On our first full day in Mumbai we took a tour of the city. Mumbai, home to more than 20 million Indians, is the most populous city in the country (and fourth most populous in the world). For 2,000 rupees ($36), tip included, our driver took us around the city for more than two hours, stopping to let us to get out and shop or take photos.
Throughout the city many Indian women sold goods, often food, from what look like blankets on the streets or sidewalks. Most popular seemed to be the green produce above, which the women regularly tossed and moved around on their blankets, and which looked a lot like salad of some sort. We’re still curious to find out exactly what it is.
A smaller slum area in Mumbai. In slum housing, small rooms make up entire households, often with corrugated metal roofs and with blue tarps comprising walls or parts of ceilings, the floors made of the dirt or the ground below. Entire families live in a matter of square feet. It was the first time I’d seen people bathing in the street. Taxis and mopeds buzz within feet of the makeshift homes. Our taxi driver told us that the average income in a slum amounts to what is about US $70-130 annually.
Mopeds are everywhere in Mumbai. They buzz like mosquitoes inches from trucks and cabs and dart in and out of traffic in ways that make their drivers seem suicidal. (Rest assured, it’s simply standard Mumbai traffic operating procedure.) The moped drivers above are wearing helmets, but most don’t. Women and children, including babies, often wear no protective gear. Many female passengers seem to prefer to ride side saddle. Precarious, but ladylike.
Victoria Terminus, one of Mumbai’s famous landmarks, is a beautiful, ornate train station that has been officially renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The station was built in 1887 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of England’s Queen Victoria.
Every rumor you may have heard about the crazy, heart-stoppingly unruly traffic in Mumbai is true. In some places there are no lane markers at all. Drivers do not signal turns or lane changes and are very comfortable motoring along in one or two lanes at a time. We’re used to cabbies in New York City, but it’s a whole different kind of traffic mayhem here.
The Gateway to India, Mumbai’s top tourist attraction. Build in the 1910s, it used to be the actual gateway to the city for those arriving here by boat. (The city was then called Bombay.) The Gateway to India has also been called the Taj Mahal of Mumbai.
The Taj Mahal Hotel, across the street from the Gateway to India. Everyone from the Beatles to Jackie O, Oprah to the Obamas, Angie and Brad and the Clintons have stayed at the hotel. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the beautiful and storied hotel also unfortunately has the distinction of being targeted in three terrorist attacks, including the terrorist attacks of 2008, wherein 31 people at the Taj were killed. (We’re staying at a hotel about 30 km north of the Taj.)
The British influence on architecture can be felt in certain areas throughout Mumbai.
One of the city’s largest slum areas is not far from the main airport, meaning that most of the visitors to the city will pass the expansive slum, easy to spot from the bright blue tarps and seemingly endlessly stacked housing.
Mumbai street life.
The Arabian Sea off the western part of the city is beautiful to behold. The waves are huge, powerful, and a marble gray color. Our driver stopped to let us take photos, including snaps of the Haji Ali Dargah mosque, one of the most recognizable landmarks of Mumbai, located just off the coast and right on the sea.
Mumbai from near the Haji Ali Dargah mosque on the Arabian Sea.
–All photos by Josh