Category Archives: Mumbai

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai

I think that when you travel to Mumbai, this hotel is a must see. A landmark in its own right, the Taj was built in 1903 by a man who was not allowed in other hotels because of the color of his skin. He vowed to build the grandest hotel in Mumbai and surely he accomplished that goal.

People who have stayed here or graced these grounds are numerous and humbling. Duke Ellington, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Oprah, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Ghandhi were all here.

I suggest staying in the Tower wing. It is newer and cheaper but most important it gives you an excellent view of the older part of the hotel which is stunningly beautiful.

Vipassana Pagoda

This is the Buddhist temple that none of my Mumbaikar friends knew about. It is within view of Esselworld, the amusement park located in the northwestern part of the city. It is quite a drive to get here. Worth it? If you are a Buddhist, I would say yes. After all the tightness of the main part of the city, the openness and cleanness of this area is a great relief.

Mumbai: Things I Missed

Seems like a silly title for my post because of course I missed things here. There is so much to see.

But now on the day that I will leave, I notice in my hotel’s brochure that I did miss some things I wish I had not.

Chor Bazaar, the ultimate market here in Mumbai. But given that it’s hard for me to take several steps on any street without people staring at me and following me, there was no way I was going to enter a frenetic market with money, alone.

Haji Ali Dargah. A friend advised me not to go because it’s dirty and not well maintained with people who will probably confront me. Again, being alone factored into my decision not to go.

Mani Bhavan, the house where Ghandi conducted his political activities from 1917 to 1934. Simply didn’t find the time.

Dhobi Ghat, the open air laundry of Mumbai. Again, being a white woman alone without knowing Hindi factored into my decision not to go.

Here I will take a brief stop to explain. While most people here are very nice, in a city of 20 million there are those who are not. Plus there is extreme desperate poverty here that is hard to comprehend. For Miss Moneybags to walk into an area to tour the toil of people in these desperate circumstances is an insult. People here have no problem at all in asking for money and demanding that they get paid appropriately. There is always quid pro quo.

I’ve also gotten a great gift in finding out what it feels like to be a minority and the difficulty in explaining what that’s like to people who are not and find it difficult to believe that I feel uncomfortable walking down the street here alone in broad daylight. Any street.

I would absolutely consider purchasing a burka next time.

More on what I missed in the next post.

Our office in India!

I just had to put an exclamation point on that. The community feeling at our company is so strong  and our confidence in each other is so great that we can literally fly halfway around the world on a few days notice and instantly feel at home. 

It may sound like I’m drinking the cool aid, but our values cross international borders and our company culture is strong. Whether I am vacationing by a remote campfire in the Olympic National Forest in the U.S. or meeting a colleague in Mumbai, I continue to hear stories of how our products are the best on the world. It’s something for us all to be very proud of.


And the view is pretty sweet.

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The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel has a bookstore!

The Taj has at least two wings of high end shops. I’m not much of a shopper these days, but anyone who knows me knows I have a weakness for books. And the Taj, being the wonderful place that it is, has a very nicely stocked bookstore with high quality reading material.

Since I’m traveling, I only bought 3 books.

Planning my last day at the Taj

Goodness, this blogging stuff takes time, but it is nice to keep a record. The screen on my iPod malfunctions and WordPress autocorrects with sometimes embarrassing words and I don’t always notice it.

 Tomorrow is my last day at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and I am sad! Sometimes a stay can be too long, but not here. I haven’t really even explored it yet!

Ringo Starr and John Lennon stayed here. This is the hotel where John and Yoko didn’t emerge from their room for five days!

Duke Ellington, my most beloved composer, stayed here!

And many others.

So photos are forthcoming.

The swelling on my feet and legs has gone down, but is still present.

This afternoon I will visit my company’s office here. That is pretty exciting,and I already have it in mind to talk shop and ask how my department can better serve our India office. I have a few of my own ideas of course!

Last night I got to meet my colleague and his family, and he was kind enough to bring Epson salts for my feet!

He has a lovely family and they have very generously invited me over for dinner tonight. So I will see another area of Mumbai.

At the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel


But I digress. I was going to write about my plan for tomorrow.

