I jumped on the busy train at Santa Cruz station, which is near Basti hostel and made my way to Borivali – North of where I am staying.
From there I needed to find the ferry port Gorai. I was told the easiest way was by tuck tuck.
A man in a light brown uniform approached me. ‘Madam, where do you want to go?’ he pried.
Slightly alarmed, I hesitantly gave him my destination. ‘120 rupees,’ he yelled over the rumble of traffic and beeping horns.
My guide book said it would be 35 rupees.
‘No, that is too much,’ I replied walking away.
He followed me and explained it was the final cost. Annoyed I tried to find someone else to take me. All the tuck tuck drivers gave me a similar price. Just wanting to get going, I gave up and settled for 80 rupees (around 80 pence).
On arriving at port Gorai, I bought a return boat ticket to the Global Vipassana Pagoda (meditation place of worship). This cost 50 rupees around 50p. As the boat set off, I could feel a breeze through my sticky hair.
On reaching the island, I saw a spectacular temple out of the corner of my eye. Its golden colour shone through the hazy, polluted blue sky.
After getting off the boat there was a grey, gravel path lined with trees. This led to the impressive temple.
At the entrance I saw golden intricately carved arches. beyond these there was a stairway to the pagoda.
Walking around the temple, golden scribed quotes stood out on the walls. I really enjoyed reading these and admiring the artwork.
You can enter the pagoda itself. However, most people will only be able to stand in the viewing gallery and not meditate. Those who have taken part in a 10 day Vipassana meditation course (complete silence for 10 days) can enter the Pagoda to meditate. You can attend the course for free at any Vipassana temple in the world.
I peered into the empty, dark, spiritual room. Its interior was the polar opposite of its exterior. The outside was so inviting, unique and stunning. While, inside was plain, cold and gloomy.
There was a smaller secondary pagoda next door where anyone could sample a 15 minute mediation session. I walked in and sat on a blue cushion. A gentleman explained that he would play a recording and I should sit still and observe my breath. The room was also very dark with only a small sliver of light seeping in.
It was a different type of mediation to what I had tried before. Instead of imagining you are somewhere else or focusing on your breath, the idea was to just observe the moment. To accept any bodily feelings. I only tried this for 15 minutes yet my mind wondered. I think one day I will take the 10 day silent meditation course.
I roamed around the site and sat in the shade for a while, watching ladies in colourful saris and men in long shirts walk around.
There is a gift shop, museum and art gallery to enjoy there too.
At the gallery you can pay for an audio-headset, which describes the religious stories behind the art. This is worth it.
On the walk back to the ferry an Indian family asked for my selfie and we got chatting. They were on a day trip to visit the temple.
On the boat back, I met a lovely man from Poland who worked in London. He had actually completed several Vipassana courses and was telling me about them. He had also tried extended fasting.
We took the train back together as his hostel was fairly near to mine. We managed to hit rush hour, which was an experience. Swarms of men and a smattering of women were running around like maniacs to try and get onto the overcrowded trains. People saw me and were very respectful, trying to make space so I could get on.
Getting off the train was another story. It was necessary to push your way to the exit much earlier than the stop. I understood why when we arrived at the station. People would push themselves with force onto the carriage before you could leave it. There seemed to be a tug of war to get on and get out. A couple of men saw me and made a little gap I could squeeze through. People in Mumbai are very respectful.
I returned to the hostel for a freezing shower and hung out with my new friends I had made there. Everyone in Basti hostel are really great. The staff are super welcoming and helpful and the guests fun too.
I would recommend staying there for a comfortable night’s sleep, lively atmosphere, family feel and clean accommodation. It is also reasonably priced.