Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bombay - Mumbai - Bombay

After 2 years of doing the 9am drive to the office and the 8pm back home from the office trip, I finally got a chance to take a vacation for myself. It was a tough decision to make because there were so many places in the world that I haven’t been to yet (my family wasn’t big on family vacations) and was really looking forward to my vacation. After much consideration, Mumbai was my destination. Besides having family in India and despite having travelled there thousands of times, I’ve never been to Mumbai and with all the hype about Bollywood and all, I just had to head out there. My vacation begun on August 27th and lasted till August 31st 2008. This is my journey in Mumbai.

Day 1 – August 27th 2008
I landed in Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai at 12:45am – delayed by an hour. The flight was okay and I had a great seat. It was raining heavily when we landed. The airport was surprisingly beautiful and clean so we can forget about all the stereotypes about India. On my first night, I was dragged to this really cool bar called Blue Frog and this was where I met Arjun Charanjin – Director of MARS India.

Day 2 – August 27th 2008
This day I would like to call “Story from Amchi Mumbai (My Mumbai)”.
My day started with a wonderful breakfast but it was the lunch that got my day really started. I headed to a place called Mahesh Lunchroom. This is a specialty seafood restaurant in Mumbai (previous name Bombay) and the food was really good. The one dish that was strongly recommended was the “Mumbai Duck” which is only available in Mumbai. It’s a chicken dish deep fried with Indian herbs and spices.
* The wonderful chutney & onions they serve with every meal
After lunch, I headed to a retail store called “FebIndia”. A perfect place to buy souvenirs for all family members and friends. This outlet specializes in modern and traditional Indian outfits. All the outfits are made of vegetable prints – simply means that all the designs and patterns of the clothes are made of vegetable dye. I bought so many clothes for family and friends that I was afraid that I had to buy a new luggage to fit all these in.
When the whole shopping was over, it was time to grab dinner and drinks. I was meeting some friends from Diageo India to savor some Johnnie Walker. We met in a place called The Sports Bar in Phoenix Mills at Lower Parel Road in downtowm Mumbai. We started the evening off with some light snacks – stuffed Mushrooms, chicken wings and nacho’s. With all that, we had Smirnoff Green Apple and Johnnie Walker Black Label as our choice of beverage. What I found really interesting is that, just like Malaysia, India has its own favorite sport that is cricket. Everyone at the bar had their eyes glued to the TV screens watching the cricket match between India and Pakistan – a historical rivalry dating back to the 18th century. Anyway, the night ended around 3am with many of course barely remembering a single thing but we were responsible as none of us drove. My friend’s driver drove me home safe and sound.

* The 2 Johnnie Walker boys with the Carlsberg girl

* Happy Hour in India means - Buy 1 Get a Bigger One FREE!!

Day 3 – August 28th 2008
This was the day when everything started only after 2pm. as I nursed a bad hang over from 10am till about lunch. I was treated to really good home cooked traditional Indian food (it seems that this vacation is really all about eating) and it was the best food I’d ever had after my mom’s cooking of course. For dinner, my friend took me to a really cool place called Masala Mantar on Lokandwala District. The place is so secluded that if you weren’t from Mumbai or know someone from there, you won’t find it. The main entrance leads you to a flight of stairs which leads you to a reception area where we were greeted by a pleasant gentleman who led us to our table. The décor of the place was unique with a lot of greenery. I had my first Indian Masala Mojito which was made out the usual Mojito ingredient plus sugarcane. Yum! Yum! That’s all I can say. Another buzzing night. The food was a Punjabi delicacy which was very rich in gravy and spices.
* This is the world-class Masala Mojito

* I just had to take this pic - JOHNNIE WALKER baby!

Day 4 – August 29th 2008
This was the most productive day for me. My friend dragged me out to venture Mumbai. I call this adventure – The Journey Into South Mumbai – aka The Town. The journey took about 2 hours from Juhu Beach but it was indeed an interesting drive. Thank GOD that none of us were driving and we were really thankful for the existence of the driver who managed the roads really well. Like the saying goes, “If you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere in the world.”
I saw the first Porsche showroom in Mumbai and it had 4 Cayanne S parked on the outside. I also spotted the only Bentley on the road and it was bright red so it was hard to miss. It was driven by some old guy – so unfair.
* Porsche baby!!!!

* The first 5-star hotel in India - The Taj Mahal Hotel

The destination was deep into town. We drove from Peddar Road into Marine Drive. Peddar Road is a popular street in Mumbai and a popular address in Mumbai. It is also filled with designer boutiques from Gucci to LV. At the end of Peddar Road, is Marine Drive also known as Chowpaty which is a popular hang out spot for middle-class families and it is along the beach front with beach side stalls that sell local delicacy and juices. As we drove down Marine Drive which runs along the coastal road of Mumbai with a beautiful view of the seas, I noticed that the traffic is much organized and the surrounding was really clean – very different from the suburbs.
* Believe people - this is the train station

The first spot we hit was the “Gateway of India” – this was where the British first arrived. It was a breath taking scene as I stood there mesmerized by the gateway. Directly across from the gateway, was the 1st 5star hotel built in India called the Taj Mahal Hotel. It was built by JRD Tata who committed suicide upon discovering that he had built the hotel wrongly – the entrance became the exit and the exit became the entrance. Until today, the hotels exit is used as the entrance but it doesn’t have the grand feel to it as it sits by the side of the road. The hotel houses brands like LV, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo and Dunhill as its house brand retail outlets. The architecture of the building is absolutely amazing and marvelous. The hotels Sea Lounge has a direct view of the Arabian Sea and the Gateway of India and the cost of a small Cappucino there will cost you Rs800 (RM80).

