Me and three other people decided to head to Mumbai. It's about three to four hours away, so good for a weekend. We didn't really want much more time than that, anyway, just a chance to see something on our own outside of Pune. It was pretty easy to plan the bus, where we stayed, and what we wanted to see. Success.
It was a really fun weekend, but it definitely had more bumps than we'd planned for. Let's start with when we got there, which was around 7:30/8 at night. Not late, per se, but it was dark. People here have a tendency to make difficult things sound so easy, and easy things sound really tedious. It sounded simple enough that we had to find a taxi so they could drive us to the place we were staying. We were actually staying with a woman who knows one of our ACM staff. It sounded like: we get off the bus at x stop, hail a taxi, and give the phone to the driver so the woman can give him directions. Easy, right? Wrong. First off, the bus didn't even go to our stop, even though we'd talked to the driver and he said he'd call it out in English and we were definitely going there. Lies. We had to get off past our stop and attempt to find a taxi. And by "attempt," I mean it was not successful. We had to walk around for about half an hour in an area which, if one of us wasn't a guy, I would have been way more freaked out of than I already was. It was just really sketchy. And it was impossible to hail a taxi from the side of the Mumbai highway. Eventually, we bribed a rickshaw driver to let us stuff all four people into it. It was tight because one of us had to lay across everyone, but we were definitely not about to split up. Thank Ganpati for sympathetic rickshaw drivers. I put this driver on the phone numerous times with this woman and he dropped us off in what he swore was the right area (and the woman had told us on the phone that she had told him the exact area). Another lie. We had to walk around for another half hour/45 minutes in an unfamiliar dark area to attempt to find this place. None of the directions that people told us or that we called for make sense. They should really invest in street signs. Plus, alleys lead everywhere and n0thing is ever what people make it sound like. Don't listen to any landmark that anyone gives you. It's probably worthless. Eventually, they just came out of the house and met us. Thank God.
And there was more bumpiness to come. Taxi drivers definitely try to rip you off when they know you're not native. We got taken for a ride a few times, but we were also smart enough to know when we were being lied to and called them out on it. There's also a lot more poverty in Mumbai than we're used to seeing. Granted, there's a lot of it in Pune. You can't go a day without seeing it and it's completely heartbreaking, but the Mumbai level was almost unbearable. And like I said before, it's really hard to get around. Really hard. But it was much nicer to do this during the day. No more sketchy areas at night for us, that's for sure.
But for all that hassle, we had a great deal of fun! It's amazing what we were able to pack into one Saturday. In the morning, we set out for the Hare Krishna temple, which was beautiful. There were paintings, sculptures, shrines, and everything was so colorful. People were singing the mantra and playing instruments. I think one of them was a sitar, the other was tabla drums. It was really cool. I felt a little weird because there were actually people worshipping, but they pretty much ignored us. It was so pretty. Then we went to the Haji Ali Mosque, which we had to make sure to hit before high tide. You can only get there by going down the walkway that leads out to the mosque, which is built into the middle of the water. When the tide gets too high, the walkway is covered, so it looks like it's floating. People were actually doing tricks and jumping off the walls of the mosque. It scared me to death, but they were so proud of themselves. It was like a competition to see who could do the coolest flips. No, I didn't try to rival them. I was content not accidentally killing myself.
And in the midst of the city hustle and bustle, we were able to find the Hanging Gardens. Beautiful. It was so strange to see flowers and different plants in the middle of Mumbai. And there were a lot of penguin statues for whatever reason. Maybe they guard the flowers. Who knows.
From there we went to the Gateway of India, which also happened to be right by the Taj hotel. How convenient! It was so nice to actually look through the arch of the Gateway and see boats!! On the water! And speaking of the water, the place to be is Nariman Point. Yeah, it's literally a point in the city where the road juts out kind of like a peninsula. There's a great view of the ocean and the Mumbai skyline. And you sit there amongst these rocks that are shaped like jacks. No kidding. Jacks! I don't know who or how or why it was decided that this was a brilliant idea, but it was, in ever sense of the word, brilliant. Those rocks give to much entertainment. People were constantly posing on them, climbing through them to get to the shoreline, racing through them. It was great. Each jack was big enough to fit a few of me at least. These things were giant. Like I said, brilliant.
Even more beautiful that this view at sunset was the view of what's called the "Queen's Necklace" when it gets dark. Not like midnight, pitch black dark, just dark enough when you know it's nighttime. We got to the middle of Marine Drive, which is a huge road, but the middle is the place to go for sure, around 8:30. So. freaking. beautiful. The Queen's Necklace isn't anything but the Mumbai skyline lit up at night. What makes it so wonderful is the way it's shaped. The ocean and the skyline together make a semicircle, so when you look at it from the middle and you see this view and the buildings lighting up at night, it's supposedly as if you're looking at a queen's necklace with sparkling gold and jewels. It's really stunning. And Marine Drive was packed with people, a lot of them locals, who were claiming spots on those giant jack-shaped rocks to see the Queen's Necklace light up. I'm hereby convinced that there is no nighttime skyline in the world that's more beautiful than Mumbai.