Much like India’s capital, many tourists visiting this beautiful country have Mumbai as their starting point. Mumbai is a city that defines living on the edge, both metaphorically and literally. But for all the stress that locals endure, there are little gems in the city where they can let off some steam. This city has seen some tumultuous times, most recent of which were the attacks in 2008. But from the city that gave Bollywood to the world it bounced back bigger and stronger.
Mumbai is essentially an island connected by various bridges to the mainland. The city centre is at the southern most point with bulk of the attractions around the area of Colaba, Kala Ghoda and the commercial area of the Fort. Mumbai is ever evolving with new shops and must visit restaurants and bars constantly vying for attention. One such area that is gaining momentum is Bandra, home to the stars of Bollywood and some of its chicest bars. So where to begin our two day excursion of Mumbai? The most logical place to start would be the Gateway of India. King George V landed in India in 1911 at this very spot, it lies at the end of Chhatrapati Shivaji Marg at the waters edge in Mumbai Harbour. Following independence, the last of the British soldiers departed through this very arch.
The Gateway of India
Head north from the Gateway towards the Wellington Fountain, you will reach the Regal Cinema Circle, the roads that lead away from this circle each show you a unique facet of Mumbai. The road to the left takes you to Colaba. This road was built by the British to connect Colaba Island to Bombay. If you are an early riser a trip to Sassoon Docks is a must where you can see the fishermen bringing in the catch of the day. The morning catch can land anytime between 5am and 7am, to keep you alert grab a masala tea from any one of the hundreds of vendors around. For anyone into street photography this is a great place to hone your skills. Once you have had your fill of the Docks head further into Colaba by heading down Shahid Bhagatsingh Marg to the Afghan Church. This is an English retreat built to commemorate the British dead who fell “by sickness and sword’ in the first battle of Afghanistan.
Once in Colaba head to any one of a number of cafes dotted in the area for some lunch. There is an eclectic mix of cuisines ranging from traditional Indian to rustic Italian. You can work off your lunch by doing some window shopping in the area. Head into the nearby market on Lala Nigam Road to watch the locals buying everything from their daily vegetables to jewellery. Alternatively, go to Chor Bazaar or “thieves market” to haggle over antiques. A trip to this side of Mumbai would not be complete without a look at the city’s original inhabitants – the Koli fisher folk. Grab a tuk-tuk to Cuffe Parade. On the way you will see colourful fishing boats. This is a little Koli village that has kept its traditional occupation and culture.
Once you have had your fill of Koli village jump into a taxi and head to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly known as the Victoria terminus. Built in 1887 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For history buffs another building to look out for is the Asiatic Library and Town Hall, this is the historical place from where the proclamation of India reverting to the Crown was read out.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus)
For dinner a great hang out is the Olive Bar and Kitchen in Pali Hill, a great place for celebrity spotting. Alternatively, if you are after something different check out SodaBottleOpenerWalla, this restaurant specialises in Parsi cuisine.
To round off the evening head to Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach. En-route to Marine Drive stop at the top of the flyover, from where you’ll see your first panoramic view of Marine Drive and the sea. The new business district of Nariman Point is at one end of Marine Drive, and Chowpatty Beach at the other. Spend the remainder of the evening at Chowpatty beach, just watching local families out to enjoy the evening breeze. There’s a lot of colour at the beach. If you still have room for some street snacks head towards the vast array of food stalls selling local favourites such as Pavbhaji and Bhel-puri which are a must try.
The following day we would suggest you visit the Elephanta Caves. Elephanta is a World Heritage Site, showcasing legends of Lord Shiva carved in rock cave temples. The cave complex is a collection of shrines, courtyards, inner cells and grand halls arranged in the splendid symmetry of Indian rock-cut architecture, and filled with exquisite stone sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. To get there you need to head back to the Gateway of India and take a leisurely boat ride from the dock, give yourself around three hours to complete this trip, so you can go in the morning and then come back in time for lunch.
After lunch a visit to Mumbai’s unique laundry system the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat. For seven days a week hundreds of people wash the clothes in over a thousand open-air troughs. The best view is from the bridge across the railway tracks near Mahalaxmi train station.
Mahalakshmi Dhobi Ghat
Round off your Mumbai excursion with some spirituality at the Mahalakshmi Temple. The temple is a heritage site and houses the Hindu Goddess Mahalakshmi, the provider of prosperity and good fortune. After which take a walk to the Haji Ali Dargah, which was built in the early 18th century. The shrine contains the tomb of Hazrath Haji Ali, a Muslim saint, frequented by people from all walks of life.
This brief tour should give you a better appreciation of Mumbai and maybe next time you can stop for longer. Indian Odyssey offers a variety of tours around India and can encompass a few nights in Mumbai in order for you to see for yourself what a diverse and vibrant city it truly is.
Where to Stay
Trident Mumbai – Nariman Point
Trident Mumbai offers panoramic views of the Marine Drive, the beautiful promenade on the Arabian sea coast.
Wildlife Encounters in Mowgli’s India – Encompassing
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