After a really packed trip that took us to four cities in just a week, we now came to (almost) the end of our journey with a final leg in Mumbai. Originally planned to be a transit point only, we ended up spending an entire day there. The city reminds me of many other places, and despite all the Slumdog Millionaire associations, it certainly was not as chaotic as I pictured it to be.
india’s been truly incredible, but i have a grin on my face because i’m finally going home that night!
Mumbai is a humongous city, and perhaps this city has become a poster child for India’s overcrowding problem. Twelve million people are packed into a sprawling metropolis smaller than Metro Manila or Singapore . Despite this, the city can be a lot more pleasant than the other large cities of India, with its wide, tree-lined boulevards, charming Victorian-era colonial buildings, chic bars and restaurants and a long seaside promenade that extends for miles – certainly not a pretext for those expecting something like Slumdog Millionaire, though these places of course do exist. I did not even see a single cow roaming the streets here!
Much of the city’s sights are actually located at the southern tip, so unless you’re there for transit, it would be advisable to pick a hotel that’s within this area. Districts like Fort, Colaba and Churchgate are where most travelers situate themselves while in Mumbai.
another street, another colonial building
We arrived on a late evening flight from Udaipur . As a parting gift, we were greeted by a con artist once we exited the domestic terminal. We had already prepaid for a taxi to take us to the hotel (around Rs 500) but this guy directed us somewhere else to be picked up by some other car, alleging that the prepaid taxi queue was somewhere else. It was an obvious scam and I wonder why these people even bother. We just ignored him and queued with the rest in the actual prepaid taxi line.
still in mumbai, that i can assure you
Our hotel was around an hour ride from the airport and situated in the Fort district. It is within walking distance from the city’s main sights, and is probably one of the more economical options in downtown Mumbai.
a paradise for book lovers, the books in india can be really cheap!
By this time of the trip, I was no longer too particular about seeing the sights especially since there isn’t really anything in Mumbai that I wanted to see. This was in stark contrast to the places we visited earlier. Despite all the chaos in Delhi , I made sure to see Humayun’s Tomb and Jama Masjid. In Agra , I would have been a fool if I missed the Taj Mahal. In Jaipur, I was excited to see Amber Fort and Hawa Mahal. And in Udaipur , I thought the Lake Palace and City Palace were the highlights of my trip. But Mumbai was like a bonus to me. Anything I see there wasn’t really in my list but would certainly be an added plus.
We had lunch at Café Leopold, a nice open air resto that is probably patronized by more tourists than locals. Interestingly enough, they served beef (I wonder what their cooks had to say to that!), and it was my sole occasion to eat beef while in India . It tasted great, too and it was probably the best meal during the entire trip.
in the taj palace hotel
Aside from the massive Gateway of India, which was built to commemorate the arrival of George V – the former King of the UK and Emperor of India in 1911, we also got to check out the majestic Taj Palace Hotel beside it. Touted as one of the best hotels in the world, it was also the site of a deadly terrorist attack in 2008. It reopened a few months after that, and entering the impressive lobby that day gave me the impression that everyone had already put that incident behind them. The hotel was as busy as ever and the furnishings as grand as prior to the attack.
there she is… the chhatrapati shivaji terminus from inside and out
Although host to several colonial buildings, Mumbai’s finest example of such is probably the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Looking more like a university building, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is today one of the busiest in Mumbai, as it serves as a train station for the suburban rail network and for long distance trains as well. Those who watched Slumdog Millionaire would probably remember the terminus as being a pivotal part of the storyline. The music video for the theme song, Jai Ho, was also filmed there. It was jampacked when I visited, much more than any other station I went to in India (save for Chandni Chowk metro station during rush hour).
marine drive is recommended especially during sunset when you’ll be joined by other weekenders
We ended the day by watching the sunset from Marine Drive . I had expected a polluted seaside walkway along with the heavy stench of the nearby waters, but in reality it was very pleasant – even more pleasant than Manila ’s baywalk. No stench. The walkway was clean with no touts nor pesky vendors. It kind of summed up what the city was about – it was unexpectedly refreshing. Cab drivers were honest. The locals were friendly, straightforward and had no hidden agenda. Quite ironic to witness such things in the country’s most populous city of all places. It was a great way to end our walking tour of Mumbai and on a bigger scale, our 8-day trip to India.
Where I stayed:
Hotel Travellers Inn
26, Ballard Estate, Adi Murzban Path
Where I ate:
Shahid Bhagat Singh Road