Travel Tales #12: India Trip Day 6 – A Mumbai Adventure – Distressed to Joyful; Bailey's Way
This morning began by saying goodbye to Mom and Dad as they are heading back to Vadodara to prepare for us to come stay with them. After sending them off to the train station, Moni and I ventured out to purchase fabric for me to take home! I’ve been looking forward to this moment for months now because as an aspiring fashion designer, I know that India manufactures large quantities of textiles and that I will be able to purchase good quality fabrics at a lower cost while here. Moni and I hopped into an auto and made our way to Tirumala Shopping Centre – let the fun begin!
As we walked into the fabric store, my eyes grew wide with excitement. So. Many. FABRICS! There were shelves covering every inch of wall space packed full from floor to ceiling with an array of different types of fabrics. Cottons, silks, brocades, sequin fabrics – you name it, they had it! We spent at least two hours in this store because I was purchasing fabric for more than just myself. My best friend, Alex, and our other friend, Laura, had given me money to bring them home some fabric, too, as we all fashion design students who love to sew. Fun fact: before leaving for my trip, I made both of them answer a bunch of questions to ensure that I got them exactly what they wanted. I then stored this information in the Notes app on my iPhone to refer back to later because I’m super type-A like that. ?
Myself, on the other hand, had no limits as to what I was buying or how much I was wanting to spend soooo I went a little crazy. I bought meters upon meters of cotton fabrics as they only cost 150-200 INR (Indian Rupee) per meter, which was roughly $2-$3 USD! Back home in the U.S., you can expect to spend anywhere from $10-$20 for the same thing. So can you blame me for going HAM on purchasing fabric here?! ? I stocked up on a ton of cute cotton prints as I plan to make some matching clothes for my fiancé, Monish, and I. Additionally, I purchased a bunch of “fancy fabrics” (i.e. sequin fabrics, hand-painted fabrics, embellished fabrics, etc.) as they are significantly cheaper here versus back home.
I had a lot of fun talking to the salesmen in Hindi, saying things like “kitni ka?” and “nahin, neela” or “mujhe laal chahiye” when asking them to pull down fabrics for me. I truly enjoyed this entire experience so much! I could’ve spent so much more time here had Moni let me. In the end, I racked up about 20,000 INR worth of fabric to bring home, which was equivalent to about $265 USD at the time. Check out the photo below to see the haul – if you sew or know anything about fabric, you’ll understand how good of a deal I got compared to what I would’ve spent on the same things back home.
Side note: I was able to get all of this fabric home easily by using some travel vacuum seal bags that we had purchased on Amazon. These bags came with a hand pump to remove the air and flatten the bags, which was perfect since they don’t have vacuums in Indian households as most floors are concrete or tile with rugs on top. We ordered a set of 12 that contained 4 different sizes – click here to view on Amazon.
From here, we hopped into an auto that took us back to Tanvi’s place. We rested for a little while as the heat took a toll on my body, then we began to get ready for the day ahead. While waiting for Tanvi & Jigar to finish getting ready, Moni and I walked down the street to get some fresh coconut water from the paani wala (this is the Hindi term for “guy who sells coconut water”). This was my first time tasting fresh coconut water and I was shocked at how delicious I found it! I hate the taste of the coconut water sold in cartons back home, and I’m assuming that the difference in taste has a lot to do with the preservatives added into the store-bought coconut water. This was the beginning of a nonstop quest for coconut water. ? Besides, it’s very hydrating and the daily temperatures were boiling hot, creating the perfect excuse to stop for a refreshing beverage anytime we saw a paani wala.
It was time to head out for the day and Tanvi & Jigar rented a car (which also came with a driver) to make exploring the city both easy and convenient. Our first stop was Café Mondegar, although we didn’t end up eating anything here. In the area where this café is located, there are tons of shopping stalls lining the streets, so we spent a good chunk of time shopping. This type of shopping requires negotiation/bargaining as these stalls are not designated stores, but are instead merchants selling goods on their on accord. I ended up purchasing a considerable amount of jewelry because everything was both super cheap and incredibly cute! Jigar is an expert at negotiating, so I basically just handed him piles of jewelry for him to negotiate the price then had Moni pay for it. What a dream I was living! ?? (For reference, most pieces cost around 150-200 Indian Rupees each, which was equivalent to about $1.75-$2.50 USD).
Once we finished up here, we made our way up a flight of stairs towards the McDonald’s that was located on the 2nd floor. We all needed both a snack and a pee break at this point and we knew we’d be guaranteed to find both of these here. This time, I tried the paneer nuggets and I enjoyed them so much more than I had originally expected! We also made sure to get some ice cream to help cool us down because the heat in India is seriously no joke, y’all!
Next, we made our way to Gateway of India – a large archway located near the shore that opens up to the Arabian Sea. This historic archway was completed in 1924 to commemorate King George V and Queen Mary’s first trip to India that took place in 1911. Legend has it, when India gained their independence from the British in 1947, the Britishers (a nickname given to British people by Indians) left India through this archway that they constructed for themselves. Oh, the irony!
Directly across from this archway is The Taj Mahal Hotel – a magnificent hotel that was originally built for Britishers only. They used to have signs on it that read “No Dogs or Indians Allowed”. Are you kidding me?! Learning about this piece of history reminded me of the segregation that the United States used to allow, which thankfully was abolished in the 1964 via the Civil Rights Act. As expected, once India gained their independence from Great Britain, this sign was removed and Indian residents were now free to visit it. Additionally, this hotel is the site of India’s largest terrorist attack that took place on November 26, 2008. If you’re interested in learning more about this, you can watch Hotel Mumbai, a Bollywood movie that captures the true story of this horrific event where the hotel staff risked their lives to save the guests first, then themselves last. I haven’t seen it yet (it’s on the list!), but Moni mentioned that it’s a bit of a heavy movie, though is truly incredible as well.
From here, we made our way to “where the city met the sea”, which reminded me so much of the jetties back home at Surfside Beach. The area that we went to is known as “The Queen’s Necklace” as the shoreline is in the shape of a “U” that, when lit up at night with the lights of the city, resembles a beautiful necklace that’s fit for a queen. We sat atop a concrete ledge at the edge of the shore, allowing our legs to dangle above the ocean as we watched the sun set, taking in the moment and enjoying every second of it.
When the sun had finally disappeared into the ocean and nightfall came upon us, we felt a rumble in our tummies which signaled that it was time to eat dinner. We chose to split up into two groups – the boys (Moni & Jigar) went to go pick up some street food for everyone (excluding me!) and the girls (Tanvi & I) hopped into an auto and went straight back home. Because street food is not safe for my American stomach, Tanvi ordered delivery from a local Italian restaurant for me to indulge in. It was a nice little break for my stomach from all of the heavily spiced foods that I’d been eating. We all spent the rest of the evening chilling together at the apartment as Moni and I would be leaving for Vadodara the next day.
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If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the previous days of my first magical adventure to Incredible India!