Mumbai ... very strange city! The contrast between new and old is amazing! There would be one of the most expensive hotels in all of India, and a building next to it would be almost falling down. It's really very expansive with at least double prices on everything, and funny enough there was one hostel in all of Mumbai which is not really a hostel but Salvation Army :) With 16 beds in a room and 1 washroom, it didn't really feel like a hostel but rather like a homeless shelter! There were no clubs nearby and almost everybody was asleep by 10pm, but you couldn't sleep past 7am :)
Mumbai is famous for its Bollywood movies and they love to hire foreigners. Next day most of the hostel was hired to do a movie. It was one of the most famous actors, I have no idea who he is, but he's compared to an equivalent of Bred Pitt, and one of the most famous directors. It was so disorganized, go out, no walk back in, ok now get out, walk back in. Now cheer, no cheer on "action". You don't need shoes ... why don't you have shoes?? With such organization with the best of the best, I'm wondering, how does the rest of India work?!? It was funny, we arrived as a bunch of backpackers, and were transformed to princes and princesses :) The hair and makeup was interesting. They were so gentle that I was surprised when it was completed! I didn't feel anything at all! :) But overall, it was very boring, just sitting around doing nothing. I did a little bit of extra work in Toronto, so I kinda knew it would be that way. The only reason I went was to see a Bollywood movie and hopefully some dancing ... but there was no dancing, it was a fighting scene :(
LP: Studios sometimes want Westerners as extras to add a whiff of international flair (or provocative dress, which locals often won't wear) to a film. It's become so common, in fact, that 100,000 junior actors nearly went on strike to protest losing jobs to foreigners, who work for less.
Next day went to an agency to see how much a slum tour is, while sitting there 2 more guys came in and the agent was talking to me then to them then to me that after 10 minutes I finally told everybody to get quiet and that they could talk to the agent once I'm done with all of my questions. I don't think "customer service" is a known phrase in this part of the world.
When I got out of the agency, one of the guys came out as well (Indian), and asked me if I'll take the slum tour, I said no, it's too expensive and that I'm going to the Elephanta island instead. There are caves in there, the only kinds in the world. It took 200 years to carve, but were greatly destroyed by Portuguese. He said that it's his day off and if I don't mind we could go there together. I said that I don't mind, but I need to have breakfast first. We went to have breakfast, I ordered a yummy banana pancake with fresh squeezed grape juice and he insisted paying for it, because it's his country and he's my host. He asked me what I think about India, I told him everything that I think, and especially that women are considered to be 2nd class citizens. We had a long talk about that, and he tried to convince me that it's not true. Open your eyes! There are so many Indians that have some very delusional views about their country. They just deny everything! Then we went to the boat, and before I knew it he already bought 2 tickets and I thought to myself oh oh. During the boat trip he already started giving me signs which I was hoping he wouldn't. Such as "you know, I had a poster in my room which said that men respect women only because of romance, and other funny things like that" :SSSSS haha ... no comment. Only about half an hour has passed since we've met, and he started with these comments. And didn't he just mention that men and women are equal?? Now we're' going together to this island, and I need to get rid of him ... somehow. And again, according to the Indian tradition he started bullshitting like everybody else. There are so many parties in Goa going until 6am; There are no parties, everything closes at 10pm. He's been to this island before and that the train will take us to the other side, first of all, there is nothing to do on the other side, and I don't think a 10cent ticket will take you there. Sure enough 500 meters later, the train has stopped. Then he said that he came to the caves and turned back because there is no point of going there. There is nothing else to do on this island, and the only reason people come here is to go to the caves. Clearly a liar !! Then he said that he's hungry and needs to eat, I don't understand why he didn't eat during breakfast, but I told him that he can order something and I'll wait for him. We sat at the table, and there you go, we get served 2 orders of rice and chicken and coke. Thanks for asking!!!! I already got so tired of this behavior. I said that I don't drink coke and sent it back. I just had a huge breakfast 1 hour ago, what was in his mind when he ordered this dish??!! I just ate the chicken, and left the whole plate pretty much as full as it was in the beginning. Btw, he's a doctor, studying to be a cancer surgeon. Then he wanted to show me on the map where he lives, saying that his city is south of Mumbai. I looked at the map, and couldn't find that city south of Mumbai, then he took the map and drew a horizontal line to the right from Mumbai, see, this way is South! What kind of doctor doesn't know the difference between east and south??
