The administration at the school have done an amazing job at making this one of the smoothest moving transitions I have ever had. The first couple of days were days devoted to sightseeing and getting familiar with the city. Now that I’m a bit more settled and have a bit of free time, I am trying to write up some of the first day’s adventures.

 

Mumbai is a series of islands (built up by the British) Most of the original down town is in South Bombay. It has most of the beautiful old buildings and sightseeing locations. From there, the city has spread in the only direction left – North.

 

The first day, we started with a bit of history and culture by visiting the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, formerly and better known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India. It was named after the Prince of Wales (George V) because he laid the foundation in 1905. The building itself was exquisite with grandiose domes and arches and stone work. Inside there were collections of art and history ranging from archeology studies on pre-historic cultures to beautiful stone god and goddess sculptures to miniature paintings.

          

After the museum we went to a lovely pizza place overlooking the water. All pizza here is thin crust – but if you ask for thick crust it will be as thick as our thin crust, otherwise it is even thinner. Not only do they have fairly “normal” pizza types, they also have very Indian pizza with masala and other Indian spices on them. I am intrigued at the amount of times we have gone out for very western food. I think they are partly concerned about us adjusting to the food, but also haven’t realized that we haven’t been here long enough to miss food from home – we are still excited to eat all the amazing Indian food. After lunch, we went down the road to this unmarked shop that sold ice cream sandwiches. They had some amazing flavors – like lechi, and guava. They took out the ice cream patty and placed it between 2 wafers. It was very tasty. Overall, the day took much longer than intended due to rain. It was raining decently and the traffic reflected it. A drive that is about 30 km (20mi) ended up taking us about 2 ½ hours. We were all ok with this though because it gave us ample time to look around.

 

The next day was our big day of sightseeing. On our way, we we took drove down part of the western coast – including going over the sea link – which is a lovely bridge that lets you avoid parts of the city. We also drove past Haji Ali which is a beautiful mosque built on top of a dargah (tomb) from the 15th century. There is a causeway you walk at low tide to get out to the mosque. It looks so peaceful sitting out off the coast. As we drove along, ‘A’ gave us information about the different things we were passing.

       

Our first stop was the hanging gardens. It is a beautiful park and gardens in a section of town called Malabar Hill. It is one of the older and more expensive neighborhoods to live in – especially since it tends to have some lovely views. On one side of the road, the Kamala Nehru Park over looked a section of town called the Queen’s necklace. It is a circular area called Back Bay with Marine Drive that runs around the edge of the beach. At night when the lights are all lit up, it makes it look like pearls in a necklace – thus the name. This part of the park is designed for kids and one of the highlights is the Old Woman’s Shoe ( she had so many children she didn’t know what to do). We decided that we were just big kids and so climbed around inside even though it said it was only for kids.

     

On the other side of the street was the hanging gardens (Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens). There are beautiful manicured gardens with nice walkways and benches – and shrubbery in the shape of animals and gods. We walked around and enjoyed the flowers, butterflies, and views.

    

From the hanging gardens we headed further downtown. Our next stop was the Taj Mahal Hotel. The story of the Taj, as I was told – though I have heard contradictions – is: The Taj Hotel was created because a wealthy Parsi business man,Tata, was frustrated by the number of hotels that were white only – in particular the Watson’s hotel. He decided that he wanted to create a high end hotel where you could stay regardless of your nationality. He had a British engineer design the grandiose building. It was built in 1903, but the architect never came to see the construction until it was finished at which point it was discovered to have been built backwards. (Some accounts I have read say that it was the way it was supposed to be since it would be easier for carriages to approach from the city.) No matter the true story, it is an exquisite building and I hope to treat myself to a night there at some point while I live here. (Though rooms rates seem to range from about $180/night to $3,800/night depending on the room). The entire lobby area of the hotel is open to the public and we wandered around and took pictures of the fountains and staircases and other beautiful things.

    

From the Taj, we went just down the road a bit to the Gateway to India. It was designed by a Scottish architect, George Willet, to commemorate the visit of king George V and Queen Mary in 1911 but wasn’t actually finished until 1924. The entire area was bustling with people – tourists and people wanting to sell things. I am amazed at the things people were selling – random plastic stuff and the one that got me was giant balloons. Also by the gateway was the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Chhatrapati Shivaji was a soldier who at 14 (or 16) lead an army against the mughals and created a unified Maratha area as a Hindu state.

    

After a wonderful buffet lunch, we kept exploring the downtown tourist district. We went into Jehangir Art Gallery which displays current art exhibits of local artists. We also went to FabIndia which sells traditional Indian garments and I bought my first salwar (pants) and kurta (top). We also happened upon the David Sasson Library because it was pretty and had bathrooms. Not only was the building pretty, but it had a nice semi-secluded area in the back with trees and benches. Then we wandered around the outside of the university buildings. It was a day full of beautiful architecture – though I got in trouble for taking photos there because of worry of bombings.

                           

We finished our day with a trip to Victoria Terminus (which has been renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) which is the large train station downtown. After looking through car windows and rain we decided to brave a look at the inside. The inside was huge and bustling. Picture the busiest rail station you can imagine and then realize that it wasn’t rush hour yet. Our lovely Indian teachers J and N taught us how to punch the tickets so that you could prove you paid (you tend to buy tickets in books and that is how you “use” the ones for the trip) and then we sent them home via the train.

     

On our way through the under road tunnel, we saw a rally for Anna Hazare. Anna Hazare was a man who was trying to get an anti corruption bill passed by the government and ended up getting huge amounts of public support (rallys and marches) and went on a hunger strike until the government ended up passing the bill.

I have plenty more photos – but didn’t want to overload this blog.  If you want to see the other photos from the day, you can check them out on my flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/26536211@N08/sets/72157627552223943/

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