India Trip: The Overview

What would travel be if it didn’t have constraints? I’m constrained by where I have to be and when. I’m constrained because I don’t speak Hindi or Marathi. I also can’t read the script of either of these languages. I’m constrained by my poor mathematical abilities. It frightens me to divide anything by 67.  I’m not that great at walking around in sandals. It feels a little weird to be traveling alone without a friend or my husband. And finally, I’ll also be constrained by traffic; the sheer numbers of people trying to get around.

My 17-day trip to India has three main parts.

Part I: Landing in India, Recovering From Jet Lag 

Day 1 (Monday): Leave my house at 3:30 a.m. to drive to the airport. Park my car there. (Need to research this.) Fly, fly, and fly. It will take a full day to travel from where I live to Mumbai.

Day 2 (Tuesday): Land; my hotel sends a car to get me at the airport. (I still need to arrange that with them.) I check in and then what? Either I’m wide awake or exhausted. (There is a 12-hour time difference.) I’ll probably grab something to eat in the hotel and spend the rest of the evening in my room. If I have time and energy, I’ll exchange money.

Day 3 (Wednesday): Two days have been crushed and I’m ready to go!!! I probably wimped out yesterday, so I’ll exchange money today. Now I’m off to Elephanta Island to see the caves and everything else.

Day 4 (Thursday): Did I get enough of the island? Do I want to do it again? Or, do I want to see some art museums that are nearby? The Prince of Wales Museum is supposed to be amazing! I could also see what the fuss is about with Leopold’s Cafe.

Part II: The Wedding in Aurangabad!

Day 5 (Friday): TBD

Day 6 (Saturday): I am on my own. The wedding is in two days, and today I’m a free agent. Gotta get to those caves! Ellora, Ajanta, Aurangabad? One of those.

Day 7 (Sunday): More caves!!

Day 8 (Monday): Today is the big day. My friend is getting married! She thinks she’ll be wearing a pink sari, but she hasn’t seen it yet because her parents are picking it out in India and none of the shops will let them send her pictures (all the way to the U.S. via internet) of their choices. When I complained that my sari fashioning didn’t go so well, she divulged that she will be having someone help her put hers on. That made me feel a little better. Still, I need to try again. It’s like deftly tying a parachute into a nicely shaped, elegant dress, that drapes well. (I’m going to sneak this in here. I just found a great post describing Hindu weddings.)

Day 9 (Tuesday):  I am probably a bit exhausted as I crawl out of bed and head for an espresso and a dip in the pool. Not sure what I’m doing today, but likely it will be low key. TBD.

Day 10 (Wednesday): TBD.

Day 11 (Thursday): TBD. Go to bed early and set several alarms. I need to board a train at 6 a.m. tomorrow to get back to Mumbai. (So I get up when? 4:30 a.m.?) If I miss the train, a 6.5-hour journey could turn into a 20-hour journey, because all the other “express” trains are that pokey! Since I’ll be traveling with all of my belongings, I’ve decided to initially only carry one bag on this trip, which I’ll check when flying. In my purse, I’ll carry essentials. I’ll have to pack better than I’ve ever packed before!

Part III: Journey Back From Aurangabad to Mumbai or Navi Mumbai?

Day 12 (Friday): This was a very tricky part as far as planning was concerned. My friend thinks that train travel may be difficult for me because I don’t understand Hindi and may not hear the stops. She thinks I should take a luxury bus instead. I’m not too keen on busses and think a train ride sounds more fun. I figure that I’ll know when I reach Mumbai. How can I miss it?

There are two places I could stop. I could stop in Thane (east of Mumbai) and take an Uber or Ola to Navi Mumbai where the wedding reception will be, or I could go all the way to the beautiful but infamous Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. I say infamous because of the 2006 terrorist attacks, which were filmed in their entirety and available to watch on YouTube. I’d rather disembark at a station that doesn’t have such a high profile, but I also crave convenience.

Given that the reception isn’t until Sunday, and this is Friday, do I really want to spend that tourist time on my own in Navi Mumbai? After all, there are several amazing temples to see in Mumbai. I struggled with this and finally decided to stay in Mumbai for the remainder of the trip. So today, I will ride the train from 6 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m. and then either have an Uber or Ola to take me to the hotel, which I think has a check-in time of 2:00 p.m., but I need to check on that. Tonight, I am probably feeling a bit tired, so I’ll settle in at the hotel, send off some pictures to my husband and some friends, and then go up to the rooftop and watch the sunset.

Day 13 (Saturday): I’m on my own today. Mumbai is my oyster and I’m off to see some temples. TBD.

