Four Countries in 2 Weeks: Turkey, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India
India Day 2 – A midnight tour of Mumbai on a layover to see the Gateway of India, Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and have a nightcap.
The largest city in India and the 4th largest in the world, Mumbai, previously Bombay, was a city we couldn’t miss.
Our flight from Calcutta was on a JetAirways’ Mickey Mouse decorated Boeing 737. A few hours later we were wandering the airport at Mumbai.
We went straight to the taxi line and hailed one to the Gateway of India. We bargained the fare with the driver who took us for about 1,000 rupees roundtrip. Not bad for an hour each way.
Gateway of India
The Gateway of India is a large archway built out of basalt rock in 1911-1924 in celebration of the King George V and Queen Mary’s visit to India.
When India became independent in 1948, British troops passed through the archway in a symbolic ceremony.
There have been several terrorist attacks at the arch. In 2003, a bomb explode and in 2008 Pakistani gunmen disembarked from this point to commit their terror attacks.
When we arrived late at night, the area was closed and police were guarding the entrance. We pleaded with them so we could enter for a few pictures and they kindly obliged.
Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
Right next to the arch is the flagship five star Taj Mahal hotel. This flagship hotel of the brand was opened in 1903 and has hosted many famous guests, most recently Obama stayed here.
The Taj is also one of the primary targets during the 2008 terrorist attacks. 450 people were staying at the hotel during the time and around 31 people perished from the seizure. This is one of the reasons for their heightened security.
At the entrance, there are concrete barriers and armed guards checking each pedestrian. A camouflaged light-armored military vehicle is parked across the street.
We walked in and asked for a tour and a gentleman from the concierge gave us a brief look around. He brought us to the open-air pool area and the grand staircase. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures.
After the hotel, we walked around and found a bar street with plenty of locals hanging out. We picked Gokul which had a small bar in the back room.
Walking into the smokey back room felt like stumbling upon a secret. But it must be a well known bar to locals. We ordered two Kingfisher beers and some kind of snack made of fried chickpeas and garlic.
We had a good chat over beers to pass the time. Our taxi driver was waiting so we concluded the night in Mumbai and returned to the airport.
One observation was the amount of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks… Seemed like a natural disaster occurred. Does overpopulation count?
At the airport we had about two hours until our 6 am flight to Kochi. The most frustrating part of the night was keeping awake to catch our flight!
Next stop: Kerala!