Friday 11th February
We weren't quite sure what to
expect of Mumbai, having only had a few days getting used to the idea of coming
here we didn't really know much about the place. But with an entrance like the
Gateway of India you can't help but be impressed. As we scrambled out of the
dinghy just below this bold basalt arch masses of people leant over the wall to
have a look. The place was a hive of activity and the atmosphere was great.
Derived from the Islamic styles of 16th century Gujarat, it was built to
commemorate the 1911 royal visit of King George V. It was completed in 1924.
Ironically, the gateway's British architects used it just 24 hours later to
parade their last British regiment as India marched towards independence.
Apparently, these days the gateway is a favourite gathering spot for locals and
a top spot for people watching.
Sometimes you can tell within
hours of arriving in a place whether you are going to like it or not, and we
knew within minutes of being ashore that we were going to enjoy a few days here.
It's as chaotic as any other city but the difference is that whilst you are
dodging the traffic and risking your life, instead of feeling scared and
panicking you're laughing. The atmosphere is great, the city feels alive and
we're just going with the flow. There are horse drawn gilded carriages that ply
their trade on the stretch of road by the dinghy dock and although slightly
bizarre, they seem to fit in with the hundreds of black and yellow taxi's that
are zipping all over the place.
As I say we really didn't know
much about Mumbai before we arrived, we expected a busy city but we certainly
didn't imagine it would have the stately and fantastic architecture that is so
prominent here, the whole place is full of history and you can feel it oozing
out of the streets.
Just a short walk around the
corner from the dinghy dock is the colonial Royal Bombay Yacht Club, where
we had arranged to have a drink with the group of yachts that we have sailed in
such close formation with along the coast. Sometimes things don't go to plan and
the slight issue of membership stood in our way. Instead we chose to go to the
sumptuous Taj Mahal Palace. The hotel is a fairytale blend of Islamic and
Renaissance styles jostling for prime position among Mumbai's famous landmarks.
Facing the harbour, it was built in 1903 by the Parsi industrialist JN Tata,
supposedly after he was refused entry to one of the European hotels on account
of being 'a native'. It is also the hotel that was bombed by terrorists in
2008 and you may remember images of the hotel with flames gushing out of the
India.................The locals looking over
Royal Bombay Yacht
Our view from the hotel
The buzz of Mumbai drew us out of
the hotel and onto the streets in search of a restaurant. Colaba is a bustling
district packed with street stalls, markets and bars with the Colaba Causeway
dissecting the promontory and the jumble of side streets. It was difficult to
walk along the pavement as stalls line both sides and as the stall
holders were trying to make a sale to the customers walking by it was
crazy. By chance we ended up in Leopold's Cafe and Bar - our stay here
wouldn't have been the same without this place. It has been around since 1871,
with it's wobbly ceiling fans, open-plan seating with tables crammed close
together and incredible atmosphere, the place is a winner, I should think it'll
be around for another 100+ years. Most travelers seem to end up either in the
restaurant downstairs or the bar upstairs to swap tales with random strangers.
We had to talk quite loud to be heard but with a great waiter and superb food we
had a fantastic evening.
Leopold's Cafe and
Dinner with the