A Visit to Mumbai, India – Part III
One day I decided to book a tour with Bravo Bombay (reviews), run by Hemali Talsania. Hemail is great, and put together a great tour for me and a couple that joined us. Hemali’s knowledge of the city is great, and her English is excellent. We went to several spots that I wanted to visit, here are a few photos from the day.
First, I was picked up in a van by a driver. I didn’t take the Mumbai Local this time, and after two journeys on the crowded train it was nice to get driven around in an air conditioned van. The accident with the motorcycle was just part of the adventure. On our way down the driver asked if I wanted to take the sea link, having read a bit about it I agreed that we should. The Bandra–Worli Sea Link, or officially the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link, is a new bridge and freeway that links western and southern Mumbai. It’s a great route saving a lot of time but it’s tolled so it is virtually empty. In the city (where there is no toll) the traffic is snarled but the freeway is wide open. Maybe it will get more use over time. I know, not a great photo but I took it through the window of a speeding van ;)
One of the first stops was Dhobi Ghat, a huge (world’s biggest?) open air laundry. This facility washes an absolute mountain of laundry every day from all over Mumbai. A few photos from the laundry.
This is my favourite photo from the set, just a little kid going about his day.
Next on the agenda was Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, or Victoria Terminus. An amazing building with incredible detail. Worth a visit if you are into architecture. Unfortunately, the interior was not nearly as amazing as the exterior.
At the university, there is a replica of London’t Big Ben. It’s actually a very good replica, though sadly I could not get any closer than this as it’s behind locked gates.
When you take a close look at the faux Big Ben, you can see the Indian touches compared to the original.
A popular tourist spot, the Gateway Of India. One of the few places we visited where there were a lot of tourists and people pushing their wares. I was somewhat of a celebrity being one of the only tall white guys around. Several people asked to take their photo with me, first time that has happened.
Everyone in the group received a blessing (for a small donation). It was nice.
We visited a Hare Krishna temple, and listened to the chants. A nice spot and interesting religion.
The Mahatma Gandhi Museum, full of interesting artefacts. The most powerful and memorable were the letters to Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill.
Outside the museum, I met a charismatic and friendly tour guide who I chatted with while waiting for my group to finish up. Smartly dressed, he was happy to pose for a photo. For some reason he reminds me of Eddie Murphy.
Close to the harbour, we saw a fishing boat coming in. A little helter skelter but definitely interesting.
The harbour itself.
Hemali, our tour guide (far right) and the couple who joined the tour. Maybe they will see this one day (if so leave a comment ;)
After the tour, I did some of my own exploring. Here a vendor is selling strings of flowers. These were being used to decorate cars for a festival.
A family I ran into, they were great and the boy holding the dog asked me a million questions.
My favourite photo form the trip. This old guy was sitting in a flashy metal carriage when I approached him. He didn’t speak English, but nodded and smiled when I asked him if I could take a photo. His weathered skin and the detail in the carriage make the perfect subject for a black and white photo.
In the evening, and very close to my hotel, I ventured down to the beach to view the Vijayadashami Hindu festival. There were thousands of people on the beach, and every group had a sculpture which they end up throwing into the ocean. Note the sun in this photo. Due to the air pollution most sunsets in Mumbai looked like this during my visit.
Some well dressed chaps walking their well groomed dogs.
A vendor selling grilled corn, smelled great.
As happened several times, kids approached me when they same me taking photos and asked to have their photo taken. This boy was curious, asked some questions, and posed for a shot.
Soon his friends all ran over and started to clown around, it was great fun.
As the sun set, even more people started to show up.
Literally by the truck load.
A sacred cow all dressed up for the party. Though tired after a long day, I’m glad I made it down for the party.
The next day, I decided to visit Dharavi, a massive slum in the heart of Mumbai. This slum is well known as it appeared in the popular movie Slumdog Millionaire. Despite the term “slum”, this is a huge industrial center for Mumbai. Recycling is common, as is creating goods for export. I was very surprised at how many small factories are in operation in this area. My guide in the slum Shailesh Jethva who operates Mystical Mumbai, if you are in the city and want to tour Dharavi I highly recommend Shailesh. He knew almost everyone there and took me to many interesting spots in the area. Photography is not appropriate in most parts of the slum, so I respected the custom.
This shot is from the bride over the rail tracks as you enter the slum, the district us huge and without a guide you are certain to get lost. Depending on who you ask, there are about one million people that live in this slum, and the population density is just staggering. A worthwhile tour if you are not just into the popular tourist destinations.
One of the factories we visited with several embroidery machines at work.
My guide, Shailesh.
That is all the photos I’m posting from Dharavi. If you want to see more you just need to visit for yourself. On my way back to the hotel, I decided to take a walk on the beach which, just one day earlier, held thousands of people for the Hindu festival. The beach was littered with remnants from the celebration, including all of the religious idols which now lay discarded. I understand the need to celebrate but it’s tough to see the impact on the environment following such celebration.
Sunset over Juhu beach. I’ll return to Mumbai soon.