After Delhi, Jaipur, and Udaipur, I took a train to Mumbai, a massive city with a population of 20.5 million people! Imagine taking all the people in Ohio and Michigan
and shoving them in Detroit. This is Mumbai. There are people everywhere! 7 million per day commute via the train system…most in the world.
I had my first experience of jumping on a true, local train. I barely fit into the cabin loaded with people, especially with my massive backpack. One leg was hanging outside. A thousand eyes were on me, the only westerner on the train.
I made it to the Salvation Army Hostel, which was a dump. Luckily, I opted for a private room as I found out later that the dorm room was infested with bed bugs…5 of the 8 people in the dorm experienced bed bugs.
Mumbai was hot. Hotness in India is calculated by the number of cold showers you have to take in one day. This was 4-shower hot. The first day, I did what I always do, walk around the town and get acquainted/lost. I hung with another traveler from Italy who was down to his last rupee before heading back to Europe. This dude was bargaining at restaurants trying to get deals on 15 rupee-chai tea. In my opinion, India beat him. I was not going to let India beat me.
I did the touristy things in Mumbai. I went to Elephant Island to see the cave temple. I hung out at the infamous Taj Majal Hotel, mainly to cool off in their air-conditioned lobby. I went to Leopalds (famous from the Shantaram book) but it was too touristy for me. I ate some great street food.
After a few days, I decided to head off to Goa to escape all the people. I ended up at Anjuna, and truthfully, it was off-season there and about 5-shower hot. Everything was shutting down. I went to the famous flea market, the last one of the season. I also rented a scooter and zipped around to the various beaches and sights with some people I met from Denmark and Australia. I knew right away that I had to bounce.
From Goa, I went to Hampi via an uncomfortable 10-hour overnight bus but it was fun as most of the passengers were backpackers from all over the world. Hampi was also
shutting down but it was much more bearable weather (2-shower hot) and I kept running into the same people from the bus so it was quite comical how we all hung out at temples, dinner, and the lake. We were easy to spot and there were only a few of us.
Having a moped in Hampi made it easy to see all the temples and rock formations. For $2 a day and $1 for gas, you were free to roam the flintstone-like town of Hampi. There is a river there with no bridge. You had to pay 50 rupees to get you and your bike across the river via a wooden boat.
From Hampi, I went to Gokarna to hang on the beach and soak on the shores of the Arabian Sea. Western women on a beach is a sight to see in India. If you are a woman and don’t cover up, you will have 100 Indian dudes staring at you. Showing your shoulders in India is like walking around topless to them. My friend Kate from England and I found a killer beach (Half Moon Beach) which required a 30-minute hike away from the touristy section and undressing stares.
I’m glad I made the decision to get a taste of Southern India even though I knew that it was going to be an Indian oven. Looking back, it was a good experience to see the contrast of the south and north. I did not make it down to Kerala as planned (87% humidity killed that idea), but maybe next time. I booked a flight back to Delhi from Goa to make my way up to the Himalayas and back to taking 1 shower a day.