India – Mumbai

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With it having been a rather warm and sticky day today, at 94% humidity, we have both struggled a tad since arriving with the whole challenge of acclimatising.  Being western travellers, we usually rely on shorts….

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and vests when traveling in hot countries if it is socially acceptable, however, India holds a few recommendations on attire if you wish to respect their culture, traditions and values.
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Travel Tip: Always dress modestly (especially females) covering shoulders and knees with loose fitted fabric, designed NOT to figure fit .  This will prohibit any scornful looks from other females who may be offended and will minimise the amount of unwanted attention off males you may get compared to if you are dressed in a revealing fashion.  It is wise to cover cleavage, wearing a high neck top, however having your stomach on show is perfectly acceptable.
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In regards to our adventures here in Mumbai, yesterday morning we visited a local bazzar, which was absolutely heaving with frenzied crowds 
and stalls overflowing with food and colourful garments.  The fruit stalls beckoned us with their ripe mangoes, which we have bought to enjoy for breakfast tomorrow morning, however, the meat stalls on the other hand were far less enticing.  The smell hit us initially, a musky and rotten odour that made us gag, we wondered what on earth was producing such a stench, then we spotted the dubious carcasses hanging from the stalls.  With no ice to keep the meat cool and flies circling the meat stalls, it was no wonder the smell was so intense.  We walked on tiptoes through the thin layer of blood and slime that covered the market floor, dripping directly off the meat. In that second, we both exchanged glances of disgust and agreed it was a good idea to go vegetarian for this trip in India, which we had previously been deliberating over.
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During the afternoon we visited one of the locals favourite hangout spots, ‘Chowpatty beach.’  Full of rubbish covering the sand, washed up by the black water, we initially wondered what on earth was so appealing about this place, but taking a seat to people watch, it’s magic was revealed.  It wasn’t the place itself that was so fascinating, but the people on the beach who mesmerised us by their positive outgoing behaviour.  Several cricket games were going on around us, involving whole families with every generation, from the elderly right down to toddlers.  Children excitedly played on a rickety looking funfair, squealing in delight at such simple luxuries.  Couples sat hand in hand on the sand, enjoying the space on offer in comparison to the rest of hectic Mumbai.  ‘Chowpatty beach’ most definitely had an imperfect feel, yet it was so perfect for all of the families enjoying it’s space.
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Today we wandered to see Mumbai’s Mahalakshmi Temple and found a shrine to ‘Lakshmi’ (The Indian Goddess of beauty and prosperity).  Travel Tip: when entering a temple, always take shoes off and females take with you a light cotton scarf to cover your arms as a sign of respect.  As we emerged out of the back of the temple on the edge of sharp rocks surrounded by the sea, we took our time and enjoyed watching the local children jumping over the rocks, dodging huge waves, whilst a pack of stray dogs relaxed in the sea breeze, sprawled out over the rocks.
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We’ve just returned to our hostel on a high after what has been an amazing last night in Mumbai.  This evening we decided to be brave and go to the local cinema to watch the film ‘Delhi Belly,’ which our hostel manager told us would be in English, but warned us it’s audience may be male heavy.  We thought it would be a little less busy if we went to the 10pm showing, but on arrival the entrance and street was jam packed full of men and rightly so not a lady in sight!!! After what seemed an eternity being pushed from left to right by the excited crowd, eager to get to the front counter to purchase their ticket, we decided to also join in with the pushing, as attempting to line up like good British citizens was getting us nowhere. After being warned by the ticket seller by a poster stating ‘don’t ruin your trip check under your seat (Indian terrorist organisation)’ we had made it to the counter and our tickets were in hand.
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Upon finding our seat we must admit it was a little intimidating when the whole auditorium turned around to stare at us, some individuals also taking our picture.  Maybe it was because I was the only female we could see in the whole cinema out of 500 people, or maybe it was the fact that we were the only white faces in the place, turning up to watch a film which we soon found out was all in Hindi, which they rightly predicted we did not speak!  Despite not having a clue what the actors were saying and having to guess the entire story line throughout, it was a phenomenal experience.
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At home in the UK we’d be angered by the audience verbally sharing their opinion out loud for all to hear, and we would be eager to watch in silence, but tonight it was so comical to hear the crowds of men cheering at the screen when any remotely sexual part of a female actress was shown.  There was a real sense of community in the auditorium as the audience openly shared their happiness and anger at certain parts of the film, cheering and booing as loudly as they could.  Nothing beats seeing a country in its real everyday state, not an experience created for tourists alone, but an opportunity where tourists get to see how locals live and experience their daily lives with them.  It was a night we will never forget!

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