Day 14 (Sunday): My friend’s wedding reception is today in Navi Mumbai. I know where it is, but I don’t know when it is. She told me that it will only last a few hours, so it won’t be an all-day affair. So today, I think I’ll start the day early by visiting the Afghan Church, which opens at 7 a.m. It is only open on Sundays, and this is my only Sunday in Mumbai. Afterwards, I think I’ll walk to breakfast somewhere. (Need to figure that out.) The rest is TBD. Then an Uber or Ola to Navi Mumbai. Since I have no idea what traffic is like between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai and I don’t know how late the reception ends or how safe I’ll feel traveling back by myself, I’ve decided to get a room at the hotel where the reception is being held in Navi Mumbai. It doesn’t cost a lot, and the peace of mind will make it worth it. I’ll leave all my bags and stuff in Mumbai and travel light to Navi Mumbai for the evening.

Day 15 (Monday): If there was dancing and eating and merriment at the reception, I’m probably having a hard time getting up. I check out of the room in Navi Mumbai and head back to my hotel in Mumbai. I have found that typically, there are a lot of things that are closed on Mondays in India, so I’ll have to do some research to figure out what I’m doing today. Generally speaking, temples or maybe Nehru’s Museum or Observatory? This evening, I’ll be watching the sunset from the roof of my hotel in Mumbai.

Day 16 (Tuesday): This is my last full day in Mumbai. I’m sad even though I haven’t left home yet. This is TBD. Tonight I will spend the evening in the roof of the hotel watching the sun set and listening to music.

Day 17 (Wednesday): This is another tricky part. I have to check out of my hotel at 12 noon, but my flight doesn’t leave Mumbai until 10 p.m. tonight. Just me and my bag for 10 hours! This is a problem.

Day 18: (Thursday): Arrive at 9:48 a.m. back home. Get car, and drive, drive, drive.

 

To Dos:

  • Still need to get my vaccinations. Will be doing this on Wednesday of this week.
  • Still need to get my visa for India. Can’t do that yet. Too soon.
  • Still need to learn basic Hindi and ideally recognize basic signage. Need to learn phrases like: “Your mother is watching you.” (LOL!)
  • Still need to get a decent suitcase and decide what I’m going to take. Perhaps need to get a larger and more casual looking purse since I’m not taking a carry on.
  • Need to dig out my “walking sandals.”
  • Still need to figure out how much money to take.
  • Need to make sure our bills are all paid up.
  • Still need to figure out what food will cost and where I might go, so I’m not eating something questionable at the last minute.
  • Still need to talk to friends about checking in on my husband. He’s doing better, but I want to make sure he’s ok.
  • Still need to put signs and money around the house, so that he’s remembering to lock the doors at night, bring in the dog, and make sure the chickens have water. For the most part he has this, but I worry.
  • Need to make sure my phone has enough data allotted to it.
  • Need to find out how much parking my car at the airport will cost. (After all that traveling, am I going to want to drive two hours to get home?)
  • Need to research those temples, get their times and locations.
  • Need to read up on the places I’ve decided to visit, so I know what I’m looking at.
  • Need to breathe! 🙂

Mumbai Tour 1 — Slashing the Itinerary

I want to see it all, but I can’t. In planning this trip, I feel tinier than an ant. And, I realize that I’m not going to be happy if I’m in a cab the whole time. So the things that I’ll see, I’ll have to see in area chunks. Also, I may get tired, hot, hungry, and thirsty, and then cranky. I will have some time to myself in Mumbai and then I’m off to Aurangabad. The following is what I’ve got planned thus far.

I love archaeology and the moment I learned about the Elephanta Caves (a World Heritage Site), I knew they were first on my list. The Elephanta Caves on are Elephanta Island, which is east of (old) Mumbai and west of (new) Navi Mumbai. The journey to the island by ferry will take about an hour.

Elephanta Cave Day(s):

depart-to-elephanta-caves

Place/Activity Times Cost   When Closed Interesting Details
Elephanta Ferry 9 a.m. — First boat leaves Apollo Bandar.

2 p.m. — Last boat leaves Apollar Bandar.

12 Noon — First boat departs island.

5:30 p.m. — Last boat departs island.

₹150 Mondays It takes one hour to get to the caves.

Boats leave every 30 minutes.

Elephanta Island and Caves

elephanta-island-small-view

 

  • Historical Shiv Mandir (Northeast on Island)
  • Historical Shivja Temple (Northwest on Island)
  • Elephanta Caves (Central)
  • Elephanta Lake Garden (South Central)
  • Cannon Point (West)
  • Shree Datta Mandir, Gharapuri (South)
  • Gaondevi Temple (South)
  • Someshwar Mandir (South)

 

Mumbai Art Day (Day 1 of More Such Days Hopefully, But No Promises)

art-day-mumbai

Place Admission Times Price When Closed Address/Photo OK?/Interesting Details
Jehangir Art Gallery 11 a.m to 7 p.m.  ?  ? 161 KALAGHODA
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu
Sangrahalaya (Prince of Wales Museum)
10:15 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Museum Entry for Foreign Adult: ₹500 (? $)

Mumbai Experience Documentary Foreign Adult: ₹50

Mobile Phone Photography Pass: ₹100

Audio Guide: Complimentary

 Only Closed on Certain Holidays  159-161 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai
National Gallery of Modern Art 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Foreign Visitor: ₹500 (? $)  Mondays Sir Cowasji Jahangir Public HallM G Road, Fort Mumba
Leopold Cafe  7:30 a.m. to Midnight  Menu  S.B. Singh Road,
Colaba Causeway

*Current exchange rate: $1 = ₹67.8209 (Rupees)

 

Afghan Church: open Sunday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 

All this other stuff will have to wait:

There is way too much to do in India!

