My high school BFF is given short notice to fly to Mumbai to receive an award in behalf of her NGO. With only one day to see Mumbai, she hires a taxi for the day.

POSTED BY JENNIE

Why did you visit Mumbai?

In early February, the president of Synergeia Foundation called to ask me to take her place in receiving the Best Corporate Foundation Award at the World CSR Congress 2017 in Mumbai, India. It was the best phone call ever!

CSR
With other delegates at the World CSR Congress
What were your fears and apprehensions about visiting Mumbai?

Visiting Mumbai was not part of my bucket list. Taj Mahal, maybe but not Mumbai with what I perceived to be chaotic traffic and female tourists being gang-raped! These factors did not attract me to India. However, I didn’t discount India’s rich culture, delicious curries, and fabulous fabrics. Therefore, the sudden opportunity to go made the excitement greater than the fear!

What were your first impressions of Mumbai?

I arrived in Mumbai just before midnight. I thought it would be more convenient and much safer to have the hotel send over their airport shuttle to pick me up. My first impression of Mumbai? A lot like Manila, without the high-rise buildings. The traffic was what I expected, bumber-to-bumper even at midnight! Maybe to the first-world traveller, driving through Mumbai traffic is a life-threatening experience. To me, the swerving, the cutting, and the near-hits, was not too scary. Although, I have to admit, the constant honking of every single vehicle was a bit unnerving.

taxi
Mumbai style taxi
Would you say Mumbai is a safe city?

Mumbai is definitely a safe place to visit – even for lone female travellers. But of course, Mumbai is not without its dangers. This bustling city has its share of pickpockets, overpricing hawkers, chaotic traffic, and men who stare at foreign women. But it helps to know what to expect before you go, so do your research! When you’re there, keep your wits about you. When you feel strange about a certain situation, walk away. Remember that it is always better to be safe than sorry.

market
Mumbai style sari-sari stores
During your one free day what did you do?

I decided that the easiest and safest way, and the best way to see more places, was to rent a taxi thru my hotel, the Hotel Metro Palace at Bangra West. I decided to rent an air-conditioned taxi with an English-speaking driver. I also had to add 300 rupees for toll and parking fees. I gave the driver a list of all the places I wanted to see and he planned the order of the tour.

We started the trip at around 10 am and ended at 5 pm. The first stop was the world’s largest outdoor laundromat, the Dhobi Ghat. Standing at the Mahalaxmi Bridge, I got to see the acres and acres of laundry hanging to dry. Apparently, this is a business involving 8,000-10,000 dhobis, or washers at any given time, doing laundry for hospitals, hotels and restaurants in Mumbai.

laundry
Dhobi Gat, the world’s largest outdoor laundromat!
The next stop, which I consider to be the highlight of my tour, was the visit to the Mani Bhavan Gandhi Museum. The Mumbai head-quarters of Mohandas Gandhi for 17 long years.

ghandi plaque

The villa held a lot of memories because the time that Gandhi was there was the time when he grew in stature and strength to become a world figure in fighting against injustice. I was just 10 years old when I watched the movie about him. I remember being deeply-moved by how the entire India was unified when Gandhi went into fasting and as a consequence got too frail. He remains an inspiration to me to this day

Colaba Causeway was the next destination. I was quite excited because I heard of the many things for sale that every tourist would salivate for. True enough, the long shopping street had so many things that I wanted to buy. It had kurtas, Indian-inspired bags, shawls, Ganesh statues, jewelry, tattoo sets, elephant pants, etc. My haggling skills were put to the test.

Our next stop was the famous Gateway to India which was considered to be one of most iconic landmarks in Mumbai. The driver got a chance to park and he was explicit in telling me that I had 15 minutes to walk to the landmark, take a few pictures and come back to the car. As I stood there watching so many Indians taking pictures of the Gateway and taking selfies, it dawned on me that I was actually in India.

Gateway
The Gateway to India
I went back to the car and I was told by the driver that the next stop would be the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The huge British-designed train station took 100 years to build. The beautiful Victorian gothic structure has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site, the terminus still operates as India’s Central Railways.

Train Station
Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus
Apart from those places I visited on the first day, I made sure that I went to the local market – the Bandra Market. I still think that one of the best ways to experience the culture of a strange new place is to explore its local market.

shoes

I got to see their local produce and I also bought a lot of spices to take home to make my own tikka masala!

spices

What were your meals like and what was your favourite?

I’m not much into curries. So my first Indian breakfast was not so exciting to me. But on Day 2, I was quite surprised that I was actually looking forward to my next Indian meal. I enjoyed every Indian meal I had. I especially loved their home-made yogurt that enhanced the taste of every dish.

Food 2
Upma (thick porridge)  & Sambar (lentil soup) with fresh yogurt

Food 1
Puri Bahji – mild & tasty!
How would you describe the people of Mumbai?

It was a real surprise to me that the people I encountered during my whole stay were actually very kind and helpful. At the congress, a group of young scientists who were receiving an award for their intervention for leukemia, would not allow me to take a taxi alone at night. One of them actually took me to my hotel in a taxi.

Would you go back?

Definitely! I would love to visit Mumbai again. But this time, I would land at New Delhi so that I can visit the Taj Mahal at Agra.

elephant

How to get to Mumbai from Manila? My friend, Ning Doble took Thai Airways to Bangkok with a connecting flight to Mumbai after a 3 hour layover.