As I waited to step off the plane in Mumbai, several thoughts waved through my head. Stereotypical cliches sprang to mind- touching the floor before i got off, saying a little prayer, taking a deep breath to breathe in the Indian air for the very first time. But in typically Indian style, after waiting for half an hour on the plane whilst it found a parking spot (you'd think they'd have it sorted out before landing!)- i just wanted to get off the plane! The journey itself had been brilliant. Id heard a lot about jet airways, but they actually lived up to the hype with comfy seats (luckily the plane was empty so we spread out), good food (cant go wrong with paneer) and a decent choice of films (om shanti om- mind it!!)
We made our way out of the airport pretty quickly, passing through baggage and customs pretty quickly. The bombardment of taxi drivers immediately after the exit of the main building was completely overbearing, esp for me as a first time visitor- but baiju managed to remain calm- getting a taxi to the auto booth towards fort- the area we'd picked to stay in. now, the indian experience began- a taxi ride old school style. The contrast in looks on our faces was hilarious- baij was like 'i hate these things' wheres mine was 'i cant wait to go in this thing'!. the taxi must have been about 40 years old, no a/c, windows only open half way, even our bags were hanging out of the boot tied shut with a piece of string! still, i spent the next 40 minutes looking at our surroundings, taking in the sights, aromas and squirming in the high humdity and 35degree temperatures at 11pm! there was one thing i didnt understand though- how did people manage to drive in this country without having an accident evrry minute?? the roads were full of maniacs, road markings were obviuosly just there for show and the number of different vehicles (and animals) was amazing. then there was the incessant horning (and mooing) coming from them all- encouraged by the non-sensical 'horn ok please' written on every bumper! somehow, we eventually managed to find hotel, which admittedly wasnt in a great area- kinda summed up by rats/rubbish and rickshaws!
Went to meet the girls the next morning, first surprising Shai at the airport, although seems we'd been beaten to it by her hotel transfer who held up a board saying 'Sejanga Fernandes'- well, theres only one i guess! Met up with Deepa at the hotel (although the staff were really rude and pedantic and wouldnt let me or baij go up the girls room) near juhu beach and finally settled down in the bar for a few bevvies- our first in India, and i have to say, havent had kingfisher often but its a bloody nice beer! Found our spiritual home for the next few days that evening, a place called mocha- outdoor shisha place with food, drinks and big screen tv- perfect for the ipl which undestandably had a big following, even though mumbai were doin rubbish at the time and reeling from 'bhajigate'- lol, the posters and skecthes of the slap were everywhere and were hilarious! From a backpackers view, theres not really that much to do in mumbai. Although we made a day trip down to colaba- the main sightseeing and touristy place, after that there wasnt much else. The Gateway of India was itself in repair following a bomb blast last year, but still had to be seen, as did the Taj hotel- itself a landmark of mumbai for many a year. Hit a few bars in the evening, savouring some of mumbai's reputed good nightlife. started off with a drink at the marriott (lets face it- thats all we could afford there- just!) and then headed to a club/bar near bandra i think. Was like a mumbai version of spice rack lol, only bigger and with slightly more white people! Typically though, the dancefloor was full of guys, dancing away to... yep, youve guessed it... random 70's music! was not the music i was expecting either- but somehow shai recognised them all!
Moved onto delhi after a few days in mumbai, managing to pick up a cheap flight from one of the many low cost indian airlines- and surprisingly the flight wasnt even delayed! delhi felt like a complete world away from mumbai- relative traffic order, more developed, a lot cleaner and i have to say, a lot nicer. Having arrived in the morning, we took a visit to the Swaminarayan Akshardham Mandir in the afternoon, an amazing building which soars from the landscape and is visible for many a mile. Hotel was nice too and the room service food even better- altho late night tea and coffee wasnt a good idea with these two- who got into random spurts of giggles throughtout the night! Booked a day tour for the next day, which was recommended to us as we didnt have much time here. Crammed onto a tiny green bus, hosted by an indian spitting image of ricky gervais- pot belly, side parting and cheeky grin an all! i was gonna ask him for a picture doing the dance too but we left the tour early so didnt get a chance :( . He took a bit of a fancy to deepa too- asking her to model in some pictures for him while pushing me and shai aside without further ado! Tour was pretty good, if not understandly rushed, but still saw qutb minar, lakshmi-narayan mandir, jama masjid, raj ghat (gandhis burial place), lotus temple, indira gandhi museum (inc the spot where she was assassinated), red fort and the government buildings.
The contrast between Mumbai and Delhi was larger than i had first assumed it to be. Mumbai, a sight in itself, seems to be a place that can be enjoyed more on a larger budget- something we were unable to do. There is an extremely evident gap between rich and poor, even in the hotel there was a young woman of obvious wealth complaining about how she wasnt getting her way about hiring out a whole floor of the hotel to have a party with a few friends- and then storming off when the staff said no! In comparison, Delhi seemed more 'developed', understandably being the capital city- although the gap between itself and Mumbai was a lot larger than i had thought. There was also a lot more to do in delhi from a sightseeing perspective- although for me just being in India was an experience to fully savour, wherever we were.
Next stop, the Golden Triangle and a trip up north to Haridwar and Rishikesh.