Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Catching up on Mumbai, Part II

Yes, so last night I discovered that my bank account had been locked out because my travel notification had expired and my bank didn't know I was in India. India is a high fraud risk area, hence the block. This meant that I was frantically g-chatting with Dad at midnight last night to see if he could call my bank and get my account reinstated. It should have worked, but no such luck this morning when I tried to withdraw money again. I was trying to book my train for my next destination and needed to pay in cash. I could go into all the details and all the hours that I spent running around today, but let's just say that after taking a cash advance on my credit card, I got my money and the ticket and a lesson to never let my cash supply get so low again.

Moving on. . .

Mumbai has been a cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. It's kind of hard to figure out where to start with describing them all. Since it's all a jumble in my head, let's go with bullet form, shall we?

- The trains and train stations are complete madness. It's the only time I've switched from wearing my day pack on back to my front. People scramble and rush around and if the trains are particularly busy, everyone crams on and then the stragglers leap on as the train is leaving so that they're hanging onto the outside of the train. It's not a bad spot to be, actually, because it's a lot cooler than the being crammed in with everyone in the middle of the train.

- Luckily, there are ladies only cars on every train. These cars can still get crowded, but usually it's not nearly as bad as the men's cars. And let's be honest. If I have to be pushed up next to a complete stranger, I'd rather it be a woman than a lecherous man.

- Walking the streets of Mumbai is like playing a game of "What's that smell?" This is (usually) not a game that you want to win.

- When a baby no older than about 1 1/2 or 2, naked from the waist down (no diaper or shoes), ran up to me in the street and grabbed my hand, it crushed me a little bit that I actually snatched my hand away.

- Speaking of naked, there's a lot of it here. TONS of people are walking around shoeless. Lots of half-clothed kids. A few kids just pulling their pants down and squatting in the middle of the street when they need to go.

- How the hell is it possible that in a city of 20 million people, I somehow managed to run into the guy that I met and talked to in the Dubai airport (while we were waiting for our delayed flight to finally take off)? No, I'm actually asking. How is it possible?

- The food, oh, the food! So tasty and so cheap! Wraps and rolls filled with spicy chicken, lentils made into pancakes, chutneys and pickles, mutton kebab, potatoes and veggies, biryani, lentils mashed up into a donut shape and fried, Thums Up soda (India's version of Coke), rice, so many varieties of bread, yummy spicy stuff that I probably can't even remember right now. And the list goes on. I don't think I've even tried that much yet.

- Animals. I've seen goats on the railroad tracks, cows in the middle of the city, and last night I was startled by a donkey when we nearly collided as we walked down the street
(don't worry, he was more startled than me!). There are random chickens and roosters everywhere, untold numbers of stray dogs (fewer cats), and today I got to see a crow eating a dead rat. Good times!

- For sale: everything. I've seen nail polish and hair accessories, veggies and herbs, and many other things for sale just on the trains. Other things for sale include trinkets, toys, bananas, socks, watches, saris, pretty much everything you'd ever need (and a lot of stuff you definitely don't need) is for sale somewhere in Mumbai.

- In India, I can actually be described as a tall person. I don't know if it's true, but I certainly feel like I tower over most Indians.

Gosh, I feel like there is SO much that is swimming around in my head, just waiting to be told, but my brain is mush after the day I had today (on top of the fact that I spent yesterday doing pretty much nothing but itinerary planning).

As for the itinerary, the basic plan is that I'll hit north India just in case the weather decides to turn cool. Varanasi is up first (where I'm heading tonight) and then I'll go to Khajuraho, Agra (where the Taj Mahal is), Jaipur, and Delhi. I'll be getting between all of these destinations via train, but none of them are as long as the 28 hour ride to Varanasi. From Delhi I'll head south for Christmas and New Year's. The actual order of things is kind of up in the air, but I'll start in Bangalore, spend Christmas in Mysore, and try to figure out which wildlife sanctuary I'd like to visit. I'll spend NYE in Cochin and then head to Kanyakumari via Trivandrum, Varkala, Allepey, and Chennai. Somewhere in there I will take a backwater cruise. Chennai is my last spot and will really just be a way for me to get to Bangkok.

So that's the itinerary. Please don't hold me to it; you know how I like to make changes!


  1. Wow. I think it's a good thing that you were able to rest up in Dubai. This all sounds pretty overwhelming and I'm sitting at my computer! :-)

  2. Nice to see the update. If you can give me dates of when you'll be in Bangalore, I may be able to hook you up with some accommodations. At the very least, I could at least put you in touch with people to hang out with. So let me know. India sounds crazy!

  3. Crap. I was so sure that the call to the bank had things squared away. Sorry. Chat me and we'll try again.

    Wanna know how the guy from the Dubai airport ran into you? You're a giant white woman, you stand out!

  4. I never would have thought I'd hear Shannon referred to as a "giant white woman." LOL

  5. Now if I could just find me ...

    - an invisible jet
    - red, white and blue unitard
    - gold belt, with "heavyweight champion" type buckle
    - high-heeled gold hip boots, and
    - blue and gold tiara

    ... I could be Wonder Woman!

  6. ToadMama - I will most likely be in Bangalore around the 22nd of December and I'll only be there a couple of days before I head to Mysore for Christmas. I didn't know you knew people there! Definitely put me in touch! :-)

    Dad - We can try to chat again, but I'm not sure when we'll be to. The internet cafes seem to close at 10pm (sometimes earlier) and with the time difference, you may not even be online when I am. But I took out the cash advance and will have enough money to get me to a bigger city (where I'll need to be when it's time to get cash out again).

  7. I'll be in Bangalore on the 24th morning for X'mas with family. The offer stays.

    On things you've eaten in Bombay (much is lost in the translation, but here goes):

    - Mutton Dum Biryani (mutton is goat meat in India -- and rice slow cooked with spices and herbs in a clay pot)
    - Chicken Tikka Roll (barbecue chicken wrap)
    - Reshmi Chicken Roll (same except that the barbecued chicken has been marinated in cream)
    - Mutton Korma (non spicy (!) mutton curry -- onion and tomato gravy base)
    - Dal Makhani (black lentils cooked in cream)
    - Methi Paratha (bread lightly fried with embedded fenugreek)
    - Pudina Paratha (bread rolled with mint leaves and lightly fried)
    - Rumali Roti (literally handkerchief bread - bread that's swung about like a pizza maker would and then placed over and inverted iron wok-thingie under which there is an open clay oven with burning coals...and thus, gets cooked)
    - Paneeer Makhani (cottage cheese in a tomato and cream gravy)
    - Dosa ( -- easiest explanation!)
    - Idli with sambhar (
    - Medu Vada (

    That's all I remember - it all seems so long ago.

    For the recipe enthusiasts' desire for further Indian Shan says -- 'your google is the same as mine'.