Mumbai 2023

Travel log

Selfie in front of Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art.

Days 1 & 2 – Itinerary to Mumbai

2023-12-18, Monday and
2023-12-19, Tuesday.

ABQ → ORD → FRA → BOM (Albuquerque, Chicago, Frankfurt, Mumbai).

  • Left home on the 18th at 9:00 am MST (UTC-7).
  • ABQ → ORD (Chicago) 2 h 50 m.
  • ORD → FRA (Frankfurt) 8 h 20 m.
  • FRA → BOM (Mumbai) 7 h 55 m.
  • Arrived on December 20th at 2:00 am IST (UTC+5:30).
  • Total travel time: 28 h 30 m.

Day 3 – Settling in

2023-12-20, Wednesday.

My first impressions of India were very good. On the drive from the airport, everything seemed new. I wanted to capture and observe every detail of every car, building, public art, road sign, piece of trash. There are also so many people and animals, so different and so intriguing. My girlfriend’s parents were expecting us with much love and many attentions. Their house was welcoming, cozy and practical.

Of course I was a little bit shocked by the frenetic traffic and the pollution, but I think I was well prepared mentally. I also had brought anti-allergy pills and ear plugs (Loop Experience ear plugs). The air pollution is thick and irritating. Sound pollution is also a big problem.

From the first night and throughout my stay there, I noticed many new ambient sounds. In the day, there are cars, motorcycles, honking, kids at school. At night, still cars and honking. Street dogs bark and howl until 3 am. Just before sunrise, birds, crows, and roosters. I’m not used to this. Santa Fe is extremely quiet. Sometimes it felt like a video game background soundtrack loop.

On our first day, we took a walk near the water, visited some Hindu temples, had lunch at a restaurant, and sampled deserts.


I used OsmAnd (OsmAnd+ paid version with a Pro subscription) to map our exploration and known points of interests.

Our travel map of Mumbai, using OsmAnd app.
Our travel map of Mumbai, using OsmAnd app.

Day 4 – Car tour of Riya’s past

2023-12-21, Thursday.

Riya’s parents took us on a car ride around IIT (India Institute of Technology). The trip was mostly for Riya’s benefit of reconnecting with her past, but I’m happy that I got to visit that neighbourhood I heard so much about!

I saw wild monkeys for the first time!

📷 Daily life

Here is a series of pictures that show elements of our daily life in Mumbai.

📷 Street dogs

There were as many stray dogs in Mumbai as there are stray cats in Montreal. We can’t pet them. They live on the street, among construction projects, markets, and sleeping in traffic, unbothered.

Day 5 – Auto-rickshaw

2023-12-22, Friday.

Riya told me to get ready, we’re going shopping. Her mom was getting ready too. I dressed up and took my shoulder bag, ready for anything. When we got outside, one of those auto-rickshaws was waiting for us. These vehicles are everywhere in Mumbai, but I had never been in one. They are small, have three wheels, open sides, and squeeze three passenger on a bench in the back. Riya and her mom got on first, then I sat and found a part of the structure to hold on to. And off we went. Immediately, the driver got on the phone, while pulling us through traffic, avoiding potholes and slowing down a little bit for speed bumps. I like thrill rides, and I was having fun. It felt just dangerous enough. The top speed is not very high. But we get so close to other vehicles and pedestrians. The traffic here can appear very anarchic and unpredictable, but I see that there is an implicit system and expectations that people understand, and I haven’t witnessed any accidents.

Day 6 – Mumbai city

2023-12-23, Saturday.

We got a cab and visited Mumbai City with my girlfriend’s mom.

  • Jehangir Art Gallery.
  • Taj Mahal Hotel.
    • We bought pastries.
    • It had some of the nicest Christmas decorations in Mumbai.
  • Gateway of India.
    • We walked in the area. It was extremely crowded and we didn’t go inside the tourist attraction. But I got a lucky picture from the street.
  • Starbucks.
  • Markets.
  • St. Xavier College.
    • Where Riya got her Bachelor’s degree.
  • Viewpoint on Back Bay.
    • So smoggy. The Bay is 3 Km across, yet the buildings on the other side are barely visible.

Day 7 – Resting at home

2023-12-24, Sunday.

In the morning, we went to the markets in the neighbourhood to get fresh vegetables. We stayed at home and relaxed.

Day 8 – Christmas Day

2023-12-25, Monday.

Today, we visited some temples. As this is my first visit in Asia, I’ve never seen or been to a Hindu temple before. I’ve also not been brought up with polytheist ideas. But I am curious about them, and I want to learn more.

Recently, I’ve been reading about ancient Egyptian and Greek mythologies and gods. When I was at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, I learned a little bit about Hindu gods, and I saw fragments of temples. I’ve also visited a few First Nations and Native American art galleries and museums in Canada and the USA, where artworks provide insights to many different views and perceptions of the world and living beings.

Here in Mumbai, we did a mostly superficial and broad coverage of temples, observing, admiring artworks and shrines, and absorbing the surroundings. There was a language barrier that prevented deeper understanding on location. But this exposure is a great starting point for further reading back home. I have lots of mental images and questions.

We were also looking for fine dining, but it was hard to plan things reliably or make any reservations. We ended up at a buffet restaurant at a hotel. As lunchtime approached, the restaurant was filling up with Indian families. Some people seemed weirdly overdressed for the venue, but I think this is just how people are. The customers, the ambience and the type of food presentation felt like we were crashing someone’s wedding. As always, I was the only white person in the room. A music trio set up their instruments, and announced that they will sing Christmas chorals. As they were performing, nobody was clapping, or acknowledging the rhythm, or caring about Christmas vibes, except me. It was an awkward experience, but I was enjoying the connection to my own Christian and Western roots.

