Marine Drive in Mumbai, India - By Vikram Adani

Mumbai City Guide: Bombay, India City of Dreams

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Bombay, the city of dreams, that’s where I live. My Bombay. Or should I say my Mumbai?

Bombay from the Portuguese meaning ‘good bay’ or Mumbai from the Goddess ‘Mumba’. Of course we’ve had a lot of names over the centuries – Boon Bay, Bombain, Mombayn, Bombaym, Monbaym, Mombaym, Bombay, Mombaim, Bambaye, Bombeye, Bombaiim, and more; and now Maha Amba, Mumba and Mumbai.

‘What’s in a name’? the bard said. Was he right or was he wrong?

Mumbai is a melting pot of culture; where everyone inches further into the train to make place for you, where aunties walk down the streets to the nearby stores in their night gowns; where the baniya brings you veggies to your door; where strangers on the street help you. Well, most of the time!

This is a city with a heritage; so much recorded, so much lost. Bombay, India is the resplendent princess wearing the Marine Drive as a necklace; and yet a place of squalor and corruption. She is the treasury of India and the sieve of royalty; famed for her endless roads, and national parks and tigers; but also for her poor and her potholes. It’s a city where you won’t go hungry because you can buy a vada pav for a few rupees; where even the poor have a place to lay their head, even if it is just a footpath.

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About Mumbai or Bombay, India

A financial hub and India’s largest city, Mumbai was formed by the reclamation of seven different islands in the 18th century to form the largest city in India that over 22 million people now call home. A melting pot of culture and a highlight on the Maharashtra Tourism map, Mumbai city is a lot more than just the best places to visit in and near Mumbai or a list of things to see and do in Mumbai. So I’ve asked a few friends of mine to talk about their time in Mumbai, about the best places to visit in Mumbai, the known and loved historical places and tourist spots in Mumbai for anyone to visit.

Here’s a Mumbai Darshan consisting of Mumbai sightseeing and Mumbai points of tourism from your favourite bloggers and yours truly. Let’s visit the home of the rich and the poor, the industrious and the indolent, and the bold and the beautiful.

Mumbai or Bombay City was home of the indigenous Maharastrian and East Indian people for centuries before it was conquered by the Portuguese and then gifted as a marriage gift in 1661 to the British East India Company. The marriage in question, that of Charles the Second of England with Catherine of Braganza.
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Must See Sights in Mumbai / Bombay

1. Mahalaxmi Racecourse

Here’s a bit from Priyanko from Constant Traveller

Mahalaxmi Racecourse - Priyanko from Constant Traveller
Mahalaxmi Racecourse

Modelled on Melbourne’s race course, Mumbai’s Mahalaxmi Racecourse is where the rich and famous come dressed in their very best whenever horse riding competitions take place during the November to April season. Various derby competitions during this time attract punters as well as the best horseracing talent from across the country.
The Grandstand, a designated heritage structure, is a sight to behold and quite familiar to anyone who watches Bollywood movies with any horce-racing element in the plotline. It is usually allowed to get here when matches aren’t on. The antiquated lot boxes and old-style washrooms are also worth checking out. For those not interested in the Grandstand, there are chairs near televisions from where you can catch the live action as well.

The 225 acres of green lung in the city’s centre is also open to the general public on non-racing days. As an aspiring marathon runner, I alternate my schedule by running on the racecourse’s mud track once a week from the usual asphalt roads to condition my legs to different surfaces. I have seen many celebrities and industrialists arrive in their swanky cars and take off in helicopters from the only open helipad in Mumbai at the racecourse quite a few times as well.

Over the weekends, the space outside the track is sometimes turned into an open flea market where pop-up shops and organic producers sell their wares to high-heeled customers. And when it’s all over, some of the city’s best restaurants such as Neel, Keiba, Tote on the Turf and Gallops await you.

2. Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Here’s something from Rashmi & Chalukya from Go Beyond Bounds

Sanjay Gandhi National Park - Rashmi & Chalukya from Go Beyond Bounds
Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Sanjay Gandhi National Park formerly Borivali National Park is one of the largest national parks in India. The park is a great respite from the bustling city of Mumbai. There are plenty of things to do in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. You can go on the lion and tiger safari if you fancy watching the Wildcats in enclosures. Hike up to one of the oldest Buddhist caves in India the Kanheri Caves and explore the intricate carvings and paintings. Or just stroll around the park and explore more than 1000 plant species and diverse fauna consisting of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, and butterflies. The park is located around 10 minutes walk from the Borivali local station and open from 7:30 AM to 6 PM and the caves from 9 AM to 5 PM. Both park and caves are closed on Monday.

