Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay and what English speaking tourists often still refer to it as, is the capital city of the Maharashtra state in India. Still the most populous city in India and the fourth most populous in the world, the city sprawls and sprawls with over 20.5 million. Imagine. There’s a harbor, parks, plenty of markets and restaurants for foodies wanting to take it all in.
Colaba: Colaba sprawls down the city’s southernmost peninsula, which is a bustling district packed with eateries, bars, street stalls, markets, hotels and other lodging options. Colaba Causeway (Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg) bisects the promontory and is the traffic-filled artery connecting Colaba’s jumble of side streets and gently crumbling mansions.
Shrujan: Selling the intricate embroidery work of women in 114 villages in Kutch, Gujarat, the nonprofit Shrujan aims to help women earn a livelihood while preserving the spectacular embroidery traditions of the area. The sophisticated clothing, wall hangings and purses make great gifts.
Tea Center: The Tea Center on Veer Nariman Road is a great place to try out some of India’s premium teas, as well as sample some excellent light meals and snacks, this is a serene, colonial-meets-contemporary place with severe AC.
Chor Bazaar: If you’re after Raj-era bric-a-brac, head to Chor Bazaar; the main area of activity is Mutton St, where you’ll find a row of shops specialising in antiques (many ingenious reproductions, so beware) and miscellaneous junk.
Alibag: To get to Alibag, grab a ferry and cruise south down the coast to the beach town of Alibag. There are plenty of beaches to choose from but start with Murud-Jajira Beach since the water is known to be clean and warm and alas, there’s plenty of silence here if you want it or take in a little more energy by taking in the food and drinking scene along the beach. Once you get off the ferry at Rewas, you then embark upon a bus from there to Alibag. Apparently service may be limited during the monsoon season, May-October so be sure to check schedules before you take off.
Water Kingdom: If you have kids, this is a great place to take them. Gorai Island amusement park, aka Water Kingdom is well maintained with lots of rides, slides and shade. Combined tickets, which include entry to Esselworld, are Rs680/550 (adult/child). It’s a Rs35 ferry ride from Borivali jetty.
Crawford Market: Also known as Mahatma Jyobita Phule, Crawford Market is the largest municipal market in Mumbai. From the outside it looks more like a medieval fortress than a place to buy household goods.
Hanging Garden (Ferozeshah Mehta): The Hanging Garden Park opened in 1881 and sits on the top of ritzy Malabar Hill on a giant underground cistern. Imagine a maze of plants, paths, benches and shrubs. It is the place to go for a little silence in the city and there’s no charge to hang out, so bring a book and relax for an afternoon.
Elephanta Island: Elephanta, also known as Gharapuri (literally “the city of caves”), is a great retreat from the bustle of the city. The ferry is about 135Rs or pay a little extra to sit on the upper deck. Be prepared for the 300 steps up the steep hillside to the caves. You can take in (by foot) the Buddhist and Hindu grottoes that date back to the 5th century or simply meander through quieter streets and grab a coffee.
Bluefrog: The most exciting thing to happen to Mumbai’s music scene in a long time, Bluefrog is a concert space, production studio, restaurant and one of Mumbai’s most happening spaces. It hosts exceptional local and international acts, and has cool booth seating.
Chowpatty Beach: this beach is a joyous retreat if you want to get away from the chaos of the city. Here, the Arabian Sea calls you but if you don’t want to get wet, there’s plenty of people watching and you can also walk the sea wall (at night known as the Queen’s Necklace) to Colaba, a great thing to do day or night.
Oval Maida: Another park awaits you and this is the perfect place to take along a picnic lunch, or a book to read for the afternoon. It’s also a great place to people watch.
A great day trip option is the Ulhas River Rafting Trip. You can do a one day rafting trip near Karjat, 88km southeast of Mumbai, from July to early September (Rs1500 per person). After a good rain, rapids can get up to Grade III+, though usually the rafting is much calmer, with lots of twists and zigzags.
Photo credits: Shrujan (crafts) is from Mymela.com. Jewelry from Commons wikimedia.org. Chor Bazaar – goindia.about.