We were invited to stay with Linsha and Nikilesh in their 3 room apartment in Nerul, Navi Mumbai. We took them up on that offer, of course!
We left Sapna ranch a little earlier than planned in order to fit Mumbai into our schedule. Going towards Mumbai we were thinking that it felt strange to go BACK to a place we’ve already been, since our destination was the other way. But the bus ride was nice, we had a nice bus with reserved seats so we didn’t have to stand this time around. We reached Mumbai at 8:30 pm and got a rickshaw from Vashi to Nerul. It cost us about 180 rupees. We were welcomed by Nick and Joel at the gate to their apartment complex, a nice neighborhood, with many families it seemed. At their place Linsha and Jogita was waiting and we got local port wine and were talking all together. We missed Tony but they said he lived too far away to come join us. Joel stayed the night and was to be our guide the next day. Joel is a software developer and a gamer. Apparently gamers are rare in India so he and August really hit it off! They even play the same games, strategy based, which is rare if you think about how many games are in the market.
So the next day we wake up and have breakfast all together. Nick went to his job, he has an organisation with a few others, Jogita included which work with kids. Linsha develops robotics. Us and Joel hit the town but had to catch a train to get into the tourist districts and Colaba. The train ride is quite something. A one hour journey costs 40 rs with return which is nothing! But the trains are very crowded. There are no doors, so people hang outside the train when they are full, and we were told that sometimes people pull out other passengers already on the train in order to let themselves in! Totally crazy. We were lucky and got in to the cramped carriage without injuries. They have carriages reserved for women so there wasn’t many girls in the general carriage.
When we reached CST, the end station for our train I was AMAZED. The buildings they have, the massiveness and grandeur the British built in Mumbai is astonishing! We don’t have those kinds of huge buildings in Europe, I tried to compare it to the Louvre in Paris, or Buckingham palace in London, but no. Its all bigger in Mumbai. Although one should keep in mind that these imperial buildings symbolize a dark time of colonialism and oppression in India.
I’m reading this book called Shantaram which is set in Mumbai. It’s a famous book and the main character in the book mostly moves around the Colaba district, and eats at a place called Leopold’s. Joel took us there and it’s fun to see a place you have only imagined in real life. Of course it didn’t live up to my expectations. The food was OK, but very pricy. Most of their customers were foreigners.
After lunch we walked through the grand streets and saw the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, the place terrorists occupied in 2008 I think. We arrived at the Gateway of India, a monument built by the British. Its a triumph bow, similar to the one in Paris. When India gained their independence, the last British soldiers to leave the country, exited through this bow. Very symbolic. After the terrorist attack in 2008 most of the tourist sights are fenced and have security. But now a days we are used to that, and I find that disturbing.
We wanted to go to the Elephanta islands outside Mumbai, but it was closed due to it being Monday so instead we went to an Art gallery. That was great! All the artists were there and we could talk to them and it was all by local Maharashtra state artists.
Joel told us about the Parsi people, which has one of the oldest religions in the world, Zoastrisim, which originates in Persia, modern day Iran. Its over 5000 years old, and they have a community in Mumbai. Over the years they have contributed alot to Mumbai, being highly educated and starting museums, universities etc, but what we came to appriciate, was their baking skills. They have a special type of baking and have bakeries in many places in Mumbai. We had iranian tea and a bun Maska, which is a bun with rasins and butter. So delicious. SO GOOD!! And very fairly priced. The owner of the place did look Persian with very white skin and he was tall too, and being a closed off community, they mostly marry within their group, and thus keeping their Persian features.
We came back home and shortly after, Nick and Jogita took us to meet the kids they work with. They are great! We had a great time eating Vada Pav, a speciality specific to the areas that preciously was under Portuguese control. It’s a white bread (pav) with a potato burger (vada) kind of inside. An Indian hamburger Hasmuk called it the first time we had one. After this expedition to the kids we said good bye to Joel and thanked him for being such a great guide and taking time to be with us ❤
Jogita lives close to Nick and Linsha so we went there to see her kittens. I love coming home to people and seeing how they live. Most for the Indian youth live with their parents. Joel and Jogita said Linsha and Nick was VERY lucky to have their own house, cause that is not a certainty just because you get married.
