I LOVE Mumbai!

Yes, I LOVE Mumbai! What a beautiful city. It is surrounded by water. On one side is the Arabian Sea with a long boardwalk where folks walk in the mornings and evenings.

But, of course, one cannot speak of Mumbai without talking about the slums. There are 22 million people and real estate is at a premium. The people in the slums don’t want to leave as this is where the jobs are.

Thanks to John and Tawny Farmer who were here 5 years ago, we visited Akanksha, an after school program for the children in the slums. Speaking English is the key to success. The children join the program at age 5 and attend each day after normal school from 3-6 pm. Hard to imagine they are from the slums, sleep on the floor, live in crowded dirty surroundings with only a public toilet and bucket showers. They are clean, well groomed, bright eyed and attentive.

Tony and I hopped over to the Taj for a quick lunch and gorgeous views of the Mumbai Harbor and the Gateway of India.

On the long walk home (because we got lost), we resisted the sidewalk vendors with fruit 🙂

The next day, we took a boat into the Mumbai Harbor to Elephanta Island where the 7th Century Cave Temples dedicated to Shiva are located. Gorgeous views of the harbor and the Taj Hotel.

Of course, on the boat, there were wonderful jewels to be consumed. We all HAD to buy something!

How did they carve the Cave Temple from one large rock. It is huge and intricate. I love the Hindu religion…so personal, so simple. We have the divine within us and we get closer to it  by meditation, yoga, good thoughts, good words and good deeds. They also value education and our minds. Makes so much sense to me. Do we really need all those priests and ministers to interpret for us?

The only time so far that I have wished to cover my nose due to the scent was walking along the wharf. Look at these women carrying baskets on their heads. We see many women carrying heavy sacks and baskets on their heads, but very few men…

Lunch at the Leopold Cafe. I believe this was also a terrorist target in the 2008 attacks on Mumbai.

Good thing they did not get all of the beer “towers!” How cool are these? They have ice going down the center in a cylinder. We do love our Kingfisher! Many of us wished we had room in our suitcases for one of these. How much would our children love us!

Off to the market where we found gorgeous vegetables, fruits and live animals and many men sleeping as they had arrived so early in the morning. I will never complain about an uncomfortable bed again.

 

Then to the Public Laundry, the Dhobi Ghat. The people who do the laundry also live there. Our guide said the clothes are amazingly clean and ironed. Wow!

And how could you resist buying a purse from this little girl?

5.5 Million people pass through this Train Station every morning and evening commuting to work. There is an amazing system of lunch box delivery to over 300,000 people a day. The couriers pick up the lunch box from the workers home around 10 am, deliver to the office before noon, pick up the lunch box after lunch and redeliver to the home in the afternoon. This is an incredible system based completely on time management and a numerical system that identifies the home location and the office location. The couriers wait for no one as the whole system is based on time. 

I found myself saying as I left Mumbai, “I want to return, I want to feel more of this vibrant city. Two days was not long enough. I said I could see Stoney and Laura living here for a while. Careful for what you wish for. We are now in Udaipur, a gorgeous drier, more mountainous area with much less population. More on that later. And YES, the shopping is quite fun.

Beautiful Kerala

Kumarakom, Kerala
We spent a few lazy days at a resort on Vembanad Lake at the Zuri Resort. I loved doing yoga on the little island with all the right statues around me.

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We took a cruise on the canals on a houseboat and saw the rice farmers living their daily lives. People were relaxed, friendly and smiled and waved at us. Our guide Bahwani noted that the people age slowly and are quite healthy here due to the lack of stress. Hmm.

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Good Times with Laura & Stoney in Hong Kong Continue

View from our room…

While Laura and Stoney worked, Tony and I walked along Hollywood Road.

Tony keeps saying to “look up!”

We are heading to the country of contrasts, but would say we are getting a pretty good introduction right now in Hong Kong

This is on the street and ….right inside…

Stoney arranged a marvelous dim sum lunch at Luk Yu one of oldest and best in HK. It felt like Tadich’s. I wanted to take several pictures, but just felt “oh-so-wrong” as we were the only non HK’s there. Also, I got the look from Stoney…you know what I am talking about. When your kids just want you to be a bit more cool…

did sneak one before he got “the look.”

Stoney dropped Tony and me off at Foot to get a marvelous massage. It was quite a contrast from our foot massage yesterday. Today the therapists did not have to be called, they had head sets on and it they all wore the black uniform. Ah, a land of contrasts.

Stoney and Laura took us to one of their favorite private kitchen restaurants in Wan Chai, Le Blanc. Again, what an experience. It was on the 6th floor in the very Chinese section of Hong Kong. When we are in Soho in Central, it feels a lot like the West Village in NYC. In Wan Chai, we were sure we were not in Kansas anymore. Here you bring your own wine with no corkage and the private dining spaces are created with hanging fabric. All just so cool and different.

On Our Way to India Via Hong Kong

We are traveling Eva Air, a Taiwanese airline. So far so good as we are in Business class. The flight is almost 14 hours. We watched J. Edgar and then I watched another early episode of Downton Abbey. Love my ipad, but I guess you already knew that.

Of course I am so worried that I have packed too many clothes. And so worried there will not be enough room to put he things I buy. I think these are small worries!

We arrive at 9 am in HK after and hour layover in Taiwan. I think Stoney might have to help check us in as we are in the hotel thanks to his Macquarrie discount. I have always had that little dream that one day my “kids” would provide some little amenity to me! I finally got my dream. Oh yes, and we did not have to pay the cover at Birdland when we were in New York. Things are definitely moving in the right direction.

We are on the fabulous train from the airport to Hong Kong Central. Quiet, clean, inexpensive and fast.
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Cute Stoney took us to lunch at Betty’s Kitschen (note spelling) in the IFC. It is a very cute place with great atmosphere. You can see Tony’s eyes were at “half-mast” as he says.

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We had a foot massage in our neighborhood of Sai Ying Pun. I had to hand it to Tony as we climbed up the dark dank stairway, rang the bell, and entered a room with a few lounge chairs, big TV with Cantonese blaring, tired purple towels that seem to be used several times, and doors opening and shutting with people scantily clad coming and going.

We met Stoney and Laura at Cafe de Paris in Soho which is right in their neighboorhood on the escalator up to the mid-levels. It was heavenly to see Laura as I had not seen her since Memorial Day and that is too long for me. She is on fire in her job, on top of the wedding and doing great things with photography. On top of that she is gorgeous and just so nice and undemanding about the wedding. She has done a power point presentation of her vision of the wedding to send to all the vendors. Wow!

I have to say, I like that neighborhood. Maybe a foot massage there today…