Formerly Bombay, Mumbai is one of those stops on the cruise that elicits a wild variety of opinions both pre and post visiting. Paula’s last visit was at the tender age of three months but having lived in Calcutta until she was 16, she was well aware of what to expect. For those who have not seen the film, “Slum Dog Millionaire”, maybe watching it should be a pre-requisite to a first visit.
As expected, we had our delayed 10 second face to face “interview” with Indian Immigration, which was no more than an excuse for the officials to get on board the ship to exercise their authority. All we did was show our passports and the landing card which they stamped and we immediately handed our passports back to the cruise staff for safe keeping. Bear in mind that we had landed in India a couple of days earlier, I would have thought that only a departure procedure from India would have been necessary.
Once again we opted for a cab with Mal & Megan, but in the cruise terminal, there are several stalls selling clothing, trinkets and jewellery. Paula spied a trinket that she wanted, having already bought one in Singapore for $18 and grabbed it for $10. This proved to be a very shrewd move, as when we returned later in the day, the prices had doubled – and they wouldn’t budge on price either!
The taxi drivers outside the terminal building can be a little pushy, but be warned, they are going to try it on. The first driver wanted $120 for the four of us for a 4 hour tour. Remember, we started off at $20 in Cochin... After a vigorous exchange where Megan had a crowd around her as she stood her ground, we walked on a few paces and agreed $60 with Ravi. The tiny Hyundai’s air conditioning was opening the windows and it was a bit tight in the rear seats.
Well, Mumbai is certainly an interesting place and like Cochin, traffic is totally chaotic but without the tuk-tuks and far fewer motorbikes. To see people living under a sheet of black plastic or in something akin to a dilapidated garden shed makes you realise how lucky we are in NZ or even the UK. Ravi was told what we wanted to see and told “No shopping”. By the end of the tour at the 3rd or 4th emporium, I was inwardly getting a bit miffed but you just have to understand that for these underpaid taxi drivers, getting a free T shirt for their family at each of these stops, means a lot to them, so you accept it as a small price to pay.
Ravi was an excellent commentator and we saw most places that the more expensive tours visit. A highlight for me (somewhat surprisingly) was a house where Ghandi lived from 1917-1934. The fascinating part was a room full of small dioramas depicting his life. (Hopefully, should be a pic above.) The pic shows Ghandi being ejected from the first class compartment of a train in South Africa. Another example racism is the Taj Mahal Hotel. Known to many of us as the site of a terrorist bombing not so long ago, even the impressive police cordon and the scanners weren’t enough to convince Ravi that it was safe, but we went in anyway. Sheer luxury and the first time I have been to the Gents and the attendant was there to turn on the taps, and even press the soap dispenser and hand over tissues.
The racism? For the badminton group back in NZ, the original ‘luxury’ hotel was named “Watson’s” (probably one of Merv’s ancestors) and was for whites only. This upset a wealthy local who built the Taj – which still stands and flourishes. Watson’s is long gone...
The visit to part of the dhobigat laundry was educational. Only men are allowed to do the laundry. The conditions were unbelievable. The most amazing fact is that laundry comes in from all over the place by van and bicycle and looks to be a total shambles, yet they have never misplaced an item yet!!!! I should have sent three or four pairs of my socks. The stench when passing the gent’s toilet was horrendous, yet you would think that with so much soapy water around, they could at least throw a bucketful or two in that direction.
As mentioned above, a return to the cruise terminal stalls to find that the prices had doubled was a surprise but there were beer bargains at the Duty Free (upstairs) being snapped up. I believe beer was about $1 can. There was also a pile of empty gin and vodka bottles where enterprising cruisers had decanted the colourless spirits into their water bottles.
Back to the cabin for a wash and a bite to eat. But where were our quiz team regulars? Out on a tour. So we combined with Norm & Marion.
What a stinker. Sample questions –
4) Which Disney film had the song ”I Wanna Be Like You”?
11) What word could precede – Roll, Plant, Cheese?
16) Broadway play based on the life of an Italian film director.
17) First hit by a female pop-star was “Baby, One More time”. Who is it?
18) What is the name for the phobia, a fear of fear?
20) With what leisure activity would you associate a “dibble”?
Answers tomorrow. Just interested to know if our regular team knew any or all of them and could have added to our score!
We had a light snack in the Horizon as I had stepped on the scales in the gym whilst the ship was stationary – and wished I hadn’t.
Sailaway was supposed to be 8:30pm so we joined a few others on deck 7, looking down at the gang-plank. All passengers were on board so we watched very carefully. After about 45 mins, there was a big cheer when the Immigration officials left, clutching their Princess Cruise bags of goodies, no doubt including bottles of Scotch, cartons of cigarettes etc. No further action until about 45 minutes later again and after lots of two way radio chatter and mobile phone calls, a small truck same roaring onto the quay with the head honcho on the dock leaping up and down and yelling. The truck pulled up just past the gangplank then a fork lift was summoned. After a bit of pushing and shoving and yelling a very heavy shrink wrapped item on a pallet emerged from the truck and was transferred to the gangplank. We have no idea what it was but speculation was rife – as always.
The little ramp was eventually removed and the gang plank retracted part way to a chorus of cheers and applause – again. Then it stopped. At about 10:30pm, in the Captains own words,. “the pilot (not that we need him) finally deigned to put in an appearance.”
Read into that what you will but the Captain is a model of diplomatic restraint. So leaving Mumbai two hours late putting us even later into Dubai no doubt, put the wisdom of stops in India very much in doubt. Many passengers loved the stop, but the aggravation of dealing with the Indian authorities is irksome at all levels, from the cumbersome and expensive visa requirements to the over officious power crazy and probable corrupt officials.
Been there done that, not bothered about Indian cities again, but still love the everyday normal people and the food..