Bombay: A Rough Start to India

Bombay-0030Hello, It’s been a while. I have had writer’s block since I arrived in India, every time I open my computer it just seems so daunting. There is always something to do other than write and edit photos. I think s big part of it is having to relive my first week in India, and it was not a good one. My Korean Air flight landed in Bombay, while walking off the plane I saw a small Indian women holding a sign with my name on it. I felt special, my first thought was someone had arranged something for me. Not the case she quickly informed me that my backpack hadn’t made the connection and was left in South Korea. All I had with me was the clothes on my back, my camera, laptop, and some basic toiletries. Ironically, they held the plane for an hour in Houston to load luggage, which made my connection less than an hour long. This I believe is the reason my bag didn’t make it to India.

I originally intended on only staying one night and making my way somewhere else, instead I was stuck in Bombay for a week. It took 4 days for my backpack to arrive and another couple of days for me to get out. I had nothing planned for Bombay and the internet was shit everywhere. So, I ended up moving from one bad area to another. To get to the new area I jumped in a Tuk-Tuk (auto-rickshaw), they merely took me across the road to the local train station. They told me I have to take the train there and charged me 20 rupees. I then spent 15 rupees on a ticket and tried to figure out how to get from point A to B. I found no maps at the train station. I was left to asking random Indians how to get to where I was going. I quickly found out Indians won’t tell you they don’t know. Instead they will give you the wrong information, they don’t want to disappoint you. Because of this I spent four hours riding the rails through Bombay. I switched trains at least eight times. Pushing my way on and off in a mosh-pit of Indian men. This simple commute took me four times as long as it should have. It was a bit frustrating, but it was also a good experience and fun fighting to get on the trains.

Bombay-0026The culture shock was too much for me and I became slightly agoraphobic. I spent most of my time in the hotel, only would venturing out a few hours a day to eat some bad Indian food. The one thing that I found palatable was a “chicken” dish. I highly doubt that the meat was chicken. It looked grey and I couldn’t identify any piece as part of a chicken. I ate it anyway. I was having such a terrible time I was considering buying a ticket to a different country once I received my backpack. I unsuccessfully tried to sign up for India Railways website, in order to book a ticket. Fed up with my current situation I bit the bullet and spent a whole $27 on a flight to Goa.

While in Bombay I had received several messages from an Indian blogger who had recently started following me. He wanted to meet up and I was not comfortable meeting up with someone through the internet. His name is Lloyd and he lives in Bombay. I was stupid, I should have met him the first chance I had. He has traveled India extensively, and provided me with wonderful advice on where to go. He was also able to teach me the basic ins and outs of how India works. We talked for about two hours until he had to leave for work.

Bombay-0011That night I heeded his advice on the local area and made my way to Bandra by taxi. This was the first time in a week I finally had a good time, good food, and beer. I spent several hours stuffing my face and drinking cold beer at TAP, a rooftop restaurant. After a while I thought it was best to make my way back to the hotel before it got too late. It had only cost me 160 rupees to get there and all the taxis and Tuk-Tuk’s wanted 500-600 to take me back. One Tuk-Tuk finally agreed to use the meter. He picked me up on one side of the road, did a u-turn and took me a block the wrong direction. Then he told me I had to be on the other side of the street and wanted me to pay him 20 rupees. I obviously refused, telling him I was on the other side and a block closer to my destination when he picked me up. He still insisted that I pay him and we started yelling back and forth. He got a taxi driver involved, on a street corner they were yelling in Hindi and I in English. There may have also been some threats yelled as I walked away and they continued to yell.

After this I was fed up with all the drivers in the area, they tend to work together and once one claims you as their mark the others usually wont be too cooperative with you. I resolved to just walk back and took off in the direction of my hotel. During my walk back I was sideswiped by a bus, my shoulder and arm rubbing down the entire length of it. Without injury I continued walking back about 5 or 6 km. After making it halfway back I was approached by a Tuk-Tuk Driver who agreed to use the meter. (They are legally suppose to use the meter.) He was an excellent driver, he was the fastest one on the road, weaving in and out of traffic with ease. The meter read 62 and he asked for 60; I gave him 80 for being the only honest driver I met that night. Tipping of Baksheesh is rarely expected in India and always greatly appreciated. I have also been warned not to over tip as it can be insulting. At restaurants leaving the change up to 10% is suppose to be a good tip. Some restaurants also have a service charge built into the bill, this may or may not be going to the staff. I usually only tip for a fast/special services, which is rare, very rare. I have waited as long as two hours for a simple meal. For a coffee, and instant coffee at that, I have waited 45 minutes. I don’t have much advice for visiting Bombay, other than don’t do what I did and plan at least a little bit. At this point in my journey India wasn’t how I thought it would be.

Bombay-0032I did reluctantly return to Bombay on a fourteen hours connection in between trains. That trip was decent but I’ll get to that later.

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