That Dussehra festival is tonight at about 6pm (Oct. 6, 2011), they’ve been warming up for it every night and its super loud up until midnight. Sounds pretty cool. No Goa, didn’t have time, didn’t even have time to see everything here, traffic is terrible and everything is really spread out, it’s a huge city. I feel like this must kind of be like how foreigners feel trying to visit LA. I didn’t do much it seems like, but I filled up 2 full days of sightseeing.
The coolest thing in Mumbai were the Kanheri Caves in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (may not want to waste your time on the lion/tiger safari: Sanjay Gandhi National Park Lion Safari) and Elephanta, an island with more sweet caves and lots of evil monkeys. If you know what Petra is (in Jordan), I now call the Kanheri caves Petra II, but Indian style, and not quite as magnificent, but just comparing them to petra means they were good because Petra is one of my favorite places in the world. There is also a place my friend recommended called the Lonavala Hill Station which looked really cool, but it was a full day trip with a hired car away, didn’t have time nor want to pay the money. Not sure what the nightlife is like here, but from what I’ve read, it sounds like if the locals party anywhere in India, this is it. (Goa is mostly tourist parties is it not?)
Another note about Petra II, be careful as a friend I met on the bus there said he nearly stepped on a giant snake crossing the path. I went on a little trek through some bushes with my new friend and 2 other Indian guys, we discovered this old destroyed temple beyond the caves and a couple different kinds of monkeys which was very cool, but it was kind of freaky because you could hear stuff in the bushes all around you, and we knew there were snakes (the park also has cobras). If you go, just keep going until you don’t see any more caves, some of the coolest ones were at the top of the hill towards the back, you’ll see what that means when you go. You may also want to bring a little light or something so you can see, some amazing carvings. My photos were pretty bad because of the lighting.
For Elephanta Island, you’ll take a ferry from Gateway of India for a little over 100 rupees return. Don’t bother buying Luxury, don’t know what it gets you, save the 30 rupees or whatever. It takes about an hour, maybe a little over each way. Ferries to Elephanta Island run from 9am to 2pm, and the last returning ferry leaves the island at 5:30pm. The train from the boat to the stairs is also a waste, it only costs 10 rupees but I found it quicker to walk unless the timing works out perfectly. You may see all the locals get on it, but they’re just being lazy, it’s not far. After you see the caves, there are also a couple old canons you can hike to higher up on the island. They’re pretty big, and there are some old ruins of bunkers and things to which are probably worth the 15 minute walk up the hill. Just keep your eye’s open for the sign around the actual entrance to the caves. Also, don’t bring any food, the monkeys will jack you for it, and maybe even bottles of water or cokes. Keep a good grip on cameras as well.
The nice hotels are in the central / north part of the city, I’m staying at the Ramada for about $110 a night, and they treat me like a king here. I didn’t have time to find anything cheaper, and I wasn’t ready for more Indian budget accommodation if I didn’t have to. If you want the best location I recommend staying in the South, near the Gateway of India, it’s a lot easier to get everywhere (except Sanjay Gandhi National Park which is in the far north).
The Gateway of India is not very exciting other than being a famous landmark. Haji Ali is kind of cool, but its pretty sad walking out there as the beggars are often missing limbs, badly burned, holding dying babies, etc. I’d recommend bringing some small bills to leave them. The area is extremely polluted as well, there were kids floating around on little rafts gathering garbage from the water. Also, I read that the walkway is covered in water at high tide, making the whole thing a little island which sounded cool, so I looked up the tides. Not sure if the site I found Mumbai tide info on was way off, or if its only on extreme high tides, but the path wasn’t even close to being covered. If you want to shop I hear Colaba Causeway is the spot, but from what I saw it didn’t appeal to me personally. There are also tours of the largest slum in India called Dharavi, I didn’t have time to do this, no photos allowed either. Another thing I didn’t have time for is called Dhobi Ghat, a spot where tons of locals do laundry, but apparently it’s massive (biggest in the world?). The Taj Mahal Palace is right next to the Gateway of India, you can’t miss it.
You should also try ride a local train somewhere, I took one from my hotel area to Victoria station in the south, its an experience (although it was a lot faster, maybe 2x faster than the taxi I took home due to the traffic).
Bottom line, if you have time (a couple days minimum), you should check out Mumbai, otherwise save it for your next India trip.
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