Experience the real, everyday Mumbai, including the highlights of this fascinating city, with its Western monuments and Eastern sensibilities. Begin at the beginning, with the Gateway of India. This is the city’s most famous landmark—an Indo-Saracenic archway built in 1911 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. It was originally conceived as an entry point for passengers arriving on P&O steamers from England; today, it is remembered more often as the place from which the British staged their final departure. You will stop here for photographs. Continue your excursion with an orientation drive through Mumbai passing prominent landmarks such as Flora Fountain, the university and Victoria Terminus. The latter is a most remarkable railway station, inspired by St Pancras Station in London. It was built during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year and is an extraordinary conglomeration of domes, spires, Corinthian columns and minarets in a style described by journalist James Cameron as Victorian-Gothic-Saracenic-Italianate-Oriental-St Pancras-Baroque. The first train in India left from this station in 1853; today, half-a-million commuters use the station every day. At the Mani Bhawan Gandhi Museum you’ll visit the site that was Mahatma Gandhi’s Bombay base between 1917 and 1934. A series of tiny dioramas tell Gandhi’s life story. Photos covering the walls capture historic events, and a sitting room and bedroom preserved behind glass take you back through time. Personal artifacts offer insights into Gandhi’s hopes and struggles. One letter is addressed to Hitler, asking him to refrain from war. Gandhi also corresponded with Roosevelt, Tolstoy and Einstein. Continue your drive to the Churchgate Railway Station. Spend some time watching the dabba-wallahs—members of the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association. Every day 4,000 of these intrepid entrepreneurs deliver fresh, home-cooked food from 100,000 suburban kitchens to offices in the downtown area. Each lunch is prepared by a loving wife or mother, and packed into a set of stackable aluminum boxes. The meals are carried, dangling from shoulder-poles and bicycle handlebars, or stacked on decorated handcarts, to their hungry recipients. Tins are rarely, if ever, lost, and always find their way home again to be washed for the next day’s lunch. Board a local train to experience the life of a typical Mumbaikar—it’s a short ride to Mahalaxmi Station, another one of Mumbai’s busiest hubs on the local train network. Nobody likes dirty laundry, but here you’ll be fascinated by the Dhobi Ghat. Each morning, laundry from all over Mumbai is brought here to be soaped, soaked, boiled, beaten, and thrashed. The next day, after being aired, pressed, folded and wrapped, the bundles are returned to their owners. The secret that keeps the operation running smoothly is the coded symbol that each dhobi-wallah places on every item. Invisible to the untrained eye, this mark ensures that nothing is lost. This is a fascinating photo stop and is unique to Mumbai.Notes:Dabba-wallahs do not work on Sundays and Hindu festival days. The train that is taken to Mahalaxmi Station is a public train—there are no reserved seats or carriages; you will sit with the local people. The train is not air-conditioned. Your carriage may be first class by Indian standards but is very basic by Western standards. This option is available to guests who are returning to the ship.
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