Mumbai (Bombay), India
05.01.2011 - 07.01.2011 78 °F
After 24+ hours of travel and a short overnight in Delhi, we spent most of our first day in Mumbai recovering. Of course this had to include some eating and we enjoyed a fantastic late lunch at Mahesh Lunch Home, a seafood restaurant in the relaxed northern suburb of Juhu. Unfortunately, after some large-format Kingfishers and a large meal, we succumbed to jetlag and a 2-hour nap.
Delicious Chili Garlic Prawns at Mahesh Lunch Home
We were, however, determined to make the most of our next 36 hours in the city.
We stayed at the intimate Juhu Residency Hotel just down the street from Mahesh. The area was great, but lay about 12 miles north of the city's epicenter on Nariman Point. This, combined with Mumbai's notorious traffic meant that we spent a significant portion of Thursday – our second day – traversing the city in taxis. At least they're incredibly cheap, and even our hour-plus ride home from dinner in the south that evening only rang up at $5.50.
In spite of the long transits, we still had a great day and highlights included an auto-rickshaw ride to Bandra to pick up traditional outfits for the coming nuptials (photos will definitely follow), enjoying a snack in the Sea Lounge at the Taj Mahal Palace, and meeting up with our friend Annie for a beer at Leopold's (a tourist and backpacker favorite), a walk through central Mumbai and dinner.
Gateway to India (with the Taj on the left side)
Leopold's Cafe in Colaba
Mumbai at Night
We headed north on our final morning in Mumbai in the company of Amin – a wonderful guide recommended by Gary Leff on his blog A View from the Wing. Amin’s story is worth a bit of a digression. He had run away from home in one of the city’s slums after his father passed away and lived on the streets between the ages of 5 and 8. Jesuits spotted him in a train station and brought him to live in one of their orphanages. Later, their support would lead to jobs and his purchase of a used car to start his tour business. Amin had an incredibly warm and kind personality reflected in his current sponsorship of several orphans and offer to accompany us in Mumbai should we return, even if we couldn’t afford to pay.
Amin brought us to the Kaheri Caves, a 2000-year old Buddhist site set in a nature preserve a world apart from the chaos of the city just a few miles away, especially as we were left to explore it almost alone (though hordes of young schoolchildren appeared just as we were leaving). The caves had been carved into volcanic rock and served as residences and a center for learning and meditation. They were remarkably well preserved, with ornate carvings and several frescoes remaining inside the caves.
The site also featured monkeys, which we’re always suckers for.
After the caves, it was back into the Mumbai traffic for a ride to the airport. Next stop, Kochi and Kerala!
NB: Amin Sheikh can be reached through his website http://www.snehatravels.in/