A Travellerspoint blog

The irony of the 'City of Life'

Varanasi

overcast 30 °C
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This is the place Dan was most dreading in India. We've heard many stories from travellers we've met along the way of the dirtiness and the depressing sight of death everywhere here. The holy city of Varanasi alongside the Ganges river,  where millions of pilgrims come to worship, find enlightenment,  and where many Indians come to live out their last days. It is believe that if you're cremated on the Ganges, your spirit will not come back as another living embodiment in the next life and the cycle ends. This individual has reached instant enlightenment.

On our first day we took a walk along the Ganges past numerous ghats and made our way to the famous burning ghats where the Hindu bodies are cremated all around the clock over masses of burning logs. The bodies are wrapped in beautiful bright orange and gold shrouds and carried by relatives and workers down to the piles of ash and wood to be cremated. We took a seat and watched in fascination as the men carried the bodies through the crowds of cows and dogs, which seemed to be grazing in the ashes, and submerged them into the river water before the burning process. Between 150 and 250 bodies are burnt at this particular ghat every 24 hours, and there are a number of burning ghats along the river.

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As we walked along the Ganges, we watched as bathers dunked their heads repeatedly under the water and preyed. Hindus believe that washing in the Ganges brings purity to the living and salvation to the dead. The water was filthy and we could only but imagine what lurked beneath; human body parts and toxic chemicals. Parents tipped the water over their young child's heads and people collected the water in silver pots.

The ghats were lined with babas and other brahman priests and holy men who preyed for others. Some were painted white and wore bright orange robes. They looked so serene and content. The walk along the riverside was not all that peaceful however , as we were hounded by touts shouting "BOAT? BOAT BOAT... SOMETHING!?" or reaching out to shake Dan's hand and then squeezing it tightly offering a massage. He had to prise his hand away a few times and then kept his hands in his pockets.

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As darkness fell over the city, we watched the ceremonies taking place on the ghats below our hotel restaurant. Hundreds of candle flames were shining brightly through the thick fog clouding the river. The ceremony music was playing and the area was filled with the sound of the worshippers singing and chanting together. We enjoyed our favourite Indian dishes (Amiee's Malai Kofta and Dan's vegetable Thali) with a few Kingfisher beers before bed.

We awoke at 5am the next morning for our sunrise boat ride on the river Ganges. It was so early that we were locked in the small area where our room was located seperate from the hotel. We had to wake the workers who were sleeping on the floor to let us out. When we got down to the riverside we bought some small candle flower boats from a young girl which we floated on the river for good karma and made a wish.

The boats man rowed us along the river. The ghats were so crowded, busier than we had seen in the daytime, as tourists scrambled to get boat rides for sunrise. Many Indian's were taking a morning bathe or preying. We had heard stories of floating body parts from people who had taken boat rides but thankfully we only saw a floating dead cow, on which a crow was sitting. The air was very foggy and we struggled to see the sunrise, a few orange streaks shone through the thick cloud. It began to rain lightly for the first time since we've been here.

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The rest of our day was spent wondering the many narrow and crowded walkways of Varanasi. It was impossible not to lose all sense of direction. So much was happening everywhere. The streets were filled with people queuing, in single file (the first time we had seen this is India) to prey at the golden temple. The smells and sights were unbelievable. The streets were dotted with the frail elderly waiting to die. There were dogs, cows and goats everywhere and monkeys swinging up above.  Young children and toddlers played in the filth and hung from our legs. Amiee had to prise a little girl from her leg as she bit and pinched her!

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We spent our last evening on the roof top restaurant chatting for hours over beers to a boy from Chicago. One thing we love about travelling is all the people we have met for all over the world. We now find it so easy to approach others and chat to new faces on a daily basis. We may rarely speak for long enough to exchange details but we always give and take some advice from each meeting, and often bump into the same faces in new places.

Varanasi was a definite shock to the senses. We witnessed death, disease and horrific injuries but we are both pleased for the experience and didn't once feel unsafe. A few hours before boarding our plane to Delhi,  we drove by the most challenging sight. A father was weeping uncontrollably with greif as he carried his young sons limp and naked body along the street. The sight choked us and 2 days before leaving this country, everything came to a sudden explosion of emotion.