So our sim-card stopped working after Sapna ranch and when we reached Linsha and Nicks place, I think it was Joel who asked if our parents wasn’t worried sick that we didn’t have a contact with them. I though he ment us being in a foreign land for three months, but they meant the HOURS that we didn’t have a connection.. We speak to our parents maybe every other week only and I don’t think they worry so much now, we made it through Pakistan so now we can do anything a :p They, our Indian friends, have to write every two hours! This family based community life has its pros and cons, just as our individualistic lifestyle in Sweden has good and bad. We decided together that we should live somewhere in the middle. This is the main difference I think between our cultures. In Sweden we have more freedom but less “help” and here they have more “help” and family based securities but less freedom ( not talking about us specifically, we are both blessed with amazing families, kisses and love to you :*). But places like old age homes are up and coming here in India also. And women want to work and pursue a career also, (obviously)/so daycare centers exists too. It will be interesting to see how these concepts that originates from a welfare system works in a place completely without one.
So, second full day in Mumbai we came along with Jogita for a tour she booked for 17 Nepalese people that came to visit her. It was a bus tour and it was awful.
We spent a whole day on that tour bus, where nothing really seemed planned at all. We visited some sites but there was so little time to enjoy any of them, we were always rushed. Lunch we only got late in the afternoon and even when the tour ran overtime and we asked to be dropped off, they took us to more places. We only got home at 9 and we started early in the morning.
It was the tour from hell. Nevertheless we still had a lot of fun with Jogita and there was a lot of good moments as well. The Nepalese people were also nice, and I think they shared our frustration!
Last day we were going out on our own. This is the first time we’ve actually been on our own since our trip started! In Islamabad Wahaj was with us at all times, we always had company in Dehradun and in Rishikesh as well! We had those three days in Mumbai when we were sick but that doesn’t count cause we didn’t do anything. So we took the train on our own, we managed to get seats even and had breakfast at the Persian bakery of the day before. Our mission was to get to Elephanta island. Its an island outside Mumbai where there are 1400 year old cave temples with magnificent statues, all dedicated to Lord Shiva, the god. The Portuguese named the place Elephanta, cause the first thing they saw when they approached was a statue of an elephant. This statue has later been moved. When the Portuguese found the caves, some light head though it a good idea to fire cannons inside the caves to check out the echo…. So, obviously the damaged some of the statues… Greatly disturbing.
Anyway, we catch a boat from Gateway of India, it cost 200 rs per head, the boat ride takes an hour and is quite pleasant. We arrive at the dock and it’s a long climb up to the caves. At the top we have to pay 600 per head just to enter the caves!!!!! For Indian tourists (which basically means anyone who isn’t white or black) it’s like 50 rs. Buy obviously we had to pay, we went all the way there and paid for the boat and we climbed all those stairs… But it was worth it, it was really cool and our guide book claimed this statue to be one of the best in India:
By the way, buy the guidebook everyone wants to sell. It’s 150 rs compared to a guide for at least 500 rs, and that’s if you are a pro haggler. It covers it all pretty well and when you leave you can pass it on to your neighbor.
After Elephanta we went to Crawford market. This place has everything you can desire but it was too much for us. Too crowded and too much traffic mixed in with all the people. We came home in good time to Linsha who was waiting and shortly after we arrived Nick came home. We had a few hours with them, talking and taking some memorable pictures before they took us to the bus stop. Jogita had arranged for a bus for us and it was a super fly bus! We had sleeper seats with sheets and a pillow and blanket and our own Tv, you know, like in airplanes! It was only Hindi or Maharashtrian movies so I watched the Hindi version of Step up: ABCD 🙂
We are extremely grateful to Linsha and Nick for hosting us and taking care of us with breakfast in the morning and dinner in the evening and a roof over our heads and all the knowledge they conveyed to us ❤ we will come back again and see you all soon!
So, if there is one city you should go to in India it is a 100% Mumbai. We had an amazing experience there and whish we had stayed longer!!
We arrived in Mapusa in Goa around 8, 8:30 in the morning after a bumpy ride with our fancy bus. But the story of Goa is for the next post.
Peace and Love,
August and Linnea