The Gateway to India

The next day was a full sightseeing day. We are staying in a great area called Fort, just north of Colaba which is the southernmost part of Mumbai and it is the touristy district where all the attractions are located. Everything is walking distance around this area and it is full of restaurants, art shops, British looking buildings and very cosmopolitan people (the Indian hipsters live here).

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We started our day with an amazing freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, so cheap and delicious. Always ask for no ice in these street stands.

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Our first stop was the Gateway of India, this nice monument overlooks the Arabian Sea at the Mumbai harbor. It was a crude jetty used by the fishing community which was later renovated and used as a landing place for British governors and other prominent people. In earlier times, it would have been the first structure that visitors arriving by boat in Mumbai would have seen.

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The structure was erected to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder, when they visited India in 1911. The monument has witnessed three terror attacks from the beginning of the 21st century; twice in 2003 and it was also the disembarkation point in 2008 when four gunmen attacked the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower.

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The last British troops to leave India following the country’s independence, the First Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, passed through the Gateway on their way out in a ceremony on February 28, 1948, signalling the end of British rule (In my humble opinion, they would have been better keeping themselves under British control, but that discussion for another time)

Next to the gate is the Taj Palace Hotel, which is one of the fanciest and most historical buildings in Mumbai. We were able to get in to visit this one regardless of our dirty backpacker looks.

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It is widely believed that Jamsetji Tata decided to build the hotel after he was refused entry to one of the city’s grand hotels of the time, Watson’s Hotel, as it was restricted to “whites only”. During World War I the hotel was converted into a hospital with 600 beds. It was very relaxing and calming to sit in a very clean, spa smelling hotel as we dreamed about being rich.

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We continue our walk until we reached the Mumbai Big Ben (Rajabai Clock Tower), this 85 m tall tower is based off the real Big Ben in London and is part of the University of Mumbai. This city has such beautiful buildings all around.

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Mumbai is one of the cities with the least amount of green in the world. The guidebook says its something around only 3% in the city, Delhi has around 25% for comparison. This park was huge and full of amateur cricket players practicing.

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We continued walking this beautiful city coast to coast until we reached the Marine Drive, which is a 3.5 km long boulevard along the coast. It is a place for couples to come and escape the city madness but unfortunately it does not offer much to see for a tourist point of view. There were hardly any restaurants or coffee shops located there so we couldn’t just sit somewhere to relax.

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We walked towards the north until we found the Indian coffee chain called “Coffee Day”(the Indian Starbucks), we tried a coffee Frappuccino that was terrible, seriously, it is very difficult to mess up a simple Frappuccino but these guys managed to do so. It was good to be resting with A/C for a while though.

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The streets are full of little market stands, where you can find mostly cheap clothes. Sarah decided that 15 pairs of underwear was still not enough, so she bought a few more. They less than $1 each and the quality is not that terrible, so it was a good purchase.

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We finally reached Crowford Market, this indoor market is full of candy, fruit and other miscellaneous stuff. Most vendors were extremely nice by giving us different candies to try, we ended up buying a huge bag of delicious tamarind candies like the ones you buy in the beaches in Mexico.

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In this market is where I discovered Sarah’s inability to distinguish between a watermelon and a papaya. So I’m reaching out to all of you my friends, if you know of any private tutor that is willing to teach a 30 year old student the basic fruits, please send me his/her contact info.  Now Sarah’s time to chime in!  To my defense watermelons look very different here and we don’t see many papayas in markets back home.  Eitan saw many more in Mexico as a kid!  But now I am well educated and can even distinguish India watermelons from American watermelons!

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On the way back we stopped to drink a sugarcane juice with lime. Sooo delicious and refreshing and perfect for diabetics!

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We went to dinner to a local delicious place. One of the curious things we have been noticing in India is that only men eat at restaurants, it is very unusual to see a family or a couple eating at a local place. We did find in Mumbai’s richer areas restaurants full of couples and families, but only in the more affluent restaurants. Also, they only give the menu to Eitan (and they will never take an order from Sarah), we usually have to request another one so Sarah can also help choose what to order, this type of things show that gender inequality is still a big problem in India.

The Mumbai central train (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly Victoria Terminus) station was our last stop. The building is absolutely gorgeous and not surprisingly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designed by Frederick William Stevens with influences from Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and traditional Mughal buildings, the station was built in 1887 in the Bori Bunder area of Mumbai to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Unfortunately, the inside of the station is full of beggars, stray dogs and trash. It makes me very sad (and angry) when people cannot take care of such a nice heritage building.

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This is the beautiful ticket counter, the only part of the inside of the station that is kept clean and that is worth a photo. I got in trouble for taking this picture (I’m innocent!) because the police sitting in the little desk (by the first column) though I was taking a photo of them (which apparently is illegal). Come on, If you position your stupid little desk in front of the most photogenic part of the building, expect to be in all tourist photos.

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We bought an Indian wine which resulted in the worse wine our taste buds have ever come in contact to. We couldn’t finish it, not even half of it. It was so bad we actually suspected that it might have been tampered and replaced with other liquid. Better safe than going blind.We went to sleep disappointed of our wine night, but tomorrow we will be visiting the other part of Mumbai, we have an apparently amazing tour of the famous slums.

Bonus Pic Of The Day: You see those guys in orange walking around the train tracks? their job is very simple, every time a train passes thru there, they have to hammer back in the nails holding the tracks together. Now, I am no expert in train engineering, but that doesn’t seem right to me. I understand tracks need maintenance once in a while, but this way of keeping it together is just very scary to me.

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