Friday, April 2, 2010
Mumbai: Day 2
Anyways, we finally got off the train at the Central Station in an area called Fort. That is where the Town Hall, the University of Mumbai, and other major buildings are located. We didn't get to explore much of it, but it was a really neat area. The buildings are all very old and not at all Indian. You can really see the European influence. The architecture reminded me of Westminster Abbey or Notre Dame. Lots of stone, flying buttresses, gargoyles, and ivy. From Fort, we took a taxi to Colaba, which is the southern-most neighborhood in Mumbai. We wanted to see the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Hotel. The Gateway of India is a huge arch made of yellow basalt. It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. It is an impressive structure. It is not as intricate as some other styles of Indian architecture, but still beautiful. And, of course, because it is a touristy area, we had a whole bunch of people wanting to take our pictures. So we escaped into the Taj Mahal hotel.
The Taj Mahal is one of the most well-known (and most expensive!) hotels in Mumbai. It is where a lot of the rich Americans and Europeans stay. Despite the name, it looks nothing like the actual Taj Mahal in Agra. It has a dome, but that is about it. Instead of pristine white marble, the hotel is brown with white accents around the windows. But still, it was a very pretty building. The ground floor of the hotel is like an incredibly high-end shopping mall. They have a Louis Vuitton and a bunch of other amazing stores. We wandered around for a little while and did some window-shopping. It was a pleasant change from the heat.
From the Taj, we walked north. I'm not sure what we were looking for, but we ended up stumbling upon an outdoor market. It was kind of like a bazaar. The shops were set up on either side of a walkway. Some were just tables, but others were little alcoves that you couldn't even walk into, but they could close them and lock them instead of unpacking and packing everything every day. That was really fun. I bought some gifts (some for family, some for me) and just strolled around looking at all the cool things. The store owners work themselves up into a little frenzy at the sight of white skin. We walked down the sidewalk and all of them started calling, "Madame, pashmina? Pashmina? How 'bout some beautiful bangles?" They are all very pushy. Usually you just say no and keep walking, but if you do want to stop, they push their products hard. I ended up haggling with one owner over a statue of Nataraja that I didn't even want. I glanced at the statue and he caught the glance and tried to sell it to me. I said no, so he lowered the price. I said no again, so he lowered the price again. This went on until the statue was about half the starting price. It would have been a victory if I had actually wanted the statue. I wasn't playing hard to get, I just wasn't interested. I finally had to run into one of the actual stores in the market to get him to stop pestering me.
After we all spent way too much money, we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner and then stopped at a couple of bars. Leopold's is a very old, apparently well-known bar in Mumbai. It is more of a restaurant downstairs, but a classic bar upstairs. You know: dark, loud, crowded, and pricey. Two of our group members spent 300 rupees each on a shot. They were easily the smallest shots any of us had ever seen. Ultimately, we weren't impressed with Leopold's. It might be old, but it is just like any other bar. So, from there we went to Dome, which is a rooftop lounge on top of the Intercontinental Hotel. Dome was very nice. I liked it a lot. We sat on couches next to a little swimming pool overlooking Marine Drive and the bay. It was pricey. Drink prices were pretty standard for India. My cosmopolitan was about 700 rupees ($12), which is a lot for me. I found that you can tell the atmosphere of a place just by looking at their water prices. Dome charged 150 rupees ($3) for a bottle of Himalayan water when we can get it at a grocery store for 20 rupees. Needless to say, I didn't order any bottled water there. But I digress. We hung out at Dome for a while and had a really good time. It was very relaxed and we had a great view and great techno remixes of '90's hits to keep us happy. Afterwards, I went back to the hotel while the others went to a club. They ended up having such a good time that they stayed out until 6 in the morning, but I still wasn't feeling great and I really didn't want to spend more money. So I went back to the hotel and went to sleep. Thus, my second day in Mumbai was over.