At the caves I wanted to take a guide, but not pay the full price for it. I saw a couple with a guide and asked them if it was ok if we share the cost of the guide together, and they agreed. This was perfect. I had to pay less, and plus I could stay away from him. When I asked the guide for something, right away he jumped with his knowledge and advice at every opportunity! Did I ask him? Then when he saw that I was clinging to the couple, he started pouting and walking behind us. They all act like such kids, it's incredible!! But because of that, it's very easy to read them. When we were walking back he said that he wants to stay at the island a bit more time (hoping I would stay as well), and I said that ok, you can stay, I saw everything here, and I'm going back with the couple. He said ok that he wants to do something else on the island and he'll go to Mumbai later. Whatever... I could see right through him. They would tie 3, sometimes 4 boats together, and to get to the last one you have to go through the rest of the boats and jump between them, sometimes a meter! And they're moving!! It would never be allowed in Canada, and no wonder, because one guy fell overboard! The boat waited a few minutes until it became full before it left, and surprise surprise, this guy at the last minute appeared on the boat. I pretended that I didn't see him. When we docked in Mumbai, I got out and there he was waiting for me. I said that I need to relax and I'm going to the hostel. He said that he wants to see me again in the evening and it's his last night here in Mumbai, and we should do something fun. I told him that I think we have different ideas of fun, and I'm not planning to go anywhere. Told him goodbye and left. Don't they get hints???!!! It's really very annoying. It's happening every single time. But it's ok, I'm learning. Next time, no more miss nice. I'll tell them right away that I'm not interested. It's a little bit hard for me to do it, but here there is no other way. I have to learn to be more assertive with them!
Next day I wanted to walk around the city, it was soooo hot! There are a few colonial buildings that stand apart from other architecture, but I've already seen colonial buildings, and was not interested in them so much. I went to an interesting Prince of Wales museum and a Modern art gallery, and the rest of the day was just sightseeing. The air for some reason is completely white, I think it's supposed to be pretty, but I couldn't see absolutely anything. I walked along a promenade to some famous but extremely dirty "beach". It was a low tide, and there was so much garbage lying around that I would hardly call it a beach, but rather a garbage dump! I was tired of walking and wanted to take a taxi. I asked a local how much will a taxi cost and he told me 50 rps. I stopped a few taxies and asked them how much it would be. They rolled their eyes, looked at every direction and every single one told me 100. They just can't lie. Some can, especially at markets. But I insisted that I'm not going unless it's 50. One agreed, but after driving for 15 minutes, I felt kind of bad giving him only 50 rupees. But these are the prices. That's how much everybody pays! That was one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Mumbai, but I wasn't impressed. The houses might be expensive, but they're not looked after. It seems that they're building them and then just forget about them.
On the street again some guy started walking after me. Do you want peacock feathers?- No. Keep on walking. He's walking like my shadow, how about this one, or this one, good price! Usually I just ignore them, but sometimes I talk. So I told him even if he gives it to me for free, I don't want it. It's not my style, I have no room in my bag, and I don't support animal cruelty. He continues to walk. There was one older guy in front of us. He asked, is that your uncle, are you with him? I said no; Then you're with me?; no. I want to cover you in 100 kisses; I'm laughing ... no way. Then he started with some really x-rated talk. I was in shock!!! He's just 22!!! I told him to leave. He said that he'll be waiting for me. I told him not to bother. Yep, every single day I go through it. No good experiences at all !! I wonder how to talk to them. I was adviced to say that I have a husband (and indeed a lot of girls say that), and to say that I'm here only for a week. But if I expect honesty from people, then how can I lie?? I need to experiment with different techniques!