We have learned so much about this country's ways. Its customs, norms and history. No country has ever touched our hearts with such happiness as well as sorrow.

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Posted by amiee1992 07:04 Archived in India Comments (2)

The Taj Mahal - The perfect setting..

Agra

sunny 34 °C
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We arrived in Agra via a comfy 4 hour AC train Journey, which gave me a long time to mentally prepare for when we got there.

Most of the people we have spoken to about north India have struggled in places like Agra, Varanasi and Delhi. Which gave us, well more like me, a heavy shadow of doubt and dislike about Agra before we even got there. We pulled into the train station to twenty or thirty men running along side the train pointing at us and other passengers and banging on the window, which of course was the perfect welcome to a man who suffers with anxiety and IBS!. Anyway we both looked at one and other and decided to go for it but once we stepped off the train and walked towards to exit only one person asked us for a rickshaw and we just said "No!".. and that was that. We were then pleasantly welcomed by our hotel rickshaw driver, who took us 20 mins to our hotel while pointing out sights such as the view of the taj in the distance and Agra fort. The city was dirty and smelly, but not half as bad as the image created in our minds from other travellers' perceptions.

Our hotel was okay for the price although we was moved from a nice room to an average room as they said the hot water doesn't work..but then we ended up with a black and white tv, still no hot water and were woken up in the night by the stench of sewage from outside. On the day we arrived, we took a taxi to Fatehpur Sikri. It was another huge fort built by a king who had three wives; one christian, one Hindu and one Muslim. The king also had 400 concubines and would play a chess like game and use the women including his wives as chess pieces. The game had 4 sides and he sat in the middle and once he rolled the dice he would move one women at a time. The last four standing (The Winners) would get to sleep in his bed - it was huge! The first part of the fort was where his wives lived and each wife had a different sized house (large, medium and small). The story goes that his wives were not giving him a baby boy so he went to a famous Muslim holy man which he prayed with a wished for a young boy to be heir. 9 months later know and behold his Hindi wife produced a heir and she got the large house. Later we visited the tomb of the Muslim holy man where many people of any religons make wishes by tying a piece of thread onto the wall.

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The day of the Taj Mahal proposal ...

Its safe to say I didnt sleep much the night before as I went over the endless scenarios of how I was going to propose. I kept thinking that, due to me having to hide the ring in the bottom of my bag, in a football sock, inside my converse for two months and been unable to set eyes on it in case of arousing suspicion, it may have some how disappeared or she might see me try and get it out in the morning. My IBS was in full swing. I managed with a swift, cat like movement to retrieve the ring and put it into my money belt without her having the faintest idea. We walked down towards the Taj in the dark before sunrise, mindlessly chatting about what its going to look like and how long we have been waiting for it. Amiee may have been thinking about the Taj, but my thoughts were about how long I had been waiting for this day for a totally different reason.

After queuing for a short while we finally got through security and made our way towards the Taj. It was truly breath taking. It looks like something from a dream with a sense of heaven mixed in. Its so hard to describe how it felt to be there. It was so busy but so peaceful at the same time as loads of people are posing and taking pictures the others like my self were just standing and looking in ore as the sun rose slightly kissing the dazzlingly white marble.

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As we walked around i kept looking for the best place to do it without too many people around. We walked towards a bench in the distance but Amiee moaned that the view was blocked by trees and started walking back towards the crowds. I was gutted. I panicked and quickly managed to get the ring out and walk towards her, fighting the gutwrenching feeling of nervousness. Her back was turned but I managed to only whisper "The Taj is the second most beautiful thing in the world" and as she turned round I dropped clumsily to one knee and said " Amiee Will you marry me?". Her face quickly changed from shock to tears and, whilst crying, she said "yes" and we held each other and kissed. I had finally done it. All the nerves and anxiety had gone and I was the happiest man in the world. It felt amazing looking from Amiee, the ring, her smile and the Taj Mahal. It really was a dream come true.

