for distribution to the appropriate recyclers. We hear of fires in major building sized factories in Asia. These are sweltering single room factories (gives sweat shop a whole new meaning – or maybe its original one) in an environment that is so filthy that most Americans don’t have the experience basis to imagine. (When we returned to our hotel, our clothes were filthy and turned the water black when we washed them, when we blew our noses, black came out and we were spitting black “lungers” and that was after only a few hours wandering around in this environment). Some of the names being applied to these garments were those I recognized as staples in US department stores. Intermixed with the factories were cheap food venders, a cheap “movie” house (for a rupee, you can sit on the ground and watch an old Bollywood film on a TV hooked to a DVD player) rag recyclers providing cheap clothing and so on. The four necessities here are cheaply supplied: food, clothing, shelter and cheap mobile phone SIM chips (there are an average of two SIM chips per inhabitant in use in the slum and new phones are about $20 and recycled handsets even cheaper.

We then moved on into the residential areas. The Moslem area, though one of the newest is so congested that the “streets” are alleyways so narrow that there are only a few inches on each side of your shoulders as you walk single file over the pavers covering sewers. By the way, since the houses do not have toilets and there is only running water three hours a day (people use large plastic containers to illegally store/hoard water, and terracotta jugs to store drinking water – as they feel that the clay kills bacteria). There is one public toilet per 1,700 people living here (and they are only cleaned by the government once a month, but the locals clean them once a week), there are a number of private paid toilets (where a use will cost a couple of rupees) and many more “open air” toilets (open fields, spots behind warehouses, etc.) whose location can easily be triangulated by their aroma. There are green flags with a crescent and a star flying all over the rooftops of this area. Then we hit a Tamil area which had a small “super market” and quite a few fresh fruit stands and was somewhat more upscale than the Moslem sector. From there we entered a Gujarat area where the inhabitants specialized in turning and baking terracotta pots of all sizes and shapes. There were mud bins for clay (brought from Gujarat) drying racks and numerous kilns bellowing black smoke into the air (we were told that the people from Gujarat were “immune” to the problems caused by breathing the smoke all day.

The area with the broadest streets (which allowed garbage trucks to enter and keep the place clean) was the Hindi area. There were surveillance cameras, a forest of satellite TV dish antennas and a number of BMW’s and Audis parked in front of some pretty fancy (comparatively speaking) homes. There were kids playing cricket in the streets. Apparently one of the popular styles of Indian flat bread was invented here and dozens of huge bamboo baskets are inverted in the street with these breads plastered on top drying in the sun. They are sold for 30 rupees per kilogram and a woman baker can turn out about 8kg per day and supplement her husband’s wages. After seeing how these are handled, I don’t think I’ll be ordering more. Then we got a pitch designed to have us donate to the MGO that Reality Tours supports which helps slum dwelling kids. Then they popped us into cabs for the ride back to the train station for the ride back to Churchgate Station and we found that we had walked about three miles into the slums. Interestingly, regardless of the extreme poverty of most of the people we encountered, I never felt the least bit threatened. These are people working hard to survive, but not at the cost of their ethics.

The following day saw me arguing with the turbaned hotel taxi dispatcher over what the price of a taxi to the airport should be. I finally grabbed a cab that had just let off passengers and the turbaned guy made a play at finding out the price to the airport from the cab driver (about ½ what he had originally quoted me – I decided a tip was not warranted).

