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Category Archives: India

Riding Mumbai Trains, Feeling Fly Like a G6

It has been a hectic couple of days of checking out south Bombay. After being holed up in the “quiet” suburb of Mulund for the last 3 days we finally made our way down to the “city”. The plan was to check out some major tourist sites such as Gateway of India, Haji Ali, Mahalakshmi Temple, etc before going on walking tours.

But first, we had to navigate Mumbai’s intense train system to get from the ‘burbs to where the action is: South Bombay. Mumbai has a pretty extensive, efficient, cheap, if not over-crowded train system. A 50 km trip will cost you Rs. 10 or less than 20c. This is how a majority of the suburban population travels in and out of the city as this is the quickest, cheapest, if not intense way of traveling.

What I find amazing and humbling about this experience is the friendliness and helpfulness of the people. If someone sees you lost in the train system, they will actually walk you in the right direction. Passengers watch out for senior citizens and make sure they get onto the train and get off at the right stop. People will help ferry your handheld items to luggage storage racks running along the top of the trains.

Everyone’s in the same boat and they know it. But there are separate compartments for women though. Can’t trust the Indian male to not take the chance to “accidentally” feel up a woman during the bone-crushing peak hour rush.

The most hilarious thing about the trains is the whole “front of the bus” phenomenon. No matter how not crowded the train, there’s always people hanging off the front.

Here’s a video. Link to Dave’s excellent blog post on this same subject.

We have been riding the trains like pros now for the last two days. If you are ever in Bombay, riding the trains is the best way to feel the pulse of the city.

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Chindian IT Tech Support

Normal priorities while travelling tend to be shelter, water, and food. Our first priority was INTERNET.

One feels so naked now without Internet or cell phones. Can’t imagine how ppl travelled before 2000s. I guess you just learned to read maps and talk to ppl. So hard! The plan is to live, work, and travel out of Bombay for the next few months, hence the focus on getting Internet setup right away. Using my parents’ apartment in Mulund makes it much easier and convenient.

So much has changed in the last 7 years since I have been. Everyone carries smart phones now. Internet cafés have all but disappeared as more upper middle class Indians get on the internet bandwagon.

 But mostly it is the same. High rises next to slums. Women picking through garbage for something to sell. The constant din and noise and ppl…It is going to take a while to get used to the constant noise.

It is a weird feeling being here. I don’t feel out of place. Yet, I am not totally comfortable. I am not overwhelmed, but yet I feel weird that I don’t feel out of place or overwhelmed. Weird.

Got lot accomplished in the first day and half. Got our internet and cell phones lined up. Getting a pre-paid phone here is an absolute pain in the ass. You have to first provide a photo of yourself.

Then you have to have a local who can vouch for you. The phone company then calls the contact to verify that the applicant is real. So if you didn’t have someone local, you would be fucked. There would be no way to get a prepaid cell service. It is the most bizarre thing I have seen. I suspect it is to keep the terrorists at bay though. Which is stupid cause it is pretty easy to find someone to vouch for you. You wouldn’t be much of a terrorist if you couldn’t accomplish something that simple.

The other first priority after landing was eating my favorite thing in the world: vada pau. If I was a millionaire baller, I would fly First Class every weekend to Mumbai just to eat a few vada pau’s and then fly back. That’s how awesome these fried, doughy goodnesses are.

This typical Bombay street food retails for Rs. 12 or < 0.50 cents. This is Bombay’s answer to venerable pizza. The basic concept is pretty simple:  Take boiled potatoes. Mash them up. Add spices. Cover in dough and deep fry. Spread tamarind chutney inside pau (bun). Garnish with fried chillies.

Bam! Done! Best drunk food ever.

Dave was a big fan. This is the perfect way to start my stay in Bombay. And it is something Dave can eat cause it is deep fried.

We also had to get Dave some Indian rupees. Here’s a local tip: most jewellery stores for some reason will exchange foreign currency, esp 100$ US bills. We got 62.5 Rs for 1 USD which is almost better than market rate! I don’t know why they offer this service or what they do with these USDs but it is fucking awesome.

> “Let’s blow this shit on hookers and blow” – Dave J. Cheung