Home Travel Guides The Travel Guide to Mumbai (Bombay), India: What is there to do and see?

The Travel Guide to Mumbai (Bombay), India: What is there to do and see?

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The bright-eyed boy wearing a yellow t-shirt said, “Very good prices, very good prices”, peering through the car’s window. He spoke quickly and offered Lord Shiva statuettes, which dangled around his neck, arms, and even his fingertips. “Just 200 rupees and just 200 rupees.”

I was able to see his grimace, and he said, “Okay, 100 rupees, Divine price for Lord Shiva”. His dark eyes were so urgent that I gave him 100 rupees to buy a figurine I knew would become clutter. I placed it in my bag. Before I could blink, the boy was gone. His yellow t-shirt stood out against the heat of Mumbai’s traffic as he zig-zagged his way through it.

I was stuck in gridlock on the main road that leads into the city. Everyday it’s like that here with buses, cars, motorbikes, motorbikes, and ox wagons making their way to various destinations, giving opportunity for opportunists to make a living.

Skywalks were created to allow pedestrians to cross roads safely without slowing down traffic.

I could see women moving in swathes with vibrant colours as they walked along Mumbai’s streets in pink, orange, and red saris. Sometimes, they would slip in and out of nearby bazaars. Beyond that, there were the grey slums of corrugated roofings that are surrounded by high-rise apartments or office buildings.

This is Mumbai (formerly Bombay), the movie that made Slumdog Millionaire famous. Anyone who has seen the film will be shocked to learn that Mumbai is India’s financial capital. It is home to the oldest stock exchange in Asia, as well as the most expensive real estate in India.

As I made my way to the Taj Mahal Palace Tower Hotel, the sun was hot and intense. Anyone who is interested in visiting the Bollywood home would be wise to start their tourism trail here. It is conveniently located for restaurants and bars as well as the occasional celebrity. You can also see the sights.

Arch at the Gateway of India

Gateway of India monument, Mumbai

The Gateway of India, a massive arch that overlooks the Arabian Sea, is located. It is a symbol of Old Bombay as well as modern Mumbai. Built in Indo-Saracenic style with yellow Kharodi Basalt, it celebrates Queen Mary’s December 1911 visit to Bombay.

The arch is perched at an angle at the Arabian Sea’s edge, where many colourful leisure boats bob in their lees.

Elephanta caves

Elephanta Caves, Mumbai

I took a boat ride, which was a 50-minute sail and a train ride to reach the Elephanta caves. These are not caves but rather impressive carvings into rocks. The rock is adorned with the images of Lord Shiva and other Hindu deities. They tell stories of intrigue, reincarnation, and the temple has a series pillars that give it the appearance of a temple. It is not clear why the 6th-century kings built this impressive structure, other than to express their love for Lord Shiva and art.

Colaba

Colaba, Mumbai’s most vibrant shopping district, is a living testament to British rule. The city was comprised of seven islands when the British first arrived in 1600s. Colaba and Old Woman’s islands are now part of the shopping area.

It’s a way of living. For the thrill of a bargain, I tried to negotiate a few prices for items that I didn’t need.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai

It is easy to see British influences in architecture. The most prominent example of this is Victoria Terminal station, renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in 1947 after British rule ended.

This is a world heritage site, but it’s also a living station that hosts 1,000 trains each day, making it the busiest station in the world.

The station’s size is amazing, but its beauty is breathtaking. Imagine London’s St Pancras, and you can quadruple that. It is extravagantly decorated and combines elements from traditional Indian architecture with the neoGothic style of early Victorian era.

Mahalaxmi Mahadhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai

Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat is a must-see. It is the largest open-air Laundromat in the world and is a true theatrical spectacle.

The Hindu Dhobi caste’s muscle-rich, stick-thin men wash a million clothes every day in hundreds of concrete troughs. They then beat them clean, hang them on laundry lines and iron them.

The Dabbawallahs

Dabbawalas, Mumbai

There are also the dabbawallahs who arrive in the city wearing white robes or Gandhi hats. These packed-lunch delivery men pick up almost 200,000 home-cooked meals in the outer suburbs at 9.30am, store them, heat them at a central headquarters, and deliver them to hungry city workers at 12.30pm so they can enjoy home-cooked food.

This is the most innovative distribution system in the world, and it fascinated Prince Charles. Prince Charles was able to see thousands of meals being stored, heated, and delivered in coded aluminium boxes called tiffins. This service is so efficient that it was even entered in the Guinness Book of Records.

Marine Drive

Marine Drive, Mumbai

Marine Drive, a coastal road that runs along the Arabian Sea shoreline from Nariman Point through Chowpatty Beach to Malabar Hill is Mumbai’s most well-known road.

The promenade is laced with Art Deco buildings and very popular around Chowpatty. As the evening sun sets, the promenade wall is adorned with young couples who canoodle in the setting sunshine.

As I pondered the love story behind each intimate bubble, a stranger whispered in my ear, “You know they are smooching for kingdom come.”

As I thought of Lord Shiva, I pulled out my statue of the great Hindu god from my bag. I then crossed the street to find a spot of wall to take in the last moments of the setting sun at the edge of this beautiful city.

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