In India, everyone (except the ultra-wealthy) HAS to work (otherwise, as there is no social safety net they will starve). While many work at jobs we, in the west, would recognize, many create their own vocations. Crawford Market is a place to watch the people at their finest. There are wallahs to handle every imaginable task. There are tea and chai wallahs, dubbawallahs (who carry the lunchbox tiffins to the office workers of Mumbai, dhobi-wallahs (or laundrymen) who work in the outdoor laundries of dhobi ghatts and thrash the dirt out of the clothing of Mumbai every day, kaan-saaf-wallah (ear-cleaning wallahs – men in red turbans probing a sliver of bamboo tipped with a wad of glycerin-soaked cotton-wool into a customer's ear for 10 rupees), hakim’s who practice traditional street medicine, nai’s who are street barbers, itinerant chavi-wallah locksmiths, scale-wallahs – who own a bathroom scale and rent out weight readings for those in the population which don’t own a scale, rui-wallah’s who strum a one-stringed harp-like instrument as they fluff out the cotton of old mattresses and pillows, taki-wallah’s who re-pit with a hammer and chisel, the surface of stone grindstones which housewives use to pound their curry spices and a chhuri-wallah’s who pedal portable knife sharpening machines. The scream of steel on steel is all but drowned out by the bedlam of traffic surging past the sidewalks where--undaunted by the melee of cars, scooters, cyclists, jay-walkers and stray cows-- laborers (haath-gadiwallahs,) their brows glistening with sweat, push a wheeled hand-carts stacked with heavy boxes. They inch past a baraf-wallah, carrying blocks of burlap-covered ice on a creaky bullock cart. Along the sidewalk, a group of fisherwomen carrying baskets on their heads shriek "muchhi-wali, muchhi" and a man selling home-baked cookies screams, "biscoot-wallah, aayyy, biscoooot!"

The din created is the background for the cloth market. Hundreds upon hundreds of small shops in long dark arcades sell fabrics in bright colors, of fabulously complex patterns and sparkling appliques in a visual riot which does not seem to ever repeat itself. Gifted salesmen drape sheets of fabric so that they mimic carefully wrapped saris with an ease which belies the complexity of the actual garment. Itinerant tailors wander the aisles offering their services.

What do I think of Mumbai? Well, even for a New Yorker, the city is too crowded, too poor, too dirty, to noisy and has some of the worst traffic anywhere (the Angel of Death must be distracted by Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere because I can’t figure out why I saw nobody hit by a vehicle in traffic that should have covered the streets with the blood of pedestrians and drivers alike). That said, it is a fascinating place that I can enjoy revisiting. There is none of the “standardization” of the malling of the world to be found in the downtown area and there are thousands of shops trying to differentiate themselves based on unique products rather than comply with all pushing the same stuff. In short, despite its numerous failings, I like the place.


As promised, a hodgepodge of things to do and places to shop in Mumbai:

