Travel Guide | India

College Tourist City Guide to Mumbai, India

Mumbai: a hypnotizing poem of intertwined tragedies.

Mumbai seduces anyone who is looking for an utterly unforgettable adventure in a land of elephants blocking the traffic. Whether it is waking up at 4 am to the sound of ‘ajaan’ playing in the local mosque or going to bed after midnight with the city skyline getting brighter- Mumbai is a hypnotizing poem of intertwined tragedies. Everything from the expensive and vibrant clothing from Sabyasachi’s Fashion Shows to the 14 year old boy who begs for money and spends it on cigarettes- everything is naturally designed to draw any curious tourist into a rabbit hole of surprises.

The Mumbai Traffic

The Mumbai Traffic

“The thing about Mumbai is you go five yards and all of human existence is revealed” -Julian Sands.

The financial capital of India, Mumbai is the most famous city in the vast state of Maharashtra and is situated on the curved coastline of the Arabian Sea. It was created by filling  the ocean with sand and uniting 7 large chunks of land to make one city and this is why Mumbai gets flooded every year. When the East India Company began colonizing India, the then ‘Bombay’ became one of their prominent ports on the western coast. After India won independence in 1947 it was divided into states based on common language spoken by Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. A long battle ensued between the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra to include Mumbai in their borders. The residents of Mumbai began peaceful campaigns to bring the city into Maharashtra amd the Government paid no heed. But the tides turned when a peaceful protest by United Maharashtra Committee was turned into a bloody battlefield. In 1960 the police opened fire at their peaceful demonstrations and 105 bravehearts sacrificed their lives. From 1st May 1960 Mumbai became a part of Maharashtra and those valiant sons of the soils are honoured at the ‘Martyr’s Square’ with statues and a plaque with their names made immortal on them.

What to see:

Although Mumbai has a variety of locations to offer for those who have different tastes, these are the top five you have to visit if you want to experience the inner workings of Mumbai

Gateway of India at Apollo Bunder-

A historical monument, it marks the spot from where their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary came to India in 1911. In their honour a basalt arch of 28 metres of Indo-Saracenic design was built and since then it has been a popular spot for hanging out. Go in the evening for a breath-taking show of lights and on New Year’s Eve for a celebration with firecrackers.

The Gateway of India every evening

The Gateway of India every evening

Marine Drive-

Only a short distance away from Apollo Bunder is the semi-circular coast of Marine Drive which stretches all the way from Churchgate to Girgaum Chowpatty. Although there is no particular spot to visit, this area around the sea with street-hawkers shouting names of delicious recepies and the furious wind rushing through your hair can give a moment of calmness in the bustling city.

Mount Mary Church-

Any local Mumbaikar would suggest you to start your tour of the city with blessings from the almighty. Mumbai has religious spots for people belonging to all faiths but Mount Mary has an old-fashioned British charm. With its intricate architecture and ornate design, it will allure any romantic. Come on Christmas for a memorable mass and feast on the local restaurants on Goan seafood.

Juhu Beach-

Out of all the places Mumbai offers, the most crowded and the most recommended is the Juhu Beach. It is packed with tourists searching for a perfect spot, locals looking for a small but affordable change and hawkers attempting to sell mouth-watering delicacies.

Bandra-

The entire area of Bandra has many spectacular things in it. From Hill Road and Linkin Road which are famous for shopping cheap clothes and accessories to Carter Road- the nightlife Mecca of Mumbai. From Pali Hill- a foodie’s paradise to Bandstand- the beach where the richest and most popular Bollywood celebs reside, Bandra is the ‘hip’ place of Mumbai where the classiest people hang out.

The endless ocean at Marine Drive

The endless ocean at Marine Drive

What to Eat:

When in Mumbai, do as the Mumbaikars do. Eat spicy seafood, drink cutting-chai and finish a meal with a ‘paan’. These are the best eateries in Mumbai for all budgets.

Gajalee’s, Rajdhani Thali and Maharaja-

If you have a giant wad of crispy notes in your wallet, head to these traditional joints which serve authentic Indian food and offer a desi feel.

Sassanian Boulangerie and Kyani & Co-

Not all of us have enormous bank accounts but don’t let that make you miss out on fantastic food. Although these joints are traditionally Iranian, their food is a vital part of Mumbai’s culinary history and deserves to be given a chance at least once.

Street Food-

The ‘Vada Pav’- a mixture of spicy potatoes stuffed in batter with a buttery bun sold at every corner, ‘Gola’- a juicy ice-lolly mainly sold at beaches and playgrounds, ‘Butta’ or ‘Makka’- roasted corn rubbed with a spicy mix of salt and garam masala sold mainly in rainy season, ‘bhel’- a mixture of puffed rice and vegetables available at every railway station and ‘cutting’ chai- a small cup of tea had best with the cold Mumbai showers.

The streets of Mumbai at 5 am

The streets of Mumbai at 5 am

Backstreet Adventures:

Mumbai has an incredible history of unexpected events occurring in the most random places. These have given rise to the most unlikely tourist attractions in the city.