* The view of the beach front from the street. Nice ride!!

From the Taj Mahal Hotel, we walked to Colaba Causeway which is actually a street full of Indian export rejected items – from footwear to handbags to clothes to sunglasses. It was a great place to shop for souvenirs and sort of reminded me of KL’s very own Chinatown except that bargaining here was a lot harder and tougher to win. We then had a beer (yes at 3pm) in this placed call Leopold which is a café style restaurant mainly visited by Europeans and tourist It’s over 100 years old and it’s the only place in town that carries their own brand souvenirs. From there, we headed to Café Mondigar – a beer garden café with Goa style art graffiti on its walls. I didn’t last long in there because they played nothing else but rock music.

* The Taj Mahal Hotel only houses Top International Brands - I wasn't kidding!

* The famous gateway of India - right in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel
* I managed to spot a celebrity :)
* Really cool statue.
Once we were done shopping, we jumped into the car and headed to see the famous train station in downtown called Victoria Terminius (now known as Chatrapati Shivaji Terminium). The building is an old Victorian style well preserved building that still stands grand. This train station is the busiest in the city with everyone passing through it on a daily basis. The next stop was my favorite but before that, we drove through Mumbai’s financial district called Nariman Point. This is where the nation’s financial offices reside and operate out of. After that, we drove through Mallabar Hills and this is where I finally got to see some huge houses and that is because the country’s rich and famous industrialists reside in this neighborhood. My favorite part of my journey is when I was taken in a car ride to see all the Bollywood celebrities’ houses and how they live. I saw the houses of Shahrukh Khan (his house is named Mannat which means “Wishes”), Salman Khan, Aiswarya Rai, Sunjay Dutt, Amitha Bathchan, and John Abraham. These celebrities all live in an area called Bandra. The journey around Mumbai ended around 7pm. We then headed back to freshen up and to start partying again as a reward for doing such a good job being a tourist. We headed back to Blue Frog for a book launch event – it was free flow of Carlsberg so I couldn’t miss that chance. Some more of my Diageo friends joined us and we then headed to one of Mumbai’s exclusive hang out called Olive’s in Bandra. As soon as I walked in, I spotted Karisma Kapoor (another Bollywood star) with her husband and some friends. I use to like her a lot as an actress until that day. A little girl had approached her and asked her for an autograph and her reaction was as though she was so disgusted by that. I mean she’s a little girl – give her a break. Anyway, everyone there looked like celebrities including us. It was a rather early night for us after the 8th Carlsberg. We headed back around 2:30am and went straight to bed after a full day of outdoor activities. * Amitha Batchan's house - his son married Aiswarya Rai

Day 5 – August 30th 2008
On this day, I didn’t do a single thing. I stayed home and watched Bollywood movies and constantly kept eating – I’m on a holiday. It was raining silly outside so I just didn’t want to deal with the mess. I had some friends come over for some dinner and drinks and catch up session. The buzz hits you faster when you’re at home drinking.
Day 6th – August 31st 2008
This was my last day in Mumbai and it started around 11am. We headed to this restaurant called “The Class” which is an authentic Punjabi and Marwadi (Rajasthan cuisine) vegetarian meal called the “Thali”. It was buffet except that it is served to your table. They charge Rs350 (RM35) per person and it consists of a 9 course meal that you can keep adding as many times as you want. The food was so good that we literally took our time to eat and eat and eat. For the first time in my life, I had lunch for 3 hours straight with breaks in between to digest the food. The dessert was an Indian sweet called Jilabi accompanied with sweet yogurt drink.
We left for the airport around 8pm as a 2 hour check in prior to flight time is required and you never know what may go wrong in India. I said my goodbye’s and headed into the airport. Surprisingly, the airport was very clean and well maintained. I checked in and headed to the boarding gate where I stopped and had 1 last drink in Mumbai in a bar called Bombay Blue Bar and I had to have a Johnnie Walker Black Label.
* The Bombay Blue Bar - classy!!!

* The Bombay Airport - very clean actually.

* The Bombay Airport security - very tough. Security station is behind him :)
My Mumbai trip opened up my eyes to the world we live in. Everyday we complain of what we don’t have and can’t get or what others have that we want but never have we once thought of what we are blessed with and what we should be thankful we already have – good health, good family and good life. There are many people in Indian that are happy with clothes on their back and simple food on their table because it’s rare that they have this.

No comments: