India - 24 hours in Mumbai
What to do in 24 hours in Mumbai? Markus was keen on paying this megacity another visit. I, Nina, not so much. After the peaceful and relaxing time in Goa, it was to hard to dive into the noise and pollution of Mumbai. But as the flight to Delhi directly from Goa was quite expensive at that time of the year, we had to take a flight via Mumbai anyway. So it was ok to spend 1 day and 1 night in this city. The year before we had found a great deal for a hotel in Andheri with free pick up at the airport. The same hotel this time was too expansive, so we booked another option which was just around the corner. But it turned out that this option was a terrible one. If you ever chose to stay in Andheri, try to avoid the Andheri Residency Hotel! It is a rippoff!
Anyway, the flight from Goa was cheap, quick an 1 hour delayed. When we arrived in our hotel, they proudly told us that we will get an upgreat to one of the suites. Well, we were lucky. The room we got was OK for the price we payed - but it definitely was not a suite. Once we had a further look it was only fairly clean. But ok. It was still ok and just for 1 night. Just the reception was really special. They had a big sign "service beyong a smile". OK, we never saw anyone smiling, and the service was beyond. It was non existing. They told us that the airport pickup was not included, although mentioned in the agoda website where we booked. And they charged us 460 Rupees! An official taxi is not more than 200 Rupees. Well, discussions were useless. OK, we checked in an quickly decided what to do with the rest of the early evening. We decided to pay the ISCON in Juhu a visit. It is a beautiful temple and we love going there. It is not far from the hotel and, definitely an important aspect, it has tasty and safe food for really cheap prices and an excellent chai tea. As it was a saturday evening, the temple was really busy. But nice anyway. We took in the atmophere, sat down to meditate a little bit, looked around the shops there an finally got some really nice food for about 2$ for 2 people. And this in the middle of Mumbai! Already late, we left. It was hard to get a taxi back. It is about a 15 minute drive but kind of a different region and not all rickshaw drivers are willing to drive to a different part of town. Or they do notspeak english. But after asking about 10 different drivers, we found one using the meter. Safely we came back to the hotel. The night was terrible. The aircon was freezing cold. The only possibility was to switch it off - than it was too hot. Well, so much about this hotel which surely will never see us again!
Next day, after a pretty average breakfast, we packed everything and left our luggage at the hotel. We took a rickshaw to Andheri train station. From there, it was a 30 minutes ride by the express line to the Chowpatty (Marine Drive). Our aim was to visit the oldest part of Mumbai with its bazars, temple and the panjapol. So, from the Marine Drive it was a short walk to Bhuleshwar. Our first aim was the Madhav Baugh and the Lakshmi Narayana Temple. We attended the aarti at the temple. The streets on sunday morning were still empty, but the temple was packed with people. It was very nice, although we felt that people were not really happy with foreigners attending the ceremonies. Further on we continued our walk through th bazar streets. Slowly, also the streets were getting busier and busier. We also paid a visit the cows in panjapole. The panjapole is a place where cows from the streets are rescued. They live now in the middle of Mumbai and get fresh, nice food. It is a super peaceful place in the middle of the oldest part of Mumbai. Around the panjapole it is loud, stinky, hectic - but inside it is quiet and peaceful. The cows are really treated well, they look healty and even young ones are plentiful. We bought some stuff at the bazar for really good prices. We still had some money cash left to spend. The salesmen were so happy. Even in Mumbai, especially in the bazar region, business is going very bad. Some shops offer credit card payments. They receive lots of customers. And the rest - nothing. Lots of shops were closed, many of them already abandoned and empty. After a while we had enough of the hectic life of the bazars (it is always nice and fantastic for a while - but after 2 hours we had to leave). We took a taxi at the Jama Masjid which brought us to the Flora Fountain. We walked through Khala Ghoda, an area we really like. Especially on a sunday it is nice with many cafés, restaurants and galleries. Finally we went to the Pantry's, our favourite café. We had eggless waffles and delicious fresh juices and organic teas. It is a little oasis in Mumbai.
Unfortunately it was already late afternoon and we had to be at the airport at around 6 pm. So time to slowly go back. We walked past the Oval Maiden - where every sunday it is incredably busy. The groun dis packed with cricket players. There are different tournaments, different groups or just families playing. We wondered that people are not hurt because it is really dangerous to walk around. But it is great fun. We watched the life there for a while before taking our train back to Andheri and then the taxi to the airport.
Once at the airport, a "fun" journey back home started. Our flight to Delhi was nearly 2 hours delayed. This flight was a cheap flight we had booked extra. We had 5 hours in Delhi, to make sure we get our flight to Moscow and Zurich. OK, with 2 hours we would still have 3 hours left which is ok. But it would be a bit hectic as we had to change from the domestic to the international terminal in Delhi. But ok. Sitting around at Mumbai domestic airport we suddenly got a message, that our flight to Mumbai was delayed as well for 1 hour. That was great news. But finally, we left Mumbai only 3 hours before the delayed departure of our next flight. So, 1 hour before the already delayed departure of the next flight we landed in Delhi. Luckily, our bags arrived quickly and we ran out, jumped into a much too expensive taxi which brought us in 10 (!) minutes to the international terminal. The guy was driving like crazy. We did not bother about the queue to get into the airport. We ran to the next police
officer who let us in quickly. And then the shock: the gate was already closed (40 minutes before departure). OK, we tried to be relaxed and walked to the Aeroflot check in counter. 2 ladies could still check us in, but we really needed to hurry up. The plane had just landed, so they inofficially helped us. How lucky we were. It would have ruined our budget terribly if we had to buy a new return ticket for both! So we ran through the security check. And once more, I, Nina, was really lucky. A little girl in front of me started vomitting and it was pure luck that I realised this early enough to jump away. Well, otherwise...... (I do not want to think about it). We passed the visa control and hurried up to the gate. And then...... we had much more time than expected as the delay was much worse. So finally we relaxed and went for a last chai to calm down. We could even buy some cheap ayurvedic products - and for whatever reason, even got the best seat on the plane: 2 seats at the emergency exit. So it was a very comfortable night flight to Moscow (we slept throughout the flight). In Moscow we had 4 hours to kill. Time to habe a look around the airport which was surprisingly modern and pleasant. It was huge and there were so many shops, we had never seen before. But hell, it was expensive! Anyway, we enjoyed a nice breakfast before we boarded the last flight back to Zurich.
It was our 5th time in India. It is a fascinating country. We love it and sometimes we hate it. It is a rollercoaster, a world of its own. And, for sure, we will come back. But we both agree that we need a break at the moment. If it is for our spiritual master, we will always immediately go back to India. But for a private holiday, we have different plans this time. Let's see what will come true ;-).