Bombay or Bust
Spoiler alert: it was a bust.
To be fair, it isn’t Bombay’s fault. It actually is one of the more sophisticated cities that we visited in India. The stop was a last-minute decision, thrown in during planning with the intent of having a quick whirl wind visit of the city; to get just a taste.
I had grand (possibly absurdly overly optimistic) plans that were spoiled by India Customs/DHL, and Chris’s unresolved case of Delhi belly. As such, some of the recommendations below are for things we planned, but didn’t get to do.
What you might expect:
Many government tour sites are closed on Mondays
Before even heading to the airport, we became aware that government buildings and historic landmarks would be closed during our only full day in the city. Poor planning on my part, I didn’t realize when I originally booked all of our stays that many of these tours sites would be closed Monday. In any case, even if we didn’t have illness and customs issues to contend with, the only full day we were in Mumbai was a Monday, so the Elephanta Caves would not be an option for us.
Mumbai: AKA Bollywood, AKA Bombay
Mumbai was formerly known as Bombay. It has now been separated into old and new Mumbai. It’s the center for them film industry, known as Bollywood. It’s very common to run into stars (assuming you would recognize them).
Airport taxi counter only takes Indian Rupees (and have extra rupees available for the toll)
No credit cards or other forms of payment are accepted for pre-paid taxis. There are options for vehicles with and without air-conditioning. Somewhere along the way our taxi driver mentioned that we needed to pay a toll. It was Rs.60. Not a lot, that’s equivalent to less than one US dollar; however, we were surprised because we thought the prepaid taxi fare was all-inclusive.
Plan for traffic
Mumbai is the financial district of India, hence there is an abundance of rush-hour traffic. Depending on traffic the ride from the airport can be 45 minutes to two hours to the southernmost tip.
If you have a layover, you will have to go through security again before a connecting flight (even domestic flights)
As I mentioned elsewhere, security doesn’t operate at stellar speeds, so plan accordingly. Also note that there are separate lines for men and women, and the women go through a curtained area where you don’t have visibility to all of your belongings. They will give you a card to redeem your laptop, but bags sit in the open. While we didn’t have any issues, I don’t like that my belongings are out of view during this process, so asked Chris to carry valuables and watch my bag while I was unable.
What not to miss*:
Gateway of India
Describe. Similar to the Arch de Triomph, this gateway on the Apollo Bunder waterfront was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay (Mumbai). It overlooks the Arabian Sea. The last British troops left through this gateway.
Take a ferry ride from the Gateway of India over to Elephanta Island and tour the caves. The 7th-century cave temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. (Note: it’s closed on Monday)
Sanjay Gandhi National Park
This sprawling park is home to the Kanheri Caves and many wild animals (such as deer, reptiles, birds, monkeys and many others you may find roaming the park).
The most popular beach in Mumbai can be visited to watch the monkeys or snake charmers, view a sunset, do yoga, shoot a BB gun, and much, much more. It is known for its many street vendors, including food carts (chaats).
Mumbai is home to India’s film industry. Tours are available of film sets and lots, some including meeting stars or seeing Bollywood dance performances. You also may get lucky, as it isn’t uncommon to stumble upon a filming or see stars at local shops.
See the largest outdoor (open-air) laundry. Dhobis (laundrymen) use concrete wash pens and flogging stones to wash clothes.
College students offer cheap walking tours of the slums (the real-life basis for the movie Slumdog Millionaire). You can visit these villages and see how they locals live.
Taj Mahal Palace
We stayed at this luxurious resort. The grounds are beautiful and the service is as you would expect from a 5-star resort. The room service menu included a list of butler-prepared bath options. The hotel has some of the highest ranked restaurants in all of Asia, as well as a popular afternoon tea.
If you make it to see the Gateway of India, head across the street to check out the Taj Palace. We enjoyed staying here for two luxurious nights, but didn’t eat or drink much here because it is very expensive. There are, however, cheap bars and restaurants nearby.
*Yes, I expected to see all of this in 1 1/2 days.
If you still have time:
Visit one of the largest flea markets in India.
Hanging Gardens of Mumbai
At the top of Malabar Hill, go for a jog, morning workout, to see the animal-shaped hedges or for a beautiful sunset.
Gandhi’s Mumbai House
See Gandhi’s Mumbai headquarters.
Take a tuk-tuk ride on Marine Drive (also known as Queen’s necklace)
We drove along the Queen’s necklace in the taxi on the way from the airport our hotel, and you’ll likely get to see Marine Drive if you head toward India Gate. However, the night view is quite beautiful if you have the time.
Drive on the Worli Sea Link
Take a ride over the 8-lane cable bridge linking the suburbs to the business district. (We also did this via taxi from from the airport as it’s the quicker route.)
- The airport has a nice lounge if you have a lounge access card. Alcohol is not free, but the wifi is good, food was good and it was clean and spacious.
- Avoid the local trains – they are way overcrowded (to the point of being dangerous – there was a death right after we left because someone fell out of a train car).