North? No, south.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re making up this India adventure as we go along. Here in Udaipur we asked many Indians for suggestions on where to go next and I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that not too many people in this huge country have ventured very far from home. Those who have traveled widely urged us to go north, as it’s getting mighty hot even here in Rajasthan, and it’ll be cooler in Dharamshala and especially Kashmir. We love the mountains but unfortunately every route north involves backtracking through Delhi, then returning again to fly out to the UK in April. This would be a clear Rule #1 violation, plus a big ol’ dent in the travel budget. There’s no cheap or easy way to get to Dharamshala. Next time, we sighed. South it is, continuing our linear path. And it’s going to be hot.

A long Uber ride from the Mumbai airport gave us our first look at India’s second largest city and its financial capital. We’re told there’s great wealth here, and great poverty.

We haven’t seen the wealth yet, and our perfectly adequate budget hotel is above an electronics store on a street lined with nothing but electronics stores for at least half a mile.

Around the corner we found a small city market and a wet market but Jack couldn’t put his hands on a Snickers bar.

We plunged headlong into sightseeing, something we usually don’t approach with diligence. It would probably be easier to book a city tour and get driven around from photo op to photo op but our aversion to being herded and my general inclination to take on the navigation duties always send us off on our own to find (or not) the things you’re supposed to see as a first time visitor. I think we did pretty well in Mumbai.

We started, as you do, at the Gateway to India, a monument to the arrival of George V and Queen Mary in 1911, and the symbol of Mumbai. More significantly, the last remaining British troops departed through the arch in 1948. We’d read warnings about crowds, touts and pickpockets but no one bothered us at all, not even for selfies.

Across the street is the magnificent Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. I should mention that we went through security (scans and bag checks) both to enter the grounds of the Gateway and the hotel. The hotel was the site of a terrorist attack in 2008 during which more than 160 people were killed.

It was fun to walk through the lobby, and especially to see the photos of some of the famous people who’ve stayed here.

This is the Colaba area of South Mumbai and a collection of Gothic Revival and Art Deco buildings make up a UNESCO World Heritage site. We had fun seeking out some of the buildings, and they are all beautiful.

Part of this UNESCO site, but also listed on its own is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, formerly Victoria Terminus. It’s a huge and fabulous Italian Gothic complex and we spent a long time trying to photograph it. It’s just too big to fit in the frame of an iPhone but we did our best to capture its glory.

Mumbai is so huge that we could only tackle one area a day. Like Delhi, it would take more than the few days we have to fully appreciate the scope and variety of this place. We’re always aware with our advancing age that this may be our only opportunity to be here and more than visiting “the sights” we often just want to soak up the atmosphere of the places we visit. We chose to move hotels every couple of days to experience different parts of the city. Did I mention how big it is?

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