Susy and I just called it a night on Day 3 in Mumbai. Since it is early I will start writing about Day 1 (Thursday, March 11th) our first day in this gateway to India. I am sitting here trying to grasp the words to describe this city, but am lost and will defer to a later blog (Day 2, 3, or 4). I can only say we have seen the worst and the best, in other words the greatest extremes of any place we’ve traveled. Let’s start out by understanding the history and geography of Mumbai (Bombay). First India is only about 1/3 the size of Europe, yet its more than one billion people represent fully 1/6 of the world’s population. Mumbai is the most populous Indian city with about 17 million people, making it the sixth largest metropolitan area in the world. Its history stems from Hindi/Muslim rulers until the 16th century when the Portuguese sailors established trading centers along the coast. Of course later it came under centuries of British colonial rule, until its independence. Mumbai got its colonial name" Bombay" from the Portuguese "Bom Bahia", meaning Good Bay. The Portuguese later changed it to Bombaim, but the British anglicized it to Bombay when they gained possession. The name was officially changed from Bombay to Mumbai in 1995. The name Mumbai is a mixture of Hindu words. Hinduism is the main faith, but you can find almost every other among it people. Mumbai was built upon 7 islands, which today form the cities seven districts. An extended land reclamation program has linked the seven islands together to form a peninsula. It has the largest port in Western India and is 14 miles long by about 5 miles wide. I didn’t want to say this while we were still here (because of Haiti and Chile), but Mumbai sits on a seismically active zone with three faults lines in the vicinity. It is classified as a Zone III region, which means an earthquake of magnitude of up to 6.5 can be expected.
Enough of that dismal talk; let’s get into the photos and our first day in Mumbai. If you look at the photo album above titled "Mumbai (Bombay), India – Day 1 you see the first photo is a panoramic view of the port. Now don’t think my photo is haze or there was fog, this is Mumbai’s "smog". Don’t ask me were Mumbai ranks in the world as polluted cities, but I can tell you it has Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, and all those other cities beat by a lot. I took shots from morning to night and they all have a haze. What’s amazing is these people live in this filth (both air and in general) with no masks. It’s worse than living in a smoke filled bar. The problem is you are here a few hours and you get use to the smog and smell, but when it first hits you, "wow". Since Susy and I could stay on the ship our first night here we decided to take a tour for half the day and just go "free" the rest. Early morning (Yes, Susy was up again before noon) we arrive in the port and the second photo shows the port sign. As we left the ship ladies in Indian dress greeted us as the gangway (3rd photo). To really make us welcome a military band played on the dock (4th photo). The fifth photo shows Susy and JoAnne in front of the terminal entrance and once inside the door Susy headed straight for the information desk (6th photo). We started our half-day tour by bus and little did we know that we would go next to a boat, then a train, and then walk to our final destination, the Elephanta Caves. The tour bus took us into the heart of Mumbai (about a 10 minute drive) and along the way we saw many interesting buildings (7th photo). Our first stop was the "Gateway to India" (8th panoramic photo).The Gateway was built to commemorate the visit of King George to India in 1911. This waterfront monument sits on a large plaza in front one of the most famous hotels in the world, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower. We got off the buses, crossed the plaza, and in front of the Gateway boarded a launch for a one hour ride to Elephanta Island. These launches (9th photo) were old and dirty, as you can see in the photo. But what they had was first class restrooms (1 per boat). I was so impressed I had to take a photo of the one room toilet (10th photo) (that’s my feet with a pail of water in the corner if you needed to wash anything out). Oh, by the way, that hole drained straight down to the bay. Looking back, as the launch left, you can see a harbor view of the Gateway and the Taj (11th photo). I have to insert a photo of my mate at this point (12th photo) to show you she was having fun regardless of the conditions. After our one hour pleasure boat ride we docked at a pier off Elephanta Island and jumped on our next mode of transportation, a train (13th photo). After the very short ride to the Island we passed a magnificent "welcome booth" (14th photo) and came upon a sign (15th photo) which warned us to beware of the Monkeys because they can attack and harm you (nice welcome). Our guide (this was a deluxe ship tour so we even had a guide) advised us that in order to get to the caves we had to either 1) walk up 120 stairs at no charge, or 2) get carried up in a chair by four brutes (slaves) like a sultan at a charge of $15.00 (full charge up and down). Naturally only the rich, elderly and sick went by chair but all but one of the girls climbed the stairs when they saw the shopping stalls along the way (16th photo). Our usual tour group was along (all except Dianne and Jorge) and in the seventeenth photo you see the chair carriers and in the background Jo Anne taking a chair with Leo filming her. The eighteenth photo shows a close up of Jo Anne on her way past us. The 19th photo shows one of the viscous monkeys, who sat and watched us go by without any problem. After the 120 stairs we finally reached the caves and the Indians along the way tried everything to get our money including the one standing in front of the sign (20th photo) who, after we took the photo, wanted a dollar for her pose. I’ll stop here in front of the caves (21th photo) and explain what you are about to see. The caves were sculpted between the 5th and 8th centuries by the Hindus as a temple dedicated mainly to one of their lore’s Hindu Trinity "Shiva", the destroyer. The other two of the Trinity are Brahma, the creator, and Vishnu, the preserver. This cave and all of its statues and murals were carved out by hand with hammer and some kind of rough chisel. They started by chiseling in from the ceiling and then chiseling downward to the floor. They then carved out the statues and murals all from the solid rock face. In the twenty-second photo I took a close up of the entrance so you could get an idea of the height of the cave (I believe the ceiling is about 20+ feet because one of the statues that reaches from floor to ceiling is 20 feet high). Strangely enough the name Elephanta Caves comes from the Portuguese who found an elephant statue at the landing stage. It turned out that statue was the only elephant on the island and later was moved to Victoria Gardens so now there are no elephants on Elephanta Island. By the way, the Portuguese took control of the island and the Hindu priests and people put up some resistance because several of the murals and statues were damaged by the gun fire of the Portuguese. Fortunately, the guns (canons) could only fire to a certain height so only the bottom part of the murals was destroyed. The twenty-third photo shows you one of the famous murals of Shiva just inside the entrance with the bottom part shattered. These carvings are world renowned and on a par with those of Ajanta and Ellora (don’t ask me who or where they are). These caves are included on the list of World Heritage Sites. The lady in the front of the 23rd photo is our guide. The twenty-fourth photo shows one of the floor to ceiling statues. The twenty-fifth photo shows another one of the stone murals. After taking in the caves Jo-Anne (she decided not to be carried down because she would miss the shopping) and Susy started down the stairway,and got a lot of shopping in on the way (26th photo). The twenty-seventh photo has Susy showing her "loot" for the day (that hat is full). Coming back by boat I took another shot (28th photo) of the Taj Mahal Palace (the old hotel that was bombed) on the left and the Tower (the new part of the hotel) in the center, and the Gateway to India on the right in front of the hotel. When I say old and new hotel, it’s all one hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel (where we will stay). Again climbing back in a bus, you can see some of the buildings (29th photo) and streets (30th photo) along the way. Believe me there were slums and the thirty-first photo gives you quick look at one, but more to come in my next blogs on this note.
We got back to the ship about one in the afternoon and decided to shower, have lunch, and go back into town to check our hotel reservations for the next day. After lunch we had to start saying our good-byes to our Latin friends. The first couple was Trish and Sergio. They are two of the nicest people you would ever want to meet, so the 32st photo (Trish, Susy, & Sergio) and 33nd photo (Trish & yours truly) show us saying good-bye. You would think Susy had enough shopping for the day but as you can see in the thirty-fourth photo you’d be wrong (ha, ha). I have to show you the next photo (35th photo) because I think it is one of the best photos I have taken of Susy in a long while (at least 2 days). Isn’t she lovely and radiant (you need to tell her she should keep cruising, especially long cruises like 115 days around the world in 2011). Getting into the city we confirmed our hotel reservations and of course Susy found out that just behind the Taj (from now on I’ll refer to our hotel as the Taj) was a famous street market called "Colaba". It was located on one side of an avenue and ran for at least a mile or more as you can see in the thirty-sixth photo. It was just stall after stall on one side, stores on the other, and the narrow sidewalk covered by any kind of tarp. Again, believe it or not, Susy got tired (I was out somewhere around the mid-point at Elephanta Island) so we taxied back to the ship, had our last dinner aboard, and went to our last evening show. The show was an Indian Folklore Group (37th photo) and was an excellent ending to our Africa/India cruise.
I’m finishing this blog on our last night in Mumbai (Day 4), and this is only about Day 1, so look for a blog or two on days 2,3, and 4. I don’t know if I will get this posted today (Sunday, March 14th) but if I don’t you see it next Wednesday or Thursday after we’re home. We now are really looking forward to getting home and seeing the family. It’s going to be a long two days getting back (Mumbai, London, Madrid overnight, and then to Miami).
Love You All,
Gary (alias Gagu)