The more I learn about India, the more I want to see and the more I cannot see because I don’t have time.

Two months already I’ve known about this trip, and I still can’t get my head around it. I’m going to have to cut my travel aspirations to the bone, and just today I looked up World Heritage Sites in India, and I nearly fell out of my chair. Oh, I want to visit the Khajuraho temples in Madhya Pradesh oh so terribly badly, and I just won’t have time.

For Mumbai, I have a list that’s a mile long:

Oh, and then there are also the sites in Aurangabad:

And let’s not forget the interesting things I saw on the web for Navi Mumbai (New Mumbai):

 

How long am I staying? Oh, about 15 days.

P.S. Places unsafe for women at night. (Some due to wild animals and ghosts.)

All roads lead to India?

india-topographic-mapI’ve been wanting to do some foreign travel for some time, but I just could not figure out where in the world to go. Some said “Belize, you’ve got to go to Belize.” And then someone else said Scotland, and well, I do love castles. I wanted to honeymoon in a castle when I was young and dreaming about such things.

But then the other day, as I was eating Indian fast food for lunch, I was invited to a wedding—in India. And in a moment, I knew I must go. I must go to the wedding, and I must go to India. I mean for crying out loud, I love elephants. I’ve always wanted to see some elephants, up close where they live, not in a zoo.

But India, I have to admit I don’t know very much. I read George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” in school. That was depressing. I saw the movie “Gandhi.” That was inspiring and a bit depressing too.

OK, so let’s face it. I know nothing about India. It’s this mysterious place. Columbus thought he had found India when he arrived in North America. He obviously didn’t know very much about India either.  The Taj Mahal, Bollywood, Slum Dog Millionaire, crime, lots of people, heat, poverty, nukes, Kashmir, and terrorist attacks on the hotel where I would like to stay. This is what the Western media has told me about India. A lot of my stuff is made in India.

I mean any one who reads this blog probably thought I was headed to Russia. I thought I was going to Georgia.

But India. It seems crazy and yet it seems right.

So what am I doing to prepare?

Hindi. I’m learning Hindi. I’ve decided that I will learn the syllabary, and I will learn a few niceties (please, thank you, you’re welcome, hello, good-bye, etc.), and I will learn food words and maybe some discomfort words: I’m so freakin’ hot. There are tons of free apps for learning Hindi script and vocab. Plus, there’s YouTube. I’ve got no excuse.

Google Maps. I love Google Maps. It’s so cool to have a bird’s eye view of an area, plus labels over what things are.

Applied for my passport.

Watched a video on how to tie a saree.

Still to do: figure out to blend into a crowd. This of course is a great reason to go shopping!I found some incredible clothing sites. Oh. My. Goodness. Indian clothes are beautiful! And, I want to blend in as much as possible. In Russia, that was easy. I just wore clothes bought there and kept my mouth shut. Instant Russian. This won’t be so easy in India. Not only is my skin white, it’s freckled. I’m clearly from the far north. My hair is light brown with reddish tones. The only things I’ve got going for me are my large dark eyebrows.

I’ve booked two hotels and have reserved the flight.

Started researching museums and national parks. This trek looks awesome: https://www.thrillophilia.com/tours/trek-to-the-great-himalayan-national-park-shilt-thatch

Found a list of wildlife sanctuaries: http://www.thrillophilia.com/blog/top-10-wildlife-sanctuaries-in-india/

And, researched a list of books to read:

  1. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
  2. The Upanishads, translated by Eknath Easwaran
  3. The Dhammapada translated by Eknath Easwaran
  4. The Bhagavad Gita translated by Eknath Easwaran
  5. The Ramayana translated by Ramesh Menon
  6. The Mahabharata translated by R. K. Narayan
  7. Maximum City by Sukheth Mehta
  8. A Free Man by Aman Sethi
  9. The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger
  10. A Strange Kind of Paradise by Sam Miller
  11. The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts
  12. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
  13. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  14. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  15. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
  16. Not Only the Things That Have Happened by Mridula Koshy
  17. The Shadow Lines by Amitov Ghosh
  18. Chronicles of a Corpse Bearer by Cyrus Mistry
  19. God’s Little Soldier by Kiran Nagarkar
  20. Serious Man by Mann Joseph
  21. The Lost Flamingos of Bombay by Siddharth Dhanrant Shanghvi
  22. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
  23. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
  24. A Matter of Rats by Amitava Kumar
  25. The Death of Vishnu by Mauil Suri
  26. Our Moon Has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita
  27. The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
  28. Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar
  29. Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh