after the bollywood day, we spent a couple more days in mumbai…
this is a small island off the coast of india. it’s only a 30 minute ferry ride away, and is famous for a couple of cave temples cut into the rocks. after you get off the ferry, you walk up what seems to be an endless flight of stone steps surrounded on both sides w/ people selling all sorts of little knick knacks. at the top, we were mobbed by a bunch of old women yelling “picture! picture!!” while posing w/ jugs on their heads. i actually for once didnt particularly want a picture, but i took one anyway and gave her a few rupees. of course, then all her friends kept trying to pester us and woudnt leave us alone. we soon got to the caves, but honestly, i wasn’t really all that impressed. i mean, on one hand, it’s really cool that the temples were carved out of the hillside, but the statues i saw were crumbling away and dark and overall i just wasn’t too excited.
one of the cool things about the island is that there are tons of monkeys around. they run everywhere, jump on each each other, try to figure out how to break into the drinking fountain, steal water jugs, and in general just cause all sorts of chaos. at one point i saw a man walking along w/ a plate full of rice, and when a monkey came running up to him, he screamed like a little girl and threw the plate while backing away looking absolutely terrified. yeah, yeah.. i know i shouldnt laugh at other’s misforunes, but really, it was quite a funny scene.
we needed to buy some sheets and a mosquito net, so we went to bhuleshwar market, a huge outdoor market in the center of town. our guidebook says that there are about 1 billion people in india, and i’m guessing that about half of them were there at the market that day. the street was competely packed to the point where you could barely walk. the mobs of people were constantly being yelled at by guys trying to move heavy supplies through the crowd. the supplies would be put on these long (15 or so feet) boards that sat on wheels like a teeter totter, and you’d have a bunch of guys all trying to push and steer this thing without injuring random pedestrians. every once in a while, a car would come crawling through inch by inch, with only centimeters of room between it and the swarm of people. it was all so hectic!
we checked out a few of the gardens (parks) that mumbai has to offer. they were definitely nice places to take a break from the hectic hustle and bustle of the city. in fact, after being so used to the constant blare of car horns, it was almost odd to walk around and have it be quiet. for some reason, the parks have very strict rules and exercise of any kind is not permitted except for walking. it was kind of funny to see so many people who obviously really wanted some exercise to be just walking briskly around the parks many paths. the parks also had a few fountains that were lit up by colored lights which were cool.
in mumbai, there is a muncipal laundry that does laundry from all over the city. it’s a huge place where tons and tons of laundry is done by over 5,000 men! they have this crazy system where they separate all the clothes to be with similar clothing. so the red shirt you drop off, will go w/ hundreds of other red shirts dropped off by people from all over the city. then at the end of the day they get all the clothes separated to be returned to it’s rightful owners. it’s a pretty impressive system, and they use tiny tags to keep track of which clothes goes where. we hired a taxi to take us to this bridge looking down over this place (mahalaxmi dhobi ghat). there was laundry hanging *everywhere*. and just as we were told, reds were in one section, jeans in another, and white sheets in yet another. it was pretty interesting. it was also kind of crazy how they washed the clothes.. after soaping it, they would repeatedly beat it (into submission) against the troughs.
while a trip to the post office isn’t usually something interesting or even worth mentioning, when you’re in another country, it’s usually interesting to see how they do things. we had to send a small package, so first, we went to the parcel wallahs across the street from the post office. instead of using a box, they just had some old carboard laying around that they very crudely wrapped around our stuff in a haphazard fashion (i hope it’s ok!). then they take a piece of cloth, and wrap it around the thing and sew it shut. this cloth is ridiculously thin, basically cheesecloth but thinner, and i really wonder about the prudence of using it to hold a package together, but what can ya do! then they use hot tar to seal the place where the cloth was sewn. unfortunately, they leave one end open so customs can inspect the package. so, once inside the post ofice, we had to: have the package inspected, get forms from another counter, fill out the forms in triplicate, have the forms stamped by another man, then have the package sewn shut by another person, have the tar put on by another guy, take it back to the first guy for a signature, and then finally take it to the main counter to be weighed and sent off. post offices abroad really dont like to make your life easy, eh?
our last day in mumbai we went to go see this temple called walkeshwar mandir. it’s a small temle in the southwest corner of the city, and at first we were a bit nervous as to whether or not we could go inside… but apparently we were ok. the temple was really cool. outside it was decorated w/ large elephant statues and intricate white carvings, while inside there were bright colored drawings all over. there were several altars set up in various areas and for some reason (so they dont get stolen?) the statues in the altars were kept behind bars. there were pilgrims singing there and also a tiny skinny and frail looking monk walking around wearing all white…