Well after a few days in the buzz of life that is Bombay (or Mumbai – but even now people prefer the “colonial” name) I can safely say that this is a place of extremes. The poverty is shocking. India is a third world country with no social security but a lot of people live very very very richly. Parts of Bombay are dirty slums where the people are less than likely to get a meal a day. Then there are the hundreds of high-rises scattered around where the Glitterati work and play in between fashion shoots, long lunches and business deals. The traffic is crazy. The old ambassadors weave past tuk-tuks and rickshaws (banned in central Bombay – I was told cos the taxis have bribed the officials) and people dragging seemingly enormously heavy loads. Safety is not a priority. Nobody uses seatbelts (there arent any in the taxis), lights appear to be a luxury (only used on Western style cars), no helmets worn on motorbikes (we saw one crash but he was ok). A red traffic light means “maybe stop 20 seconds after changing”. One lane of traffic becomes 3 – but nobody goes fast enough to do any damage.
On Sunday the traffic was light. There was no constant beeping of horns and ringing of bells. People were actually enjoying the day. Actually on the sunday after buying our train tickets from the fantastic Raj-era CST (Victoria Terminas) which is modelled on our very own St. Pancras, we headed north to a market. If I decide to become a “proper” vegetarian (ok… one that eats fish) this is the place that made me do it. We stumbled into one building and before we realised where we were the smell hit. Turns out this huge dirty ediface was an abbatoir. I looked and in the centre of the darkened room was hundreds of slabs of meat, entrails, bones etc and literally dozens of crows and other birds picking on them… We hastily left. Only to then walk up “chicken row” where we saw chickens being skinned, carried, plucked, bought and sold. Its just the reality of slaughter and meat eating I suppose – but we only see the end product.
Happy New Year to all. Christmas seems a long time ago when the mercury hits 30 and the days are long(er) than the UK at this time of year. A couple of India lads who seemed to know the DJ at a bar told us to head there. It was handily near the hotel so New Year was spent in the Sports Bar. The music was a strange mix of tunes coupled with some loud tinny speakers. At 11.54 the DJ said “2 minutes to new year” then literally 10 seconds later it was one minute and then almost instantly after there was the countdown…. Suffice to say we had our own “proper” countdown 5 minutes later after “Smack my bitch up” by the Prodigy had welcomed in the new year…… Not sure that has quite the same history as “auld lang syne”.
The food has been fantastic, and cheap (although Bombay is at least twice as expensive as everywhere else) – Thali meals for 40p and Nan Breads are 12p each. Dosas are a Southern India treat for breakfast and Lassis – well I cant get enough of Banana lassis; however sickly sweet they are.
Tomorrow we take the long day train down to Madagon in Goa. It leaves at 7am and arrives about 7pm. So we’ve opted for the A/C.