After a seemingly endless flight from Atlanta (16 hours) we touch down in Mumbai. Nothing like watching three movies, having three meals, multiple drinks, and a couple of fitful naps to start your trip out in a cool semi-haze. As soon as you step off the aircraft, the change is palpable, Dorothy, we are not in Savannah anymore.
People, people, people, everywhere, throngs, masses of humanity; it is overwhelming. About 19 million people reside in the metropolitan area, and once the sun goes down, the masses emerge. We exit the airport into the semi-ordered chaos (somehow everything just seems to work), bombarded from every side with sounds, and especially smells (sort of a combination of perspiration, incense, and manure – horrible yet strangely pleasing!)
Thankfully, our driver with the keen eye, spots the obviously out of place tourists, snatches up our bags, and pushes his way, us in tow, towards the waiting car. What follows is a nearly endless drive through a warped weird wonderland. First decrepit and seedy, then increasingly upscale, minute passageways give way to larger roads and finally impressive boulevards.
We arrive at the Hotel exhilarated and exhausted. Greeted by impeccably dressed guards and hotel staff, we are ushered into an exquisite marble antechamber, the silent, calm especially perceptible after the whirlwind just outside. Escorted to our room we collapse in luxurious comfort.
Morning in Mumbai. First look out the window. Wow! The hotel sits directly overlooking the Bay and the fabulous Gateway to India. Boats of all shapes and sizes dot the water; the town is already abuzz with activity. After a leisurely breakfast, with much anticipation, we leave the quiet solitude of luxury and boldly begin our exploration.
Mumbai is huge. Let me say this again. Mumbai is massive, immense, or just plain big.
Again, our senses are pummeled with sights, sounds, even tastes? We begin our journey in the Chor bazaar (thieves market). I think I have died and gone to brick and brack heaven. Everything you could want and more is displayed in a multitude of shops, with street vendors piled one upon another, everything for sale, everything for any price. Let the onslaught begin. Salespeople clamor for your attention, beggars pleads for your spare change, and the cutest little children try to appeal to your inner parent, all really only interested in “what’s in your wallet?”.
Jet lag only adds to the experience. Battered old building, decaying Victoria mansions, the remains of the British Raj coalesce with the soaring new high-rises and the ubiquitous shantytowns. This city is like an unrepentant lover, aggressive, assaultive, unforgiving, and yet totally satisfying.
We return to the hotel, briefly glance at the uber-elegant pool, and collapse exhausted and contented in bed. Tomorrow we fly.
at 4:01 PM