Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mumbai & Elephanta Caves

I didn’t see the monkey running towards me until one of the locals waved me away. “She’s got a baby with her” he said, and then in a voice designed to prevent me from being bitten on my vacation added “she’s growling, you know.” Aforementioned monkey then glared at me sullenly, as if on cue.

Matt and I had just taken an hour ferry ride from Mumbai to the island of Elephanta, a prehistoric Lord of the Flies locale perfect for dumping dead bodies under the cover of night or filming next year’s series of Survivor. In my mind’s eye I could actually see Piggy being murdered in just this spot. *Shiver* At any rate, we were here to see the Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting Hindu sculptures including a 16 foot high monument featuring Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. And yes, these 13th century caves are worth riding the herky-jerky toy train into the island’s foothills and then navigating the 130 steps. If you wish to avoid the climb, men will carry you in an enormous chair (sort of like a Jewish wedding except that the chair-holders aren't groomsmen who've been drinking all night, making this a safer bet) for the bargain price of $12.

After exploring Elephanta (carefully avoiding the food vendor’s “variety of seafood” kept cold on a quickly melting slab of ice), we jetted back across the harbor to Mumbai – eager for a bit of air conditioning and cold beer. Barely dodging an attack by a vicious eight-year old (who attempted to part Matt from his rupees) we hoofed it into the five star hotel, Taj Mahal Palace and Tower overlooking the harbor. Chic, slick, and swanky, the Taj is an oasis of calm in a city full of constant traffic, haggling salespeople and intense heat. Although Mumbai is an engaging city with a lot to offer it can be exhausting and we happily took refuge inside Masala Kraft, the hotel’s Indian restaurant, where we dined on olive chili and garlic naan, curried chicken, smoky lamb that fell right off the bone and crispy potato cakes.

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