Everything you imagined about Mumbai is pretty much what you’re going to get. Hustle and bustle, constant hoards of crowds and incessant honking. However amongst the madness there is delicious food, fascinating culture and the vibrant colours of buildings, people and clothing. Mumbai is a place unlike no other and if you’re considering paying India a visit, or are just a bit curious about this incredible country then sit back and grab yourself a cup of tea.
Things to see:
On our first few days in Mumbai we had a local guide take us around to see some of the main sites of the city. I would highly recommend doing this as the city is absolutely huge; Mumbai’s population is larger than the entire population of Australia! Although rickshaws and taxis are a fun way to see India, there is often a language barrier between the drivers and passengers so it was good to have a guide who we could understand and vice versa.
Some of the highlights from the tour was a visit to an Indian laundry which was incredibly interesting. I know the words laundry and interesting are rarely, if ever, found in the same sentence (except maybe if the sentence is ‘laundry is not interesting’) however they had a very unique way of doing things in Mumbai. For about $1 people can send their clothes to the laundry and have all of their clothes hand washed, ‘bashed’ for a lack of a better word, dried and delivered within 24 hours. OK it still doesn’t sound interesting but it’s something you should see for yourself.
We also visited Ghandi’s house which is also definitely worth doing. His house has been converted into a museum that tells the story of his incredible life. And although the beach in Mumbai isn’t a patch on the beautiful West Australian beaches, it’s still worth checking out.
Just a word of warning, if you’re a Westerner with fair skin visiting India, you are going to be the centre of attention! We took a visit to a park and had about 10 people ask us for photos with them. It was hilarious at first but can become a bit annoying after spending a while in India. It should be noted that it’s because you’re a bit of a novelty and people are always very polite and excited to take a snap with you. If you’re female, women and men generally do not touch in Indian culture so if you agree to take a photo with an Indian man, you don’t need to put your arm around them or touch them in any way. I put my arm over them a few times and some ended up getting too close!
Mumbai is an amazing place however there is a staggering amount of poverty that can be seen as soon as you fly into the city. We had a local guide take us to the slums which in my opinion is essential as it is seen as more respectable to have a local show you around. Although seeing the slums may be confronting, this would also be my number 1 thing that I would recommend doing in the city as 60% of Mumbai’s population live in the slums.
What surprised me most about the slums was how resourceful the people were, how incredibly hard they work and the strong sense of community that can be felt immediately upon entering them. We were treated to authentic Indian chai, watched pottery being made and took photos with the local children.
One of the more sobering experiences was seeing a sweat shop where approximately 10 men were working in a cramped, hot space sewing jeans for around 12 hours a day. It’s horrible to think that the companies who ‘make’ these jeans only pay their workers a measly few dollars a day yet charge consumers $100 to buy them. Definitely food for thought. On a more positive note I was amazed at how the people recycled nearly everything they could get their hands on. So much so that people living outside the slums would send their recyclable goods to the slums so that they could be re-used. For those having reservations about visiting the slums, I couldn’t recommend them enough. Yes they are confronting but they are also very interesting and the people living in them are an inspiration. Truly a must see.
Next stop on my Indian adventure is the beautiful Goa, Jaipur and Delhi. Stay tuned!