I couldn’t be happier about being on a new adventure; everything was already set 9 months ago, but then postponed. I had feared that, like all our “postponed” trips, it would never happen, but here we are, on a flight we almost missed for a lovely coffee date.
We are flying in an almost fully Indian crowd and, even if it is operated by KLM, the amount of whiskey and curry is definitely not at Dutch standards.
We booked a direct flight and now I have 8 hours of movie marathon ahead of me. I decided to start with “Gravestone for the fireflies” and this is surely the first time I cry on a plane (Sourena is watching Jurassic Park, I don’t think he will have similar problems).
I know that you wouldn’t normally start a travel blog from the flight itself, but for me the journey is such a big part of travelling that I can’t exclude it. All the people you meet on the journey are an amazing part of the trip and it almost makes me emotional to think about it.
I just came back from a stretch-your-legs-chitchat with this lovely man who booked this flight yesterday to spend the weekend with friends and family in his hometown after 7 years of absence. I can’t but feel lucky of the closeness and possibilities; I suddenly feel very rich.
Plus I just discovered something amazing about flights: part of the storage room, the above the heads one, is cabin space for crew members to sleep. There is a small staircase at the end of the plane to go up and on the door it says that it fits a max of 6 people, unbelievable. I am not sure how I feel about the idea of 2 stewardesses (the ones I have seen going up) sleeping on top of my head, but I am sure it won’t ruin the screening of the third movie: “Chef”, the Indian better version of the Hollywood movie. And I surely want to figure out how to purchase the KLM pajamas ‘cause they rock.
The rest of the trip went really smooth, as well as the immigration procedure.
At the airport we got connected again to the online world and we discovered that our friends sent us a driver to pick us up. He never showed up and disappeared in thin air for a couple of days and our lovely friends came directly to the airport even if it was late in the night and we started right there with all the catching up.
After a very well deserved sleep between the crows we woke up to home delivered Starbucks coffee and an exciting plan for the day: brunch in the neighbourhood, visit of the slums and a fancy dinner in the city.
We are staying at our friends place in Bandra West, one of the most hip, alive neighbourhoods in Mumbai and they are the perfect guides when it comes to enjoy the city.
So Farah asked their driver to drop us at the Garden Kitchen where we were meeting friends. We had a lovely brunch and enjoyed shocking the rest of the group with the slum guided tour plan. Farah took a couple of pictures with a fan and we left direction Dharavi.
Visiting the slums was a crazy experience. It started on a negative foot with two drunk guys poking each other and one of them falling head-first on a metal board. The sound it made was upsetting, but from there on it got better and better, while very confronting to see.
I am very happy we took a guide from Slumgods Tour&Travel for the area as it would have been impossible otherwise and he gave us a lot of information. He showed us the productive, residential and commercial area of the slum and explained that there are approximately 2 million people living here, with 120euro average salary per month and women only working part time.
He showed us the process of separating, refining and recycling almost any material that came from the city and would then be brought back to the city. Beside the recycled materials, bread, textiles, trolleys, pottery sold all over the city are produced in the slum and redistributed in Mumbai. No guarantee attached.
We passed through the narrow streets of the residential area, next to the collective toilets, in the cricket field, passed schools, temples and hospitals.
The slum really is a city in itself with its own balance that for a lot of people is a life choice more than a forced reality. For example, chatting with our guide I discovered that he lives in the slum, he is an interior designer and he guides tourists to get some extra cash and discover even better his neighborhood.
Once the tour was over we stopped for a quick bite in Bandra at Indigo, a classy restaurant that serves amazing pancakes in the middle of the afternoon and the perfect coffee for Sourena, which is not an easy accomplishment. After we recovered from the heavy feeling we walked back home to rest and put to wash everything we were wearing.
When Rahul came back from work he ordered some beers to be delivered at home, called the driver and we all went into town.
It was a 40 minutes ride, but, oh, so interesting: the skyline from Bandra is surely beautiful and Marina Drive with its towering buildings a popular spot in the city.
Since we were close, we took a D-tour to stop in front of the house of the richest man in India: a 40 storeys high building with armed security at the entrance and an aura of “insane” all over it. The building was obviously designed by Foster&Partners.
Personally more shocked by this than by the slums, we headed for dinner at the Clearing House, a luxurious restaurant with great food and a nice atmosphere to dance and sip strong cocktails.
Since all clubs officially close at 1:30 and we were not allowed to go home yet, we tagged along at a friends’ house party in an amazing apartment overlooking Bandra. We didn’t stay long, but enjoyed this really chill vibe that reminded us that we had survived the first day without any stomach pain.
We started the day with a small exploration.
Our hosts were still asleep so Sourena and I decided to sneak out and find some food.
I had quickly checked online and found a place just around the corner that looked worth checking so we walked out and headed to Candies.