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The next thing was to ring all the family and let them know. Most of them were easy to get hold of and they all were over the moon with excitment. But Amiee mum, Sharon (who never gets drunk) happened to be out at a hen party. She was one of the most important people we wanted to tell. After numerous attempts we finally got through to a drunken Shaz crying from what sounded like a nightclub toilet. She also rang back half an hour later to tell us she was home and was going to be sick.

The rest of the day was a blur (but I finally got a haircut) until we went to this amazing and expensive hotel for dinner and champagne, although it was 100 times out side our budget. We had the most amazing view of the Taj while we celebrated with bubbles and the most mouth watering dinner I have ever had. The perfect ending to a perfect day... well until we had to get our 12 hour sleeper train to Varanasi.

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Posted by amiee1992 05:06 Archived in India Tagged mahal taj agra Comments (5)

Elephants, Camels and Colour!

Rajasthan

sunny 36 °C
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We have been really lazy with the blogging lately, and so much has happened recently what with Amiee's birthday and OUR ENGAGEMENT!!..First comes first. We've recently visited 5 cities in the state of Rajasthan.

Rajasthan is famous for is colourful cities containing amazing architecture, temples forts, bazaars and handicrafts. We were prepared for much dirtier, noisier, and busier surroundings but touched down from Mumbai into Udaipur - Rajasthan's beautiful city of lakes.

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We already posted about the beauty of this place and that really is the main attraction.  We saw some amazing sights here and spent the rest of our time relaxing on the hotels rooftop restaurant overlooking Lake Pichola.  Then we took an overnight bus to Jaisalmer - and what an experience it was. Someone please remind us to take valium next time we mention this mode of transport! Our bed was directly above the rear wheel arch and it felt like we were doing some serious off-roading. After half an hour of giggles, being flung into the air every few seconds was not so fun anymore..

Jaisalmer's streets were lined with rubbish mounds and the stench was pretty bad, but we managed to get a place in a lovely family run boutique hotel with a rooftop restaurant overlooking the fort. We explored the narrow pathways of the bazaar areas and visited the fort. Jaisalmer is known as the golden city for is sandstone buildings and this was at is most beautiful here. The handicraft stalls dotted around the fort also sold some amazing textiles, jewellery and antiques.

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The next day was camel safari day, when we found ourselves riding these funny looking creatures for hours into the vast sand dunes of the Thar desert. We had the great company of another couple, Bruna and Duncan. We all ate lunch, which was freshly prepared by the two guides, in the tiny spot of shade provided by a rare tree. We let the hottest part of the day pass (yet it was still 45 degrees!), and climbed back aboard Raju and Laluna for another painful 2 hour ride to the sand dunes. Once we got the feeling back in our legs, we dove, gambled and jumped our way around the huge dunes. The landscape was amazing! We were the only people for miles and we couldn't believe we were spending the night out in this vast open space. We watched the red sun set, ate a lovely dinner and our special cookies, and spent the rest of the night giggling hysterically around the campfire under the stars.. and so another unforgettable experience was added to our list.

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We spend one night in Jodhpur on our way to Pushkar for the Holi festival of colours. Pushkar is a small town surrounding a holy lake, which can be accessed using one of the 52 ghats used for bathing and religious ceremonies. All the budget guesthouses were fully booked for Holi so we splashed out on a nice cottage room next to the pool in a hotel a short walk from the main bazaar.

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It was the first swimming pool we'd seen since being in India! So of course Daniel had to push Amiee in - and the water was ice cold! We took a walk to the main bazaar at the back of the lake. Narrow shaded lanes were lined with shops and small restaurants and lots of travellers sitting drinking chai together. The evening before Holi meant the street were very crowded as locals lit bonfires and fireworks to mark the start of the festival, and everyone bought cheap clothes and colour dyes.

