Not that International!
Day 99/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Mumbai, India, Day 1/3.
Where do I begin? Three days of Mumbai and I’m in sensory overload. And now I have to go back and remember what we did 2 days ago. Ok. Here goes. Let’s hope the photos load into the blog, because the photos make a great story on their own!
We arrived into Mumbai a little ahead of our scheduled noon arrival time.
Sailing past the Taj Mahal hotel and the Gateway to India archway, downtown Mumbai. Both iconic structures which we will visit later on in the day. You can see the skyline is a mix of old and new, colonial, moorish and modern architecture. I didn’t know what to expect from Mumbai, but I was certainly very excited to be visiting, with a small degree of trepidation too!
Ah! The IndIan naval base is on the other side of the wonderful looking, hollowed out, ‘International Cruise Terminal’!
A very welcoming ‘Mumbai International Cruise Terminal’!
A very appealing red carpet welcome to the Viking Neptune.
Little did we know at the time that being next to the Indian Naval base, would mean absolutely no internet connectivity for 3 days in Mumbai! They were jamming our signals. Wonderful!
Eventually the cruise terminal will look wonderful in Mumbai!
But sorry for the inconvenience, it just looks like pretty bad right now!
We had chosen to do an optional tour called “Mumbai Walk and Drive” which was leaving from the Star Theatre at 2:15pm. The tours were nicely spaced out so that we did not have a long line to get through in person immigration in the cruise terminal in Mumbai, with our Indian tourist card.
The colourful dancers gave us a wonderful welcome as we headed into the Terminal building to meet with Immigration.
One of them even recruited me to the dance team! She must have known I know how to do the Bollywood dance moves!
I was happy to try my hand at this strange instrument.
And bust a move too, even if I did not have the appropriate costume on.
We moved very quickly through the Immigration process and proceeded to our waiting bus to meet our guide, test our QV boxes and get on our way for our tour. Since we were really only in Mumbai for half of the first day, we had to take advantage of the time we did have in Mumbai.
Our first impressions as we left the port of Mumbai:
The architecture is all over the place, and so is the traffic! Tuk-Tuks are not allowed in Mumbai, but the black and yellow taxis in all shapes and sizes were everywhere. There were not as many motorcycles as Vietnam, but they still drove crazy, going in and out of the traffic. The buildings are all in different styles of archtecture and some have missing balconies, enclosed balconies or people sitting in windows.
Who needs a balcony to sit on? A window is just fine.
The tree and this traffic median were full of pigeons being fed with birdfood. If you look closely the tree is just covered with pigeons. Many communities in India believe that the souls of ancestors go into animals and birds and by feeding them they are simply feeding their own families. Every time we drove past this area of the City, there were thousands of pigeons eating in this area.
Our first stop of the day was a quick get off the bus to a traffic island, photo opportunity of the ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus’, otherwise known as the Victoria Terminus, or the main Victoria Train Station in Mumbai. Construction started in 1878 in the Indo-Saracenic, Victorian Gothic Revival (that’s a lot of styles mixed together style of architecture), the building was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. With 18 platforms and 40 tracks, the terminus was built by British born architectural engineer Frederick William Stevens and was completed in 1887, the same year of Queen Victoria’s 50th year on the throne. The name was changed in 1996 to the present name after the 17th-century warrior king who employed guerilla tactics to contest the Mughal Empire. The terminus is the headquarters of India’s Central Railway and is one of the busiest train stations in India. An interesting piece of trivia relates to the marble statue of Queen Victoria which was installed in the main facade of the building, in a canopy under the clock. In the 1950’s when authorities removed statues of the British figures from government buildings after India gained its independence from Britain, the statue of Queen Victoria was removed and left lying on the grass in Victoria Gardens (later renamed Rani Baug). No one knows what happened to the statue or whether it was sold, destroyed or exported, but the statue of Queen Victoria that previously was at this station, is missing still!
Our next stop was to visit the very busy Crawford Market officially now known as the ‘Jyotiba Phule Mandai‘ in South Mumbai. The building for the market was completed in 1869 and is named after the first Municipal Commissioner of the City. It was formerly a wholesale market for fruits and vegetables.
