Okay. Sorry it’s been so long. I guess I didn’t stay true to my vow that I would post more. But hopefully the next two posts will help me explain.
Last weekend we went to Mumbai. We, meaning me and 8 other ACM students. We got on the train straight after school, and were immediately struck by the train scene. We were all assigned different seat numbers, meaning that some of us were together and some weren’t. So we split in half and half of us piled into one compartment, which seats 6. We had heard that it wasn’t terrible to do this, and many people do it anyway. As the train pulled out of the station, we all sighed, believing that the quiet and pretty empty train was the way the ride was going to be for the next 4 and a half hours.
Oh, we were so wrong.
Over the next few stops, more and more people began flowing onto the train. It got to the point where you actually couldn’t even move from your compartment, or move anywhere on the train. There were two women sitting at the window seats who refused to move, even though they weren’t their assigned seats either. Window seats, we came to learn, were prized possessions. The view is remarkable for the entire ride, and there is a slight breeze if you sit by the window, in comparison to if you don’t. So we sat, 5 of us, squished together in 4 seats, on a very crowded train.
When we got to the outskirts of Mumbai, more people began to get off the train, and by the time we reached our station, which was the last, we were the only group in the car. We got out and headed toward the terminal to find out what we were supposed to do and where we should go. We concluded that we should take a taxi to our hotel, so Katelyn and I went to find the pre-paid taxi stand.
After we got the taxis sorted out and arrived at the hotel, which was on the 4th floor of a walk up without any air conditioning, we got settled in the rooms and decided we were all hungry. We hadn’t eaten on the train and it was already around 9:30pm. We started walking out of the hotel toward the main road called Colaba Causeway. We were desperate for some sort of food and beer, but would settle for anything. After walking a bit, we came across Leopold’s, which some of the people in the group had heard of. We walked in and walked upstairs to this very British, air conditioned (this was almost necessary at this point), pub-like section of the restaurant.
Dinner was wonderful and just what we needed. We met a young couple at the table next to us who told us we should go to the Blue Frog Lounge, which they described as “the best club in Mumbai, by far”. So obviously, that was our next location. We headed back to the hotel after some laughs with the waiter and an overall wonderful meal, and retreated to our rooms quickly to change for the “best club”. We were waiting for some stragglers in the hallway when a man walks up to us and asks where we’re from. He is American, for sure, so we satisfy his curiosity and inform him of our reason for being there, etc. His name was Andy and he had just finished the Peace Corps in Liberia and had been traveling around India for 5 weeks. He was planning on going home for the first time in 29 months on Monday. He asked if we were going out and we said we were and invited him to come along with us. He then said that it was his 25th birthday, so that made it even more acceptable for us to invite him.
We all hopped in taxis and headed to Blue Frog, which was about 30 minutes away from the hotel. When we got there, we were informed that there would be a cover charge of 700 rupees. No one was down for this, so I went up to the guy and tried to bargain the price down. He was very adamant about the price, because there was a British DJ in town tonight. Psh. okay. SO we all congregated again and as we were about to leave, the guy comes up and makes a deal. Success. I somehow managed to bargain our way into the best club in Mumbai.
After we were all in, we were greeted by a crowd we didn’t expect. There were almost exclusively foreigners, and most of them were much older than us. But since we had paid so much to get in (and almost the same amount on one drink(!)), I decided it was worth having some fun. There was a strobe light and a black light, which proved to be incredibly entertaining. A few of us danced until pretty late, met some fun Europeans, and left to go back home and sleep our hearts away.
The next morning we got a pretty late start. Of course, we all wanted to sleep in. But by 12:30 when we were finishing breakfast/brunch/lunch?, we were definitely ready to get sightseeing. We walked along Colaba causeway for a while, shopping at the small shops that different vendors had set up on the street. I bought a few presents for friends and did a lot of bargaining. I also bought some traditional anklets with Katelyn that we proudly wore for the rest of the weekend (and are still wearing). We then went to the Gateway of India, which was really cool, and took many pictures by it. I’d show you one but I can’t upload pictures onto WordPress. After the gateway, we decided we were going to go to the modern art museum, which was pretty close by. So we walked there, only to find it was closed. We had to reevaluate our plans, because it was getting a bit late and we had so much on our list but couldn’t do most of it in half a day. So we settled for walking around Mumbai. It was wonderful. We tried sugar cane juice (actually had 5 glasses of it), went to the University campus, saw the high court, and then had tea at the Taj Palace hotel, where the terrorist attack in 2008 took place.
For dinner that night, we went to a delicious pizza place, called Pizza By the Bay. It is on the Queen’s Necklace, which is a part of Mumbai that surrounds the water. It literally looks like a necklace at night because all the streetlights are lit up and it’s shaped that way. We spent quite a bit of time there, and then turned in for the night, after we found The Hangover on TV. It was perfect.
Sunday morning was a bit different than Saturday. We were all up by 830 and ready to get going. We went to a delicious place for breakfast, which had an Israeli feel to it, and went back to the hotel to pack up. Our train was at 2:30 so we had some time to kill. We decided to follow our Lonely Planet guidebook and go to something called “the great wall of Mumbai”. Has anyone ever heard of this? Probably not. Every single person we asked to point us in the right direction had never once heard of this. The guidebook described it as a huge mural that people had painted onto a wall that spanned from one train station (Mahindra Road Station) to the next (Mahim Train Station). We got to the one train station (Mahindra Train Station) but couldn’t find it or find any sign of it. Thank you, Lonely Planet. Thank you. Finally, after asking a few security guards and some other random women on the street, BethAnn brilliantly pointed out that we were at Mahindra TRAIN station, not ROAD station. SO, a man walked us to the road station and we just stood there. At this point, it was more kind of a joke that we were the only foreigners in a very bustling part of Mumbai and we were trying to find a wall with paintings on it. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow Katelyn found the wall. It was actually really interesting, and I think, totally worth the wait and hassle. We perused the wall for a bit and took pictures of the various paintings, that had slogans like “SEX IS YOU-NIVERSAL” and some about not aborting female fetuses. There were some about keeping Mumbai clean and environmental and many that were Anti-War. It was really fun to see all of these, especially because some of the were very familiar slogans from the US.
After the wonderful great wall, we all got in taxis and headed to the train station. The train situation was VERY similar to the one before, except 20x worse. Supposedly all of the local trains are cleaned on Sunday afternoons, so they’re all closed, meaning that the locals all shove their way onto the long distance trains and it’s a mess. We were squished for a solid hour but then it cleared up a bit. I decided to have some snacks on the train, because we were told that we should try Batata Wadas, which are basically fried potato burgers. They were delicious, but I had 4 of them out of excitement. That Wednesday night, I began to feel pretty sick, and by Friday, I couldn’t eat anything… more about the illness later…