HAPPY HOLI! We had a lie in and thought the streets might have died down a bit by midday. But of course we were wrong. As soon as we stepped out of the hotel we were greeted by several men wiping our faces with coloured dye. They were gentle and smiling, whispering happy Holi as they covered us in the powder and water colours. We returned the favour but as we walked down the road the chaos commenced. We were bombarded with groups of teenage lads who were very rowdy and circled us. When we emerged from the crowd we had dye everywhere, we're soaked through and Dan's Tshirt had been ripped off. We couldn't see and all we could taste was the dyes. We laughed it off and got them back as much as possible, knowing that was the best way to deal with the situation. Then we approached the market - wow! The square was booming with music, full of people dancing and throwing the dyes into the crowd. The atmosphere was brilliant as everyone celebrated together.

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Back at our hotel we were greeted by an American tour group who were having their own celebration. We danced with them and chatted for hours at the pool whilst they shared their rum and coke! And after two hours in the shower we were still stained pink!

Our next and final stop in Rajasthan was where we would spend Amiee's birthday - Jaipur! This is the state capital, a very busy city known as the pink due to the coloured buildings. A group of us decided to tell the masses of rickshaw drivers to do one as we were more than capable, independent travellers who could find our way to a guesthouse. But after half an hour in the sweltering heat, stopping at every junction for directions, we soon caved and piled into two rickshaws only to realise our hotel was just around the corner!

Our room was the cheapest the hotel had to offer. At £4.50 a night, we slept in a small hut with attached bathroom which was separate to the main hotel building. But it wasn't bad - clean, with a TV and hot water!

We went to wander the pink city, packed full of markets and shops selling anything you could ever need. We visited the City Palace and had dinner on the hotel's rooftop restaurant - yes, it seems all restaurants in India occupy a rooftop.

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On the morning of Amiee's birthday we met Raj, our rickshaw driver for the day, at 8am and he took us to the Amber fort. We road a colourfully painted elephant up the steep roads to the main entrance and explored fort and it's surroundings. When Raj then suggested to take us to a place called Elephant Village we weren't expecting the amazing experience soon to follow. After negotiating a reasonable price with the manager, we were greeted by a beautiful female Indian elephant. She was so gentle as we stroked her and cuddled her trunk. Any fears due to her strength and size were immediately vanished as we painted "happy birthday Amiee" in bright on the elephants side. After a while of playing we climbed up onto the elephants back by the traditional mahout way of holding its ears whilst it's trunk lifts your feet over its head. It was crazy! We were sitting on an elephant walking through a beautiful rural village.

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Anyone who knows Amiee well enough will know this was such a perfect, unforgettable birthday!

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The next day was our last day in Rajasthan. We spent it visiting more city sights such as an ancient astrological observatory and the Albert Hall museum before our train journey to Agra the following morning. The place we'd been waiting for.. but Dan in particular..

Posted by amiee1992 04:02 Archived in India Tagged elephants holiday safari festival camel rajasthan Comments (4)

Try as we might..

Udaipur - The city with no words

sunny 30 °C
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All this blogging after each place we visit, our attempts to describe our every encounter, is beginning to take its toll. We've spent 4 days in the Rajasthani city of Udaipur.  A place with so much more beauty than we could ever have expected. The City of Lakes, the most romantic place in India, and the setting for 'Octopussy' is filled with these overlapping, breath taking views. How do we begin to describe these?

We have spent much of our time here exploring museums, palaces, forts and temples with such magnificance and detail in every corner. We are not the deepest of people and often struggle to understand such history, yet we could spend hours in these places, or admiring the many phenomenal views we've found.

A few times now we've found ourselves speaking the words..

"This doesn't feel like India". But where is the REAL India?

We remember back to the beginning of our trip , watching from our canoe on the backwaters as the children ran along the side of the river to school, as women did laundry and farmers tended to their crops. That felt as real as India could get. But it lasted as long as one week, just one week, before we noticed such vast changes at our next destination.

And ever since then, as we drop our backpacks off at whichever guesthouse or hotel chosen and venture out to explore, we are completely bewildered by the contrast which hits us. The freshness. We are at a point in our journey, which stretches longer than most travellers spend in India, when we imagined to be growing bored of this place, to be longing to explore a new culture.

