29 January 2016

Mumbai, the First Time (I Think)

gateway of india

The plan is to fly out of Mumbai on April 14, but this plan, of course, might change. I might stay longer, or leave sooner, but I’m thinking I’ll probably just leave on this very date. Regardless, I’ll plan two more days in Mumbai, and there’s lots more to do.

I arrived exhausted after travel stress because of hyped-up security due to Republic Day (show ticket and passport before entering airport; show ticket and passport before entering main part of airport; get luggage scanned at x-ray machine; show ticket and passport again when checking in; separate electronics at security; x-ray machine; get pat down; show boarding pass again; collect stuff and wait at gate; leave gate; get bags searched and pat down again; then finally board plane). But even in the cab, I knew I already loved the energy of Mumbai. Sure, there was traffic, but it was nothing as crazy as it was in Delhi. But there seemed to be a certain energy, with gorgeous buildings (hello, Victoria Train Station) and lots of great street food.

I dumped off my stuff in Traveller’s Inn Hotel (a hostel of sorts) and headed to dinner around the block. Mixed veggies, cheese naan, a mango lassi. Then I went back to my room, and felt totally exhausted, and a little depressed. What was I doing here, all alone in an Indian guesthouse, missing my boyfriend and everything back home?

I suppose I’m having a great adventure?

In the morning, I woke up and did yoga. I felt better, and then showered and ate breakfast at the hostel. Then, following the directions the hostel gave me, I went to the Victoria Trail Station to catch the local train two stops away to my PT. Yes, I’m in India and I have a PT. My injury flared up, and Amit recommended a PT to me.

After confusion locating the place, I had my PT session (400 rupees) and he tried to calm me down about my injury. Then I decided to take the train down to Churchgate. I wandered around, looked at Gateway of India, saw the chaotic hell that is the Colaba street fair, and went into an Indian restaurant for some good, cheap thali. I met an Israeli girl, and we began talking about traveling and India. She has been to India four times, and said she’ll be coming back. I felt a bit out of it as I’m not yet in love with India. It’s magical at times, yes, but oh so hard so many other times. It also makes me feel without a purpose: what am I doing here anyway?

Oh yeah, yoga and writing. And I have been doing both.

After I left her, I walked over to Marine Drive and saw the beach. I just wandered, drinking water. I tried to write a bit, but I find a lot of the times, when you pull out your journal, people instantly talk to you and want to know what you’re writing, or stare at you. I ended up walking quite a long way, and then feeling homesick.

So I headed to Coffee Day, which is basically like the Indian version of Starbucks. It’s not special or even that nice, but I wanted something with more of a Western feel. I sat in the cafe and drank a masala chai and read my kindle.

After a while, I began chatting with the two people next to me; an artist/scientist from LA/Hawaii, and a PhD student in Buddhism, who ironically went to Naropa. We instantly bonded.

They said they were going to go on a walk; did I want to join them? Sure, I’ve been walking all day. Why not walk more?

We stopped at random shops on the street, I bought a new phone case, we did a lot of street shopping, just talking.

We ended up at a French place, where we got drinks (and I also got a soup). It was a very Western place, and I was somehow grateful. After they left for their dinner reservations, I stayed on to order a veggie dinner and another glass of wine. I felt relaxed.

I went back to my hostel and worked on some freelance writing pieces.

marine drive....

closeup of dhobi ghat

The next morning, after yoga, breakfast, and PT, I went and met up with Amit. Amit is a Mumbai ultrarunner who I connected with via my friend Henrik; I met him and his fiancee (Mexican-American woman living in India), Monica. We talked about ultrarunning, India, races...a good dorky running conversation. We drank tea and talked, and then they showed me around Bandra, a neat suburb neighborhood of Mumbai with lots of expats and a great vibe.

After, I went to Dhobi Ghat, and saw the infamous “human-powered washing machine.” It was pretty neat to see tons of people doing so much laundry and hanging it….though I’m sure they don’t love that they’re a tourist attraction. I hopped back in my cab (the driver who later tried to rip me off….sigh) and went to the museums. WHICH WERE ALL CLOSED. In Churchgate area, I realized that tons of things - basically, almost everything, was closed because of Republic Day. Finally, I found some food, and headed to the common room of my hostel and worked on some freelance writing. There were a bunch of people in there because everything was shut down.

dhobi ghat
After a few hours, there was a lot of noise from nearby Republic Day festivities. I headed out to watch some fireworks and see some energetic drummers. I saw a guy from my hostel; he was leaving the next day to go back home. Turns out, he had a really hard time with India. (I think a lot of travellers do. It’s a very difficult country to travel in.) His bank card was shut down and he didn’t like people scamming him (no one does...it kind of sucks) and he didn’t really get how to backpack and this was the first hostel he stayed in. We talked for a while on the street, and then I invited him out to dinner with me. We ate, talked, walk over to the legendary Leopold’s (yes, from Shantaram), talked….and I tried my hardest to convince him to not go home. I gave him suggestions; I told him he could travel with me to Mysore and Hampi, even share my rooms. I told him the things he could do, how to travel better, what to do differently, how hostels are awesome….and I felt good, he was going to stay, he was going to love traveling...and then, at the end of the night, said he thinks he should go home. I felt so bad: India was so amazing and great and I didn’t want him to leave. Yes, it’s tough and everyone wants to just go home - but there are ways to deal with it. I wish I could have helped him.

I passed out to sleep in my room, feeling bad for him, and woke up the next morning, and headed to the airport to fly to Bangalore!

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