• Dhobi Ghat at Mahalaxmi See the dhobiwallahs, or washermen, scrubbing sheets from Mumbai's largest hospitals and hotels at this busy outdoor laundry area!
• Mahalaxmi Temple This popular Hindu Temple, dedicated to the goddess of wealth, is situated on a headland at the northern edge of Malabar Hill. The narrow street leading to the temple is lined by stalls selling offerings of marigolds, lotus flowers and coconuts.
• Haji Ali Mosque This mosque is located at the end of a long causeway protruding into the sea. It is the tomb of Saint Haji Ali, a wealthy Muslim who renounced the world and proceeded to Mecca. It is said that he died in Mecca and the casket miraculously drifted to the spot where the mosque was later built in his honour.
• Banganga Tank The water from this famous tank, originally built in 1127 and surrounded by Hindu temples, is believed to have special healing powers. Rumour has it that its spring comes from the holy Ganges river.
• Jain Temple This is considered one of the most beautiful, intricately-decorated temples in the city. Jainism, an Indian religion, prizes peacefulness and non-violence above all.
• Kamala Nehru Park Visit one of Mumbai's greenest and most peaceful areas on top of Malabar Hill. You won't believe the extraordinary view out over Marine Drive and the Arabian sea!
• Gandhi Museum Mahatma Gandhi's residence in Bombay between 1917-34 has been converted into a museum, which displays pictures, models and books related to his life. The room on the second floor which used to be the living room and working place of Gandhi has been preserved best as possible.
NIGHT:
• Chowpatty Beach Witness friends and families enjoying this action-packed beach, consuming coconuts, ice cream and Indian snacks such as bhelpuri.
• Kamathipura (red light area) Talked about only in hushed tones, the Kamathipura district has been the subject of countless films, literary projects and art pieces. Kamathipura is the largest red light district in the world.
• CST station See one of the busiest railway stations in the country at rush hour, and the site of the terrorist attacks in November 2008. The award-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire" was also shot here. Based on St Pancreas Station in London, this World Heritage Site is gloriously lit up in the evening, and you will enjoy this view with a cold drink at the end of the tour.
MARKETS
A tour through the historic markets of South Mumbai is a taste of true India. The wide streets and narrow alleyways are alive with activity. In front of colonial buildings and alongside temples and mosques, vendors shout from carts that sell everything from colourful birds, to spicy snacks, to flowers and Indian clothes.
crawford market See the mix of Romanesque & Gothic architectural styles that define South Mumbai. This fruit and vegetable market is also famous for its sales of exotic animals!
mangaldas market Some of India's most famous fashion designers purchase cloth for their creations here!
kalbadevi and khaugalli Taste something spicy at this popular market! From chaats to masala dosa, every Indian street food can be found here.
mumbadevi temple This is the historical Hindu temple after which 'Mumbai' city was named. Here, one can receive 'prasad,' blessings from Hindu priests.
flowergalli A market that has been famous for flowers for nearly 100 years!
bombaypanjrapole This is one of the oldest spaces used for the welfare of cows: over 400 cows live here! The cow is considered sacred by Hindus, and to increase their karma, people will come to the shelter to feed the cows.
MUMBAI SHOPPING:
EMPORIUM:
CCIE – Central Cottage Industries Emporium – 34 ChhatrapatiShivaji Marg, Colaba, 10am-7pm (near Churchgate Station)
Boutique:
Courtyard, SP Center 41-44 Minoo Desai Rd, Colaba 10:45am-7:30pm (near Churchgate)
Melange – 33 Altamont Rd, Breach Candy, 10am-7pm Mon-Sat (Grant Rd Station)
1. Colaba Causeway
The everyday carnival that is the Colaba Causeway market is a shopping experience like no other in Mumbai. Geared especially towards tourists, that infamous Indian saying of "sab kuchmilega" (you'll get everything) certainly applies at this market. Dodge persistent balloon and map sellers, as you meander along the sidewalk and peruse the stalls. Want your name written on a grain of rice? That's possible too. If you need a break from shopping, pop into Leopold's Cafe or Cafe Mondegar, two well known Mumbai hangouts.
Situated in the heart of south Mumbai, Colaba and Flora Fountain also known as the HutatamaChowk are flooded with shops of all kinds. Here you can buy shoes, cotton clothes, Kaftans, books and mainly ethnic artifacts. This market is located at a walking distance from Bombay VT and Churchgate railway stations.
•Location: Colaba Causeway, Colaba, south Mumbai.
•Opening Hours: Daily from morning until night.
•What to Buy: Handicrafts, books, jewelry, crystals, brass items, incense, clothes.


2. Chor Bazaar
Navigate your way through crowded streets and crumbling buildings, and you'll find Chor Bazaar, nestled in the heart of Muslim Mumbai. This fascinating market has a history spanning more than 150 years. Its name means "thieves market", but this was derived from the British mispronunciation of the its original name of Shor Bazaar, "noisy market". Eventually stolen goods started finding their way into the market, resulting in it living up to its new name!
•Location: Mutton Street, between S V Patel and MoulanaShaukat Ali Roads, near Mohammad Ali Road in south Mumbai.
•Opening Hours: Daily 11 a.m. until 7.30 p.m., except Friday. The Juma Market is held there on Fridays.
•What to Buy: Antiques, bronze items, vintage items, trash & treasure.

3. Linking Road
A fusion of modern and traditional, and East meets West, in one of Mumbia's hippest suburbs. Here streets stalls contrast with brand name shops, and you'll find an Indian roadside food vendor on one side of the road and a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet on the other. The street stalls tend to be grouped together according to the type of goods they sell. If you visit this market on a Sunday, be prepared for the crowds!
•Location: Linking Road, Bandra (starts from Waterfield Road intersection).
•Opening Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.
•What to Buy: Indian traditional clothes, children's clothes, shoes, bags, belts.

4. Crawford Market
If you want to see how the locals shop, head to Crawford Market. This old-style market, housed in an historic colonial building, specializes in wholesale fruit and vegetables. It's also got an entire section devoted to pets of all shapes, sizes, and breeds.
•Location: LokmanyaTilak Marg, Fort area, south Mumbai. (Opposite Mumbai Police headquarters and north of Victoria Terminus railway station). Also see Mangaldas market (cloth) and Zaveri Bazar (gold) nearby.
•Opening Hours: Daily from morning until night, except Sunday. Open morning only on Sundays.
•What to Buy: Fruit, vegetables, food, flowers, birds, fish, and other pets.

