02 January 2013

Mumbai

Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is the "land of opportunities" for Indians. It is the city home to the Indian film industry (Bollywood). Mumbai is India's financial capital- with the primary stock exchange BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange). All these come together and give a massive city with nearly 20 million inhabitants- and with lots to see.

City mapping
Mumbai is a sprawling city but the traditional heart of Mumbai- South Mumbai- is relatively small and contains districts such as Colaba, Fort, Malabar Hill as well as the famous Marine Dr you would have seen in pictures. Slightly north is Central Mumbai with districts such as Byculla. Further north are the suburbs- of Bandra, Andheri and the city further stretches north to Goregaon, Malad and Gorai. Check out this map.

An (E) or a (W) on an address indicated the side of the railway line the shop/house etc lies. For example, Bandra (W) means the business is in Bandra, west of the railway line.

How to get there
Mumbai has a major airport, located around Andheri. It can take upto an hour to reach South Mumbai. The airport has flights from throughout the world and India.

Old Names or New Names
Many people still say Bombay and most taxi drivers will understand you when you want to go to VT (Victoria Terminus is the old name for Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus, CST). However, I've never heard Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Road; everyone uses Marine Dr.

Sights
SOUTH MUMBAI
South Mumbai is the traditional business district of the city.

COLABA
The Gateway of India (right) next to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
Colaba forms the southernmost part of Mumbai. Around the east coast is the iconic Gateway of India next to the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which was one of the victims in the 2008 terrorist attack (called 26/11). Gatway of India is now a port, from where you can catch ferries to Elephanta Island and Alibagh. There are some pay-and-use toilets not far from the entrance. There is no fee to enter the area but you will be subject to a routine security check.

SP Mukherjee Chowk is a beautiful square which forms the borderline between Fort (north) and Colaba (south). On it are the Regal Cinema and the Prince of Wales Museum (now known as the Chhatrapati Sivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya).

SP Mukherjee Chowk
  Starting from this junction going south is the Colaba Causeway- a    touristy road with many shops, restaurants and the BEST Bhavan. The          famous Cafe Leopold is on this road as well, fairly  close from  SP     Mukherjee Chowk, on the left side when coming south. On the road is a                                            lot of street touristy shopping as well.



Further south in Colaba is the Afghan Church. It wasn't open when we visited (a Friday) but the caretaker opened it for us.

Afghan Church

Interior of Afghan Church

In the western part of Colaba is Cuffe Parade. The shopping arcade is not of
much interest but the area around is relatively quaint and worth a walk.

CHURCHGATE, FORT, KALA GHODA
This part of town is choc-a-block with colonial architecture and lots of street activity. Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus (CST) is located here and is always busy when the trains are operational. It is a lovely building though, as is the one opposite it which is the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation)

CST
BMC


CST is located on Nagar Chowk. The main road- Dr 
Dadabhai Naoroji Rd- is
littered with colonial architecture-
and is worth a stroll in the evening. 

Dr Dadabhai Naoroji Rd
Veer Nariman Road is also a pleasure to walk through. Beginning
at Marine Dr, it passes through the iconic Pizza by the Bay restaurant
and the Ambassador Hotel, then passes Churchgate station and Oval 
Maidan. Finally it crosses Flora Fountain, St Thomas Cathedral
and ends at Horniman Circle.

If you turn right from Veer Nariman Rd on to Karmaveer Bhaurao
Patil Marg (basically, the east boundary of Oval Maidan, one block west of Flora Fountain), you can check out some more great colonial architecture including the High Court, the Rajabai Clock Tower and the Old Secretariat- on the junction of  
Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil Marg and Madame Cama Rd.

High Court (left), behind Rajabai Clock Tower
is the BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange)
Oval Maidan itself it a nice place to stroll and offers good views of the landmarks on the road. It is a popular ground for playing cricket and football.

If you continue east on Madame Cama road, you then hit SP
Mukherjee Chowk. Left (north) is Kala Ghoda while right (south) is Colaba.

If you turn left on MG Rd (Mahatma Gandhi Road),
 you can see the Prince of Wales Museum followed by the Jehangir Art Galllery on the right.
Flora Fountain

The Prince of Wales Museum is an interesting museum with varied exhibits in a nice setting. 

MG Rd is also known as Fashion Street- lots of clothes on sale on the pavement.

Continue straight, you hit Veer Nariman Road again and the Flora Fountain. Turn right on Veer Nariman Rd and continue straight till you reach St Thomas Cathedral.

St Thomas Cathedral
Inside St Thomas Cathedral




On Dalal St, a few streets south of Veer Nariman Rd and east of MG Rd, is the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). Around Dalal St are a few stalls for the famous street food vada pav.

MARINE DR

Marine Dr

Marine Drive, or called Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Marg, is Mumbai's premier seaside boulevard. It starts from around Malabar Hill and then ends at Nariman Point (west-east). With a broad and well-kept pavement, it is a popular place for jogging. The curve of the road is known as the Queen's Necklace because of illumination at night (all streetlights work!).

