Saturday 6 October 2007


Our day began with breakfast on the first floor of our marbly hotel. After a spicy masala omelette, I felt ready to conquer the monkey filled Elephanta Island. A short stroll to the Gateway of India after, we learnt that, due to the morning fog, the island is best seen in the late afternoon, when the day clears out and one can take in the beautiful views of the island and of Mumbai.

A very talkative tout warned us against visiting the island in the morning and, although suspicious at first, this piece of information was confirmed by other touts trying to sell us tickets for their boat tour.

We resolved to give up on the island and catch a Bollywood flick instead. We took a cab to the venerable Metro Cinema, where we were confronted with a wide choice of Bollywood blockbusters, all without English subtitles. Hence the choice of between the cinema going experience (and the associated polar air-conditioning) or walking the scorching street of Mumbai became thorny.

Thankfully, we opted for popcorn and pepsi and a comfy reclinining seat. We realized that we got more than we bargained for, since the film, "Chak De!" was enjoyable and inspiring. Thanks to a very predictable storyline, we knew exactly was going on most of the time, despite the fact that we did not understand a word they were saying (besides the occasional English conservation).

The story was a bit corny, a bunch of girls from all over India overcoming their differences and building a strong and eventually unbeatable Indian hockey team, but the musical commentary and the out-of-this-world fight scene in McDonald's made us forgive all the film's shortcomings.

The intermission fired the following messages at us, which we found hilarious: "popcorn sends word it's been missing you" and "please do not spit in the theatre", among others.

The cinema throughout was very posh and clean, with some of the most hygenic toilets I have so far seen in India. Cameras were not allowed inside the teather, so I had to deposit it with a guard.

We then returned to our favourite clothes shop, where we bought more items that we had landed our eyes on the previous day but decided not to purchase.

Walking back to the hotel, I spotted a nice shirt sitting on a street market stall. While I was contemplating whether to get it or not, we whole stall was lifted by two men and carried away. A police car might have been approaching, and the illegal street vendors likely wanted to avoid being caught. However, it proved to be a false alarm, so I was able to conclude the transaction and got me a nice cotton shirt for less than 2 euro.

We decided to see with our own eyes what the excitement about the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai is all about, and chanced walking through its main entrance. An impressive staircase greeted us, followed by lush marble corridors where very fancy and sofisticated jewel, fashin, gold shops were lined up. The main entrace hall in the new wing was absolutely magnificent, with classy lighting, stylish sofas, and polished marble everywhere. Amazing. We discovered that the restaurants and bars had very accessible prices (as opposed to the room rates, starting from around 600dollars), and regretted not dining there.