a gathering place for the words, images and momentos of the world of adventures i've adventured, the stories i've wandered through. curriculum bella vita...a resume, of sorts, of the good life.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Make Mumbai Happen

Mumbai sprawls. The airport, in the middle of a huge swath of residential buildings, is an hour drive north of the South Mumbai city center. The drive’s amazing, the whole gamut of sights: the newest hotels and businesses, quiet residential enclaves, and circling them both, massive slums. Everything you’ve ever heard or thought of Mumbai, Bombay, is true. It is a city of world-class extremities, for better and worse.


1 hour flight from Hyderabad, about a $100. A 15-hour night train is an option, but you’ve gotta book trains way in advance in these parts. I wouldn’t recommend the March-August season, as it’s steamier than steamy. Temperatures are about the same as Hyderabad, but the humidity makes it seem much sweatier and way more uncomfortable.


Cheap guesthouses are plenty and not uncomfortable in COLABA, close to the highest concentration of sights and sounds. Travelling with budget-backpackers, we stayed in a tiny A/C room for 1600R a night ($40) along the Colaba Causeway. You’d also be comfortable along MARINE DRIVE, overlooking the Arabian Sea.


The heart of the city is a fantastic blend of domineering colonialism and a fancy but fading sort of art deco. Tree-lined sidwalks like much of the touristy areas, a wonderfully welcome taste of visiting a European. It's so reassuring, in fact, that i walked away with the impression that this was a city that you could actually settled down in as a westerner and feel...comfortable. Some of the highlights?

Gateway of India and Taj Hotel – hustling, bustling city center. As lovely as it is crowded. And a living testament to India’s resilience after the 11/26 terrorist attack at the spot two and a half years ago.

Prince of Wales Museum – neat displays in an even more spectacular building

Victoria Terminus – One of the most photogenic, busiest train stations in the world. Another victim of ueber-nationalistm, now Chattrapati Shivaji Station.

CafĂ© Leopold – earns its reputation for being a fun, flirty place for tourists and NRIs to eat and drink and be merry. Stayed open until 2, which is waaay late for these parts.

The Oval –see cricket in action, hundreds of games overlapping in the same grassy patch surrounded by cathedrals and towers.

Bakeries - What a novelty!!! And donut shops, too!!!

Floating Mosque – Mumbai in a nutshell: scenic and shocking at the same time, an oasis of serenity, but only after you make it through a gauntlet of hawkers and beggars.

Dhobighat (Mahalaxmi Station) – see the innerworkings of the world’s largest washing machine: an entire neighborhood of dhobivallahs washing a city’s worth of laundry the old fashioned way.

Taxis – black and yellow little Ambassadors are the best way to see the city

Gandhi Bhavan – Mumbai’s quiet, leafy residential neighborhoods around Malabar Hills are worth a peek, and the Gandhi Musuem’s a great way to see that area and check out the room where Gandhi spent many of his pre-Independence nights.

And, of course, a more recently famous “bhavan,” the world’s first billion dollar home, Ambani’s 27-story tower.

No comments: