In pretty much every way possible, India is a completely different than anywhere I’ve been. I think that’s pretty much what everyone says about this place after they’ve visited, which made me think I’d have some idea of what to expect. Turns out I didn’t.
Things I’ve noticed (some of which were expected, but I didn’t understand the extent)…
It’s loud. Horns are constantly being honked. People are everywhere, so of course you’re always surrounded by conversations. And shockingly, you’ll occasionally be passed by a car with a substandard exhaust system.
People smile A LOT. Going through Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Turkey, I always noticed a complete lack of expression on peoples faces as I walked around. In India, people just look so cheerful.
There really are cows everywhere. I thought they would be on the roads in small villages, but didn’t think they’d be in the middle of Mumbai. Going to the train station? Walking through a market? Exiting your hotel lobby? You’ll see a cow in all these places. So watch your step…navigating around the occasional pile of cowshit might not be something you’re used to doing in other cities.
Traffic isn’t as terrible as I’d expected. With that being said, I haven’t ridden in it yet. Sure it’s a bit more chaotic than other places, but once you watch what’s going on for a little bit, it starts to make sense. People follow closely, don’t use specific lanes, and cut others off to make turns…but as long as you get into that mindset and know that it’s going to be happening constantly, none of it is surprising.
Food is cheap…really cheap. 50 cents will get you a meal on the street. And the food is delicious and filling (this is even coming from a guy who eats too much). Running in Mumbai is like trail running+people+stray dogs+traffic.
The trains are nuts. At the busy stops, you risk getting trampled while trying to enter or exit the train. People cram in far tighter than anywhere else I’ve been. The doors don’t close, so people are hanging outside the train.
Trash is everywhere. Carrying around and empty bottle, looking for a garbage can seems pretty pointless when you’re passing heaps of trash on the way.
Space and time are different here than in the west. Einstein should’ve come here when working on the special theory of relativity…surely his models wouldn’t have worked out.
On my first day here, I met up with Prasad, the brother of a friend of my dad’s. He lives south of Mumbai, in Pune, but graciously offered to come up here and show me around. I got to see the southern area of Mumbai, around the Queen’s necklace. The main attraction in this area is the Gateway of India, built in 1924 to commemorate the visit that King George V made in 1911. From the Gate, we caught a boat to Elephanta Island, location of the Elephanta Caves. The caves are man-made, and contain numerous statues…the largest and most impressive being the three headed Shiva statue in the center. It’s a bit unclear as to when they were carved, but it was thought to be between 450 and 750 AD.
Unfortunately there’s a lot of damage to some of the carvings…
And a Banyan tree, just because it looks cool
Sunset on the boat ride back
The next day, Prasad got me in touch with Royal, a friend that lives in Mumbai. Royal and two of his friends, Sinclair and Prinson brought me just outside of Mumbai and showed me around some fishing villages along the coast and banana, coconut, and mango farms just inland from the coast. And the mode of transportation was a scooter…I was on the back, free to take plenty of pictures. After so long away from my bike, it was nice to be on one again, but its not quite the same to ride rough roads on the back (or sometimes middle, when there were 2 passengers) of a 150 when I’ve gotten used to an 800 with all the room and suspension travel in the world. Here’s a beach absolutely packed with racks of fish, drying in the sun And fish drying on tarps The 500 year old church in their village, decorated with carvings rather than just paintings In the evening we visited Vasai Fort…didn’t get many photos of the area as it was getting dark by the time we got there. The place felt massive though.
And an old church, or what’s left of it in the Fort