We spent the majority of the trip sipping Orange Fanta (me), taking a nap (my sister-in-law), getting into political discussions (Mr. Cool and my brother-in-law) and snapping pictures from the car (me again).
Before we knew it, the sparse country road gave way to smog, tall buildings and large trucks bearing "Horn OK Please" on the bumper - a standing request to drivers in proximity to honk as they passed on the right:
Since we landed in Mumbai after midnight upon our arrival, I didn't get to take in a whole lot of scenery when we first got to India. My initial impression was, "this is what I thought India would look like":
Before I knew it, we had arrived at the luxurious Taj Majal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. I was happy to learn that we had been upgraded to a Tower Suite with a view of the Gateway of India from our window. Our accommodations were pretty amazing. I couldn't think of anywhere else I'd rather spend New Year's Eve in India:
I loved the red walls and mirrored closets. Everything about this hotel oozed luxury, from the marble jacuzzi tub to the silk bedding. I felt like a real Maharani in this room:
As expected, the view did not disappoint!
We didn't have too long to relax in the room before it was time to go again. My in-laws had arranged a private tour of the Mumbai for us - in a huge tourist bus that could have fit 20 people. It was actually quite funny. I make fun of tourist buses all the time in San Francisco, but they are admittedly a good way to cover a large amount of ground in a short period of time.
Our next stop was Marine Drive, where we got a glimpse of the Arabian Sea and the Queen's Necklace, named for the streetlights that surround the water at night and resemble a string of pearls. I was interested to learn that Mumbai is actually a series of seven islands joined together through land reclamation projects over the years:
Next, we headed to Chowpatty Beach, famous for its bhelpuri and panipuri vendors, as well as its Ganesh (Ganapati) celebrations. We arrived just as the sun was setting on New Year's Eve:
We made a quick stop at the Hanging Gardens of Mumbai in Malabar Hill, and posed for a few pictures in the park. At this point, there were at least eight people staring at us. As I mentioned in my last post, we really didn't see too many tourists in either Pune or Mumbai. The fact that Mr. Cool's parents and my brother-in-laws' parents were all taking our photo at the same time probably didn't help the situation:
Our last stop of the tour was Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Station) in Mumbai, scene of the closing dance number in Slumdog Millionaire (released in India as Slumdog Crorepati):
The station was crowded with wall-to-wall people. Our guide later told us that since it was a holiday, it was a "light" travel day. I'm pretty sure I would faint from the sheer number of people if we had visited the station during rush hour on a work day! My sister-in-law and I stopped to pose outside of the "women only" car, which was exuding the subtle scent of jasmine perfume:
After our tour of the city, we went back to our hotel to freshen up, change and make our way down to one of the hotel's bars for New Year's Eve festivities. We rang in the New Year with plenty of good conversation, cold flutes of champagne and individual servings of pistachio ice cream:
Shortly after midnight, we made our way back to our rooms. We stopped in the hallway to take in the gallery of notables who have stayed at the hotel. President Obama's photo was prominently displayed at the center of the case when we were there:
For some reason, I could barely sleep at all that night! Perhaps it was the full day of excitement coupled with too many glasses of champagne, but I really blame it on the malaria pills I was taking.
I experienced crazy and vivid dreams almost the entire time we were in India, and they were especially insane on New Year's Eve! The only upside was that I got to witness this amazing sunrise from our hotel room window on New Year's Day. It was pretty magical, and one of my favorite photos from our trip:
After watching the sun rise, I relaxed in the jacuzzi tub for a bit before wandering down to the hotel lobby. After a "farewell" breakfast with my in-laws, Mr. Cool and I got ready to head to Goa for the next few days. We manged to sneak in a quick walk around the hotel grounds and surrounding neighborhood before we left for the airport:
The pool at the Taj and an Indian Starbucks!
A field trip in session during our walk around the neighborhood
Our time in Mumbai was crazy and hectic, but I suppose it wouldn't be a true trip to India without a little dose of chaos. By the time this leg of our trip was over, I was more than ready to head to the beach.
Up next, Anjuna and Little Vagator beaches in South Goa!