Side note: I notice a lot of Indians have really bad teeth, and usually teeth are considered to be a sign of health, and it's one of the things that you look for when you search for a partner. I wonder if arranged marriage institute changed that ... along with other things? Why bother when you're guaranteed to get married anyway??!
Next day I was so exhausted that I decided to do no more walking, and take only buses and taxis. I went to a bus stop, and they have this stupid system, I have no idea which *&$% came up with it in a very international city with a high number of tourism. The numbers on the front of the bus are tiny and written in Hindi! Only at the back of the bus it would be in normal numbers! But by this time it's already too late, the bus is gone! Needless to say that I learned their numbers pretty quickly!
Went to an area where they wash cloths. It was in the middle of the afternoon, and there weren't too many people washing them, but pretty much it's a huge area with little baths where the males take cloths, put soap on it, smash it on some stone and rinse it in the bath, while standing in it.
Then I went to a temple. What was interesting in the temple is not the temple itself but a local restaurant in which I ate. It had a great variety of pancakes with different fillings. And on the grill there was the usual assortment of lemon and green chili peppers. I've usually seen it on houses, and once I saw it on a car, but it's meant to take the evil spirits away. When the chilies become red it means the job is complete, and you have to hang new ones. The faster the chilies turn red the more evil spirits it took out. And also I met a nice Indian family who sat at my table. The grown up was a chef at the most expensive hotel in Mumbai. His brother was some important figure in the navy who was at the time in Russia. And the kids are so young and clean and smart with perfect English and perfect English slang. One boy said that he wants to be infrastructure Engineer when he grows up! He's only 12!
Beside the temple was a cow. There are cows everywhere, but I guess because it was so close to the temple, most of the people who passed by it touched it. There were also men dressed up like women ... very unpleasant and aggressive. I'm not sure what their story is, but they’re considered to be somehow holy. They would touch their forehead, then somebody else's forehead and demand money for it. I saw a woman giving him 5 rupees (which I think is more than enough), but he started shouting at her that 5 is not enough. She found her wallet and gave him 10. So, not only tourists are getting scammed. What kind of spiritual/religious enlightment can you get from an aggressive queer who's robbing you blind??
Right beside the temple was a mosque. It was very strange to see such a clash of religions living relatively in peace side by side. I then remembered Toronto and the soup of cultures/religions that goes on, but there is seems normal. I guess when you see it outside of the norm you realize how abnormal it actually is.
The people seemed very different. The contrast between Hindu and Muslims is very noticeable. Their eyes are so sharp and determined, like they're looking to hunt someone down. The mosque is built in the sea, there is a 500 meter bridge that connects it to the shore and in a high tide the mosque becomes an island. The mosque wasn't too interesting for me, but what touched me was that on all the length of that bridge there were beggars begging for money. But they weren't just any kinds of beggars, there were 2-3 year old kids sitting all alone with no parents in site, people with no limbs, or completely deformed bodies, no eyes, no legs, half white, half black. Looking at all that, I was not as mad at touts, beggars, thieves as much. When people are born into that kind of environment, they're doomed from birth ... sadly enough :(
Mumbai was not good for my nerves. I don't know why, but I was about to explode. Maybe because the hostel was right in the center, and I had to pass a market to get there. Want sunglasses; madam look at the scarves; do you want watch, elephants, shoes, belts, drums very very nice sound, I give you good price; look here, come to my shop; how much do you pay; pineapple; feathers; taxi, taxi, madam where you go?; dress, I give you cheap, only 400 rupees, ok, only 200 just for you ... pretty much as fast as you read it, that's as fast as I hear it multiplied by 100s of shops! There is no point of saying no, no, no thanks anymore, you just walk by ignoring everybody. I needed to buy sunglasses, and once you stop they put their claws so deep that it's hard to leave. I finally found a pair that I liked, he wanted 350. I bargained a little bit, but he was just too stubborn, I took out 150, put it into his hand and walked away.