3. Mani Bhavan

Nisha and Vasu from Lemonicks will tell you about our beloved Gandhiji!

Mani Bhavan - Nisha and Vasu from Lemonicks
Mani Bhavan

Hidden behind big trees on a quiet street called Laburnum Road in Gamdevi, is Mani Bhavan, one of the secret gems of Mumbai. Once home to one of the most famous icons of the century Mahatma Gandhi, Mani Bhawan is an old building. It was Gandhi’s residence whenever he stayed in Mumbai.

This heritage structure has now been converted into a museum and research center. The ground floor houses a reference library with over 50000 books and a photo exhibition of the Gandhi’s life. The rest of the museum and the auditorium are on the upper floors.

But what makes this museum interesting is to see the life of Mahatma Gandhi being portrayed thorough hundreds of well-crafted figurines. Through hand-made doll-sized figures the artist has portrayed the history of the freedom struggle of India. Part of the museum, these figurines are very detailed.
Entry is free and the museum is open on all the seven days.

4. Bandra Bandstand

Here’s a bit from Sinjana from Backpack & Explore

Bandra Bandstand - Sinjana from Backpack & Explore
Bandra Bandstand

It’s not beach, it’s the Bandstand! Bandra Bandstand is a walkway along the coast of Arabian Sea in Mumbai which is famous for the glorious sunset view and for many Bollywood celebrities who live there. The jogging track that starts from the Bandra Promenade, goes past the park and ends at the scenic Bandra fort, a Portuguese watchtower built right across the sea in the early 17th century. Another historic landmark within 1 km radius is the Mount Mary’s Basilica, the oldest church of Mumbai with stunning architecture. About 2.5 km from Bandra Bandstand lies the famous Bandra-Worli sea link, a cable-stayed bridge connecting West Mumbai to the Nariman point. All these places have been extensively featured in Hindi movies.

5. The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

By Jill from Reading the Book Travel

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel - Jill from Reading the Book Travel
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is one of the icons of Mumbai’s Colaba district. First opened in 1903, it occupies an enviable position directly opposite the Gateway of India, and remains arguably the most exclusive hotel in the city.

However, if your budget doesn’t extend to spending the night, no matter. The Taj is open to all those who want to come and admire the marble floor of the lobby or browse the luxury stores housed in its ground floor. The hotel has several restaurants and bars at affordable prices by western standards, as well as a coffee shop selling the best of India’s cakes and pastries. Try a cocktail (the Bombay Blazer was my personal favourite) and admire the view over the ocean. And the air-conditioned cool is a welcome break from the city outside!

A note from Abby

The inscription on the Gateway of India - Pic by TheWingedFork
The inscription on the Gateway of India

There is a writing inscribed on the Gateway of India reads,

“Erected to commemorate the landing in India of their Imperial Majesties King George V and Queen Mary on the Second of December MCMXI”

6. Dharavi

By Jill from Reading the Book Travel

Dharavi - Jill from Reading the Book Travel
Dharavi

In a city full of fascinating places to visit, Dharavi stands apart.

Made famous by the film Slumdog Millionaire, Dharavi is actually a world away from the images of the film. Poverty is all around you, and yet the district is a testament to the work ethic and will to survive of the people of this part of the city. Recycling is big business here, with the older residents combing the streets for anything and everything that can be repurposed. Cardboard boxes are flattened and collected for reuse by cottage industries; plastics of all types are broken down into pellets for reuse in industry. If there’s a way to collect and reuse it, Dharavi residents are doing it.

Pottery is also big business here, with whole families churning out pallets of ceramic jars and other useful household items. The whole process takes place in the crowded streets of the slums, where children run barefoot past huge kilns which pump choking smoke into the air. But the sense of community here is strong, and people take pride in their environment. We passed a small girl, no more than three or four years of age, who had collected a bundle of sticks and was sweeping her front step as she had no doubt seen her mother do. Dharavi is undoubtedly poor, but its people are inspirational.

7. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

Andra from Our World to Wander has wandered around the amazing

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus - Andra from Our World to Wander
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

If I were to pick just one building in Mumbai, I would choose the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station without even blinking. It is so impressive that you could easily stare at it for hours without getting bored. It is probably one of the most beautiful railway station buildings in the world. It is an example of Victorian architecture, and its splendid features have put it on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is also an excellent place for people watching as there are thousands of people passing there every day.

8. The Oval Maidan

By Sarah from A Social Nomad

The Oval Maidan - Sarah from A Social Nomad
The Oval Maidan

If you want to experience Mumbai as a local, then head to the Oval Maidan on a weekend. This is are creation ground of 22 acres. There are no politics or religious gatherings allowed here, just sports. You’ll find it in South Mumbai. It’s oval in shape and surrounded by some stunning architecture – with the Mumbai High Court Building along one side of it, the University and the Rajabai Clock Tower too. You may find football played here, and you’ll certainly find cricket being played. Hundreds and hundreds of games going on simultaneously. The games are of varying standards, but all taken extremely seriously. Each batsman aiming to be the new Virat Kholi and each bowler the next Ravichandran Ashwin. You’ll be hard pushed, even as a cricket fan, to work out who’s part of which match there are that many going on during the season. I loved the sheer energy of the place, the fun, the seriousness of the games going on and the thought that one of these guys might be a superstar of the future.

9. Gateway of India

Ketki from Dotted Globe will tell you more!

Gateway of India - Ketki from Dotted Globe
Gateway of India

An incredible architectural work from British Colonial times, the Gateway of India is one of the must-see places in the country. It was built in 1920 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to colonial Bombay. Designed by architect George Wittet, the Gateway has a great blend of British colonial style and the Indian style. For years, the Gateway served as symbolic entry and access to India for visiting royalty, viceroys, governors, and important guests.

The Gateway with its turrets and intricate detailing is a top tourist attraction in the city. A unique feature about the Gateway is that it also played an important part in the Indian Independence celebrations. The last battalion of British troops marched out of Mumbai through the gate and the last British ship set sail for England at the Gateway.

10. Crawford Market

Rashmi and Chalukya from GO Beyond Bounds

Crawford Market - Rashmi and Chalukya from GO Beyond Bounds
Crawford Market

The bustling city of Mumbai is shopper’s paradise. You will find plenty of options here from shopping streets to lavish malls. Crawford Market locally known as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai is one of the popular and oldest wholesale markets of Mumbai. The market is housed in a 19th-century historic building. There several stalls inside the closed markets which sell dry fruits, spices, fruits and other wholesale items. The market also once sold exotic pet animals which were imported. Make sure to visit the market in the morning as by noon the markets sell off all the wholesale goods. The market is closed on Sundays. The nearest station to the market is Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. Close to the Crawford Market are the famous Zaveri Bazaar and another famous wholesale market Mangaldas Market.

11. Marine Drive

Marine Drive in Mumbai, India - By Vikram Adani
Marine Drive

A 3.6 km long stretch along a natural bay that looks like a string of pearls and is lined with palm trees that looks like the Promenade d’Anglais in Nice. What else can adorn Mumbai? The Marine Drive built by Pallonji Mistry and Bhagojisheth Keer is also known as the Queen’s Necklace. My favorite pic though, is the one above, by my friend Vikram who guest posts for me sometimes. It’s simply perfect!

If you’re wondering about how to get this sort of pic. No, you don’t need a drone.

You drive onto the Marine Lines flyover from Princess Street (now called Shamaldas Gandhi Marg). Seriously, why change a perfectly good name. Have you heard anyone giving directions locally? ‘Take Princess Street and go to…’, ‘Go right from Princess Street’, etc. It will always be Princess Street to everyone who lives here.

And while you’re on Princess Street, before you catch your cab, taste some of the amazing desserts from Paris Dairy Farm. More about it in the food section.

Now where was I? Right, the pic of the Marine Drive. There is a particular spot on the Marine Lines Flyover just before it turns right onto the Chowpatty Seaface where you can stop your car for a few seconds and take pictures of the Queen’s Necklace.

