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Seemingly Bombay was a British-imposed colonial name, so it was about time the Indians restored their original name for the largest city in India, at around the same time Madras became Chennai, and Calcutta became Kolkatta. Why on earth the British couldn't handle saying Mumbai is beyond me, but it doesn't seem to have bothered the locals as most of them stil say Bombay anyway.

We only spent a couple of nights in Mumbai, at a fairly reasonable place in Colaba, the old historic area and centre of the action right at the bottom of the peninsula. It was without doubt the place with the most abject poverty that we witnessed in India, with kids asking not for money but simply for the last bit of the shawarma you were eating.

From Bom-bay, to Santa Fe

Coming in to land at Mumbai domestic airport, on a SpiceJet flight from Delhi. The city was just visible through the pervading smog.

The Gateway of India, symbolic entry point to Mumbai for traders from across the sea. And absolutely rammed with people.

Gateway of India

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

Back in colonial days, an Indian of means was refused entry to the best hotel in town. So, he built his own one, to be even better! The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, splendid opulence through and through. We spent a couple of hours in the bar there one night, where the mojitos were offensively pricey. Just under a year later the seige took place, and I was quite surprised that the whole place didn't burn to the ground. Had we been there at the time, we would almost certainly be dead.

Colaba itself, although shabby by western standards, is actually the nicest part of town. There were some excellent tailor shops around here.


Bombay taxi

The ubiquitous Bombay taxi, Ambassador Classic. Unlike everywhere else we went in India, there was a distinct lack of tuk-tuks and cows in Colaba. Perhaps there is a huge cattle grid at the perimeter, keeping Bessie out.

During our 2 hour crawl from the airport to Colaba, we witnessed the rigours of Indian public transport.

Indian public transport

Chowpatty beach

Mumbai's equivalent of South Beach; Chowpatty. The city is enormous, with an estimated 18 million people.

Get your best sari to catch the attention of the lads. India is a very conservative country. Chowpatty beach was remarkably clean for its location, right in the middle of Mumbai.

Chowpatty beach saris

Metro Adlabs Mumbai

No trip to Mumbai would be complete without some Bollywood magic, which is exactly what we got! Our hotel recommended we see "Om Shanti Om" - we went in not quite knowing what to expect, and came out bangrha dancing. The film was so much fun, and instead of popcorn they sold pakora in the lobby. We all had to stand and sing the national anthem before the start, and there was even an interval, like cinemas in the UK used to be. The film was so good (the music in particular) that I bought the DVD. I've since been on the lookout for more Shah Rukh Kahn classics.

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2008