I bought train tickets with a photocopy of a passport pretty easily, but when I went to use the internet they wouldn't accept a photocopy! My nerves were running low and you wouldn't know how much power it took to just walk away without yelling, swearing or hitting somebody ... yes, it was that bad!!
I was in desperate need to leave Mumbai, but a guy came to the hostel and said that he's looking for girls to go to an Indian wedding and act like hostesses for 4 hours, we get to wear saris and get paid 1000 rupees! Not bad! I reluctantly agreed, because I wanted to see a rich wedding and to wear a sari. In total 10 girls went, and we drove there for 2 hours hell knows where, still in boundaries on Mumbai! I was already getting scared after watching a few movies like "Taken" or other movies where girls are kidnapped and kept as sex slaves. But finally we arrived, and it was a glorious wedding indeed, except that we didn't have any saris but some factory like uniform, and we had to stand at the front of the entrance and greet guests for 4 hours straight! Our legs and backs were killing us! And at the end, we didn't get to eat all the nice food that was served from every country in the world, but they took us to the back and we ate simple Indian dishes with all the other workers :(( It was the last day of the wedding, with it being a reception. The place must have been the size of a football field with fountains, couches, huge stage for picture taking, so many varieties of dishes, flowers, feathers, fireworks!! Incredible!! Too bad we didn't get to witness any of it :(
Came back to the hostel at 1:30am, and at 6am I needed to get up to take the first train out to Matheran hill station near Mumbai. The heat was too much, and I needed a cooler air. On the train one woman sat beside me. I was reading lonely planet, she just took it and started to flip through it. Then a lot of people entered the wagon, one woman wanted to sit beside her, but she just shooed her away, go go, sit somewhere else, she sat across. Then after a while, she was telling her stories as though she was her best friend. One boy came to sell some fruits. If you want to buy something cheap, buy it on the train. 10 fruits were 10 rps, even in the local shop it's 40, for foreigners, it's usually 100. Women started digging in, picking them up, putting them back, really sorting through them. And then they were eating them with skin on!
When I arrived at the hill station, it was really nice, forest like, but it wasn't high enough to take any of the heat off :( I wanted to take a horse for a ride. One guy approached me and told me that one hour is 375. I barely got it down to 300. Then I got on the horse and he took the leash to walk with it, I said no way, I want to run, so you leave my horse alone, and get on another horse. Now he started saying that his horse will be additional 300. No way, you're the guide, your horse is free. But his logic was that there is 1 horse less for the tourists to use, so they're losing money. Half an hour later (seriously, half an hour), with so much negotiations, I got it down to 400. We run, it was fun, I stopped at 2 view points, but it was just as white as in Mumbai (although 2 hours away), so couldn't see much :( I was very surprised to see so many Indian tourists, it's the best weekend getaway from Mumbai. I haven't seen not even 1 backpacker! There is no traffic at the hill station, and my ears got a few hours rest from all the honking. There are a lot of hiking trails, and with no proper maps and no signs I got lost pretty quickly. It's a small hill station, so I wasn't too worried about finding the taxi stand, it's the smaller things in between that I wanted to find that I couldn't. There were a few Indians hiking, I asked them where the lake is, and they said that they're going there. I joined them. While having a casual chat, I used the opportunity to gather some useful information for example about the horses. Well, what do you know, 3 hours on the horse costs 300 rps!!! And I paid 400 for 1 hour! But on the plus side I found a new way of bargaining. If for example the sales person says 400, I say no 100. He says no, ok, I bring the price up to 200. But it's not the way, I should say 110, then 120 ... bring it up little by little. Good to know!