Queen's Necklace
The Girgaum area's beach on Marine Dr is known as Girgaum Chowpatty (chowpatty is Marathi for beach). It's a popular place in the evening to get some good street food and the views are fine too.

Girgaum Chowpatty; behind is
Worli skyline


On Sardar Vallabhai Patel
Road (Sandhurst Rd) is the
Opera House.

CRAWFORD MARKET
Not far from CST is the Crawford Market, a great place to feel the chaos around. Be careful with your pockets, this is a prime spot for pickpocketing!

Crawford Market

MALABAR HILL
If you're in the mood for some greenery, go to the Hanging Gardens
in the posh district of Malabar Hill. They are indeed quite beautiful
and provide good views of Mumbai (if it isn't too smoggy). Opposite the Hanging Gardens is the Kamala Nehru Park. This park has a
giant shoe and the viewpoint offers nice views over Marine Dr.

Hanging Gardens
View over Marine Dr from Kamala Nehru Park

CENTRAL MUMBAI
BYCULLA
Byculla has the imposing Gloria Church. Besides, you can visit the famous Chor Bazaar. With a completely different atmosphere from any other market in South Mumbai, Chor Bazaar is a great place to shop for antiques such as old telephones, clocks and even coin replicas. Even if you don't want to shop, Chor Bazaar's lanes are a nice place to stroll through and take in the special atmosphere.

The lanes of Chor Bazaar...

THE SUBURBS
After some days in South Mumbai, some areas in the suburbs may feel slightly disappointing. And don't be fooled by the word "suburbs"- these are just expansions of the city. Yes, some areas do contain bungalows but much of the area is packed residential and commercial areas with not much character. Despite this, there are some areas which warrant exploration.

BANDRA
Parts of this western suburb, posh in many parts, feel like a hill station due to the elevation and the overall character. Although the Carter Rd promenade may feel underwhelming after Marine Dr, it still is a good place to get your sea fix while in the north.

Carter Rd promenade
A bit uphill, east, is the shopping street of Linking Rd. Now known as Vithalbhai Patel Rd (VP Rd), this road has some shopping, including stalls selling clothes and shoes.

South of Carter Rd is St Andrews Church.

St Andrews Church

Inside St Andrews Church

South of St Andrews church is Bandstand, a posh area of apartments and bungalows (including houses of celebrities), with a hill station feel. Nearby is Mount Mary's Basilica and the shrine opposite it provides good views of the basilica.

Mount Mary's Basilica

ELEPHANTA ISLAND
Elephanta Island is located around 10 km from the Gateway of India. To get there, get to the ticket counters at Gateway of India and buy tickets for Elephanta Island (INR 150 per person return). You can buy the tickets just before departure, ferries run every 30 min from 9 am to 2 pm. To get on the upper deck you need to pay INR 10 to the person on the ferry. Once on Elephanta Island, the first ferry leaves at 12 pm- ferries arriving from Mumbai before leave empty (it is, however, possible to request a ferry to take you back). Ferries take around 50 min one way.

Once on the island, you can take a short train ride (INR 10 per person return) or walk (it's less than 1 km) to an area with shops. There are steps- after getting off the train- and around 5-7 min later you're at the entrance of the caves.

The caves are indeed beautiful- and are carved out of rock. The scenery around is good too.



Accommodation
We stayed in 2 hotels:
Hotel Ambassador
Rooms- 7/10 The rooms are generally good but, as the hotel is old, the rooms may have some problems. Ours had problems with the shower. Otherwise they're relatively spacious considering the prime location.
Staff- 8/10 Staff is fine, no special comment here.
Location- 10/10 Amazing location, on Veer Nariman Rd, meters from Marine Dr.
Breakfast- 7/10 The breakfast is fine.
Total- 32/40 Recommended. While the hotel looks pretty characterless from the outside and the revolving restaurant isn't operational, rooms are fine and location is unbeatable.

Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport
Rooms- 8/10 Rooms are very good with the usual mod-cons.
Staff- 8/10 Staff is fine, no special comment here.
Location- 7/10 Nothing much is walkable but handy for the airport.
Breakfast- 8/10 Breakfast is pretty good with a good variety.
Total- 31/40 Very nice hotel with a pretty big gym. Recommended, but for the average tourist, commutes to attractions will be long. (around 45 min to Bandra, Malad, 1 hr to South Mumbai)

Food
COLABA
Busaba- Expect slow service but the result is good Pan-Asian food. Off Colaba Causeway, on Mandlik Rd.

Cafe Leopold- Located on Colaba Causeway, not very far south from SP Mukherjee Chowk. Amazing desserts.

Indigo- Pricey but good food. The dish "vegetables cooked different ways" is well-made. Next to Busaba.

Kailash Parbat- An iconic restaurant on Colaba Causeway/1st Pasta Lane dishing Sindhi and North Indian cuisine.

Starbuck's- Newly arrived in India, expect lots of crowds. The food is also decent. Entrance is from behind the Taj Mahal Palace.

There is also a Barista outlet (Cecil Court, Colaba Causeway); strategically located if you're tired of walking around in the heat.