6 a.m. – Rise and shine.

7 a.m. – Grab a quick bite and go to the Gateway of India and take photos of the birds.

8 a.m.  – Swimming pool for the rest of the day!

So I drank the water I was served today and it wasn’t from a bottle. I was assured a few days ago that the Taj is very careful with their water and filters it, etc. So we shall see.

The Caves at Elephanta Island

Located 9 km into the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Mumbai, is the small island known as Elephanta. Formerly, as with most things in Mumbai, it used to have a different name, Gharapuri, which means the place of caves.

These caves contain magnificent statues carved from rock and are thought to date back to approximately the 5th century AD. The caves are named after the basalt elephant that the Portuguese saw as they approached the island. This Elephant now resides at a museum in Mumbai.

Spoiler alert: I did not see all the caves. There is one primary cave that the Portuguese did their best to destroy back in the 1600s. The others are much more “Spartan” and after seeing three caves, I was good, what with the heat and the tourists, stray dogs, monkey families, and random young men approaching for photos, plus the prospects for a ladies room looking pretty slim, I decided not to be a hero about this tourism stuff. And, since the 20 hours of flying I had just done, both my feet have swollen up like balloons with the swelling crawling up my legs toward my knees.

Regardless of the defacement performed by the mindless idiots several hundred years ago, proving once again that humanity’s stupidity is timeless, regardless, the cave sculptures were pretty cool.




Elephanta Island

Here’s a tip for anyone well adapted to cold but not heat—go in the morning! Take the first ferry, which leaves at 9 a.m. 

Someone tried to stop me on the way to the ticket office and convince me to go in the afternoon, but that would have the wrong choice for me.

The trip takes about an hour. To sit on the upper level, you have to pay 10 rupees more. Either place, top or bottom seemed fine. I opted for the top.


Once you get to the island, you take a small train to the base of a hill you must climb to see the caves.

Porters will carry you up the hill for about 1200 rupees.


I chose to walk in hopes of relieving the swelling in my feet that happened after my 20 hour fight in.

It was a hike, but doable.

I had hoped to see the rest of the island, but proved to be too harsh an environment for me. Heat, bugs, mosquitoes, seemingly abandoned dogs, monkeys, and people eyeing me, sometimes not in an entirely friendly fashion.

These people laughed at me for how I was wearing my scarf (incidentally it was like a babushka), so I questioned them about it and then took their photo.


See, still smirking. They said there was nothing wrong with my scarf, I think they just couldn’t find the words. So, here’s me with the scarf.

I thought maybe it was the color or the pattern, but the concierge at the Taj said that this is how old women in remote Indian villages wear their scarves out of modesty and respect.

Later on someone really liked my scarf. So there.

I’m in Mumbai…!

Querido Pablito:

Got here. At hotel. Internet works, but phone doesn’t. I need to go talk with the “business services” part of the hotel and get them to give me a SIM card for my iPhone.

Not sure how many consecutive hours I’ve been traveling. I left the house at 3 a.m. on Monday and now it’s 8:45 p.m. Mumbai time the next day with a 13.5+ hour time difference.

At this point, if you told me I had two “f”s in my last name, I’d say “ok, sure.”

The drive from Mumbai to the airport — not sure how to describe that. 

In fact I feel like when you get to the very top of a roller coaster ride and you know you’re about to take off but haven’t yet.

Mumbai Art Day

 

Place Admission Times Price When Closed Address/Photo OK?/Interesting Details
Jehangir Art Gallery 11 a.m to 7 p.m.  ?  ? 161 KALAGHODA
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu
Sangrahalaya (Prince of Wales Museum)
10:15 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Museum Entry for Foreign Adult: ₹500 (? $)

Mumbai Experience Documentary Foreign Adult: ₹50

Mobile Phone Photography Pass: ₹100

Audio Guide: Complimentary

 Only Closed on Certain Holidays  159-161 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai
National Gallery of Modern Art 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Foreign Visitor: ₹500 (? $)  Mondays Sir Cowasji Jahangir Public HallM G Road, Fort Mumba
Leopold Cafe  7:30 a.m. to Midnight  Menu  S.B. Singh Road,
Colaba Causeway

*Current exchange rate: $1 = ₹67.8209 (Rupees)

But I also want to see:

 

 

 

Elephanta Caves — Planning

I love history and archaeology, so the moment I learned about the Elephanta Caves (a World Heritage Site), I knew they were first on my list. Although it’s unknown who built these caves or when, art historians have placed these caves at the 5th to 8th century A.D. Some say these caves are not man made.

