Sunday, March 19, 2017

Mumbai (Bombay)

Mumbai aka Bombay

Our flight was a short two hours from Delhi to Mumbai. Uneventful. 

Our guide and driver were waiting for us outside baggage claim and we were all very happy to be here finally. It was time to go home to the mother ship. Our guide said one hour. Maybe an extra half hour with traffic. Basically 3 hours later we arrived back at the ship.  

This is why people travel to countries and then say never again will I go there.  I. Can't. Even. The red tape. The mind-numbing slowness. The traffic. Horns beeping CONSTANTLY. No one stays in their lane. Hell, there aren't even any lanes!! Cars so close you can literally see the whites of people's eyes, you can smell on their breath what they had for lunch. People everywhere. Suffocating. Too much. 

As for red tape, it took immigration at the yellow gate of the port over an hour to process our 5 little passports and check our yellow cards against our passports. Why? There's no answer other than "It's India."

We sat in the van waiting and waiting and waiting some more. It was dark out and the yellow gate is not in a nice neighborhood. A crumbling staircase with large rats crawling through the trash right outside our window did nothing to ease our angst. 

Anyway, after an eternity, the guide came back with our passports, stamped yellow cards and off we went now to the green gate. That's the one that lets you into the port, but only if your paperwork is in order. We handed over the documents and waited five minutes while the guards studied them as if they'd never seen them before.  Then we had to pull out our luggage and they took it away to be scanned. More waiting. Then the luggage came back and loaded onto the van again. Then the documents returned. Then a ten minute drive to the ship. Finally. 

But wait- there were more soldiers at the bottom of the gangway. Out come the documents AGAIN. More scrutiny. Have they never seen a yellow card before? They are THEIR yellow cards!!!!! The yellow card has our name, passport number and ship name on it.  That's all. What can possibly take so freaking long????


Back on the ship, we disbursed and went to our cabins for a much needed shower and a good night's sleep. 

Sleep is good. Sleep makes you feel better about the world. About India. Ha!

Short lived. Our tour of Mumbai today was to start at 9:00 AM. Getting off the ship entailed another yellow card and passport copy scrutiny. Then we had to wait with our tour handler while the cars went back to the green gate to pick up our tour guides. 

Once we got underway though, the day went well. It's Sunday and traffic was much improved.  Our guide took us around town to see the hot spots, a mix of driving by places along with stops for photos and strolls. We even visited a lovely museum that had, among other things, a nice exhibit of all things Buddha. Two other highlights of the day were a visit to Gandhi's Mumbai home and the Dhobi Ghat. 

Gandhi's home has been turned into a great little museum complete with a wonderful diorama display of his life, from birth to funeral. 

The Dhobi Ghat is a famous open air laundromat where dhobis (local washers, mostly men) take in laundry from hotels and hospitals. Much of it is still processed by hand. It's fascinating to watch. The men live there as well, in covered huts that surround the laundry area. They use big tubs to soak the laundry, usually overnight, then in the morning they wash the clothing with soap, rinse it by hand in the big tubs and then hang the laundry on rope lines out in the sun. They use no clothes pins, rather they wind/weave the rope lines along the top of the clothes. 

We enjoyed a nice Indian food buffet for lunch and ended up

back at the ship by about 3:00 PM. It was just long enough. Our ship isn't departing until 9:30 tonight but we were DONE with India. 

The highlight of this overland trip was, of course, the Taj Mahal, but other places surprised and delighted us too. So it wasn't 100% annoying in the end. 

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