The craziness of Mumbai will live with you forever. If it’s your first visit then arriving at Bombay airport and negotiating customs is a breeze, especially with your Visa all done and dusted before your arrival, either with a 6 months multiple entry coming in at a whopping £115 of your hard earned, or the recently introduced 30 day E-Visa for £38 that is valid on arrival and pre-booked up to a month in advance online since October 2015, and obviously the cheaper option if only passing through for a few weeks.
Outside your senses will be hit with the noise and atmosphere of being out there within the city and living and breathing it all in. If not prepared then it’s like a bomb exploding in your head, as it’s the maddest vibe known to man – let me tell you, and as 8 lanes of traffic manage to systematically move within only 4 lanes and sometimes only three that are marked on the road ahead (don’t mention roundabouts) , it all somehow works itself out, but only god knows how it does, as actually logically it doesn’t.
This didn’t deter Mr Tuk Tuk come Taxi driver who we had accosted for our transfer as we joined the madness on the roads and headed into town and for our destination, Colaba. As we weaved through every eventuality that he came across, missing other vehicles by centimetres and pedestrians who have a death wish walking through traffic as if they were on a mission to end their days, our taxi driver finally got us to our destination in one piece, and at the end of the journey, seemed happy enough with the 60p tip he got on a £2.40p journey that took close to an hour and 40 minutes so happy days.
As we were only having a overnight stay and being that this coincided with my birthday, we managed to book into a 50 rupee squat come home stay….yeah that wasn’t going to happen. We had a one night stay in the prestigious and number one hotel, Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Grand Palace hotel on a cheap deal( it’s usually £200 per night – are you kidding me) and as we’re still working for a living, was just for the experience.
The place was amazing, even more than the faces of the staff on our arrival. We had managed to book the most unlikely vehicle to arrive at the Taj, and with barely just enough room for our backpacks, the cheapest taxi come Tuk Tuk from the airport that was humanely possible was a surreal experience as a very posh well spoken front doorman stopped our vehicle and asked” is one staying here sir?” “Yes we are” as we threw our rucksacks at the porters so we could get out of the smallest tin tuk tuk taxi invented by man. As we had just travelled in the same clothes for well over 18 hours, our attire was just above the common appearance of some of the street beggar’s we passed heading for Colaba, and the Gateway to India, and was in a hurry to take a shower and explore the surroundings.
After a quick tour of the Hotel, we headed straight to Leopold’s Cafe about 10 minutes around the corner, and sampled some cold kingfishers and some nibbles as we tried to offset the jet lag. Leopolds cafe was established in 1871 and has had many guises, one being a pharmacy and also mentioned extensively in the Novel Shantaram ( A great read if you’ve never visited Mumbai ) as a meeting point on the Colaba causeway.
After a few Kingfishers we headed back for my birthday bash at the Masala Kraft restaurant in the Taj Mahal Palace with our own chef cooking our meal in front of us….a nice touch and superb food with a running commentary of all the ingredients and spices used in our dishes, oh, and a colossal amount of red wine. We suffered the next morning, and had a flight to Goa to catch….I never learn from past mistakes.