After stopping at the gym and enjoying a wonderful buffet breakfast at our hotel, we set off to see the city with the car that we had hired through the hotel. Our driver, Ganga, was very excited to show us the sights. Luckily it was a Sunday, so the traffic wasn’t bad at all. However, we quickly found out that there don’t seem to be any traffic laws (or lights) at all – everyone just goes as quickly as they can, and no one pays any attention to the lane markers. Still, it wasn’t nearly as bad as expected – but that might just be because we’re from Boston!
Our driver had an itinerary for us which pretty much matched our own, so we let him lead the way. However, we found that whenever we got out of the car, we were immediately approached by one or more people begging, or trying to sell us trinkets. Our driver was very protective, and he paid off at least one of the beggars to leave us alone. We stopped first at a Hindu temple, and then headed to Gandhi’s house (which is now a small museum). Then we headed to Dhobi Ghat, where there are dozens of workers laundering clothes and linens.
After that we headed to Colaba (neighborhood), to see the Gateway of India and the Taj Palace Hotel. As soon as we parked the car, our driver insisted we go to a few shops with him. We knew from our research before the trip that drivers will often do this with tourists. If the driver brings people in, the shop will charge 30-40% more than usual, and the driver also earns a commission. So, we didn’t buy anything and we just took a quick look.
We wanted to take some pictures of the Gateway of India (where all the ships come in), but it was very bright outside and we couldn’t get any good shots. We were also constantly accosted by child beggars, who pulled at our clothes and asked for money. Several other beggars approached us, and although we knew enough not to engage them or give them anything, we weren’t (yet) savvy enough to know that it’s best to say a firm “No” or completely ignore them. After a quick view of the water we headed in to the Taj Palace Hotel for lunch.
We had a wonderful (and very expensive) lunch at Masala Kraft, one of the Taj Hotel’s several restaurants. We were nervous about our first real Indian meal, but we needn’t have worried – it was very good and the restaurant was quite fancy and clean. The bathrooms in the Taj were also spotless (and western-style), so it was a nice break in the day.
After lunch we headed to the Hanging Gardens, which is a very nice city garden that had very few people – and no beggars. It was a great change from the hustle and bustle of the Colaba area.
We also toured the Bandra neighborhood by car, where we saw the homes of Bollywood stars. Shana also did a little shopping at FabIndia, which people had told us is like the Gap – but it’s more like a little chain of stores that sells relatively cheap kurtas (tops) and scarves. It’s a fixed price store, though, which was refreshing.
After taking a short break from sightseeing at our hotel, we ventured out again in the evening to go to Khyber restaurant in Colaba. We enjoyed a fantastic meal of seekh kebab, curry, pal palak, and naan. We had read that Khyber was a very touristy restaurant, but it seemed like most of the people at the restaurant were Indian tourists (which we took as a good sign). The food was pretty similar to the Indian food we’ve had at home, but the spices and flavors were much more interesting.
That night, the jet lag hit and we barely slept. However, we did get up in time for our early morning flight to Aurangabad. We were a little sad to leave the luxury of the Trident, but we were pretty excited about traveling to a new city, and seeing the caves of Ellora and Ajanta.