I can see why the rich and famous live in hotels – it’s fabulous!
We’re staying at the Taj Lands End in Mumbai. Well, when I say we I mean the Ginger is staying at the Taj Lands End and I’m mooching off him. Why wouldn’t I?
He is very excited because he gets two free pieces of laundry a day so is enjoying the giddy rush of having someone other than himself iron his shirts. This doesn’t happen at home.
I, on the other hand, am enjoying having someone in white gloves bring me my dhal and tandoori roti for lunch. I get the dhal and roti at home but I just cannot get that man of mine to wear the white gloves. Annoying!
Yesterday we went sightseeing in South Mumbai (although everyone here still calls it Bombay), stopping on Malabar Hill to walk through the gardens. At the lookout point where you can see the beach stretching in front of the skyscrapers, I thought we were being pickpocketed when an Indian man thrust his small child at us. Turns out he just wanted to take a photo! We were then photographed with every member of the family. The children looked terrified and we looked bamboozled so God knows what sort of addition that is going to be in their photo album.
It happened again when we went down to the incredible Gateway of India at the port. People who know and love me would not want to see a photo of me pale and confused and dripping in sweat – I don’t know why a stranger would! But it was amazing to walk through the throng of locals outside the gates, crouched under the shade of the trees selling all manner of local delicacies and shiny baubles.
It was less amazing that the Ginger was stalked by a gentleman who kept grabbing one of his ears and saying something about wax. He either wanted to pick some that was already there out, or put someone that he happened to have on him in. Neither option was that appealing. I liked my stalker more – she just wanted me to buy a fan made of peacock feathers.
Mumbai is a mind-boggling mix of crumbling former glory, crumbling former dilapidation and rising power and fortune. Driving to the Gateway, we passed the 27-storey apartment building that houses a single family of four. Why would four people need 27 storeys? For the 500 staff of course! Now that is a LOT of white gloves.
I’d thought Mumbai would be smellier and dirtier but the most powerful element to me is the colour. It looks like a lorikeet jamboree has exploded! The women wear such divine arrangements, putting purples with yellow, reds with orange, turquoise with bright pink. Scarves fly in the wind, skirts billow – it’s a smorgasbord of vibrance.
We had lunch by the pool at the Taj Palace Hotel which is beyond sumptuous and then headed to the back streets behind it to go shopping. The clothes and homewares are lovely, but not cheap, so I kept my hand in my pocket however I was sorely tempted by the Indian inspired modern design. An enticing colourful flowing gown I tried on at one store elicited the following comment: “Well, I’ve only just met you but I think it’s a little too dosey-doe.”
We tried to go to a bar halfway back to our own hotel but there was a wild party going on with a lot of drunk people in white so we got dropped off instead at a restaurant closer to where we were staying. The wine was perilously expensive (not altogether a bad thing) but the food was delicious. This sleek modern restaurant has falling down buildings on either side but that’s Mumbai.
If I had the digestive stamina, I would eat the street food. It’s deep fried – sometimes in front of you on the pavement – but it smells sensational. I saw a man stirring some sort of batter with his hand, sitting in the gutter next to his little frying station. There was a queue of people waiting to eat whatever he was making so I guess I’m gutless for not giving it a go. Or could it be I want to retain my guts for as long as is humanly possible?
Remember, I am the person who never wanted to go to India at all because I avoid countries that don’t have proper toilets.
And yet, here I am.