India

COMMUTING TO THE GATEWAY OF INDIA

On our first afternoon in Mumbai, we commuted to the Gateway of India monument via foot, train and tuk tuk.

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 Scott on the train. We didn’t really know where to get off the train but, being white, we stood out like sore thumbs so since everyone was already looking at us, I would say “Gateway to India?” to the people waiting on the platform and they would smile back and gesture to “keep going” or to “get out here”.

Scott on the train. We didn’t really know where to get off the train but, being white, we stood out like sore thumbs so since everyone was already looking at us, I would say “Gateway to India?” to the people waiting on the platform and they would smile back and gesture to “keep going” or to “get out here”.

 Talented jay walker.

Talented jay walker.

I find that I get some of my favorite photos when I’m in a motorized vehicle (like a tuktuk or scooter, see examples here and here) because you only have a brief second to shoot a fleeting scene as you whiz on by. And you get to capture your subject naturally and unknowingly.

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Colorful clotheslines, which again reminded me of Naples, Italy.

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 Gateway of India: a monument that was erected to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder (a pier) on their visit to India in 1911. For the British arriving to India, the gateway was a symbol of the "power and majesty" of the British Empire but today it serves as a "monumental memento" of British colonial rule over India.

Gateway of India: a monument that was erected to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder (a pier) on their visit to India in 1911. For the British arriving to India, the gateway was a symbol of the "power and majesty" of the British Empire but today it serves as a "monumental memento" of British colonial rule over India.

 The design is a combo of Hindu and Muslim architectural styles.

The design is a combo of Hindu and Muslim architectural styles.

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 Ferry boats behind the monument.

Ferry boats behind the monument.

 Adorable fellow tourist.

Adorable fellow tourist.

 Scott with the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in the background. Apparently the building is the flagship property of the Taj hotel group. When it first opened in 1903, the hotel was the first in India to have: electricity, American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers. Later, it also the site of India’s first discotech.

Scott with the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in the background. Apparently the building is the flagship property of the Taj hotel group. When it first opened in 1903, the hotel was the first in India to have: electricity, American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers. Later, it also the site of India’s first discotech.

The Gateway to India is quite a tourist attraction and it seems to attract Indians from lots of other places around India, including rural areas where I don’t think they see many white people walking around. So Scott and I were a bit of a tourist attraction here, too.

I kept getting groups of little girls coming up to me asking for photos. They would say “Hello Miss, you are so beautiful, may I take a selfie with you?”.

It was probably the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like Beyoncé. And I loved every second of it.

BANDRA WEST, MUMBAI

Arriving a day before wedding festivities began, I booked a hostel in Mumbai’s Bandra West neighborhood.

Online, Bandra West is described as “cosmopolitan” and like the “Brooklyn of Mumbai” — which might be kind of true in some ways, but I’m pretty sure Brooklyn does not have goats roaming the streets. (Actually who knows, maybe it does. Sounds like a new hipster thing that could be trending.)

 Just like Bedford Ave.

Just like Bedford Ave.

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 Among the tuk-tuks/rickshaws.

Among the tuk-tuks/rickshaws.

 Solid rules to live by, I’d say.

Solid rules to live by, I’d say.

We arrived before the sun came up and walked down the quiet alleyways while the fruit vendors were still setting up their stalls.

After checking in, we started exploring as the day got brighter and the streets came alive.

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There were people and dogs and stores and food and motorcycles and cars buzzing in every crevice of the neighborhood. After many hours on a sterile plane, ALL of your senses are stimulated walking in Bandra West.

My favorite moment was when I saw a bunch of goats chilling, eating trash on the sidewalk (just kidding, there’s no sidewalk) and I said to Scott: “Who do you think owns these goats? What do they do with them?”

And then I took 5 more steps… and there were freshly chopped GOAT HEADS on a table, next to their bodies being BBQ’d.

It was a very direct “farm to table” food stand.

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 “I ask for Kale and you try to sell me Romaine? What do you think this is?”

“I ask for Kale and you try to sell me Romaine? What do you think this is?”

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 How great is this guys desk set-up? Who needs a standing desk when you’re right out front, in the sun, amongst the action?

How great is this guys desk set-up? Who needs a standing desk when you’re right out front, in the sun, amongst the action?

 Decor at the Horn Ok Please hostel.

Decor at the Horn Ok Please hostel.

We stayed at Horn Ok Please hostel that’s camouflaged in a hectic alley way, with the only sign being giant letters spelling out “HOP” in yarn. But as soon as you enter the doors (and take off your shoes, you gotta take off your shoes) it’s like stepping into a serene, shabby-chic oasis.

As a hostel veteran, I didn’t know what to expect of a cheap hostel in India (I got bed bugs in Marseille, France) but this one was FAB. I felt like I could’ve been in Brooklyn or Berlin, but with DIY Indian Hipster decor.

It was so clean and well designed, there was delicious Indian-Western style breakfast and they even have a great blog with useful tips that made it easy to explore the neighborhood as soon as we checked in.

I thought the name “Horn Ok Please” might’ve been a clever translation gone wrong — but I later found out (while on the back of a motorcycle) that the phrase is painted on the back of buses and trucks all over India to “alert a driver of a vehicle approaching from behind to sound their horn in case they wish to overtake.”

This rule (and signage) was actually banned in 2015 to help prevent noise pollution, but I assure you, the practice is still alive and well. Drivers are still very vocal with their horns, especially the tuk-tuks. Makes for a fun ride.

MUMBAI, INDIA

As a big fan of bright colors, curry and yoga — I’ve always wanted to go to India.

However, it’s a place that’s as intimidating as it is intriguing. With 1.3 billion people and a diverse landscape that covers everything from deserts to snow capped mountains, it’s hard to know where to even start when planning a trip.

So, I was thrilled when I got invited to my friends Steve and TJ’s wedding in Mumbai. Not only would I get to attend see my friends get married in epic Bollywood style wedding, but it was also the perfect excuse to escape a Boston winter and spend 3 weeks backpacking in India.

 Students walking to school along the Band Stand.

Students walking to school along the Band Stand.

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 Bandra-Worli Sea Link — or as I called it: the Indian Zakim Bridge.

Bandra-Worli Sea Link — or as I called it: the Indian Zakim Bridge.

Even after booking a roundtrip flight to Mumbai, I still didn’t know where to start in actually PLANNING a trip around India. It’s just so huge. I tried watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts — but I would just get overwhelmed and end up watching movie trailers instead.

I wanted to travel the way I always do: by just winging it.

In 2018, with smartphones and wifi it’s never been easier to plan as you go and just go with the flow.

But was that really possible (or wise) in INDIA?

 Some early morning extracurriculars.

Some early morning extracurriculars.

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 Indian Barnes and Noble.

Indian Barnes and Noble.

 Way cuter than the MBTA.

Way cuter than the MBTA.

 I think my favorite feature of Mumbai were all of the colorful little details in the buildings, even when they were falling apart — they were still beautiful in a way. Reminded me a bit of  Naples .

I think my favorite feature of Mumbai were all of the colorful little details in the buildings, even when they were falling apart — they were still beautiful in a way. Reminded me a bit of Naples.

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 Fresh street veggies.

Fresh street veggies.

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9 months later (the trip was in February and March — I’m a bit behind on the blog) I’m happy to report that it is indeed possible. (And I’d actually recommend it, for reasons I’ll get into later posts.)

We landed in Mumbai with no set plans after the wedding but with the guidance from friendly locals, helpful backpackers and GoogleMaps we found our way around (a small portion of) colorful and chaotic India.

And it was even better than I imagined.

More soon.