RTW Trip Mumbai, India Day 72: Safe and Delicious Eating in Mumbai

Mumbai was fascinating to me.  It had a mix of modern flair, British influence, with rustic Indian vibes.  After being in Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan, Mumbai felt humid.  Super humid.  Even my wrists were sweating.

We ventured around the city on foot to areas that were close to us.  Even though we were in a big city, we still got a lot of stares.  More so me than Greg, I am not quite sure why.  I was definitely covered up and dressed quite conservatively.

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If you have been to India, you are very aware that train tickets anywhere sell out very quickly.  Only a certain amount of tickets are reserved for foreigners, so you really have to buy them in advance.  We wanted to buy our train tickets to Goa, so we walked up to the train station, and were directed to a counter.  The man working there was extremely helpful. As a passenger on a train, everyone has to fill out a detailed form including information about yourself as well as the name and time of the train you will be taking.  He told us the prices of the various trains, and alerted us of the numerous routes we could take to Goa, only all of them were full.  There are waiting lists, but you are not guaranteed a seat.  I had heard that some tourists have had success getting tickets with certain travel agencies when the train stations are sold out, but we opted to avoid that method.

We felt like we were at a bit of a loss, and after talking to the train employee, he mentioned we could take an overnight sleeper bus to Goa and tried to point out which direction to find a government approved bus ticket seller.  We couldn’t quite see which area he was talking about when he have us directions, so he had a coworker walk us to the actual shop.  I love India!  We ended up buying an overnight sleeper bus to Goa with success.

A huge part of coming to India is eating the glorious food.  It was so nice to not be scared this time around and eat to my heart’s content.  Here are a few rules I like to go by when getting food in India, especially street food.

1.  Ask locals where to eat and what is good.  They are in the know!
2.  If it looks busy, turnover of food is high.
3. Avoid items that are washed or use ice, unless you know it comes from a filtered source.
4. When eating deep fried items, check to see how dark the oil is.  If it looks really dark, it is probably best to avoid it.
5. A ‘hotel’ in India can often mean restaurant, even though there are no guest rooms at all.  If you are needing a bite, take a second look to see if it is in fact a hotel, or if it is a restaurant.
6. If you don’t know what to order, see if there is a common order other customers are eating.  Usually if they are all eating the same thing, that may be the restaurant’s specialty and it is likely to be fresher than other items on the menu.

Our very first meal was suggested to us by a man who sold us our bus tickets.  While I was very tempted to grab a vada pav from a nearby street vendor, Greg wasn’t quite ready, and thought we should wait at least a couple days before venturing into street eats.

We ended up going to a restaurant called Shiv Aka Veg Restaurant, which looked like it was frequented by middle class families in a basic but clean looking restaurant.  We ordered a couple of vegetarian thalis, which basically was an endless serving of rice and various curries.  It was absolutely delicious, and often became my go to when ordering lunch.

A tasty vegetarian thali

A tasty vegetarian thali

We like traveling with travel books and needed one for India, so we headed to Strand Books (no relation to the branch in New York) and got a deal for a slightly older Lonely Planet India book.  I suggest you go here if you need to purchase any English books as it seemed they had a decent variety.

We also stopped off at India Gate, where I had my first fresh coconut of the trip.  Vendors hack it up right in front of you, and when you are finished drinking the juice, they cut off a coconut spoon do you can scoop out the meat at the end.

Mumbaicollage

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We also visited a popular expat joint called Leopold Cafe, famous for getting bombed in 2008.  The interior was charming, with a lot of character.  Clearly, foreigners love this place.

We were pretty exhausted after a long day of walking around Mumbai, so we grabbed dinner downstairs from Elphinstone Annexe Hotel, and retired to bed.

Costs:
Elphinstone Annexe Hotel $34
Water and two veg thalis at Shiv Aka Veg Restaurant 255 rupees
Lonely Planet India book 1200 rupees
Coconut 30 rupees
Water 20 rupees
Beer and lime juice at Leopold cafe 285 rupees
Thali and aloo ghobi water and coke 268 rupees
Snacks Indo and chips 40 rupees

Total cost: 2098 rupees + $34 = $67.56 / 2 = $33.78 per person

What I learned:  If you are buying books and the price is written in pencil, don’t be afraid to bargain.  We saved some money by asking for a cheaper price.  Also, don’t be scared to book bus tickets if trains are sold out!

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Actual date of travel: Nov. 14, 2014

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