Mumbai has an undeserved reputation as a city you should get out of as quickly as possible, if at all you happen to land there.
Although not abundantly rich in spectacular attractions like temples, monuments and palaces, Mumbai is a vibrant metropol, bustling with life and energy. Well worth at least a quick visit.
The Gateway of India Monument is Mumbai’s most famous landmark, built to commemorate the 1911 visit of King George V and Queen Mary. It’s located in the Colaba part of the city, the old downtown of Mumbai. Colaba is a shopping mecca, and many of the other famous and semi-famous attractions in Mumbai are located there, or on the way to there from the airport.
Next to the Gateway monument is the legendary Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. It was probably already Mumbai’s most famous hotel, and the 2008 terror attacks made it even more known. Just a few blocks away is the legendary Café Leopold, around which Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram revolves. Less known is the fact that also Leopold was attacked by the same terrorists before they went on to Taj Mahal Hotel.
At the present moment, I am still reading Shantaram, so when I went to Leopold, I thought it would be a good idea to bring the book and read it over a Kingfisher. The moment the book landed on the table , I had the spontaneous attention of each and every waiter in the room! They were showing me autographs and pictures of Linbaba, with obvious pride, and they were overwhelmed with excitement about the upcoming Shantaram movie.
My taxi driver was more than happy to take me the 35 km from Juhu to Colaba, on an all-day sightseeing round through Mumbai and back to the hotel for 1000 rupees (about €14). He was overly keen on taking me to handicraft and carpet and souvenir shops though, where he received a commission for each one I entered. Considering the peanuts he charged me for an all-day job, it was hard to turn down the first few requests.
The Kamala Nehru Park may not be the best-known attraction of Mumbai, but it offers one of the best views in the entire city. From one of central Mumbai’s highest points above sea level, you get a great view of most of the Marine Drive from above. Well worth a visit by sunset.
Just opposite the Kamala Nehru Park are the Hanging Gardens, with dozens of hedges carved in animals. Not really a spectacular place, but a nice, relaxing diversion from the sightseeing.
The Haji Ali Mosque is another of Mumbai’s famous landmarks, and a place frequently referred to in Shantaram. Accessible through a causeway only during low tide, the mosque attracts large crowds of people of all religions at any time. When not submerged by water, the causeway is immerged by merchants, beggars, musicians and thousands of visitors. The oldest parts of the edifice were constructed in 1431, and are thus some of the oldest building structures in Mumbai.
The Chowpatty Beach is mentioned in a lot of tourist guides. It’s a popular spot among the locals, and alledgedly a good bathing spot despite its semi-central location in a 20m+ city. Just where the beach begins – at the spot where any driver will drop you if you say “Chowpatty Beach” – Mocha Bar offers one of the few occasions in Mumbai to sit down and enjoy a sheeshah! An obvious place to visit then, for anyone in love with that Arab invention!
That’s about what I got to see of Mumbai in the days I was there. The main purpose of my trip was a wedding, and in India, such events will inevitably take a lot of time and effort! Contrary to the mostly negative things I had heard about the place, I actually found it quite likable, and I hope to visit again in some near or far future!