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I’d heard that when you land in India and exit the airport the smell hits you, the chaos hits you, it’s a total culture shock… but that didn’t happen to me.
I landed in Mumbai after being in Lebanon at a god awful hour of 4:00am after approximately 10 minutes sleep on the plane. Mumbai Airport is pretty fancy which I knew as I’d flown through there a few years before. I took my time as I didn’t want to get to the hostel that early anyway as check in wasn’t until 10 hours later at 2:00pm.
I exited the airport and it wasn’t just the heat and humidity that hit me, what also hit me is that no one asked me for a taxi. No one even looked at me.
Which was good seen as my hostel- Backpacker Panda Colaba had told me to get an Uber.
I had my backpack on a trolley and off I went to find the Uber stand. After a bit of searching I found it and despite not having any internet they ordered one for me, it arrived straight away and we were off.
Prior to landing I was nervous about going to India but I knew it was the airport section I had anxiety over, getting bombarded with people asking for a taxi, getting in one and getting ripped off (which had just happened in Lebanon), but as I got in the taxi, we left the airport and started driving alongside what I believe are some of the Mumbai slums, it hit me that, this is it.
I’m in India
And I just got through the airport in the most stress free way possible!
It was 5:00am now and the journey was about an hour, it was totally dark until the very end which is when the sun started to come up. Some men were out walking and jogging, some with their dogs including one very nice looking golden retriever, others on their bike on the way to work, the City was waking up but very slowly.
The buildings we passed were pretty much the same as I’d seen in the likes of Bangkok, Yangon, Penom Penh and Hanoi. Old looking from the outside and very dirty with lots of low hanging wires. Independent shops with old store fronts selling all sorts of things.
We passed a section that was suddenly a hive of activity, it seems people were getting vegetables ready to be sold at a market, they were sorting through them but just as quickly as we’d come upon them we left and were back to the fairly empty streets.
And just as I thought ‘Isn’t there meant to be cows all over India, not Golden Retrievers being walked on a lead?’ I did indeed see 2 cows, but they were the first and last cows I saw in Mumbai.
Before long I could see on my map that we were arriving in Colaba which is where I had decided to spend my first few days and ended up extending it to my full 6 days in Mumbai.
The excitement was pretty high as I’d just finished reading Shantaram for the second time and this book was a big influence in me wanting to visit India the first time I read it many years ago and as we were getting close to Colaba Causeway and Leopolds cafe it made me giddy with excitement, despite the lack of sleep that, I was in India.
I was in Mumbai.
I was here after years of waiting.
I arrived at the hostel and unlike a lot of places in Asia when you arrive in the middle of the night or morning, the guy on reception was wide awake rather than fast asleep, he was chirpy and happy and best of all he said that golden sentence every traveller wants to hear after a night of travel and no sleep- ‘your bed is free, you can check in now’.
It was getting light and I knew we were East facing, plus it was 6:00am and I thought by going to bed now I might wake the others in the room up so I asked how safe it was in this area and could I go and see the sunrise by the water. He assured me Colaba was safe all day and night, again, not something I thought I’d be told as soon as I arrived in India.
I followed my map to the water’s edge where I saw the gateway of India. It was getting light and people were out jogging, walking their dogs, selling chai and just hanging around enjoying the cooler temperature before the sun rose high into the sky.
I filmed my excitement on my Instagram Stories and then on Video for my YouTube video and as the sun started rising out of the cloud in front of me and as I took in the peacefulness of this very moment and reflected on how easy the last 2.5 hours had been since landing in India I couldn’t quite believe it had gone so well.
Wasn’t landing in India meant to be stressful, a culture shock and chaotic??
I knew it was mainly due to the fact that I arrived in Mumbai over Delhi and the stories you hear about the smell come from Delhi I believe, and I knew it helped arriving in the early hours of the morning as the traffic does get a lot heavier later on.
I knew the fact that I had been to many Asian Cities before and was not surprised by the traffic, driving and buildings I saw helped.
But it still left me with an immense feeling of gratitude, of heart expanding gratitude and happiness that the Country I had waited so long to visit had welcomed me so well.
I’m writing this a week after arriving in India and the rest of my first day turned out to be amazing and better than I could have hoped, just like my arrival and so did my full 6 days in Mumbai.
I met so many nice people, travellers in the hostel and locals.
I saw so much of Mumbai and I can honestly say that I had zero bad experiences. I loved Colaba from the minute I arrived until the minute I left and it made me think that maybe, just maybe, the rest of India will treat me the same too.
Maybe all the negative stories I’ve heard will turn out to be myths too, or bad luck on that persons part.
Or maybe if I keep my heart full of gratitude and I keep a smile on my face in all situations as I did in Mumbai, the next few months will turn out just as magical.
Because after all, we bring everything into our lives ourselves- good and bad.
I’m not 100% sure how it will go but I’m going to give it a good try! 🙂