Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mumbai, India

It was never our plan to take 2 trips so close together, but when oppurtunity presents itself, you run with it. So, after a couple of weeks at home in Abu Dhabi, we took off for Mumbai, India on October 24, 2014 to celebrate Diwali.

Diwali is celebrated at the end of the harvest season and traditionally, small oil lamps called "Diyas" are lit all around houses to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and to invite the Goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) into their homes.

There was quite a bit of trepidation on our part to travel to India. We've heard countless stories of the chaos in the cities, the overwhelming overload of sensory input, food poisoning, and human squalor. But after a few years of traversing the globe and coming to terms with the ins and outs of the nuances of being well heeled travelers, we decided we were ready for India. Afterall, it's not all about lounging around on exotic beaches and sipping champagne.

To make the adventure seem less daunting, we booked ourselves into the the Taj Palace Hotel, which in its own right, has, hands down, the best service we have ever experienced. It's easily in our Top 5 Best Hotels in the World category.

As luxurious as the hotel was, we didn't come to Mumbai to be pampered. We came to explore and the hotel was merely our safety net. On our first full day in the City, we hired a local guide named Kishore Kare. We found Kishore through his website and knew him as the brother of Prabhaker Kare. His brother, Prabhaker was a main character in the semi-autobiographical novel, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. Brian had been reading Shantaram for the past few years (he's a slow reader and it's a VERY long book) and had just finished it before our arrival in India. While Prabhaker is no longer living, his brother continues his essence by giving guided tours of Prabhaker's Mumbai, as featured in the book.

Kishore took us all over the City and showed us the slums, the red light district, Arthur Road Prison, parks, temples, wealthy neighborhoods, cafes, and waterfront promenades. We saw the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beauty of Mumbai thanks to Kishore.

On our second day in Mumbai, we had found our bearings and wandered around on our own taking in all the amazing architecture left behind as remnants of the British occupation of India. We stumbled on a small restaurant which served the most amazing plates of crab in butter and garlic sauce. We don't generally take photos of food, but this was one of those dishes that had to be immortalized.

On our final day, we took the ferry from the Gate of India to Elephanta Island to explore the temples, caves, and to see the monkeys. 

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