When we entered we didn’t really get was the fuzz was about: a dark area with simple décor and “order at the couter” service.
We decided to grab something small and move to the next option on the list, but while Sourena was waiting for our order to be ready I went a bit around to find an empty table and discovered an amazing courtyard climbing up the stairs. That combined with the 12₹ (15cents) raisins ball left me speechless.
We were almost done sipping our boiling hot tea when Farah and Rahul contacted us and we agreed to meet at Sequel, an all organic café, 10 minutes away.
We arrived there and set at the nice terrace, ordered salads, breakfast bowls, eggs&toast and super fresh juices.
After the right dose of chitchats, we got ready to drive into town. Along the way Rahul gave us a lot of information about the real estate market, the British influence in education and legislation, religious celebrations and much more. I could not stop asking questions and he looked happy to know all the answers.
We arrived at the Gate of India, a huge portal erected for the arrival of the British king and now crowded with tourists.
Right next to it is the Taj Hotel, object of one of the most recent terroristic attacks that didn’t make it to the popular international news. It’s a place of grandeur and after a quick looked we moved on.
Passing thought the British neighborhood, the art deco’ one, next to the Court Building and the Central Station, we arrived at the Haji Ali Dargah. This mosque is built on an island in the sea and can be reached only on foot on a small path that only appears with low tie.
People watching was great here as we got to meet the Muslim Indians after high concentrations of Christian and Hindu crowds, plus I was the absolute only western and it felt funny.
We had a look and walked quickly back to friends’ car so that we could catch the outdoor laundry still in function. This huge area is right next to the Mahalaxmi station and it’s completely full of fabrics hanging to dry. At the center a small opening with stone pools where professional washers wash, rinse and beat the big majority of Mumbai’s hotel sheets and all the clothes produced in the city.
Back in the car we took the highway back to Bandra while the sun was setting and we arrived home right on time for Rahul to go to church.
After resting a bit while eating fruit, we made a great plan for the evening: Indian massage and India dinner. We discovered immediately that people eat dinner very late so we had plenty of time to enjoy some pampering in advance.
Needless to say that both massage and dinner were amazing.
Indian, Ayurveda massages are deep tissue ones, quite rough and powerful but also unwinding massages from head to toes.
Indian dinner at Pali Bhavanwas instead was a selection of outstanding currys, from fish to crab to chicken. We trusted the suggestions of the host and they were so good we couldn’t pick a favorite.
Afterwards we headed home and promised ourselves to meet at 8:45 to go to the gym. Ambitious, we are ambitious when on holiday.
We did wake up on time to go to the gym and it was great.
Rahul and Farah are members of the IThinkFitness and I think I have never trained so hard in my life. The atmosphere, the hard core music, the fact that there was a coffee corner in the gym made it the most satisfying gym session ever.
Energized we quickly changed, prepared our luggage and went for brunch at Suzette, the little sister of Kitchen Garden.
Our flight was slightly delayed so we could take it easy and get to the airport without stress and very excited about the next chapter of the trip.
Back to Mumbai…
After exploring a bit of the north of India we came back to Mumbai to catch a direct flight, enjoy an extra day in the city and randomly attending our friends’ wedding reception.
We arrived in the afternoon and before heading to the Grand Hyatt Hotel for the event we had a bit of time to explore the neighbourhood. I decided to walk to the St Andrews Church and after grabbing a coffee at the Village Shop I passed through Chimbai, the most interesting area in Bandra West.
Once back home we changed in my Indian attire, I tried to pimp my make-up and we all drove to the biggest wedding I had ever seen. Guesses say that 1000 people were invited and you won’t believe how much food was served so I won’t even describe it. I will just say that we were stuffed and still not able to stop trying more dishes.
The reception started with greetings and ended with karaoke and lots of shots.
This was our last day in town and we decided we needed to do some souvenir shopping: silver and cotton.
We went to the Village Shop to try their breakfast and after a quick online search we knew in which direction to go to enter the jewellery district.
Because in India shops are grouped per category we had 10 shops to choose from, we picked one and ended up spending more than one hour to select from their immense stock three bracelets and a ring.
From there we randomly arrived at Nico Bar, a great design shop where I couldn’t resist buying a lovely children book and we got directions to World Cotton, exactly the place we were looking for.
Extremely satisfied with the shopping we stopped at the Protein Bar for a delicious healthy lunch and headed back home where bride and groom had just recovered from the night before.
When it was time for them to attend another family gathering and for us to start packing our luggage we finally said goodbye and promised to be back.
We went out on a dinner date at the Pali Village and we really enjoyed the feeling of starting to know the place.
We slowly walked back home, found a taxi and just went to the airport, good thing that we went a lot in advance as it took ages to pass the uncountable security checks.
Once on the place we both slept for 7 hours straight and we couldn’t believe it.