We went into the market through the parking lot where these guys were working on packaging up mangoes.
The original design of the market entrance consisted of three doorways each divided with a column, with space for a carved panel depicting everyday life. Two panels were carved by the artist John Lockwood Kipling (father of Rudyard Kipling who wrote ‘The Jungle Book’)
Carvings by John Lockwood Kipling.
The market was humming on a busy Saturday afternoon in Mumbai! We were given 20 minutes to wander around the market and purchase anything we wanted. Unfortunately we still had not found an ATM machine yet and there was not one in the market, so we were trying to negotiate with the vendors in US dollars, which wasn’t the best situation. We were able to buy a few things though.
I was able to sample some cashews before I bought a small package to bring with us. We also found some more Skippy peanut butter, so I think we have enough now to last us for the rest of the trip. Viking has horrible peanut butter so if you love peanut butter make a stop wherever you can to find more peanut butter! I also bought more saffron since I did not buy enough in Goa. $5 for a small jar which was a good price.
Richard negotiated for 2 Alphonso mangos which are in season right now in India. If you have never had Alphonso mangos these are the most tastiest, juiciest, delicious mangos to buy! Known as the ‘king of mangoes’. The name Alphonso mango is after the Portuguese Viceroy ‘Alfonso de Albuquerque who conquered Goa and laid the foundations for the Portuguese empire in Asia. We plan on eating our mangoes for breakfast tomorrow morning in the World Cafe! I learned about these delicious mangoes from a former colleague of mine (Manny) who would bring them into the office for us to share as we worked on a secret project many long hours in the day and into the night. Whenever I saw them in the grocery store in Toronto, when they were ripe, I would also bring them in to share with Manny. It was our ‘treat’ so to speak at work and a time to stop and catch up on our busy work lives, over mangoes!
I would love buying my garlic this way! Already peeled and already cracked open ready to use! Indian food has a lot of garlic in it, so this guy must have a very busy stall!
I love markets and it was a real treat to be able to see where people shop in Mumbai on a busy Saturday. The 20 minutes was not enough time for me, but we had to move on. Our bus was waiting to take us to our next stop on our busy afternoon in Mumbai.
Our tour was a ‘Walk and Drive’ tour so the bus dropped us off near the Financial District and we walked through an area with some old historical buildings.
The University of Mumbai grounds.
Flora Fountain depicting the Roman god Flora. Built in 1864.
St Thomas Cathedral Mumbai was consecrated in 1718 and renovated in 1837.and won a UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Award. It is the first Anglican Church in Mumbai, and is a landmark in South Mumbai and one of the oldest churches in India. The Churchgate railway station (the other major railway station in Mumbai), takes its name from the St. Thomas Cathedral as the station was linked to the cathedral by a road leading to one of the three gates of the fortified island city of Mumbai. The cathedral marks colonial Bombay’s point zero, the exact centre of the city. The church also played the part of a lighthouse to signal to ships in the harbour of their proximity to the city of Mumbai.
St Thomas Cathedral stained glass windows.
St Thomas Cathedral was visited by Mother Teresa who offered prayers at this church in January 1983.
The bench that Mother Teresa sat on during her visit to the Cathedral.
Plaque and updated plaque after Mother Teresa became Saint Teresa.
We saw this ramshackle building which was in a state of complete disrepair which our guide told us had an unusual history.
The Watson Hotel otherwise known as the “Watson’s Esplanade Hotel”, which at one time was one of the grandest cast iron British hotels in Bombay which was constructed between 1867 and 1869. The hotel which was Bombay’s first 5 star hotel had a sign outside the hotel that said “Dogs and Indians not allowed”.
Watson’s Esplanade Hotel in its former 130 room glory. All people of prominence who visited Bombay stayed at this hotel including personalities such as author Mark Twain.
After seeing the disarray of the Watson Esplanade Hotel, we had to see what the story was behind the next stop on our tour. We boarded the bus after a brief stop at Starbucks owned by the Tata Company, to use the facilities.
