Posts Tagged ‘India’

Bicycles and
fishing nets

Chinese fishing nets

Our second stop in India was Cochin, much further south than Mumbai. We set out on foot again, and encountered some of the most aggressive tuk-tuk drivers we’ve ever seen just outside the port gates. Tuk-tuks are the little three-wheeled scooter/taxis that are barely big enough for a driver and two passengers crammed in the back. They look almost like a motorized rickshaw. Two of the drivers followed us for what must have been eight or ten blocks trying to get us into their tuk-tuks. It was impossible to convey to them the concept that we just wanted to walk. Clearly we must be crazy.

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Dharavi slum, Mumbai

On our first day in Mumbai, we joined a small group of other people from the cruise on an organized excursion. The group was made up of staff from the ship and other travelers with open minds. This was no regular overpriced cruise ship excursion; one of the guest relations officers that we’d made friends with had organized a tour of the Dharavi slum through a Non-Government Organization (NGO) called Reality Tours, and she invited us to come along. Dharavi slum is supposed to be Asia’s biggest slum, but depending on who we asked we heard varying information on that. Our guide told us that over one million people live there, and someone else said fifty thousand. On first hearing about it, we were a little apprehensive that taking a “tour of the slums” was simply putting the lives of these poverty-stricken people on show for tourists. But we read a little more about the NGO, and learned that 80% of their profits from the tours went to funding a computer learning centre and a kindergarten in the slum community. We thought it would be an experience worth having, not for enjoyment’s sake, but for the sake of learning more about the lives of the people here. Five of us went in a car with a driver and an english-speaking guide, and after driving past some of the city’s major attractions, we parked at the edge of Dharavi and got out of the car.

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Mumbai, India

Mumbai

We arrived in Mumbai, India, on December 13th, and we had two days in port there. We set out in the hopes of seeing and experiencing as much of the city as possible in the short time we had. On arrival, we left the port on foot, fighting our way through a throng of aggressive taxi drivers who are determined to get you into their cabs. Of course, the cabs at the port are nearly all overpriced, and often are operated off the meter. We heard of other guests paying as much as $40 US for a two hour drive around the city in a cab, while Meg and I managed to find a three hour tour in an air-conditioned car, with a guide, several stops, and guided visits to places tourists wouldn’t go alone for only $22. Most of the other taxi rides we took cost less than $1, as long as we made sure that the meter was running. But on our first venture out into the city, we were determined to walk, to get a better sense of the life on the streets. It took us about three blocks to shake off the last of the cab drivers, and then we were on our own.

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