Hana was our first ever Workaway-Volunteer at Horn Ok Please Hostel in October 2017. She helped us by taking night shifts at the hostel so we could finally get some sleep in the very exhausting first weeks after opening. Here she describes what she experienced and felt when she first arrived in India. Mumbai was her first stop on a three-month-long adventure through India.
When I finally decided to go to India for a few months I knew that it will be totally different to my home, the Czech Republic and Europe in general. I did a little research about what I should be prepared for. But if you do not experience a cultural shock in India you weren’t there!
When I stepped out from the air-conditioned airport it was the biggest shock which I had experienced in my few weeks in Mumbai! It felt like the tropical greenhouse which I visited at the botanical garden in Prague. But there weren’t any glass walls around me! It was the end of October and very early morning but the temperature was already above 30 degrees. And the humidity in the air makes the tropical feeling even stronger!
When I left the airport I soon realised that I did a mistake. When you exit you can’t go back and all exchange offices are inside. Outside are some ATMs but they are often not working. I somehow managed to get some money but it wasn’t easy at all!
I took a prepared taxi for Rs 400 to Bandra but don’t be afraid to use even the Rikshaws. In Mumbai they all use a meter so you don’t need to bargain about to price.
Before I arrived, I had downloaded a Google Maps of Mumbai so it was easy to find the Horn Ok Please Hostel where I was planning to stay. The place was amazing, full of backpackers from all over the world and Indians travelling through Mumbai. I made a lot of friends there and explored the city with them.
Everything was so different from the Czech Republic – how people were dressed, the food, transportation…so many things you have to get used to. I was quite surprised that Indian women wear long pants and often also long sleeve tops, even though it’s so hot. But I wanted to adapt and luckily there are many markets where you can buy cheap long pants or skirts for RS 200. But that also depends on how skilled are you with bargaining! Although Mumbai is quite a modern city within India and many girls wear also more revealing clothes, as a women you might get stared at. And it is not always pleasant! How men are dressed nobody cares. They can easily wear shorts. Not fair!
I was prepared for spicy food but not a spiciness which made food uneatable for me. To find non – spicy food in India is as possible as finding a fish that can speak. In more expensive cafes you can ask for non-spicy food and hope they can fulfil your demand. Mostly it’s 50:50! But if you don’t care about spiciness you can enjoy the unbelievably rich Indian cuisine.
Staying in Mumbai was just the start of my Indian adventure but I experienced so much there! If you still hesitate whether you should go or not – just stop and go! And Horn Ok Please Hostel is definitely good starting point for your adventure.