Jamshedji Tata was inspired to build his hotel to spite Watson because he was not allowed to enter the Watson Hotel, because of course he was Indian. Tata built India’s first super luxury hotel which became known as the ‘Diamond by the Sea’ or the Taj Mahal Palace in 1902. The Palace was the first building in Bombay to be lit by electricity. During WW1 the hotel was converted into a military hospital with 600 beds. The sign board outside the Taj said ‘Dogs and British not allowed’ when it was first built.
The Taj Mahal hotel Mumbai.
We did not have a planned visit to the Taj Mahal hotel and in hindsight we should have gone inside at some point in our trip to see the inside of the hotel. With 560 rooms and 44 suites, the hotel was ‘the’ place to stay for many years in Mumbai. In 2008 a terror group attacked the hotel and hostages were taken with 167 people, mostly foreigners were killed. There were 450 people staying at the hotel when it was attacked. After the attacks, the hotel was restored and re-opened on India’s Independence Day on August 15, 2010. A movie about the attack on the hotel was made in 2018 called ‘Hotel Mumbai’.
Our guide was marching us past the Taj hotel because he wanted us to get to the next stop which was extremely busy on an early Saturday evening.
The ‘Gateway of India’ is an arch-monument built in the early 20th century. The monument was erected to commemorate the landing of King-Emperor George V, the first British Monarch to visit India in December 1911. The Gateway was used as a symbolic ceremonial entrance to India for important colonial personnel. The Gateway is also the monument where the last British troops left India in 1948 following Indian independence. Located opposite the Taj Mahal hotel, the Gateway to India, overlooks the Arabian Sea.
View of the Taj Mahal hotel from the Gateway to India monument.
The square in front of the Gateway to India was extremely crowded for a Saturday early evening and as I wandered around taking photographs local people kept coming up to me asking if they could have their photograph taken with me. One man even gave me his baby daughter to hold and took my photo. I still do not understand what the attraction was, but I willingly obliged since I seemed to be the tourist attraction instead of the Gateway.
I am not sure what the hype is all about but these were a few of my photo shoots from Saturday at the Gateway.
After spending about 25 minutes wandering around the Gateway to India our guide had asked us to meet at a spot near the entrance to the Gateway so he could walk us through the masses of people.
There were food vendors everywhere selling fresh squeezed juices and different types of homemade street food.
We were given 30 minutes of free time to go shopping at this point because the bus was not parked at the location the guide had brought us back to. We were planning on ditching the tour at this point anyway, but the issue for us was that we had left Richard’s large knapsack on the bus and the bus was parked far away somewhere. Our guide suggested we go and do some shopping and come back at 6pm to meet the bus like everyone else, so Richard could grab his knapsack and we could be on our way. We were fine with that suggestion and proceeded up the street to first find a bank ATM and second find the spot that I had chosen for our dinner tonight. We were warned by Viking not to eat any street food in India to avoid ‘Delhi belly’, but we still wanted to try some authentic Indian food while we were in Mumbai and off the ship.
We were able to locate a Bank ATM and were able to take out 6,000 Indian rupees which I figured was close enough to $100CAD, that would last us for our time in Mumbai in places where we had to use cash for our purchases.
Cafe Mondegar or Mondy’s is a popular tourist attraction in Mumbai. Famous Indian cartoonist and painter Mario Miranda painted murals (his cartoons) on all inner walls and entrance ceiling of the restaurant
Established in 1932 by Iranian Zoroastrians (Parsi settlers in India) as an Irani cafe. In the mid 20th century, the cafe introduced the first jukebox in Bombay and was converted into a restaurant. In the mid 1990’s Cafe Mondegar was refurbished with Mario Miranda’s murals and the restaurant was also converted into a bar.
We spoke to the guy working the crowd on the steps and told him that we needed a table for 6:15pm and then we wandered down through the busy market to see what this market was all about. Richard decided to go back and wait for the bus where our guide had told us to meet and I waited outside the restaurant for our table. Finally our guy on the steps of Mondy’s told me he had a table for me and I went inside the air conditioned restaurant to wait for everyone. Gene and Margaret were supposed to be coming between 6:00pm-6:15pm. Not having a cell signal sure makes meeting up with people difficult.