As we were about to leave, a staff member asked me if I could dance with Santa. I had an excess of enthusiasm from this being Christmas Day, and immediately took the opportunity. “I’ll dance with Santa!”

They were a tough crowd to entertain, but my dancing with Santa made some people smile and clap their hands!

Day 9 – A friend’s house

2023-12-26, Tuesday.

We visited a friend of Riya’s mother.

We entered the building through a vast entrance hall that reminds of a supervillain’s headquarters. It was characterized by dark stone on walls, floor and ceiling. The interior features had sharp corners and right angles. Cold white ceiling spot lit the space. The room was furnished with grey chairs, and series of large statues of monks, as if representing a servant army. And to add to the atmosphere, there was an actual bat flying in circles inside.

In the flat, they had a dog, which is sweet.

📷 Architecture

📷 Street photography

Mumbai’s urbanscape has three aesthetics that strike me:

  • Something I would describe as “Soviet”.
    • This mostly expressed through public art, pictures of men on billboards, nationalist messages, murals of people and symbols in sports and education.
  • High-school project.
    • Mural art, ad-hoc urban planning, crude traffic control, basic or repurposed construction materials.
  • An attempt at integrating Western with traditional Indian aesthetics.
    • There is a special flavor of bad English used in business names and on street signs.
    • Amateurish typography and logotypes design.
    • Lots of contemporary artists that we saw represent the ongoing integration of traditional Hindu visuals and Western/global influence.

Day 10 – Alibag and Kolaba Fort

2023-12-27, Wednesday.

We drove to the town of Alibag 1 hour away from Navi Mumbai, through rural parts of India. Even though we were driving away from the city, we never escaped the traffic, noise, and air pollution. There are majestic mountains, beautiful lush jungles, an ocean, and amazing view points. But tragically, all of it more than 3-5 km away is hidden from sight. We never see the horizon. If we look up, we can see a pale blueish grey portion of sky. I felt really lucky to experience the blue sky, crisp air and distant horizons of New Mexico.

There is a fort on an island in the Indian Ocean, which we can reach by foot on low tide. It was high tide though, so there was a boat to take us there. On the island, it was fun to roam around in the fort. It was sometimes unsafe and mostly unsupervised, which I thought was fun.

On the way back home, we stopped at Karnala Bird Sanctuary. We did a little walk in the nature, had lunch, and saw lots of birds and monkeys. We didn’t go far in the trails, but we will come back here in 3 days.

Day 11 – Visit in the city

2023-12-28, Thursday.

Day out in the city with Riya. We visited the National Gallery of Modern Art. Their current exhibition was called “SUTR SANTATI Then. Now. Next.”, “Celebrating India through contemporary handmade textiles.”

Day 12 – Resting day

2023-12-29, Friday.

Reading, writing, playing video games, workout and stretching.

We visited the parents’ new house. The interior is under construction.

Day 13 – Karnala Fort

2023-12-30, Saturday.

We went back to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary to hike the trail to Karnala Fort.

I can only imagine, in the times this fort was operational, the view of the jungles and distant mountains from this high vantage point. Today, faint mountain shapes emerge from the haze in the 5-10 km range. No details can be perceived beyond that.

Nevertheless, it was a relief to have contact with wilderness, and to take distance from the constant traffic noise. The climb was a good workout.

Days 14 & 15 – Itinerary back home

2023-12-31, Sunday and
2024-01-01, Monday.

BOM → LHR → DEN → ABQ (Mumbai, London, Denver, Albuquerque).

  • Left the house on the 31st at 22:50 IST (UTC+5:30).
  • At 00:00:00 o’clock on New Years Day, we were in line outside to enter the airport terminal.
  • BOM → LHR (London) 10 h 25 m.
  • LHR → DEN (Denver) 9 h 55 m.
  • DEN → ABQ (Albuquerque) 1 h.
  • Arrived home on January 1st at 18:30 MST (UTC-7).
  • Total travel time: 32 h 10 m.

Here are some last minute pictures taken on our last day:

Interesting things I learned

  • India drives on the left.
  • Mumbai was 7 islands. They were joined in the 18-19th century in a massive land reclaim project, making it a peninsular shape.
  • India has surpassed China as the most populated country in the World last year. 1.4 billion.
  • Mumbai is huge, with a population of 12.5 million. Almost half of the population live in slums. And every part of the city is bustling and hustling with business.
  • I learned the meaning of the expression “concrete jungle” at a whole new level.
  • I learned about the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. I was mostly unaware of global events at that time.
  • Mangroves are trees that grow in oxygen-poor salt water soil.
  • How to eat properly with the right hand. The trick is to use all five fingers, scooping with four fingers and pushing with the thumb.
  • Why roties puff. Heating them both sides “seals-in” the expanding water steam which forms inside when toasted over a flame.
  • Rabindranath Tagore is a very important cultural treasure. He was a Bengali polymath, poet, writer, and many other things. He became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Riya showed me a beautiful movie based on his writings, and her dad showed me his impressive collection of Tagore poetry volumes.
Alexandre de Verteuil
Alexandre de Verteuil
Senior Solutions Architect

I teach people how to see the matrix metrics.
Monkeys and sunsets make me happy.