I’d done two shows the night before I arrived in Mumbai, and had to do another two shows again that same night. Which means I only had a few hours to see Mumbai, both in terms of time available and energy to spend.
So on leaving the Queen Victoria (a very nice ship!) I decided to hire a taxi for a few hours. I wanted a stress-free look at the city, and didn’t mind paying for it. This plan turned out to be a mistake.
It wasn’t this taxi. I decided to go with air-conditioning and a guide who could speak good English.
The first thing the driver did wrong was to quote a price WAAAAY too high. I didn’t mind paying more than the locals for a tuctuc ride in Cochin, as it still only came to about 5 euro. But this driver wanted something like 80 euro for two hours. What a joke!
Next up he drove me directly to a shop, one which he insisted I didn’t have to buy anything, just to look. Great. I didn’t mind the driver in Cochin doing this, as the shopping stop (which the driver gets paid to do weather I buy anything or not) came after four interesting stops. And the shop itself had an interesting view from the top floor.
But the driver in Mumbai took me to the shop FIRST. He didn’t even try to be subtle. So much for non-stressful.
Next bad turn: I wanted to see the Gateway of India.
But the driver drove straight past it, a good 500 meters past it, stopped the car illegally, then started walking back with me towards it. So much for air conditioning. Then he had to go back and park better, and I was just waiting around for him.
I took this photo while waiting.
I don’t mind walking from the taxi, but he could have very easily dropped me off and picked me up a few minutes later.
Next bad turn: the taxi driver wanted me to have my photo taken. Look at this photo below. You might think this is a photo of pigeons. It is, in fact, a picture of men carrying digital cameras and portable printers slung over their shoulders. Look closely. I can count seven.
Look in the photo of the arch above, and there’s another five or six. So here I am, carrying nothing but a DSLR myself, and my driver wants me to pay however much to get a printout of a badly framed tourist photo.
Next bad turn: I wanted a video of me juggling in front of the arch. Why not? It’s a mildly interesting landmark. I explained this to the driver, and he immediately couldn’t understand English, and wanted to give my camera to one of these printer guys to do it instead. This would, obviously, lead to me having to pay someone, and then the driver getting a cut.
Check out the last shot in my juggling in India video. It’s a terrible shot, but by then I was too stressed out with the driver to bother getting a second clip.
To cut this tedious story short, I told the driver the deal was off, that the stress-free tour just wasn’t working out. He didn’t think this was fair, but I offered to overpay for what he’d so far provided; nothing more than a stressful ride down to the archway, a distance I could have easily walked. I said to him “Either you get no money and I walk away, or I give you this money and then walk away.”
He took the money.
And suddenly, all stress dissipated. I didn’t bother to get another taxi, and instead walked around the downtown area for a while, then back to the ship. I didn’t see most of the sights and sites in Mumbai I had planned, but I don’t really care. I saw enough of Mumbai to know that when I return to India I’ll be staying away from the big cities.
The Prince of Wales museum building.
An apartment building.
The Oval Maidan, a large green in the city center, mainly used for cricket practice.
There are security guards at the gates to stop people using the space for selling or begging or stealing. Needless to say, it was the least stressful place to relax I visited in the city.
The University tower.
Tuctucs are banned in downtown Mumbai, but there are plenty of motorbikes.
That’s about it for photos. I ate a variety of street vendor food, including artfully cut pineapple and a plate of curry and rice which I had to eat with my fingers.