FORT
Starbuck's- The biggest Starbuck's outlet in Mumbai, this is located on Horniman Circle. Food is similar to the one in Colaba with some more variety.

MARINE DR
Pizza by the Bay- Famous restaurant on the junction of Marine Dr and Veer Nariman Road. Get a window table and see the world passing by while enjoying pizzas with Indian twists. Their tomato sauce is amazing. However, expect relatively slow service; it's quite a laid-back place.

GIRGAUM
Soam's Veg- Good Gujarati cuisine available here.

CRAWFORD MARKET
Badshah- An iconic eatery dishing up good Indian desserts etc. Get a window table to witness the outside chaos.

LOWER PAREL
Moshe's- In High Street Phoenix/Palladium. Good Med food.

BANDRA
Bonobo- Located above KFC on Linking Rd/33rd Rd. Good crostini, humus and other Med food.

Shopping
See the Sights section for Crawford Market, Chor Bazaar and Fashion St.

MALLS
High Street Phoenix/Palladium- A typical, modern mall in Lower Parel. Lots of food options and typical shops.

Inorbit Mall- Located in Malad. A bit older and lacks the atmosphere that is present in High Street Phoenix. Still, it's a fine place and has a food court.

Transport
Taxis operate throughout the city and can be hailed. Autos (3-wheelers) only operate in the suburbs. City cabs are cheap by Western standards and drivers are generally eager for a conversation. There are also radio taxis and other companies.
Meru
Ola Cabs
Easycabs
Carzonrent
Carrentalmumbai.net
Radio cabs will use their meters. With normal city cabs you may need to agree on a fare if the driver doesn't use the meter.

There is a hellishly crowded (on weekdays at least) suburban train.

Safety
When it comes to violent crime, Mumbai is generally safe. Be in well-peopled areas. Many areas, eg Marine Dr, are well frequented even late at night. Petty crime can be a problem in crowded areas. Exercise usual precautions and don't leave belongings unattended.

Itineraries
One Day
With just one day in Mumbai, stay in South Mumbai and visit Colaba in the morning. After lunch around, in the evening, get to CST to get a feeling of the evening rush and walk around for a while- Dr Dadabhai Naoroji Rd and MG Rd for instance, and end your stay with a stroll down Marine Dr at night.

Two Days
On your Day 1 morning, walk around Colaba, visiting Colaba Causeway, Afghan Church and Cuffe Parade. In the early evening, visit Crawford Market for some kulfi at Badshah and then stroll then Marine Dr later, visiting Girgaum Chowpatty for some views and street food.
On the second day, spend your morning around Churchgate and Fort, taking in the colonial architecture. Visit the Prince of Wales Museum during the afternoon and spend the evening around CST- feeling the chaos.

Three Days
Spend the first two days as above. On the third day, go to Elephanta Island in the morning. Spend your evening in Bandra.

Four Days
If you have another day, spend the morning in Malabar Hill and later get to Byculla for some antique-shopping in Chor Bazaar.

No of visits- 2
Last visit- Dec 2012/Jan 2013
First visit- Feb 2009

10 comments:

Tyra Ley said...

Wow I enjoyed reading about Mumbai. I hadn't really heard of the place, living here in the U.S. I get really caught up in other things. I enjoy reading about places to visit and add them to a list so I remember to visit in the future. Mumbai is now on my list! Thank you. :)

Ansh Jain said...

Hi,
Thanks for your comment. Many Westerners don't really consider Mumbai a real "destination" to visit in India but I feel this city offers all the contrasts that is India: rich vs poor, modernised vs culture etc.

Cheers.

Purva said...

I don't want to pin point anything but the one imp fact that Mumbai was not Bombay anytime. The name Mumbai is derived from famous Mumbadevi Temple located in the heart of City. People from northern origin pronounced Mumbai as Bambai n then westerners termed the City as Bombay. Many years after independence, the names given or pronounced by Britishers were changed again to their former or original names like Madras to Chennai, Bangalore to Bengaluru etc. Still thanks for sharing your experience about Mumbai.

Manish Kukreti said...

Hi Ansh

Your write up about Mumbai is precise and extremely helpful..the Pictures too are fulfilling..Thanks for the blog...enjoyed it a lot. Here is another good read for you http://www.myguesthouse.com/chaturyatri/and-it-rains-again-in-mumbai/

Sharukh Bamboat said...

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Aarti said...

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Ansh Jain said...

Thanks for all your comments. Very much appreciated.

Chandralekha Singh said...

Thanks for the post, it's great to have all this info in one place. Mumbai, with miles of sandy shoreline and plentiful nightlife options, Mumbai Tourism is a heaven for fun-loving souls.

sara said...

Beautiful post, loved the pictures and the write-up bound all of them wonderfully well.

Rhea Vijay said...

I would like to state that Mumbai was made a town by the British who called it 'Bombay'. in the initial years, It was indeed called Bombay. After India got independence, it was changed to mumbai, which was because of the temple.. Your facts aren't wrong, they are misunderstood. SOURCE: I am a Mumbaikar.