But we are amazed by and so grateful for India's diversity.

And with that note we pack our backpacks for a journey to the Thar desert where we will be sleeping under the stars..

Here are some of our photographs from Udaipur. Try as we might, we could never explain what we have seen, and even these images offer little justice. The best part of travelling the world is, as much as you want to share your story with family and friends back home,  there will ALWAYS  be memories you have to keep just for yourself!

Lake Pichola

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Jag Mandir Palace

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Sajjangarh - Monsoon Palace

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Bangore-ki-Haveli - Traditional music and dance show

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"Indian traditions such as dance, cooking, fishing, and the running of a family business are passed on through generations without distortion. This is what makes Indian culture so alive to this very day."

Ranakpur - Jain Temples

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Kumbalgarh Fort

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View from our room at Dream Heaven guesthouse

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Posted by amiee1992 04:38 Archived in India Tagged lakes temples palace udaipur pichola jain Comments (3)

What a city!

2 nights in Mumbai

sunny 30 °C
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We're just in Starbucks!.. Yes, Starbucks! And thought we had better get everything down. We've seen tonnes in Mumbai!

Bomb!ay is the only way to describe this hectic, frantic but beautiful city.
We arrived at 6 am after a 12 hour sleepless train journey to be hit by a wall of bad smell. We witnessed hundreds of people rushing around and stepped over bodies lying on obscure pieces of floor, trying to catch some sleep with the headache of noise all around them. We finally got to our hotel after the taxi man had no idea where to go, and after Dan tipped him twice the rate of the taxi fare by accident.

From outside it looked rough and we had to climb three flights of stars to find it but when we did we were pleasantly surprised with the world's most comfiest bed and clean and modern facilities. We even had wifi in our room and a TV with English films on!

Our first trip out into Mumbai was to the area of Colaba to book our slums tour. It was something Amiee didn't want to miss but Dan was a little worried about how safe it would be. We went to the Gateway of India first, as it was nearby and we wanted it to be the first thing we saw in Mumbai. Despite getting harassed by touts the Gateway was magnificent and surrounded some beautiful architecture like the Taj Mahal palace hotel.

We also got our photo taken about 3 times which was weird but apparently they take the pictures to show their friends their "new white friends". While we were at the Gateway we also got approached by a holy man who gave us a jasmine flower, put some orange paste between our eyes, wrapped our wrist with some string and said good luck before saying we need to make a donation and 100 rupees isn't enough. Hustled.

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After the Gateway we tried to find the Reality Tours office - the main company offering slums tours. We went down a few roads and found this shop which the rough guide told us to go to. We had to climb some stairs of the shop do a right through a rickety old door. It was like a beginning to hostel or something. Then we saw in a wardrobe shaped office a man cramped up and we asked to book the tour. He was really helpful but it made Dan a bit dubious about how good the tour guide was going to be. We opted for the long tour because it included a driver and stopped off at some other interesting places on route to the slum.

Amiee has been reading a book called Shantaram, the true story of an Austrailian prison escapee who flees to Mumbai, and wanted us to go to a cafe called Leopolds which is featured highly in the book. The place was funky with loads of different pictures on the walls, but it was unavoidable to see all the bullet holes in the walls from the famous Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008.

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Then we followed the walking tour map in our guide book to see all the famous buildings and museums. This took us a few hours and we saw lots of amazingly grand buildings such as the police headquarters, the high court, and the Prince of Wales museum which housed lots of interesting exhibits from Indian history. It also had a Natural History section filled with hundreds of stuffed animals and fish species, which we enjoyed but it was a bit freaky.

On the way back to our hotel we passed through Oval Maiden. This is a large grassed area next to the high court where the Indian men play cricket before work, on their lunch breaks, and after work. At any given opportunity.  There were also what looked like teams having training sessions. Ask any Indian.. Cricket isn't a game, it's a religion here. And when they play against Pakistan, it's a war! (Something one of our cheeky tour guides said to us)

We had some lunch and a lay down for a few hours, watched a film or two from our comfy beds, before going for a sunset stroll along the road outside our hotel.  Marine Drive is a busy coastal road known as India's Miami. All the wealthy live on Marine drive and this is where they come to hang out, for a jog, or to do some romancing haha.

