Globe Trotting J's 2019 Trip Day 11: The Tour Will Go On
We’ve been so fortunate to have absolutely perfect weather from the day we left New York (which feels like ages ago) to the moment we went to sleep last night in Mumbai. But that all changed this morning with the welcoming of monsoon season here in India. We’re fortunate we weren’t here a week ago when they had their worst floods in recent history but we woke up to good rain that only increased when we went down to breakfast.
Similar to Cairo, the Four Seasons in Mumbai puts on quite a breakfast spread. Along with a full buffet of options here in Mumbai they also have a full menu. Jenn went with the pancakes and Jake had the eggs benedict while I stuck with the buffet. It was the perfect amount of food before a big tour that we began about an hour after breakfast ended.
We met our tour guide downstairs here at the Four Seasons who then took us for the next five hours to some of the highlights of the city of Mumbai. After we got in the van our first stop was to the Dhobi Ghat the largest outdoor laundry area in the world. Because the rain was coming down we didn’t see a lot of clothes drying but we did see endless laundry being washed with facilities (non-electric) splayed out all over the place. Watching how hard it was for them to wash clothes (especially in the rain) was something to really take in.
From the Dhobi Ghat we made our way to two homes. The first was the home of Mukesh Ambani, the wealthiest man in India, and the owner of the most expensive home in the world. The second house was that of Ghandi who’s childhood home has now been turned into a museum. We were the only ones there so we got to walk through the different areas of the home which had the history of Ghandi’s life.
Our next stop was to a Jain temple (Chamtkari Kalyan Parshvnath Jain Derasar) a religion I quite honestly had never heard of before going on this tour. There we got to walk through the temple, watch people pray and worship, as well as learn the high level ideas of the religion. Although Jain is a small religion in the world and even in India it’s always fascinating to learn about other faiths and see that faith in action, even if it was as a spectator.
From the temple we made our way by car a couple of blocks to what what we would have completely overlooked on our own. We got out and went down an alley way to the Banganga water tank. It’s a massive pool in the middle of the city that has a fresh water reserve right under it that flows out (especially in monsoon season). When we arrived rain started to come down and as we continued to tour the nearby area the rain started to come down, and as we came to the edge we got caught in what can only be described as a complete downpour. Luckily we got some great pictures out of it and then survived going back to our car.
One of the craziest stops of the tour was when we made our way to the Terminus Train Station (Uniseco heritage site) where we saw what is probably the busiest train station on earth (and if it isn’t I can’t imagine what the others look like). We walked into the train station that was a complete mad house and then watched as people scrambled to get on and off trains. Our tour guide was saying that his personal commute was almost two hours in each direction and was mostly (if not completely) standing in a car that had 600+ people in it with a estimated capacity size of 1/5 of that. We also saw as people would run to catch moving trains who’s train doors never closed. It made us at least appreciate the NYC subway a little bit more.
From the train station we went down the street to witness what was a daily occurrence in Mumbai, lunch box delivery. Supposedly Mumbai is the only city in India (maybe in the world) that has this service. In short someone at the home prepares a lunch in the morning, it is picked up, brought on the train, and then sorted in the Mumbai city center to be delivered. So throughout the city there are just tens of hundreds of lunch boxes sitting on the street waiting to be delivered.
Our last couple of stops on the highlights of Mumbai tour were to the Gateway of India a beautiful monument overlooking the ocean built for King-Emperor George V and Queen-Empress Mary at Apollo Bunder on their visit to India in 1911. We took some photos, lucked out that the rain had subdued (for now) and then made our way to the last stop of the day the clocktower at the University of Mumbai before heading back to our hotel.
The tour ended at around 2 PM and we were dropped back off at our hotel where we all went back to our room, showered and cleaned up before going back downstairs to have lunch at San-Qi a restaurant adjacent to the Four Seasons. We were all craving some authentic Indian food and that’s exactly what we got. We had what might be the nicest waiter of the trip who told us all their best Indian dishes to try. We decided to do our meal family style and had butter chicken, lamb, and lentils. We also had their specialty naan that was fluffy with some extra seasoning, and was out of this world. The entire meal from the service to the food was some of the best food we’ve had on the trip. Our waiter was so friendly the entire time he even came back and gave us a free Indian dessert that was ice cream with nuts on top of some sort of pasta like ice cream. It was all just too good.
At this point the trip felt like it caught up with all of us. Jake and Jenn fell asleep almost minutes after we arrived back in our room and I followed not too long afterwards. We spent the rest of the evening watching Wimbledon, the first season of Fleabag. We were going to go out to dinner but we all were still full from our big lunch and felt like staying in so Jake and I split a dessert downstairs and called it a night. It was such a great way to start and get a feel for Mumbai while still allowing us all to relax and catch up on some much needed sleep. Mumbai is definitely different then anywhere we’ve traveled before, but its for that very reason that we find it so beautiful and feel so lucky to be able to experience it.