26 September 2013

Mumbia, India - (7)

We decided to go back to the Hanging Gardens today as we had only had a brief photo stop on our first day "hotel tour"
Our taxi driver this morning has restored our faith in humanity - a reasonable fare plus of IR 110  from the Taj President to the Hanging Gardens. He was very chatty and pointed out all the sights  on the way to Malabar Hill. An uneducated man who admits that he received no formal schooling - his schooling was "on the streets" He adopted 2 girls and also has 2 sons. All his children have been educated and he is paying off his taxi. The mileage these taxi's do daily is huge so by the time the taxi is paid off, it's just about on it's last legs, one would imagine. Perhaps that is why so many of  these taxi's look so decrepit and bashed.
The Hanging Gardens are a little oasis from the noise of the streets and they were laid out in the 1880's. Benches galore to sit on, gorgeous butterflies that refused to sit still for a photo, lovers, and some blooms. Being just after the monsoon, one would not expect an abundance of blooms. The best was watching 2 guys mowing the lawn with a hand-mower - one chap pushing and one pulling. In the heat, this gets the job done quickly and efficiently! The Indians have some age-old customs which are lovely to see!

Opposite, the Hanging Gardens is the Kamala Nehru Park, a pleasant spot to sit in the cooling breeze to regain our breathe after walking all the way up the hill and back again. There are some beautiful apartment blocks and just as many really grotty ones (from the outside anyway!) This a Real Estate with a hefty price tag and this can be believed as we say some really great roof top gardens - they must have amazing views of the city.
As usual, we are the only Westerners in sight but besides a few women (always with a child) begging, we have not been harassed. After a firm NO, most vendors have left us alone. I find the tiny stalls quite incredible - they are only about 1.5 metres wide (if that) and the goods are packed tightly into this minute space. Some even have a phone!!! Although, how they can hear anybody speak with all the road noise is a miracle!
There are always Indians walking to and fro, everywhere we go, and on this road on Malabar Hill, we found them the most friendly with wide smiles, especially from the ladies. It has been a complete eye-opener - nobody has tried to harm us in any way, and it seems that theft is not an issue here. Bicycles are left unattended, laden with goods, a helmet was left on a sidewalk waiting for it's owner to return. Now how is this for co-incidence - our daily newspapers have just been delivered and the front page of the Times of India has an article stating that Mumbai is the 2nd most honest city in the world after Helsinki. This exercise was conducted with wallets being dropped, with cash in, plus a phone number. Citizens in Mumbai returned most of the wallets planted whilst Lisbon came in stone last. South African is not listed as none of the wallets would have been returned!!!!!!! However, this is not to say that there is no crime in India - the country is high on the corruption stakes, rape is a huge issue and burglaries do certainly occur as can be seen by the burglar bars on windows.
Given the number of lovers lining Marine Parade, one can understand the huge population - it seems they start young here! Smooching in public, albeit behind an umbrella, is commonplace along this sea boulevard and this in broad daylight so who knows what happens once the sun sets??? The mind boggles!
It does not seem as if there is a market for scrap metal in Mumbai as all the metal drain covers are still in place. Not like South Africa where nothing is sacred and metal = money!
The other issues are health related - water is not drinkable, we spotted a man doing his "toilet" needs just below Malabar Hill on the beach and the stench from some areas is disgusting.
Eventually our legs got tired so we tried a taxi. IR 200 to go back to the hotel - what a rip-off. The next driver said IR 30 but then changed his tune once we were in the car!! His English was very poor and although he was a total rip-off at IR 80 he did get out of the taxi to get change! So he trusted us to wait for him as we could have just walked off. It's a crazy country and the hotel room has muted honking sounds which is bliss after our very long walk.
They honk, they honk, they honk some more - often just for the hell of it! Nobody points a gun though and nobody gives any rude finger signs so just bear with the noise - they will get you to your destination in one piece, even if the price is a total rip-off! So much for honesty amongst taxi drivers!
Supper time came around and once again, no taxi's to be had. As we did not feel like paying fo the hotel cab, we ventured back to the Thai restaurant at the hotel. Bad move as my tummy did not enjoy this again. Obviously, something in their food does not agree with me and it is very irritating. I had asked for the veg curry and could count the few beans on virtually one hand, with a tiny slice of potato thrown in. Drowned in a bowl of curry sauce, this was a poor choice and a rip-off. Whilst our first meal here was pretty good, except for my poor tum-tum, this one was very poor. Win some, lose some.

© Judelle Drake

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