We were up bright and early the next morning ready for the slums tour. We met our guide  and the 3 people accompanying us outside the company office and got into our fancy car to begin the tour. Our guides name was Sonny and he had excellent English and was so knowledgeable about everywhere we visited. We drove through Mumbai's red light district where we heard all about its history and how the sex trafficking works here. Prostitution is illegal in India but the government turn a blind eye to the millionaire mafia gangs who are behind this industry.

Then we stepped out the car for a look over Dhobi Ghat.  This is the largest outside laundry area in India. Every day laundry from all over Mumbai, from hotels and the textile industry, comes to Dhobi Ghat where it is washed and dried by thousands of workers. These are mainly men who live with their families in fabricated huts around the laundry area. The clothes are sorted by colour and material and the men then wash upto 10 items per minute in soapy water. They then smack them against the rocks and put them in a presser machine to get rid of all the water. The clothes can then be seen hanging out to dry in the sun, still sorted by colour. Then they always make their way back to the right owners.

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The next stop was Mumbai's racecourse. It was only being used for training, so we only saw a few horses galloping around. It was huge and Sonny told us how the betting worked here and also how the government are planning to demolish the course to build an amusement park. Whilst we were stood on the bridge looking over the race course a tiny street girl, she must have been around 4 years old, ran up to Amiee and wrapped her arms around her leg, squeezing it tight and staring up with a big smile.

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Then to Dharavi. India's multimillion pound slum. The slum was created over one hundred years ago making it a legal slum, unlike many of the thousands of slums across India. It is the most famous of the slums for its incredible commercial and industrial success, as well as the filming of Slumdog Millionare, in which many of Dharavi's children featured. We entered the commercial area first and we're instantly greeted by a strong cloud of pollution. The air seemed to make our eyes water and our heads bang. We were shown the area responsible for most of the slums income, the recycling area. The slum workers collect and are delivered millions of recyclable materials such as cardboard, aluminium and plastic. We watched the dirty male workers tipping a whole host of used plastic items into a chopping machine (which we also saw amazing being created next door by completely uneducated men). The different types of plastic were sorted by type and colour and crushed until they form tiny little pellets. These pellets are then taken to plastic companies and used to produce a huge variety of every day plastic items. This generates a large portion of the slums overall annual generation of around 600 million American dollars.

The slums commercial area is mainly occupied by migrant workers who sleep in the tiny factory buildings amongst the dirt and dangers. The business owners usually pay them around 200 rupees (£2) per day as well as feeding and clothing them. The working conditions were terrible. The men were covered in dirt, wore no protective equipment, and worked over 12 hours days, 6 days a week. But all of them did their jobs with huge smiles on their faces, often joking around with each other but never stopping their work for a second. We also saw many small textile factories where men sewed clothing. They even produced brilliant copies of designer brands. These working conditions were lots better than those of the men using dangerous machinery in cramped, dark spaces or using harsh and harmful chemicals each day.

We climbed to the top of the plastic factory roof. Up two sets of ladders which a middle aged woman climbed with a 20 kilo bag of plastic beads balanced on her head. The roof was pretty unstable and the view stretched over the whole slum. Sonny talked to us about all the boundaries whilst rooftop next to us was releasing huge clouds of dirty smog from the aluminum melting process. 

Walking around the slums, the most shocking thing was the lack of space and the filth. The floor was constantly gooey to tread on and we learned how around 15000 people share one toilet. We had to squeeze down the narrowest, darkest alleys but all the faces peeping out from there tiny homes were filled with smiles. The children were all so happy, repeatedly shouting "Hi, Hi, Hi!" as they played amongest a huge mound of rubbish.

We moved around the maze of fabricated houses so quickly that it was difficult to take everything in, especially as we were constantly having to watch our step. Whilst squeezing down one narrow pathway, we passed a family squeezed into a room of only a few square metres, watching cartoon network! There were satellite dishes all over the place and even 3G Internet connection!