While I was having juice one guy sat beside me and we started chatting. I said that I'm going for a walk to see the view points, he said that he's going the same way and we can walk together (I already know where that's gonna lead), but sure, lets walk. Hey, guess what??!!! He's another bullshitter!!! He put a certainty into everything. I wanted to get past the gate to take clear pictures of the view. He told me there are no exits anywhere and the gate is all around. How does he know?? He's here for the first time! Of course there was an exit, this is India! If there isn't one, people will make one! Then he said that oh yeah, we're on the right path, we came from here before! I know how to read maps pretty well, and made a point that we haven't because we're walking in a loop, and not back and forth. Why are they trying to be such machos, and give a certain statement about everything?! Trying to show how manly they are? But don't they feel like fools when they're statements are contradicted? For me it's much more manly if a guy can admit that he doesn't know. He's 24, and he's still a virgin. No wonder why they act so childish, they have no idea how to interact with girls. He told me that local girls wouldn't talk to guys the way I do, or walk with them. There were lots of monkeys, I was eating chips, and a few of them were following us. He said that he's my protector, but he was so scared of them and was pleading me to give them the chips so that they would go away, meanwhile I was walking calmly, they didn't look aggressive at all :) He had a phd degree in IT and works in a good company, but when I asked him why the air is so white he told me that in Mumbai it's because of so much construction, and here because it's on elevation! How stupid do you have to be????? The weather got very very hot just a few days ago, and of course I'm not sure of the reason why it's foggy, but my theory is because of evaporation of the ocean. If a surgeon can't tell the difference between south and east and an IT guy has absurd ideas about fog then what can you tell about everybody else who lives here??! But I'm wondering, maybe they lie about their degree just like about everything else, so I thought that next time I'm gonna give them a test! That would be fun :)
Besides giving certainty, there are so many contradictions like he said that he's alone on this hill, and later he said that he left his camera with a friend. Or that he called his boss to get an approval for a taxi(!), but then he said again that he needs to call his boss to get an approval. He was so proud that his company pays him for everything. He called and talked in this childish voice about how hot it is, and that his blood is boiling and he needs a taxi. Even the chips he got me his company is paying for! Yeah right!
Then he started to get more personal. Asking me questions what to do if he wants a girl (you know in general), and he knows that he'll never see her again. I told him that you shake her hand and tell her that it was nice to meet you! But what if he really wants the girl? I ask him, does the girl want you? No! So you have no right for anything! He got very confused by that logic. Then he started to get aroused by my shirt! Said that it's too revealing!! It's like the closest shirt that I have!!
I lied in the beginning about having a bf for 6 months so he won't be trying too hard. Well guess what, after all the questions now he has a girlfriend too! She's Irish, they've been together for 6 months, and she's not a virgin! This is just too funny :) When we reached a crossing, and I said that I'm leaving back to Mumbai, at that point he went back to his friend with a camera, he shook my hand and said that it was nice to meet me !!!
On the way back, the train was full. I didn't get into the women's wagon, and was stuck in a wagon full of stinky, sweaty men. The only space you had was just the space that your body took, it was still very hot and I started to feel lightheaded. But after a few minutes, somebody reached for me and said that there is a free seat! I was once at a train station, where all the counters were closed and everybody was sitting at the chairs. Then someone announced that counters are now open, and it was a scene out of a movie, 100s of people were running, shoving everybody from their way and pushing their money into the counter window. When they act like, I was very surprised that nobody jumped at that empty seat and especially looked for me, and then gave me space to pass through!
In the evening I started feeling very bad, had runny nose, terrible headache, sneezing nonstop, didn't sleep all night, and got up at 5:30am to catch a 12 hour train to Goa. Now that I'm thinking back, after a crazy week like that in Mumbai, no wonder I got sick!
Overall impression of Mumbai - didn't like it not even a bit. What I feel bad about, is that a lot of people who come to India just go to Mumbai for a week and head back home ... what a waste!