23 September 2013

Mumbai, India - (4)

Mumbai from Marine Drive

05.30 and disaster.....we have all heard of the song "Beds are Burning" Well, my b.. was burning! Obviously, the tummy did not enjoy the delicious Thai flavours quite as much as my palate did!! So a very basic breakfast for me at 09.30 in the hopes that the unruly tum would settle down as we hope to explore at least one market today.....
Meanwhile, reading the "Times of India" is a worthwhile way to pass the time.
Forget about Car Pools - a Mumbai resident has a Helicopter Pool. After 12 years of leaving home at 06.00 and only getting back by 23.00 at night, he discovered that he could get enough folk together to share a chopper. Innovative thinking from a 45 yr old Chemical Engineer. Needless to say, he owns the factory but still - imagine having work hours that long? Not for me thanks!
As my tummy problem was more a reaction to all those delectable Thai spices, I swallowed an Imodium and off we set for our next adventure. The hotel cab dropped us off at the Crawford Market. Taking our lives in our hands, we crossed the street and entered the market to be accosted by a "guide" who showed us his official badge and told us that he had to escort us around the market! He stated that his services were free so we obediently followed.
The Crawford Market was built in the days of the British Raj. Named after Arthur Crawford, this market is still a very much part of South Mumbai life and teems with local people. The fresh fruit and veg all look very tempting and there were many types of fruits that we did not recognise. The stalls sell anything from chocolates, biscuits, plastic ware, toiletries, and a stunning array of spices from the Spice King - just about anything and everything one could wish for.
Pay them a visit - it will be worth your while!

There is also a meat market which we did not visit and then the pet market which is rather depressing - hundreds of birds in cages, geese, canaries, love birds, small puppies, wagging their tails in the hope of finding a good home, beautiful kittens, quail (for the pot, I assume!) fish in tanks etc.
It's a kaleidoscope of colour, an overload of people and no Westerners except us and a Dutch couple travelling the world (Europe, India, China and whatever else takes their fancy) Young and free, they did not have a guide! We were then told to cross the road - death staring us in the face! There are so many stalls in this area, that it is hard to take it all in. Artificial flowers are absolutely stunning but would get crushed in a suitcase. How everybody makes a living is beyond me but I suppose they all do. There were people sewing suitcases, making juice from something that looked like sugar cane or bamboo,  men staring, others smiling, most thinking we are crazy tourists!! Which we are!
After walking for ages through all this chaos, we decided to take a taxi to Marine Drive to breathe some sea air and relative quiet! If you have never driven in a local cab in this mayhem, you are totally missing the point of Mumbai. It is TOTAL MAYHEM and far worse than anything you could ever see on TV. Hooting is the name of the game, anything and everything goes from guys with baskets on their heads (local Courier service!!) to animals pulling goods, to parents with 3 kids on a scooter, to people walking in amongst this mess, to guys with loaded wagons and many, many taxis! 50 thousand of them apparently, all living by their horns!!! Hang on as you progress slowly, then have a burst of speed, only to brake and nearly go thru the windscreen! It has to be seen to be believed, the noise is incredible and just does not stop. In fact, I think I have to say that it is worse than Manhattan, New York. In the traffic jams, anything and everything goes - no rules apply - it is each man for himself!

With a sigh of relief, we reached Marine Drive and some cooling sea breezes. This is a very long drive so we could only walk part of it. There were many students also catching the sea breeze and perhaps a little cuddling away from parents eyes!

Even though the traffic was free flowing along this area, the hooting continues - just for the hell of it! Perhaps the Indians are not all born with a silver spoon, so they have a hand that simply loves the horn and it's blaring sound! The drive is 4.3 km long, with C  shaped 6 lane concrete lanes along the natural bay. The road links Nariman Point to Babulnath and Malabar Hill. The sea breeze was most welcome and the litter was not TOO much! In fact, we did see somebody picking up litter hence the fact that this area is not so dirty. Malabar Hill has the most expensive real estate in Mumbai it seems with a recent sale at Darshan Apartments reaching a new high. This apartment has 3 floors, 4 bedrooms, attached terraces, a covered garage of 700 sq feet and the unit is 3510 sq ft. The price of 57 crore is huge (1 crore = 10 million rupees)

We walked as far as Chowpatty Beach. This beach is huge and I would not like to be there when it gets packed with people. Seething masses are not my favourite! Besides Juhu beach, Chowpatty is Mumbai's most famous beach and comes alive at night when family's descend on this area. During the day it was not so busy although there were a number of kids having a swim. The fishermen were hauling a boat up the beach with military precision and it seems as if they live in shacks on the beach. After a very long walk, we caught a cab back to Cuffs Parade for 100 Rupees. Most probably a rip-off as the distance was not great.
We are total plebs, so we wandered down the road again to find some more Kingfishers - 100 Rupees each for 650 ml against 225 Rupees for 200 ml in the bar fridge in our room. As we have to go thru security every time we enter the building, they must think we are really not 5 star quality guests!!!!! Love the comfort, don't like the prices!!
We also wanted to see Fashion Street today as we passed this yesterday - however, it seems the stalls are closed on Mondays so too bad!
A great day out and a true Mumbai local experience. Mixing with the locals in areas where there are truly no Westerners, has been incredible and awesome experience.
The legs are tired, the body needs a shower but what a great day out!
Tonight we decided on "safe" food - chicken and veg with choc mud pie desserts. Boring, but hopefully my silly tum-tum will behave. Mind you, we are drinking buffalo milk with our tea - 50,000 buffaloes supply approx. 750,000 litres of fresh milk daily to Mumbai. Housed in Buffalo Tabelas (cowsheds) the smell is apparently over-powering and there are moves afoot to re-locate these.
© Judelle Drake

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