Gene and Margaret made it to the restaurant before Richard and we were able to move to a bigger table to have more room for everyone’s knapsacks.
Richard enjoying a local Lager beer.
Cafe Mondegar is situated at the beginning of the famous ‘Colaba Causeway Market’ and that is why I chose this spot (besides wanting to see the murals) for dinner tonight with Gene and Margaret, who after their tour were grabbing a taxi from the port to meet us. I knew our tour could be ditched near the market, so there was no point in taking the bus back to the ship to try and get back to this spot. Richard made it back to the restaurant shortly after Gene and Margaret.
Enjoying the air conditioning while we waited for our food. The menus were under glass on the table and included many Indian, Chinese, and North American items.
Margaret had a spicy rice and chicken dish and me and Richard had Indian butter chicken with rice. Gene had chicken chop suey. The butter chicken was delicious and had a nice subtle after taste of heat. Just the way we like butter chicken. There was no way we could finish all of the food! Dinner was $72 for 4 entrees, a plate of onion rings, 3 beers and 3 soft drinks. Not a bad price at all!
More murals at Cafe Mondegar. It was a very fun place to have dinner with the tunes from the jukebox blaring and everyone having a great time on a Saturday night in Mumbai.
Gene mugging for the camera. At least he had a seat! This shop understood retail and keeping their spouses happy by having seats. Margaret and me were going crazy for the hand woven Indian tapestries and the shop owners kept pulling out different colours and styles of tapestries, each more beautiful than the next. It was a very hard decision on which one to buy, but we finally figured it out after about 45 minutes of shopping. I think I need to go back to this store as we did not have much time for clothes shopping and they had beautiful clothing on display too.
The sidewalk of The Colaba Causeway market was absolutely crazy! Oh my goodness. We couldn’t pass on the sidewalk because there were so many people crowding the sidewalk, so we decided to walk in front of the market on the road. Whenever we wanted to get to a stall or a shop, we would cut in through someone’s stall and push through to the market stores. I did not take a picture of the melee for fear of having my phone or camera jostled out of my hands! Finally we decided we had enough of the craziness of The Colaba Causeway Market on a Saturday night in Mumbai so we walked across the street to a bunch of taxis waiting at the curb to try and find one that understood English, and could take us back to the International Cruise Terminal.
We finally found a guy who said he knew where we were headed and we all piled into the taxi. The small Hyundai car (similar to an Accent) did not have air conditioning. Gene sat in the front and I was in the middle in the back with Richard and Margaret on both sides of me. Now Gene and Margaret had taken a taxi to the market so they knew the cab ride was only 1.6 miles away from the port. We were driving for about 10 minutes when Margaret said “We are going the wrong way!” We could see that we were now by the beach which we later learned was in South Mumbai, which was no where near our cruise ship. The cab driver finally pulled over for us to show him the cover of our Viking Daily which had the address for the International Cruise Terminal and the words written in the local language “Please Take Me Back to the Ship“.
Our driver said ”Yes, International Airport!” Yikes. If we hadn’t got him to pull over, we would have ended up at the International Airport in Mumbai and not the International Cruise Terminal! We got the driver’s phone because we knew he had cell service and Margaret punched into google maps on the driver’s phone the address for the International Cruise terminal, and away we went.
I was glad the driver had made a few wrong turns, so that we could see this beautiful sight on our way back to the ship this evening.
Mumbai‘s Victoria Train station all lit up at night. What a gorgeous sight and I grabbed this shot as we were moving past the train station from the back of the cab with my Iphone. What a stunning building!
We were almost back to the International Cruise Terminal when I saw headlights coming right for us. And those headlights were higher than ours. The headlights kept getting closer and closer and finally I SCREAMED. The driver quickly pulled over to the left and narrowly avoided us being hit head on by a bus! The driver was looking at his phone and google maps and trying to get us back to the International Cruise Terminal, but his full attention was not on his driving! That sure was a close call! WHEW. Thank god my vocal cords worked or we would not be here to tell the tale.
We arrived back at the Neptune around 9:30pm and were bone tired after a crazy, busy, hot, hair raising day in Mumbai. And we have 2 more days of Mumbai to explore still!