The Elephanta Caves on are Elephanta Island, which is east of Mumbai (old?) and west of Navi (new) Mumbai. The island is 1.5 miles in length, and the journey there by ferry will take about an hour. Mango, tamarind, and karanj trees cover the island.

Below is a map of my new stomping grounds: (click to enlarge)

depart-to-elephanta-caves

Place/Activity Times Cost   When Closed Notes
Elephanta Ferry 9 a.m. — First boat leaves Apollo Bandar

2 p.m. — Last boat leaves Apollar Bandar

12 Noon — First boat departs island

5:30 p.m. — Last boat departs island

₹150 Mondays It takes one hour to get to the caves.

Boats leave every 30 minutes.

Elephanta Island and Caves

Please imagine that the images below fit together properly. Travel has no place for perfectionism. 😉

elephanta-island-north

elephanta-island-south

  • Historical Shiv Mandir (Northeast on Island)
  • Historical Shivja Temple (Northwest on Island)
  • Elephanta Caves (Central)
  • Elephanta Lake Garden (South Central)
  • Cannon Point (West)
  • Shree Datta Mandir, Gharapuri (South)
  • Gaondevi Temple (South)
  • Someshwar Mandir (South)

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New Word Alert!
Mandir — a Hindu Temple
Bandar — Port
Hillock — small hill or mound
Stupa —dome-shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine

*******

Here is what the inscription at the island says about the Elephanta Caves (take from a tourist video on YouTube):

The island of Elephanta, originally known as Gharapuri, derives its name from a massive stone image of Elephant now displayed in the “Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Garden” (Victoria Garden) in Mumbai. The cave complex of Elephanta comprises a total of 7 caves. Of them, 5 are in the lower western side, while 2 are at the eastern top of the hillock. Out of 5 caves at the lower side, the Cave No.1 is exclusively carved with various manifestation of Lord Shiva. It consists of a pillared hall with a small shrine and four entrance doors flanked by the guardians. While the massive but graceful figures of divinities, guardians, and certain architectural features, such as the square pillar with cushion capitals suggest Chalukyan influence, the depiction of mountains and clouds and the hairstyles of woman are  reminiscent of Gupta art.

Facing north this main cave consists of a sanctum and massive hall divided into 5 bays. The excellent carved panels on the walls of this cave include the Yogeshvara (Lord of Yoga), Nataraja Shiva (Cosmic Dancer), Shivaparvati, Ardhanarishvara Shiva, Kalyansunder Murti, and Maheshmurti. The ceiling of the  main cave is believed to have been originally painted with different colours. The Maheshamurti of Shiva is depicted on the south wall with three aspects of creation, protection, and destruction, revealing a masterpiece of Chalykyan Gupta art.

The circular pedastal in the open courtyard marks the seat of Nandi (Bull), the vehicle of Shiva. The side cave has a small shrine and a Pradakshinapatha (circumambulatory passage) with an interesting panel of Ashtamatrikas (eight mother goddesses) flanked by Kartikeya and Ganesha.

The other caves are plain and lesser embellished. The other antiquarian remains found in Elephanta Caves are stupa (3rd Century B.C.) at the top of the hillock Kshatrapa coins of the 4th century AD and some sculptures including Mahishasurmardini, four headed image, Brahma, Vishnu and Garuda.

This site was declared by the Archaeological Survey of India as a monument of national importance vides no. 2704-A, dated 26.5.1909 and thereafter inscribed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987.

According to a Wikipedia article about the caves,  the Portuguese, who took power in 1534, did considerable damage to the caves. “Portuguese soldiers used the reliefs of Shiva in the main cave for target practice, sparing only the Trimurti sculpture. They also removed an inscription related to the creation of the caves.”