Outside Heathrow Terminal 4 - Tuesday 20 January
The Gateway to India, Mumbai - Wednesday 21 January
So here I am in Bombay. In many respects it's not like the India I've become used to in the last few years. It's more modern and prosperous. Although there are people living on the streets the poverty is far less noticeable than somewhere like Delhi or Jaipur. The traffic is far less chaotic, red lights are obeyed and the highway code is respected in as much as everyone drives on the correct side of the road. Of course the use of the horn is almost mandatory and together with the cawing of the ubiquitous crows they form the soundtrack to Bombay life. Another major difference is that there are no cows freely wandering the streets, causing chaos and filth. The few I have seen have been tethered, well fed and looked after. There are also no scooters, motorbikes or autorickshaws in south Bombay as these have banned. Well done, say I. Of course you don't have to go to far to come across the "real india" and the functioning chaos that that entails. A visit to Crawford Market or Victoria Terminus railway station is enough to induce feelings of wonder that anything can work in such crowded conditions.
The weather is pleasant, about 30 degrees at midday and not tooo humid with a cooling breeze off the sea. Despite this it's very tiring getting around as the ciy is huge and distances between the major sights are large. Guess I'll have to start using taxis rather than walking everywhere. Prices are not as high as I'd expected given Bombay's reputation as India's most expensive city. For example, a bed in a 4 bed dorm is 700 rupees (£1 = 93 rupees) and my deluxe thali and soft drink tonight came to 200 rs including a tip.
It's been good to renew my acquaintance with Bombay and see how it has changed in the 35 years since my last visit. Interesting to make a quick beer stop at Leopolds cafe and see the bullet holes still in the ceiling after the 2008 terrorist attack and to note the high security at all the tourist sites and major hotels. Apart from that, whoever said Bombay is like Manchester in the sun wasn't far wrong.