Day Twenty-Eight: A trip I can’t forget. (Mumbai)
The only weekend I had when I briefly stayed in Mumbai was nearly ruined when I went drinking on Saturday morning after shift.
There is a good local beer in India called Kingfisher. It comes in two variants: white and red label. Normally, I drank the lighter white label; but on that Saturday, I decided to finally give the red label a try. It was good. Kingfisher was less sweet than Filipino beer like San Miguel Pale Pilsen or Red Horse, but has a nice earthy flavor and little bitterness.
Kingfisher Red also kicked like a motherfucker.
I was hungover when I woke up that evening, causing me to cancel meeting up one of the team supervisors who invited me over to his place near the sea. That really sucked major ass: the only Saturday I spent in Mumbai and I had to sleep it off. My hangover lasted well into Sunday and I was only able to go out after noon.
The Gateway of India. I'll let Wikipedia tell you what it is and why it was made. It's a huge structure, elegant and stately. It's a reminder of India's colonial past. Most of the tourists who go here are actually locals; often groups of friends and family. A lot of people have their photos taken with the Gateway as the backdrop.
It is relatively easy to move around Mumbai once you know how to flag a rickshaw and learn the train routes. The names of places are also not difficult to pronounce. Rickshaws were often an adventure and the drivers are up there among the most fearless PUV drivers in Asia. Coming from the Philippines and growing up riding jeepneys and tricycles, that is saying something. The drivers are badass, no-nonsense men whom you cannot win an argument with. The trains, on the other hand, were very cheap and very efficient.
I spent the afternoon walking around old Mumbai and admiring the buildings. Mumbai was able to preserve many of them: gorgeous works of architecture lining up a street.
For someone who was offline (I wasn’t given an Indian SIM and I didn’t enable international roaming on my phone) and relying only on some Google Map screenshots, I was able to explore without much difficulty. I visited some required tourist landmarks, went into a museum, and tried some street food. I was warned before I went there to be careful of the water I drink. I never had any problems caused by the food or drink.
My co-workers in Mumbai were surprised that I was roaming around the city without a guide. It was not as easy as it seemed: most people in Mumbai do not speak English. And I don’t pick up new languages that easily. I thought that for a country that was colonized by the British for so long, English fluency would be very commonplace there; I was wrong. But then, the Philippines was colonized by Spain for so long but most of us don’t speak Spanish at all.
But that added level of difficulty made the whole thing more challenging. It’s been years since I last travelled outside the country and I wanted to relish every bit of it. And I did.
The time I spent in Mumbai challenged by preconceived ideas of the country and made me realize my racist tendencies. Getting immersed in another culture does that to you: it makes you look at their and your culture with fresh eyes.
Some friends, after seeing my Instagram posts about Mumbai, have pointed out that I really connected to the place. And I did. Maybe it’s something special about Mumbai. Or maybe it was the strangeness and familiarity of the place, simultaneously.
Or it could be the lack of internet distractions while I was traveling. Being offline really forces one to pay attention to where one is going.