Mumbai: Both fascinating and infuriating for tourists

Apr 16, 2015, 08:42 IST | Maleeva Rebello

Tourist season is here, and Mumbai has proved to be a fascinating, and sometimes infuriating place to visit for foreigners from all over the world

Mumbai is often the first city in the country visited by foreign tourists as they explore, Incredible India. This city by the sea has many tourist attractions in addition to the busiest airport in the country.

Mumbai is the first stop on the way for most foreign tourists in the country. Pics/Sameer Markande
Mumbai is the first stop on the way for most foreign tourists in the country. Pics/Sameer Markande

The city’s beaches, architecture, malls, historical buildings and here, there and barely there gardens are huge attraction to tourists, both Indian as well as foreign. The Colaba, Bandra, Andheri and Girgaum areas of Mumbai sees concentration of foreign tourists.

Land of mystery
Ukraine citizen Mayola Pastille who is visiting India during her college break with her friend Tamsar Emerse was spotted shopping at Colaba Causeway. The 24-year-old World History student from Kiev says, “During my study, the ancient Indian civilisation has always intrigued me.

A number of sights, sounds and smells in the city captivate foreign tourists
A number of sights, sounds and smells in the city captivate foreign tourists

I have come to India to explore that. Mumbai in my mind prior to the visit was a city which is a mix of the old and new. I expected to see elephants on the roads; however all I did see were some cows. The city is more modern than the image I had in my mind.”

The Taj Mahal hotel is another iconic place for foreign tourists
The Taj Mahal hotel is another iconic place for foreign tourists

Medical intern at a hospital in Kiev, Emerse says, “I did not know much about Mumbai. I had briefly heard about it during the terror attacks in 2008. I think the Taj Mahal hotel where we are staying was one of the places attacked. I expected Mumbai to be more mystic and rural. But it is very modern and similar to Kiev in many ways.”

The roads in Mumbai have been called a ‘headache’ by many foreigners
The roads in Mumbai have been called a ‘headache’ by many foreigners

Near the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at Sahar in Andheri (E), Johan Growell and Patrick Cronje from South Africa were looking for a budget place to stay. The senior citizens are on a visit to the sanctuaries in India. Growell, a photographer by profession says, “The Portuguese and British architecture buildings in the city have intrigued me.

Clicking pictures at the Gateway of India is a matter of pride for tourists
Clicking pictures at the Gateway of India is a matter of pride for tourists

I have read a lot about the Gateway of India, Victoria Terminus, St Xavier’s College to name a few. I want to photograph these. As landmarks of history, they have their own story to tell of the mysteries of the past.” Cronje says, “I just tagged along to complete my ‘bucket list’ (A number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime).

India has always been on my mind, since my son came here for a honeymoon 15 years ago. Mumbai isn’t foreign to me. I have heard a lot about it from my son. I actually have a list of places to visit and things to eat here like vada pav, bhel puri, gola and cutting chai."

Staying safe
Carla Garcia and her sister Xisca Sanchez who are in Mumbai for a stopover on their way to Goa and Kerala to experience the beaches of India say they are taking precautions. Carla who is an illustrator says, “India has been in focus recently because of brutal crimes against women.

When we decided to visit we had second thoughts, but we are taking care by wearing Indian clothes and not staying out too late.” Sanchez, a Commerce student at the University of Milan says, “The people here during our visits to Marine Drive and Chowpatty have been friendly and helpful. There have been some who wanted to click pictures with us.

A few girl friends of mine say they had unwittingly become subjects of pornographic films made by morphing their pictures when they posed with locals in South America. We don’t want that happening to us, so we refused to pose for pictures.”

British businesswoman Martha Jones who was in Mumbai for work took some time out to see the Gateway of India. She says, “I purchased a special pepper spray for my India trip to ensure that I can defend myself in case something funny happens.

I have heard that women get groped almost every three minutes in India, thankfully Mumbai has been safe. I have been here for a week and all the places I have gone to nightclubs, hotels, tourist attractions, etc have not felt unsafe. People do stare, but apart from that they don’t do anything dangerous.”

Greta Paddy from the United States of America says, “The weather here is very hot and humid so I wear shorts and T-shirts. But the men started staring at me which made me uncomfortable. I have now started wearing salwar kameez as online they say dressing up like the locals helps avoid sexual crimes.

When I wanted to know the way to Bandra Fort from Bandra Bandstand many people came forward to help me by giving directions. It was nice to see the helpful nature of locals.”

Crazy traffic
If the city’s roads are challenging for locals to cross and drive on more so for foreign tourists. Penj Yuan, who has been in Mumbai for a two week holiday, says, “I rented a bike to commute in the city. The traffic here is chaotic. People cut lanes, honk, drive, ride and cross anywhere.

After three days I returned the bike as I found it really tough to ride in such conditions. I now commute by public transport as that is very efficient.” Mahmudullah Shamsher from Saudi Arabia, who is in Mumbai to visit relatives, says he is scared to cross the road.

The oil merchant says, “Near Flora Fountain, I met with an accident as a car did not stop at the red light and hit me. I injured my leg. The signals and traffic are very difficult to understand. I think there are no traffic rules followed in this city. In my country, vehicles can’t overshoot signals. Here it seems as though pedestrians have no rights.”

Not so fare
Rabia Mohammed, Turkish national says, “I heard a lot about shopping in Mumbai and so I came here to buy clothes, jewellery, shoes, etc. I was really happy with the designs and patterns. But the rates charged were exorbitant.

I knew that at Hill Road, Bandra and at Colaba Causeway, one must bargain but they refused to reduce the rates since I was a foreigner. A shopkeeper told me that since I earned in Euros a few extra rupees lost wouldn’t hurt me. It is unfair to charge foreigners so much.”

Argentinean national Che Valdes says he was fleeced by a taxi driver. The media professional says, “When I came to India, I was told to beware of this. I wanted to go to Gateway of India from Colaba Causeway.

Rather than being told by the taxi driver that it was walking distance away, he took me for a Mumbai darshan of sorts and then brought me to Gateway. He asked me to pay R 100. When I argued with him, he started cursing me.”

His friend Reeva Lima relates another incident where they were forced to pay Rs 1,000 to get to their hotel at Bandra from the airport. She says, “Our flight arrived at 2 am, we booked a pre-paid black and yellow taxi. Before we came to India, we were briefed to take pre-paid taxis and to not give the drivers any tips.

The taxi driver refused to let us get out till we paid. We had already paid the fare at the airport. When we went to complain at a police station, they registered the case promising to take the taxi driver to task.”

Overall, it has been a mixed bag for foreign tourists. From some unpleasant incidents to other happy ones. Mumbai has shown many facets and faces to its visitors. Maximum city you are a delightful and always compelling place to be in.

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