Monday, September 10, 2012

But Where are the Elephants?

We had one day and two nights in Mumbai, which allowed us time to do the top three things most travel sites recommended.  We visited Elephanta Island, saw the Gateway of India, and got out of Mumbai.  Actually, the number one thing a number of sites recommended tourists do in Mumbai is leave.

Elephanta Island was more or less our first stop, even though we had to go past the Gateway of India to get to our boat to the island.  The island is in Mumbai Harbor and has a series of cave temples.  The carvings in the caves date from the 5th to 8th century AD and depict Hindu deities.  It is called Elephanta Island because there was a giant statue of an elephant there when the Portuguese first landed there.  Unfortunately they took the statue and there were no other elephants to be found.  The Portuguese also used the carved deities as target practice, so many are missing parts.  We took a frighteningly rickety boat to get to the island.  

Not our boat, but just as rickety.

I hope the random strangers enjoy their
photos of me.
Unfortunately most of my photos in the caves didn't turn out very well.  I didn't take the time to adjust for the lighting and the photo quality reflects that.

This photo of me with a stone lion turned out well.  What you can't see in the photo is that there were a couple people behind Stephen who were also taking photos of me.  Every time we stopped to take a photo in Mumbai, strangers took photos of us.  Some asked if they could, but even more did it without asking.  I gained a better understanding of why celebrities complain about paparazzi.  

Elephanta Island caves
After we explored the caves for a couple hours we took another hour boat ride back to the city and the Gateway of India.  

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and Tower and the Gateway of India.
Next to the Gateway of India is the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which was one of the sites that was attacked by terrorists in 2008.  

When those attacks happened the seemed (and were) half a wolrd away.  One of the things I like about traveling is that it connects me to people, places, and history.  I don't think you can travel with your eyes open and not be changed by it.
The Gateway of India.

The Gateway of India was another opportunity for random strangers to take photos of me.  It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1911.

Mumbai was the only city we traveled to where I felt fairly unsafe.  People photographed me a lot, followed us down the street (not begging, just following), and were generally more aggressive than other cities we visited.  

The most shocking thing about India was the level of poverty in which many people live.  Of course I knew what to expect on an intellectual level, but I could not have been prepared on a visceral level.  
This collection of tarp-roofed houses was shocking to me on the first day.
It was luxury compared to some residences we saw.

Shanty towns and tent cities are cheek to jowl with fancy new high rise apartment buildings.  Tents and shacks cling to every overpass and wall.  

We only spent one day in Mumbai before we moved on to Pune.  I was glad for the things we saw in Mumbai, but very ready to leave the city after one day.

1 comment:

Be nice.
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