Anyone who has seen Slumdog Millionaire knows about Mumbai’s slums, some of the largest in the world, millions of people live in them. To me the idea of visiting slums is not enticing, I am not anthropologically minded. There are companies that offer slum tours for those who are compelled to do so, perhaps profiteering, but usually these businesses are locally based and supporting communities, so not just profiting on the poverty. My focus of humanity is through the plate, I like to see how different populations and the movement of people over time affect the cuisines available, one of the reasons India appealed to me was the ethnic diversity of the country.
Mumbai also has a large historical centre, packed with many colonial buildings, and a diverse mix of Hindu, Muslim and Christian peoples living nearby. It is here I plan to spend most of my time exploring wandering on foot rather than attempting the notoriously poor public transport and crowded roads.
Walking through the huge colonial part of the city, I enjoyed the clean wide streets checking out many of the magnificent buildings, even those poorly maintained still showed a dilapidated glory just behind the grime. The nearby market areas are quite different to the opulent waterfront areas, the market areas showed the fairly modest living quarters of the workers and middle classes of the time. I particularly enjoyed the flea market and cloth market, but didn’t like the central, and quite famous food market, it was pretty filthy.
The most internationally recognisable of all this colonial era architecture is the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. As a treat, a real treat I stayed in this magnificent hotel for a two nights. For me staying at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel is surreal, I feel that I don’t belong front of house in places like this. I would be perfectly comfortable in the kitchens here, but it takes me ages to relax properly as a guest, it is such a treat, an incredibly rare occurrence. I couldn’t stay in places like this often, not just because of the price, it’s just that I would never get to have any real experiences, I certainly didn’t do much exploring while I am paying so much per night. Besides I’ve got a breakfast, drinks and high tea package to abuse, I’ll never get my money’s worth if I leave the building for too long, actually I’ll never get my moneys worth either way, but at least I can try.