The flight went really well, our first flight left around 19 from Stockholm and we had to change once, in Heathrow. We had only one hour transfer time so it was just to go from one flight to the next, very convenient. We flew with British Airways, my first time with them but probably not the last! The seats were great, made to sleep in with extra head support that could be adjusted. I slept quite comfortably (for a plane) almost the whole flight.
When we arrived in Mumbai and stepped of the plane we were hit by a distinct smell, it’s interesting how different airports and perhaps countries can smell. This here was more of strong spices perhaps mixed with incense or flowers. We had three taxi waiting for the whole group (we are 11 people) and it was a bit difficult to see who the drivers were. Some people helped a few in the group with their luggage and we thought they were the drivers or perhaps employed by the airport to help people but they expected to get payed for that small and not really needed help. It’s a bit odd that people expect to get payed for helping a little when it’s not needed or even asked for.
It took about an hour to reach the hotel and it seems to be in a nice little quiet area, not many shops on the streets here but a few restaurants. It’s very close to a big railway station and there are some street shops around there, so will have to check it out more another day. The hotel is also quit close to Welingkar where we will spend some time in lectures and seminars over the next coming days.
We took a short rest when we got to the hotel but didn’t want to waste the time sleeping in the day so we went out to see the area as soon as possible. It was afternoon when we ventured out so it was hot but still manageable. We didn’t go by any map, just started walking and turning left all the time and eventually we made it back to the hotel, it was an nice first look at the neighbourhood. I didn’t see any other tourists out on the streets but I’m sure they are used to them because people didn’t stare or seem too surprised to see us there.
A bit later in the afternoon we had a guided tour of the area. They showed us the train station and told us about the system. It seemed very crowded. The most odd thing for me was that there were separate cars for the men and women and that the doors didn’t close. I wonder how families or couples travel together on the train. Do they have to agree where they are going to get off before getting on or keeping in touch on the phone? Phone seems a bit difficult if it’s very crowded and loud though. That the doors doesn’t close seems a bit dangerous but I guess people here are used to it. It could never work like that in Sweden though, but if people grew up with that system perhaps it would’ve different.
The next stop was a temple, it was a part of a section of Hinduism but not the normal temples. We had to remove our shoes and give it to some people in the window who took care of them. Everyone was a bit worried if they would get the shoes back and the right shoes but the guide assured us that it was no problem (and it wasn’t). The temple looked quite plain on e outside, thought with some sculpturing on the walls, but the inside was really beautiful. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take pictures. It was indoor with big pillars and high ceiling . Lots of carving everywhere and we say some statues of the gods a bit farm away. We didn’t go so close because it was crowded. It seemed to be separate places for the men and women because there were only women where we were. They seemed surprised to see us there and many looked at us with no expression on their faces. When I smiled at them they smiled back though so it seemed ok. They were dressed very beautifully and everyone was in colourful saris or kurtas, I really wish I could have taken a picture of that!
Next we walked through a residential area on the way to a flower market. The houses seems really old and not very tall, about 3-4 stories high. Some of them were built as early as the 1930′s. The guide told us that the insides of the houses are very well taken care of and that the people have their own floor or apartment and renovate it on the inside. Why no one cares for the outside is a mystery to me at least. The houses had a very beautiful structure but unfortunately had not been taken care of properly. If they had just painted some and cared for the housed it would have been a very nice and beautiful area on the outside as well. It was a very quiet and peaceful area.
On the way we stopped at a fruit market that was very nice. I really like the idea of buying vegetables and fruit fresh on the street like that. I wish we had more of that at home as well. I don’t really like going to a big grocery store at home, seems better to buy fresh vegetables than a lot of frozen food like many do at home.
After the tour was over we had some free time left. The group wanted to do different things so we split up. I went with three friends to a shopping street we had been recommended, Colaba Causeway. We had to take a taxi there and that was very easy, just have to make sure they run on the meter. We got to see a lot of the city on the way because it took about 20 minutes to reach the place. When we arrived we just started walking the shopping street, it had both street shops and “real shops”, as well as restaurants and such. It got dark soon after we arrived so it was not so easy to see the whole area. Instead we focused on the shopping and finding a place to have dinner. To find a nice restaurant we asked some guys in one of the shops we visited and they recommended a nice Indian restaurant that we went to.
I already feel that I have use of the knowledge and experience I have gained before coming here. I prepared with watching a lot of documentaries and of course I’m following and reading a lot of Indian blogs. I can notice that I have some knowledge that helps me get by here. It’s probably helpful that I already have many friends from India and other (south) Asian countries. I find it quite easy to understand what people are saying but other people in the group have some trouble with it. I can understand that it’s difficult in the beginning with a very different dialect than what we are used to hearing.
The first day was really nice and I think we have seen a lot and got a lot of impressions to process already. I have tried lassi in the restaurant and it was yummy, the next thing on my list is chai tea on the street perhaps. I asked and it should be fine to drink since its fresh and hot!