As I made plans for my Ireland Trip, I came to find out that Tim could not join us to celebrate my birthday. Because of this, we decided to plan another trip. One of the best things about my station in Khobar, is the ease of travel to other countries. When living in America, a flight to India is a two-day ordeal. Living here, it is a 3 hour, nonstop flight. While Delhi is on my list (Wonder of the World), I knew that whenever I do that trip, it will not be relaxing at all. I wanted this trip to have some history and sites, but also relaxation. Tim and I decided on Mumbai.
After flying and commuting in this part of the world for almost a year, I have grown accustomed to the stressful methods that a lot of south Asian travelers bring into a group commute. Tim and I were preparing for the absolute worst. On our flight to Oman, we dealt with very annoying and stressful travel issues.
Surprisingly, the whole travel piece of our trip was very smooth. Visas were acquired relatively easily (minus the fact that the India website to get the e-Visa is absolute garbage) once we landed. The Mumbai airport is immaculate. Colour me surprised indeed! We grabbed a ride and headed to our hotel, the JW Marriott Juhu. The traffic did live up to expectations. It was packed the whole way. But we finally made it to the front door.
As we pulled up to the hotel, I was a little sad, because I had just seen some friends’ statuses in Nepal about Holi, and I thought we had missed it by a day. I guess if I am going to say something is on my Bucket List (Celebrate Holi in India) then I should do research on when and what that entails. As we got all checked in, the front desk informed us that the Holi celebrations would begin at 1 PM. First off, I hadn’t missed it. Second off, it was 7 AM. This meant we could grab breakfast and still take a nap. PERFECT. The overnight flight had drained me, but after a quick shut eye, I was ready for whatever the day brought.
I wasn’t sure what to wear, since I hadn’t prepared for a colour fight. I popped on a polo and some swim trunks. Tim had booked a massage so he was unable to join, so I headed over to scope out the lay of the land. There they were, platters of bright coloured powder, just waiting to be chunked at people. I started by ordering the local beer. It is tradition that I have to try these first. Then I switched to the colourful gin cocktail specials for the day. I was waiting and hoping to find a group of westerners that looked friendly. Luckily, I spotted a pair of PFG shorts. I walked up and introduced myself. His name was Chris, and we started talking about travels. Then we met Cat and Tim. We now had a solid crew of five.
Colours flew and drinks flowed. It was a great afternoon. By the end, there was no hope for our clothes or skin ever to be free of the stains, it seemed. Clothes took 3 trips to dry cleaners and skin took a week worth of showers and scrubbing. But it was all worth it and more.
I had spoken with several of my friends from Mumbai who gave many recommendations for restaurants. Unfortunately, Mumbai is huge, and some restaurants which seemed close, were actually 55 minutes away. Luckily, Mahesh Lunch Home was highly recommended and basically next door. This food hit the spot. It still didn’t touch my favorite Indian food I have had on all my journeys (Tasneem’s Kings Kitchen) but that isn’t in this trip. But if you go to Nepal.. make the stop.
Tim and I practically ordered the whole menu for dinner. Everything was good… even the fish. And I normally don’t like fish. I give this place a solid 4.5/5. After our feast, I was not in the mood to hit the town.
Tim and I headed back to the hotel, so we could relax at the bar and look out over the peaceful beach.
The next day, we rose early to grab the breakfast buffet before we had to make the hour long drive to the south side of the city. If I haven’t emphasized it enough yet, then here ya go… Mumbai is huge and sprawling. Don’t underestimate traffic. This weekend being a combination of Holi and Good Friday/Easter, most traffic was subdued.
I found Pranav online, and I was intrigued by his day tour of the city. It seemed to have an authentic vibe. I really liked that with Grand Mumbai Tours, I was able to work with him to find the best fit for our day tour. With our limited time we skipped the Elephanta Island tour, and we picked the 21 Best Tour. I really wantedd to see the Gateway of India, the Terminus Train Station, and the Dhobi Ghat. The rest was just gravy to me.
We met up with Navv and headed out. As we walked, both Tim and I recognized how personal he made the tour. I didn’t feel like I was a group. I honestly felt like I was his friend as he showed us his city. It was refreshing.
He answered important questions about Mumbai and its history as well as the real questions, like the origin of the head wobble.
We then walked around and saw the cricket fields and the local university. Tim was in his element. As he picked up the bat and stood in front of the sticks… it was like Babe Ruth calling his shot. He was a natural. After a couple swings, Tim decided to retire his bat, but he still longed for a piece of the action. From there we headed over and fed a sacred cow some grain balls.
Navv taught about culture in India. It was quite eye opening. We had lunch with some locals; then we headed out on a train. Riding on a train with no safety restraints or doors was something to experience. We also got to experience the Dhobi Ghat, the world’s largest open air laundry. Navv actually took a load of his clothes from Holi to be cleaned.
We hit up the hanging gardens and relaxed a little, then we learned the story behind Holi festival. We also got to put our feet in the Ganges tank and learn the mythology behind it.
Our guide went as far as to take a sip from the well… no thank you.
At the end of it all, we picked up some souvenirs, then headed to wait for our Uber. Turns our that Tim and Pranav surprised me with a birthday cake back at Pranav’s home. It was touching. Being 8000 miles from home and constantly on the move, it is nice to have friends to take care of you.
After cake, we went outside and met some of the neighborhood kids. Tim’s true calling to cricket was rekindled as he donated some funds to sponsor the #BrickSquad Cricket Team of Mumbai. The pure joy and elation on the kids’ faces were electric.
We got back and decided to relax around the hotel. We went to a restaurant down the street, Bora Bora. But we were not impressed. The food was amazing, but the experience was marred by the lack of customer service and terrible attitudes. We headed back and hit the bar at the hotel for a quick night cap.
Mumbai was an amazing experience. I recommend to anyone who wants to dip their toes into Indian culture. I know we left a lot on the table: Bollywood, Elephanta Caves, etc. But this was a great way to whet the appetite.
I would love to hear about your experiences in India. I am already planning my trip back to a new city.
Until next time