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Liz and I have always romanticised about sailing into a city. Sydney and Vancouver are two such examples but we never thought we’d get a thrill from sailing into Mumbai, the state capital of the Maharashtra region of central India. Once named Bombay this truly is a cosmopolitan city and if you have never been then don’t even begin to conjure up preconceptions of this place, they’ll come nowhere near to the real thing! Mumbai is an assault on the senses; it very quickly became one of my fave cities ever visited, proof of which are the many photographs featured in this extravaganza of a blog post. Yes, we have photographs galore.

In a departure to the usual ‘inline’ photographs that illustrate my narrative, I have instead put together some slide-shows: the images are bigger and there are more of them. Prepare to be dazzled…

Colaba, Fort and Churchgate

Let’s start with a gentle stroll around Colaba, Fort and Churchgate, which were the ‘posh’ parts of Mumbai. A number of websites had Colaba labelled as the tourist area (Gateway to India, Taj Hotel, street traders and western-style bars) but it was Fort that really pleased the eye. The Art Deco buildings proved that life was active before the tourists poured in, and the parks where one can watch a game of cricket were a welcome relief from the noise of the street. The Bombay University and the High Court structures dominated Fort and many of the buildings served the needs of these two institutions.

 

We then hit Churchgate, which hosts the famous Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus), featured in the film Slumdog Millionaire‘. Why this isn’t called Kings Cross St Pancras I don’t know because it’s as if someone has lifted London’s famous train station and plonked it square in Mumbai! It’s an impressive building that was completed in 1887 and became a World Heritage Centre in 2004. You should know I busted a gut trying to photograph the interior. I was stopped by both police and passers-by, presumably because I was a serious threat to national security. In fact whilst photographing the exterior one chap got quite angry with me, telling me I was not allowed to take pictures. Some random chap. Some passer by who didn’t know me from Adam, started having a go! Another kindly Indian who spoke excellent English stepped in and explained to us that India is still very paranoid since the Mumbai train bombings in July 2006 and city bombings in Nov 2008.

These awful tragedies were completely inexcusable and should never have happened. Almost 200 people were killed in the 2008 bombings with a further 300 wounded. However it is hard not to get a little frustrated with India’s paranoia when one has grown up with decades of IRA and terrorist bombings in London. Progress by boat down the whole coast of India has been hampered by bureaucracy, security checks and much paperwork due to this mindset; it also explains the recent chaos caused by the changes to visa renewals too. Did you know, for example, that we would get arrested immediately if we tried to move our boat from its current location after 6pm? That’s bad planning by the Indian Tourism Department, but to not be allowed to photograph the external wall of a building that appeared in a film that won 8 Oscars is just plain ridiculous. That said I learned recently that British architectural photographer Grant Smith was physically restrained by coppers in London for taking snaps of a building. In their maladjusted state they nicked him, his camera and his phone. Jees. International paranoia. Please, desist now.

OK, rant over. Let’s get back to the slide-show.

Click on the first thumbnail and then use the << and >> links to scroll through the images. Click directly on any image to exit. Enjoy!

Dhobi Ghats

Why would a tourist want to go to the Saat Rasta area and visit a laundry? Because it is the biggest laundry in the whole of Asia and was something that will stick with me for the rest of my life! Dhobi Ghats is squarely on the tourist map these days. Hundreds of ‘dhobis’, along with their families, live and work in this open maze of concrete wash basins and washing lines. Men pound away at the city’s washing, which is delivered from all over Mumbai early in the morning. It is such a integral part of Mumbai’s life that other industries have grown up around Dhobi Ghats. Even the kids go to school there and they were keen to show me their classroom when I visited. The question remains: how do they dry it all in monsoon season? Take a look by clicking on the thumbnail, below…

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Malabar Hills

After the excitement of Dhobi Ghats and the tourist spots of Colaba we jumped in a cab, scooted past Mumbai’s famous beach (you wouldn’t want to go swimming there) and up into the Malabar Hills. Here we relaxed in a Jain temple, took in views of the city at the Hanging Gardens and then visited the Mani Bhavan, the Mahatma Gandhi Museum.

The Jains are a self-indulgent bunch of Brahmin who ring bells and light joss-sticks in their incredibly beautiful disco temples. They don’t eat anything living to the point that they walk around with their mouths covered in case they accidentally swallow a fly. Believe. Anyway, nice of them to let us in because their place of worship was unreal.

The Hanging Gardens, and the park on the other side of the road, were only worth visiting for the view of the city. There’s nothing hanging about them and you certainly don’t want to be hanging around them at midday like we did, with the sun beating down on our heads with no respite from the heat save for a small gazebo. And yet here too I was told off for photographing the flora!

 

Crow Road

 

The Gandhi Museum, however, was surprisingly worthwhile. The house belonged to Shri Revashankar Jhaveri, Gandhi’s friend and host in Mumbai. Whenever he was in Mumbai between 1917 to 1934, Gandhi stayed here. It was here in November 1921 that Gandhi conducted a four-day fast in order to restore peace to the city. There was a fantastic model narrative in one of the rooms and a lot of effort has gone in to making the place a simple yet educational experience. Definitely worth a visit. Click the first thumbnail, below.

We hope you enjoyed the slide shows, please let us know what you think. We’d especially like to know which was your fave shot. For the record mine is the one of the kids in their classroom in Dhobi Ghats.

Next week we take you to the Dharavi Slums. Just don’t think Slumdog.