Arriving in Mumbai felt a bit unreal. It didn’t feel like I set foot in the metropolitan city known for slums and Bollywood. Mumbai meant my final destination in India. Frankly, that made me feel a bit glum. Somehow, though, I succeeded in banning this feeling to the back of my mind. I was determined to make the most of these last three days!
I ordered an Ola cab to take us from the airport to Karan’s apartment. Karan was kind of the best man at the wedding that I attended last month (oh my god, that was only last month?!). He invited my dad and I to come and stay with him and show us around the city.
Since it was still my birthday when we left Goa for Mumbai, I was allowed to choose how I wanted to spend the evening. After enjoying the bottle of champagne my dad brought from Belgium (finally something that I could actually get down my throat!), I announced I’d like to go for drinks at the best rooftop bar in town, Aer, which is located on the 36th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel. I love viewpoints and could already imagine how spectacular the city lights of Mumbai must look!
At midnight, we went to a restaurant close to the sea, called Corniche. I had really good cannelloni there. After the dinner we returned to Karan’s apartment, had some fresh beers delivered and finally went to bed.
The next morning, we had a small breakfast before we headed out. We drove around the city; first stop was the Mumbai sign near the water, where we had our mandatory picture taken. After that we picked up a friend of Karan’s and stopped at Starbucks for some refreshments. (May I just clarify that this was my first Starbucks visit in 3.5 months?) We continued our tour by driving through a lesser-known neighborhood that kind of reminds me of what I think Rio de Janeiro looks like. Many residents of Mumbai don’t even know that this area exists!
For lunch we went to Colaba Social, which a famous burger place. And, yes, I had my first real burger here and it was soooo yummm. We walked to the Taj Hotel, which was the victim of a series of terrorist attacks in 2008. There was a lot of material damage and 167 innocent civilians died that time. It is like the 9/11 of India. Across from the hotel you’ll find the Gateway of India. The last British troops left the country through this gate after India became an independent republic. The gate is one of Mumbai’s most popular tourist attractions. As soon as I was asked by an Indian tourist to take a picture with her two small girls, a line immediately formed behind them of people wanting to take a picture with me!! Eventually, my dad had to drag me away from them, because Karan had arranged for us to go on a boat tour and we didn’t want to miss the boat.
That evening, we were allowed to attend an album launch party at Bonobo. It is a kind of nightlife spot where we would never have set foot in if we weren’t directed there. The music wasn’t really my style – I don’t really remember what it was called either… trance or something? By the time we left here, it had gotten so late that we couldn’t find a place serving dinner anymore (and that, too, in India!). Eventually, the Sun-n-Sand Hotel was willing to cook for us.
The third day, we started by visiting Mount Mary Church, another popular tourist attraction. It is very colorful inside, for a church that is. Nearby, there is this altar kind of place where you can make a wish and “be careful what you wish for because it always comes true”. So… I wished I could stay in India a bit longer, since I was not at all ready to go home.
We continued the day’s tour by going to Bandra Sea Face. There is a park here that is better known as Couple’s Park and as soon as you enter you find out why. Every other meter, you’ll find couples sitting, holding hands, cuddling. It is the amount of couple’s that makes everything a bit awkward you know. At the lower end of the park, which is located on a hilly surface, you’ll find some rocks that are accessible but probably shouldn’t be. Many people have slipped and died here. But apparently it is also a common place for people to commit suicide…
But let’s not go there!
We had our lunch at another surprise location that we could have never found on our own. I can really recommend Pali Village Café. I discovered here that not all Californian wines are like Gallo (which is just disgusting if you ask me). It was divine.
In the afternoon we went for a walk on Marine Drive. At that time Worli Festival was taking place. There were stalls selling Indian products and at each end of the festival a stage was built where concerts of Indian artists were happening. Our refreshments we got at Doolally Taproom, which kind of reminds of an ecological version of Anti-café in Paris. We played Uno and Jenga here together with another friend of Karan’s who lives nearby. We went to his place for another drink and a snack.
Soon enough, we had to start packing. My dad’s flight was leaving 4 hours before mine, so he went to the airport before me. I was gonna try and sleep for 2-3 hours.
When I reached the airport, the problems started already at check-in. I will save you the whole story, but what it comes down to is that this girl working for Turkish Airlines made sure I was not allowed to leave the country because I was missing a certain form that I had to present at border control. I had asked XIMB whether I needed such paper three times throughout my stay and each time I was assured I wouldn’t need it. I was already aware that my batch mates who already left the country had encountered some problems at border control, but they had all been able to catch their planes. But alas, I was the unfortunate one who got the nosy check-in lady who decided for me and for border control that I shouldn’t be allowed on the plane. She ripped my plane ticket in pieces and put me on the street. I wasn’t even allowed to make accommodation arrangement from inside the airport.
So there I was.
It was 3 or 4AM when I called Karan and asked him if I could come back to crash at his place. Since I couldn’t change anything about my situation, I went back to sleep and started the next day early. I ordered an Ola cab and went to the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Office) at the police station. It took two days (and a lot of bureaucratic and administrative BS) to get the form I needed. And then you should now that it also took an hour to go from the apartment to the police station, one way. Mumbai is pretty big and comes with a lot of traffic.