With tourists pouring in thanks to vacation time, we take a look at their varied experiences here in Maximum City
Summer is here and the livin’ is easy. It is holiday time with schools and colleges in the country closed for vacation. Some Mumbaikars have headed out of town or overseas, seeking cooler climes, but a large number have landed in the sizzling cauldron that is Mumbai.
Foreign tourists wear Indian attire as they visit Hanging Garden. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Lajwanti Bhargava, Bhopal resident who has come to the city with her family for May, says, “Mumbai has always been a fascinating city for my kids. I had come here with my husband after marriage, many years ago. Sachin Tendulkar is my son’s idol.
Marine Drive is a draw for sightseers. Pic/Bipin Kokate
My daughter loves Deepika Padukone, so they are hoping to see them while we are here. We will be going to see Gateway of India, CST, Marine Drive, Chowpatty as well as fairly new city infrastructure like the Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL), the Metro and the Monorail.”
The Gateway of India is a favourite destination for almost all tourists in Mumbai. Pic/Shadab Khan
For Jishu George from Kochi, Mumbai is always the place he and his family chose to vacation during May. The 40-year-old says, “People go to Goa or Himachal or to some hill station during the summer holidays, but my family and I always end up coming to Mumbai. Some people find it rather odd that we choose to come during the hottest time in Mumbai, but the shopping and food here is something my wife and daughters love.
Kala Ghoda is a well-loved shopping and hang out place for foreign tourists in the city. Pic/Atul Kamble
From Colaba Causeway to Bandra Hill Road, to the new malls at Parel and Andheri, we eat and shop till we drop literally. Since most of our Mumbai friends are out of town during this time, we stay in one of their houses and use their car for our shopping and sightseeing trips.”
Girgaum Chowpatty draws beach enthusiasts. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Many tourists in the city ask porters and taxi drivers where they should go. Sharan Singh, a taxi driver says, “I have had many tourists asking me which places are worth visiting in the city, when I pick them from a station or the airport. With foreigners, I make a deal to show them the city as they pay and tip really well.”
A vendor tries to sell his wares to foreign tourists at Colaba. Pic/Atul Kamble
Mangesh Mhatre, a porter at CST station says, “The first question many people ask me is how far Film City and Wankhede are. With the Indian Premiere League (IPL) on and the craze for Bollywood; people want to see these glamorous things in the city. I feel nice helping out tourists.” Tourists from overseas have different concerns because of lingo problems and the fear of being taken for a ride.
Lauren Wilson was struck by the marvels of Mumbai’s Terminal 2 or T2 at the International airport. The Melbourne (Australia) resident says, “I have come to Mumbai for the first time and was stunned to see the awesome T2. The taxi driver tried to over charge but I had read online that as a foreigner I should pre-book the taxi and not pay anything as a tip.
On the whole, the people have been very sweet and helpful. I have seen Colaba, Gateway of India, Flora Fountain, Kala Ghoda where I went to Fab India, I also saw the art gallery and the museum there. I still have to see the Sea Link, National Park, Bollywood studios and Bandra. I use my hotel car to avoid being duped.”
Markus Reynolds, a Canada national says, “I have come to go on a spice trail here in Mumbai. Over the years, I have heard a lot from my friends about the spicy food like pav bhaji, parathas, chicken currys, bhel puris and now that I am in Mumbai; I’m glad that I will be able to taste them all.
I also want to see the Gateway of India, the museums, the art galleries and beaches which are so highly spoken about by my friends. Beggars have been pestering me a lot for money which is so irritating and also taxi drivers have taken me for a ride.
There was a time, a few days ago, when I was taken around the Colaba area and charged a huge sum of money, a policeman had to settle this matter as I refused to pay the huge sum and the taxi driver went on arguing. This experience has spoilt the impression I had of the city. I am hoping that other people aren’t as bad as that taxi driver.”