After passing through the predominately Muslim area, we moved on to the Hindu area. Many more wealthy families lived in concrete houses of different colours and we watched as women made poppadoms and dried them in the sun's heat.

We also visited a community centre where the NGO our tour supported held English lessons and computer classes for people in the slums. It was great to see where 80 percent of our money for the tour was going. We visited another area filled with businesses; shops, restaurants, food stalls, barbers. You name it, the slums has got it. They also have their own police station, a number of schools for the slum children, and a number of health clinics.

All in all, we came away from the tour bewildered! Despite the lack of space and the toxic sludge everywhere, Dharavi slum was in no way, shape or form a bad place to live. These were not homeless or penniless people, they had homes, all be them cramped, with a community, and a lot of love. Some very wealthy business men lived and worked there.

Never judge a book by its cover.

Last night we planned to see a Bollywood movie at one of the hundreds of cinemas in Mumbai. But when we arrived there wasn't much of a choice of films, the cinema wasn't busy like we expected, and we were told they weren't showing any English subtitles. So unfortunately we missed the Bollywood experience in Mumbai! But we did still do something that evening which was a lot of fun!

Reality tours don't just run slums tours, although this is what they specialise in. So we made our way to the office to see if there was any space on the street food tour which started an hour later. Thankfully they had a space for us. We had wanted to sample some street food whilst in India but we were a bit worried about being out in the dark too late on the busy streets and we had no idea what dishes to try and what we're the best stalls to visit.

We met our tour guides at the train station, along with a middle aged couple from.. wait for it... BIRMINGHAM! We spent all night jabbering away to them, so lost in conversation at some points that we almost lost the guides. The 6 of us took a train to Chowpatty beach to sample the kinds of food available there. The guides were, like on the slums tour, very informative and a good laugh! They provided us with mineral water, napkins and hand sanitiser and we were ready to rumple. We tried 3 savoury dishes at the beach and a range of Indian ice cream flavours. All of us absolutely loved the pani puri, which was a spherical crisp which they put a whole in and dip into 2 different sauces, one sweet one sour. You have to put the whole thing in your mouth at once and when you bite into it the taste is amazing.

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Then we took a very busy taxi ride to Muhammad Ali road - the predominately Muslim area famous for the street food. The street were packed full and by now it was dark out. As we were walking we had to constantly dodge motorbikes and beggars. A small girl persisted to follow us tapping our legs for money for around 10 minutes. The guides told us not to give her anything as all the others would then hound us.

We went into a tiny seated area while the guides ordered our next 3 dishes from outside. We had chicken rolls, chicken sandwiches and egg rolls. The chicken roll was delicious. Spicy chicken wrapped tightly in a crispy dough. We tried a beef kebab dish and then moved on to desserts. We had handmade icecream of a selection of flavours and then visited the jilabi stall. These famous Indian desserts are made from a sweet dough which is deep fried, left to cool and then soaked in sugar water. They were very greasy and the sweetest things we had ever tasted. They didn't do down too well haha. The tour finished around 9.30pm then we shared a taxi with Lisa and Tim as we were all staying on Marine Drive.

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The next day we had a much needed lie in and took a walked to Britannia and Co restaurant for lunch. We had seen this place on Rick Steins India, a family run resturant serving Parsee and Iranian dishes. There was a huge crowd outside and we waited over half an hour to be seated, but we didnt mind as that said a lot about the food. The resturant was rammed full of people and decorated with portraits of her majesty and Ghandi, and there was even a huge cardboard cutout of Will and Kate!

We were served by the 90 something old man who appeared on the TV show and ordered the famous berry pilau. He was so humbling and asked us to pass a message onto the Queen asking her to return to India and also asked if we ever see baby Prince George to give him a kiss, haha. The food was hands down the best thing we have tasted in India.

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Now its time to catch our flight to Udaipur, Rajasthan. The city of lakes and the most romantic city in India, apparently..

Posted by amiee1992 21:34 Archived in India Tagged food street mumbai slums Comments (0)

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