Mumbai madness

I honestly didn’t know what to expect upon arriving in Mumbai,  I’d imagined the chaos of Delhi mixed with snippets of slum dog millionaire. After all quite a few scenes of that movie were filmed in Mumbai. I thought it be would be a confronting city to visit but I was very pleasantly surprised when we arrived. Don’t get me wrong it was stinking hot and crazy crowded but that’s pretty much a given in India but Mumbai seemed to be a lot more relaxed than Delhi and cleaner too.

We’d allotted 3 days to explore Mumbai and that was plenty of time for us. On arrival we headed down to checkout the gateway to India. This is the second most photographed monument in India and when we got there that was pretty obvious! It’s not quite the Taj Mahal but it’s a pretty amazing sight right on the harbour. There were so many tourists, most of which seemed to be domestic tourists, snapping away with their cameras and phones. We got in amongst the chaos and we were very careful to have our belongings clutched close to us, this was a pick pocketers paradise!

When we’d had enough of the crazy crowds we made our way over to the neighboring Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This iconic hotel is one of India’s oldest hotels and we felt compelled to have a drink at the Harbour Bar. It was a great way to escape the heat and the drinks were good too!

Taj Mahal Palace
Taj Mahal Palace
Harbour Bar
Enjoying a little flashback to South America with a Pisco sour at Harbour Bar
The next morning we were up early to catch the first ferry across to Elephanta Island, about a one hour ferry ride from Mumbai this island is home to the Elephanta Caves. A UNESCO World heritage site the caves are dedicated the the Hindu God Lord Shiva.

Gateway to India
If you get there early you can avoide the crowds at the Gateway to India. We’ve generally found that not a lot of people are up and at it before 10am in India
The impressive interior of the main cave at Elephanta
cave entrance
The entrance to one of the caves

A fisherman and his boats
Harbour view
It’s one hell of a view coming back into the harbour from the ferry
We spent the rest of our day exploring the Fort area of Mumbai and then taking in a sunset at Chowpatty Beach (Mumbai’s version of Bondi Beach). Definitely the best thing to see in the Fort area is the main railway station. This is one incredible building and it is also India’s busiest Railway station, responsible for both local and long haul train journeys.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus – Mumbai’s main station
Chowpatty beach was beautiful and it almost made me feel like I was back on the sunny shores of the Gold Coast! There’s just a couple of differences between an Indian beach in Mumbai and an Aussie beach:
1. If your try to swim in the waters of Chowpatty beach there’s a high chance you will be poisoned, the waters practically toxic!
2. No one actually wears a swimsuit, they just turn up in their clothes
3. The amount of people on the beach in India is probably about 10 times the amount you’d find on any beach in Aus.
4. There’s men selling corn on the beach in Mumbai…

Chowpatty Beach
Just a few thousand people enjoying the sunset on this small stretch of beach
Corn Man
Like I said there’s men selling corn on the beach in Mumbai
Golden hour
On our last day in Mumbai we decided to take a tour to the slum. Dharavi slum in Mumbai is the third largest slum in the world, coming in behind South Africa with the biggest and Pakistan with the second biggest. I think it was more curiosity than anything that had us signing up for this tour. Again we had no idea what to expect, I guess I was imagining extreme poverty and a whole lot of crime and corruption. The slum is actually quite the opposite.  These people prefer to live in these small houses in close quarters, the government has been trying to move them into multi story apartments where they would have more space and a private bathroom but most prefer it as it is, Dharavi has a real sense of community that would be lost in any other situation. 

The slum is divided into 2 sections, the commercial section and the residential section. The commercial section was the first part of our tour and we got to see how Dharavi is responsible for producing $US 620 million in revenue each year. The main process is recycling, from plastic and cardboard to paint tins and aluminium. Additionally clothing, luggage, leather and all sorts of other things are produced within the slum.

The residential section is separate to the commercial section because the commercial section produces a lot of hazardous waste that would be fatal to live within close quarters of. The tiny little winding alleys of the residential section is not the for the faint hearted and if your claustrophobic this is not the place for you! The housing is tiny with entire families residing in one room and the bathrooms are communal, not my sort of thing but like I said earlier these people chose to live this way and there very happy with their lives. It’s not at all what I was expecting and it was totally fascinating getting an insight into this community.

dhavari slum
Unfortunately due to photography restrictions due to the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks photography has been banned in a lot of places due to privacy issues. This is the only photo I was able to snap of the slum, the commercial section, bags and bags of garbage waiting to be recycled

On our last night we took another visit to the main train station to see it lit up. I can’t decide if I liked this building better in the night or the day, all I know is it, along with the city of Mumbai, is one incredible place that needs to be seen!

Main station at night
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus at night


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