Receiving stares and comments from men on the street has been the only not-so-nice thing that Yelena Tipoksova, a Russian national has faced during her Mumbai stay.
Tipoksova says, “I do not understand Hindi, but when someone is being lecherous, as a woman you just know it. As a white woman, I am often stared at in the city and it does make me uncomfortable, but otherwise the men and women on the whole here are really friendly and civil.”
Petra Aminova, her friend adds, “When we buy things, sellers think we don’t know much and so they can fool us. At Colaba Causeway, there was this beautiful necklace that we saw and the vendor was selling it to an Indian lady for R 100, but, when we asked he said it was for R 800. Our Consulate told us clearly that we need to be careful while travelling and shopping.
As women, too we have been warned to avoid roaming alone and to report any suspicious behaviour to the police or call the Consulate helpline for assistance. We also use the India guide book and mobile applications to get details about places, to avoid getting conned.”
When she left Durban for Mumbai, Winnie N’tini, a South African national was told to wear Indian clothes by immigration officers. She says, “When I was doing my paperwork one of the ladies at the immigration counters said, ‘Wear salwars and kurtas’ and I am following that advice.
I am dark skinned and so can’t mesh with the Indians but wearing clothes like the women here has earned me some compliments and courtesy while in Mumbai. I have heard stories of racial discrimination against black foreigners in India, but in Mumbai for the past few weeks I have had all good experiences.”
Irked and irritated
Talking about her train journey, Adora Ratzinger, a German national says, “I was told that travel by the famous Mumbai local trains was a must. My partner and I took a train from Churchgate to Borivali as we wanted to visit Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Kanheri Caves.
I took the ladies compartment and I noticed that all the beggars, eunuchs, urchins and sellers came to me asking for money. I felt odd. But I have enjoyed my stay in the city from sightseeing to food. The experience has been a pleasant one despite a few odd occurrences.”
While the heat seems to be getting the better of almost everyone, Nelson Hebaba from Namibia says, “Coming to Mumbai in May was a bad decision that my family and I made.
The weather is really terrible. When we go sightseeing it is very hot and humid. My wife and son prefer staying indoors in the air condition at our hotel room. I have hired an air conditioned cab to go for a Mumbai darshan as a way to make the sightseeing more comfortable for them.”
Nigel Narsimento from France, has come to the city with fellow bag packers to explore cheap stay, great food and marvels of architecture. The Nice resident says, “I found the food too spicy for my liking.
Many of my friends, including me, suffered from food poisoning after eating at a joint in Colaba. We were admitted to hospital and had a torrid time. We are eating only biscuits now. We have concluded that the Indian spice is just not for people like us who eat bland food.”
Taking about safety measures that tourists should take while in Mumbai, a Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) spokesperson said, “We have spoken to the police in the city and asked them to take strict action in crimes against tourists.
From racism to sexual harassment to theft to fleecing, if any tourist faces a problem, the police have been briefed to deal with the cases taking into account the familiarity issues and other problems that the tourists may face.”
Jamshed Khan who runs a travel agency that organises Mumbai darshan tours for foreign tourist says, “When I have my tours, I always tell the tourists to keep their money, mobiles and other valuables on their person. My guides are also trained in martial arts and they often catch thugs who harass women especially at crowded tourist spots.”
Isadore Dantas who hails from Mexico says she and her husband who are on honeymoon in India were sceptical of coming here. Dantas says, “After all the rapes and crimes against women I was very scared when my husband told me we were coming to India for our honeymoon.
But after coming to Mumbai, I want to see the rest of Incredible India. The people have been really nice and I must say I love the city; I was touched by the Dharavi tour. The poverty is really gut-wrenching.”
Pierre, her husband adds, “We are taking care to not go out late in the night. We eat meals in the hotel, keep our money and valuables on our person, avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless clothes.
We are doing everything to avoid trouble. Mumbai has been fabulous but we are scared because it has been associated with not being too safe, at least recently.”