Leopold Café-

Leopold Café is popular for providing cheap beer and finger-licking chicken lollypops. But it was also a spot where a terrorist attack occurred in 2008. You can sit at the booth just below the wall which was shattered by the cruel anarchists and yes, you have to pay extra for it.

Kamathipura-

The infamous red-light district of Mumbai, it is India’s oldest and Asia’s 2nd largest area for sex trade. You can see the cruel might of fate in its glory as young girls and transgenders dressed impeccably will line up the streets looking for clients. To see its true and tragic beauty, visit at night to see the world’s sinful intentions on full display. Stay in your car because there will be drunk people everywhere desperately looking for trouble.

Dharavi-

Unfortunately this is the most popular spot in India that dominates the perceived image of our country around the world. Dharavi is the 2nd  largest slum in Asia, housing more than one million people in just one square mile of space. If you have the courage to taste the bitter truth, do make a visit here.

The Taj Mahal Hotel, another target of the 2008 terrorist attack

The Taj Mahal Hotel, another target of the 2008 terrorist attack

Transportation
A train enthusiast’s heaven:

Sheldon Cooper would feel right at home here because every important landmark in the city is reachable by train. The trains are divided into western, central and harbour lines and you can figure out your destination easily. The trains start at 3:30 am and run till 1 am and are crowded at any time of the day. Although there are enough police officials at major stations do refrain from carrying valuable items and wearing revealing clothes. If taking the local trains is not your thing, the roads are well-connected and safe. But beware of the traffic and potholes, hire a local driver to navigate around the streets and don’t drive luxury cars as you will only damage their functioning. Go for low-key and easily manageable ones instead.

Fun for Free:

There are a million things to do in Mumbai which do not cost any money. Every traveller or local discovers something new every time he steps out.

Haji Ali-

Have a slightly unhealthy interest in sufi music? Head to the Haji Ali Mosque in Mahalaxmi and immerse yourself in hypnotizing music. Even if you don’t understand the language and the meaning of the s0ng- the cold air from the Arabian Sea, the fragrance from incense and the intense religious compositions will send you into a trance.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park-

Named after one of India’s most beloved Prime Ministers, the national park situated in Borivali is within the city limits. Trek here to enjoy the wonder of nature only an hour away from the crowds and noise of the city.

Sewri-

The mangrove swamps of Sewri are a home for flamingoes from the months of October to March. You can click breath-taking pictures of millions of flamingoes breeding and unleash the amateur wildlife photographer in you.

Mumbai at night

Mumbai at night

After Dark:

Mumbai offers a buzzing nightlife for all those who are ready to throw away all inhibitions and party. At night this city drops its snake skin of modesty and coyness to turn into an unstoppable dominatrix.

Hard Rock Café-

Popular all over the globe as the prime destination for music lovers and food addicts, Hard Rock Café in Worli offers scrumptious food, delightful local artists performing internationally acclaimed music and a steady crowd of interesting people with varied tastes.

Blue Frog-

Blue Frog is another location popular for the entertainment it offers. Alongside endless buffets of food it provides fun gigs every week- music, dance, stand-up comedy and the occasional poetry recitation.

Rude Lounge-

If you are too exhausted after travelling the city and simply want to relax and take a breather, head to Rude Lounge in Bandra, Powai, Malad or Belapur. It offers a elegant and fuss-free ambience if you just want to soak in the view of the city and calm yourself for a bit.

 Local Knowledge:

Even the most trained traveller needs a little advice to make the most of Mumbai

The local people of Mumbai are not used to seeing people with blonde hair and fair skin, so they will naturally stare. Although it may make you uncomfortable, they do not mean any disrespect or harm.

Mumbai is home to countless religious places and each have their own special day when major rituals are carried out and more devotees flood these places. Sometimes it is clever to avoid this crowd but sometimes join them to get the surreal feel of being one among them.

Mumbaikars are very sensitive about their religion and their favourite cricket team. Don’t mock their beliefs, you will only annoy them. Although some things will occur that you may not agree with, keep your discord to yourself and only speak about it to someone understanding.

There are many beggars in the city of all ages and suffering through all sorts of diseases and if you are a foreigners, they will surely ask for money.  Don’t help them, they will only use it to buy something which will only harm their body. Some of them lie and pretend to be suffering through a disease just to fool you. Instead give them food,it will genuinely feed someone hungry and you will get a blessing from a stranger.

Mumbai in monsoons

Monsoons is the best time to visit Mumbai

All these guidelines (although these are not even a quarter of the thrills that the city offers) might make Mumbai sound like a scary place and it is genuinely scary for someone who is not used to noise and crowd.  But if you keep an open mind and make the most of minor experiences, accept the city and its people without intending to change them, you will see a more emotional and mesmerizing side of Mumbai. People live here for decades but they never realize the silent and hidden beauty of it. Beyond the flooded local transport, the unhygienic street food and the strange people, there is a passionate heart. Only few have seen it, maybe you might be one of those lucky ones.

Purva Indulkar

K.P.B. Hinduja College, Mumbai | 10 stories

Purva Indulkar is a student of Mass Communications in Mumbai, India. She is a voracious reader, amateur writer, aspiring journalist, movie fanatic, proud foodie and a curious traveller. Not all those who wander are lost :)


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