Day 12 was Chu and Eric’s last day with us. They had been the most wonderful company throughout the trip. They had so many interesting stories to tell, but were also keen to learn from each of us and to hear about our experiences too. They had become our ‘India’ mum and dad for many of us on the trip, especially those of us who were less well traveled. Their departure would leave a big hole for us.
However, it wasn’t quite time to say goodbye as we had a whole day in Mumbai together first.
Mumbai has become an incredibly wealthy city over time, yet it’s probably most famous for its slums.
As the morning was ‘free time’ some of our group had made the decision to go on an organised tour of the slums. These tours are against the values of Intrepid Travel so are not part of the trip. As much as the geographer in me would have been keen to visit them, I hated the fact they were being used as a tourist attraction.
It also didn’t sit particularly well with me that our afternoon was due to be spent enjoying High Tea at The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. I would’ve felt like a hypocrite spending the morning seeing the slums and then getting glammed up for High Tea at the Palace! But each to their own 🤷🏼♀️
For those of us not heading out to the slums, it was time to get ready to visit some more of Mumbai’s beautiful attractions.
Local Train Adventure
Our first stop was the local train. Mumbai’s local trains carry in the region of 7.5 million commuters everyday! You’ve probably seen images of these trains in every documentary or movie you’ve ever seen about India. More often than not the trains are beyond overcrowded, with passengers precariously hanging out the train doors to avoid being crushed! There are carriages specifically for ladies which are a little less crowded, but otherwise trying to avoid peak times is your best bet.
Thankfully, we reached our destination in one piece and without having to hang outside the train doors! Over the next few hours we walked through Mumbai’s streets, soaking up the sights and smells as we gradually made our way towards The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel for High Tea.
Oval Maidan and a Good Ol’ Game of Cricket!
Our next stop was the the Oval Maidan. Everyone knows that Indian’s love a good game of cricket, but I never dreamt we’d actually get to see some being played while we were there! The Oval Maidan is a fantastic area of yellow (sometimes green) grass, surrounded by palm trees, where people turn up everyday to enjoy a game of cricket or two. I’m not a huge fan of the sport, but it was a great experience to see it being played by the locals!
Just behind the Oval Maidan sits the breathtaking Mumbai University. Established in 1857, the University was designed by English architect Sir Gilbert Scott, the same Sir Gilbert Scott who was behind the design of St Pancras Station in London.
The High Court
Just over the road from Mumbai University is the High Court. The court is one if the oldest courts in India. The building was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in 2018.
Flora Fountain was built in 1864 and represents the Roman goddess Flora. It’s located in the business district in the middle of South Mumbai, and makes a perfect spot for a photograph!
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is an incredible structure in the heart of Mumbai’s business district, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site at that! The train station is another piece of Indian history which was inspired by London’s St Pancras Station.
The station was built in 1887 and was the largest British building in India. It shares the same gothic inspired design as Mumbai University.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a lot quieter than the local metro with a mere 3 million passengers entering through its doors everyday.
And if the outside of the building isn’t spectacular enough, the inside blew me away. I had to keep reminding myself this was ‘just’ a train station!
The Taj Palace Hotel
After our late morning/early afternoon walk around Mumbai, it was time to head towards The Taj Palace Hotel, where we would be meeting up with the rest of our group after their visit to the slums, and indulging in a spot of High Tea!
The Taj Palace Hotel is a 5 star luxury hotel, situated just behind the Gateway to India.
The hotel came under attack during the 2008 Mumbai bombings. During the attack, many people were taken hostage, with 167 people losing their lives, 31 of whom died at the Taj.
Not only is The Taj Palace Hotel famous for the tragedy of the Mumbai bombings, it’s also famous for its High Tea.
I’m not normally one for getting excited over a high tea (or afternoon tea as we tend to call it back in the UK), largely because my stomach doesn’t react too well to bread! But High Tea at the Taj was something else.
The food was incredible. Everything was made to such a high standard. It was an Instagrammers wet dream! The colours and the presentation of the food was just exquisite.
There was a delightful mix of Indian and western cuisine, and thankfully for my stomach, there wasn’t a sandwich in sight!
After a lovely afternoon tucking into some of India’s poshest grub, it was time to head back to our hotel, to say our goodbyes to Chu and Eric, and to freshen up, ready for our last overnight train journey of the trip.
We would be making our way from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus where we would board the overnight train around 10pm, arriving in Goa, our last stop of the trip, at around 9am the following day.
Mumbai had been an absolute blast! I always knew it would be special, and it was. It was so very different to many of the other cities we visited throughout our time in India, but probably the first one where it felt we could’ve spent a lot longer. Part of me was envious that Chu and Eric would be staying on in Mumbai for a few more days.
Although our time in Mumbai was short, it’s definitely somewhere I would go back to in the future (although that’s probably a very distant future thanks to Covid!). Mumbai captivated me in a similar way to London I guess. It’s multicultural, diverse, and chaotic. But you just can’t help but fall in love with it. It has a charm like nowhere else. It’s vibrant, it’s young, and it’s an incredibly exciting place to be.
As we made our way back towards the train station, it was hard to believe we were heading off to our final destination of the trip. We were 12 days in, and with only 2 full days left, I really didn’t feel ready to go home (sorry mum and dad!).