5. Fashion Street
Fashion Street is literally just that -- a street lined with fashion! There are around 150 stalls there. The market attracts hoards of teenagers and college students, who come to grab the latest western clothes and fake brand names at cheap prices. The Fashion Street in Mumbai is famous for cheap but trendy clothes. Here you can buy shirts, tee-shirts and comfortable cotton clothes for children at very low prices. This market is situated just opposite to one of Mumbai's exclusive clubs, the Bombay Gymkhana also known as the Bombay Gym. The clothes available here are basically export rejects and export "over-runs" which are of good quality cloth. But you will have to bargain very hard to get the realistic price.
•Location: MG Road, south Mumbai. Near Metro Cinema and Victoria Terminus railway station (opposite Azad Maidan).
•Opening Hours: Daily from morning until night.
•What to Buy: Clothes, shoes, belts.

6. Zaveri Bazaar
The Zaveri Bazaar of the Mumbai is famous for beautiful silver jewelry and belts. Things made of silver like napkin rings, picture frames in old silver and boxes are other things that can be bought from this market. But, just be careful about the prices and do not forget to bargain. In fact before buying do compare the prices with other shops.
¤ Shopping In Dadar
The area around Dadar is another major shopping area in Mumbai. In the evenings the area is jam packed with people. Here one can look forward to buy good cotton clothes, saris and children's clothes, etc. Besides, the area has a general atmosphere of fun shopping.

¤ Shopping In Bandra
The so called 'Queen of Suburbs' Bandra, is one of the most posh areas of Mumbai. Many film stars, industrialists and other famous personalities reside within this area. Bandra is connected to Khar by Linking Road and extravagant showrooms can seen on both sides of the road. Apart from the posh showrooms one can also find small street shops here.

¤ Shopping Malls In Mumbai
Shopping Malls In Mumbai These days with the changing times the taste and preference of the shoppers has also changed, that resulted in the development of mall culture in big cities. Mumbai is also no different from it, there are many big and posh shopping mall in Mumbai that give an ultimate shopping experience to the shoppers. Few of these famous malls in Mumbai are:

High Street Phoenix
High Street Phoenix mall is one destination that especially caters to the need of elite people. A very high end mall, this place is very popular among the rich of the Mumbai city.
Address: 462 SenapatiBapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai. Opening Hours: 9.30 a.m. until 9.30 p.m. daily.

Atria Millenium Mall
Atria Millenium Mall is one stop destination for all your needs, that caters to every class of buyers.
Address: Dr. Annie Beasant Road, Worli, (next to the Planetarium, near Haji Ali). Opening Hours: 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily.

InOrbit Mall
This is one of the most happening and most popular mall of the Mumbai city.
Stores: Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Spencers, Crosswords Bookstore, Provogue, Adidas, Marks & Spencer, Body Shop, Fame Multiplex Cinema.and lot others.
Address: Link Road, Malad (outer western Mumbai). Opening Hours: 11 a.m. until 9.30 p.m. daily.


Jan 29-30 Mumbai, various market, slum tours

Jan 31 Flight to Udaipur, Air India Flight #472, Time: 14:00-15:30

About Indian airlines: We have taken flights between last year and this year on Air India, Spicejet and Indigo (the second two are budget airlines). All three have been generally extremely punctual, clean and courteous. Even one hour flights get a free snack. Interestingly, they don’t care how much liquid you carry onto the plane (we carried full water bottles) and they don’t ask you to remove your shoes (but boarding pass and passport have to be shown a number of times. Frankly, I’d take the Indian companies over any of our major carriers.

Jan 31 Pickup by Drivers-India from Udaipur airport

Since we are already in Udaipur, I can give advance notice that, despite having stayed at hundreds of hotels (many quit fancy) over as lifetime of travel, Oberoi Udaivilas Hotel in which we are staying is probably the ritziest place we have ever stayed. While I encourage you to look up pictures of this edifice on-line, I don’t feel that I’m going out on a limb to say that they don’t do justice to the hotel. More next week,

Jeff 

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