unlike the middle east, which just kind of fell into our itinerary, india is a destination that we’ve both really really been eager to see. over the years we’ve just heard so many things about it. from everyone’s reviews, it’s a real “either you love it or you hate it” kind of place, and i was eager to find out which side i’d be on. also, i absolutely *love* indian food, so being able to eat it every day here sounded so exciting!
we arrived in Mumbai around 6am and braced ourselves for a hellish battle. we’d heard that india is notorious for unscrupulous taxi drivers and crazy touts of all different kinds…. but surprisingly, when we walked outside, no one really bothered us at all. we calmly walked to an atm. got cash. paid for a taxi voucher, and got a cab. no hassles! were we in the right place?? of course, as we were climbing in the cab, two guys ran up and helped us put our backpacks into the cab (even though we really needed no help) and then started demanding money for a tip. of course, we had just gotten to india so we had no money other than the large bills from the atm. they wouldnt take no for an answer, so i handed them the left over egyptian money that i had in my pocket. but that wasn’t good enough… “give me that!! give me that!! gimme rupeeeees!! gimme american moneys!!”. ok… *now* we were really in india.
mumbai is a *huge* city, and it took us almost an hour to drive through it to get to our hotel. i groggily peered out of the cab window trying to get my first impression of the place. some of the areas were just like any normal non-western city… old buildings, lots or neon signs, garbage in the streets, etc… the typical scenes or a large city that we had seen all over the middle east. but then, compared to the poor parts of town… there were the *really* poor parts of town. we drove through some areas where everyone lived in makeshift pitiful structures set up along the road. the structures were made up of a mishmash or random stuff.. pretty much anything these people could find… corrugated tin, old newspapers, chunks of wood, scraps of cloth on the roof to keep it from leaking. the scene was unbelievable. add to this the fact that there were random people sleeping in the streets. people slumped against buildings. people huddled together in corners. and random children lighting fires in the middle of the sidewalk… to cook? to keep warm? who knows. it was all such a depressing sight, but one that would sort of prepare us for what we would see later.
we finally arrived at the hotel to see random listless people wandering the dark streets in front of it. i dont know if it was just cause i was so tired, but the whole thing took on a bit of a menacing air. but we checked in, and passed out right away.
a few hours later we woke up and decided to go explore. the dark and mostly empty street from the night before had now errupted into a flurry of activity. merchants were selling watches, sunglasses, souvenirs, knick-knacks, etc all over. resturants and shops were open. the sidewalks were packed w/ passerbys. such a different feel! we went to get our first meal in india. yum!!! really really good… and really really cheap! this is gonna be nice!! after breakfast, we walked over to the bay, and walked around the square near the gateway to india. there were tons of people miling about. some of them tourists, others vagrants, and still others were people selling either ice cream or peanuts. one thing that i noticed right away was the wide array of color everywhere. back in the middle east, pretty much everyone wears subtle tones like grey, black, or brown. here, most of the women wear saris and everywhere you look, it’s a dazzling selection of bright colors. very cool. the other thing i noticed were just how many poor people there were hanging out here. little kids would run by w/ no pants on at all.. just a shirt. families would be sitting on the pavement asking for money or food. walking around this square, i could really tell that india is such a land of contrasts… you look one direction and see only beautiful things, and then you look the other direction and you see only sorrow. it’ll definitely be interesting to see how we adapt to all of this. although, i think that once we travel outside of the big cities, things will be different…
damn… the internet place is closing.. will have to finish this later…