When my boss said, “Kim, bring your passport tomorrow. You’re going to Mumbai next week for the inaugural flight”, I was flabbergasted. Mumbai. The home of Bollywood. Shah Rukh Khan. Slumdog Millionaire. The fashion capital of India! Before leaving KL, I was repeatedly reminded to only drink water from a sealed mineral water bottle, no iced drinks, bring charcoal pills in case of food poisoning and Panadol for headaches from the heat. You can imagine my fear after all these friendly words of advice.
We received a very warm welcome at the Mumbai airport upon our arrival and were whisked to the hotel for the press conference. After a busy afternoon, we managed to slot in a little bit of time to shop. Being the fashion capital of India, the AllStars went hunting for punjabi suits, sarees, accessories and shoes along the streets of Mumbai! There were so many colors, types of material and designs to choose from!
We rode into town on the popular ‘Auto’ and it was a one-of-a-kind experience. Mumbai motorists are known for their ‘defensive driving’. They are definitely skilled drivers in terms of anticipation and braking. Everyone honks to alert other road users of their presence. A 2-lane road usually ends up being as a 4-lane road.
On our second day, Tourism India organized a one-day tour to get us better acquainted with Mumbai. Our first stop was Dobi Ghat. Tomby, our tour guide told us that it was the oldest and biggest one in Mumbai and had been there for about 130 years. This is heavy duty work so only men work here. They start washing from 4 in the morning until 6 in the evening. On average, they wash about 400 pieces a day and customers are charged 4 rupees per piece.
Our next stop was the Hanging Garden on Malabar Hill. This was one of the more interesting places we visited in Mumbai. Looking at the picture below, you wouldn’t know that the Hanging Garden was built on top of a lake in 1881 as the water was too polluted.
For the Parsee community, when an individual dies, exposure of his or her body is considered their final act of charity. This usually takes place in the Tower of Silence. There are 5 Towers of Silence located near the Hanging Garden. Vultures would devour the body in only a matter of minutes then go to the lake for a drink. Hence the pollution that led to the Hanging Garden being built on top of the lake.
Today, the population of vultures left in Mumbai is close to zero. According to Tomby, when the vultures fed on exposed flesh, they died due to the chemicals consumed. Now imagine this, there are no more vultures in Mumbai, but the Parsis are still continuing the final act of charity. So how do the Parsee dispose of their loved ones’ bodies today?
One of my favourite things to do when I travel is to take pictures of funny signs I come across. Mumbai is definitely a funny city.
We were taken to Khyber for lunch. Known for its scrumptious meals, Khyber has a wonderful ambience and unique interior design. The restaurant has such character and the theme of the restaurant was based on Khyber Pass, which is near Mongolia. A definite must-try if you’re looking for a unique dining experience.
After lunch, it was finally time for Bollywood. How can you come to Mumbai and not experience Bollywood?! We started with a tour of Filmcity to see how sets were created for movies. Our Bollywood tour guide, Sahil, told us that it took 3 weeks to build and design a set. Once filming is done, the crew demolishes it in less than 2 days and the process of designing and building a new set begins again. We visited several sets of popular TV series. The sets very elaborate and very well decorated. We managed to catch a few actors in action and were blown away by their acting. The final part of our tour was disco-time! What is Bollywood without dancing and singing? The AirAsia AllStars had a blast singing and dancing to famous tunes like Jaiho and Desi Girl.
Mumbai is a city rich in culture and history. We only managed to stay 2 nights this trip. I can’t wait to go back to Mumbai and explore the rest of India.