From this point on the flyover, you’ll get almost picture perfect shots of both the North and South sides of the Marine Drive.

There’s also an old stair bridge that goes up to this spot that’s technically closed. But it’s still frequented by college kids who want to hang out and just chill with great views of Marine Drive and the sea.

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12. Blue Synagogue or Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue

Blue Synagogue or Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue in Colaba, Mumbai - TheWingedFork
Blue Synagogue or Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue in Colaba, Mumbai

David Sassoon hired the architects Gostling & Morris to build the Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue in 1884 to give the Jews of Bombay somewhere to worship. The synagogue was designed with a stone masonry base and an superstructure of brick masonry. The outside of the synagogue is painted blue and white.

It’s located at 55, Dr. V.B. Gandhi Marg, Fort, Mumbai.

Take these tours of Mumbai!

13. Magen David Synagogue

Outside the Magen David Synagogue in Byculla - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Outside the Magen David Synagogue in Byculla

More of the Baghdadi Jews fled from the persecution in Baghdad to Bombay in the 1800’s. To give the growing Jewish population in Mumbai a place to worship David Sassoon had the Magen David Synagogue built in 1864. This synagogue is probably one of the largest in Asia outside of Israel.

Opening the scrolls at the Magen David - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Opening the scrolls at the Magen David
Rabbi at Synagogue - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Rabbi Romiel Daniel talking while the Governor of Maharashtra Vidyasagar Rao looks on

We visited again recently to attend the celebration for the 175th anniversary of th the Shaare Rason Synagogue here. The event was grace by the Governor of Maharashtra, India, H. E. Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, along with guests of honour Rabbi Romiel Daniel, the President of the Indian Jewish Congregation of USA and Rabbi Ya’aqob Menashe, the Senior Leader and Trustee of the Sir Jacob Sassoon Charity and Allied Trusts and Synagogues, India. The Consul General of Israel for India was also present, along with Judah David Samuel the President of the Syangogue and Sinora Kolatkar who campaigned for the restoration.

Gul Kriplani among the many guests - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Gul Kriplani among the many guests

It’s located at 340, Sir J. J. Road, Opp Richardson and Cruddas Ltd, Byculla, Mumbai.

14. Marve Beach

By Sarah from The Winged Fork

Boat crossing Marve creek at sunset - By Sarah from TheWingedFork
Boat crossing Marve creek at sunset

With picture perfect sunsets such as the pic above by my sis Sarah, one would think that Marve beach is ideal for picnics. But behind the beauty lie the dangers of a perilous sea. The children frolicking around near the shore betray swift currents that are not safe for swimming along with sinking sand. The beach is also restricted because of the Indian Naval Base present there.

Sunset at Marve Beach in Mumbai, India - Pic by Sarah from TheWingedFork
My sis Sarah’s pic of the Sunset at Marve Beach in Mumbai, India

In the evenings, you can buy fresh fish from the local fisher ladies, or enjoy a bhel or pani puri. Or take the ferry across the creek to Manori Island where you can be reminded of days long past or take a tonga ride amidst the old houses and tree lined streets to get to the Kaka Baptista East Indian Museum. Or spend the night at the remaining farms or shacks where you can taste a bit of local culture and enjoy the warm breezes.

15. Madh Beach

Trash at Madh Island Beach -  Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Trash at Madh Island Beach

And then there’s Madh Beach with the smell of salt in the air, and the fishing boats going out to sea. There’s also the fish and prawns set out to dry on tarp near the shore.

When we were kids we used to go here and go swimming often. Nowadays, we stick to the pool at the holiday home in Madh.

Why?

Just look at the pic. There’s trash everywhere. This pic is of the rocky South side of the beach with the Madh ice factory and fish market in sight. The plateaued North side is not that great either.

At least, there was still loads of it when we went a few months ago in August. Why do people think the seas in our country are dustbins? Will we ever change?

16. Church of St. John the Evangelist or Afghan Church

Afghan Church or Church of St. John the Evangelist in Navy Nagar, Colaba - TheWingedFork
Afghan Church or Church of St. John the Evangelist

There’s an inscription on the marble cancel that reads:

“This church was built in memory of the officers whose names are written on the walls of the chancel and of the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers, too many to be so recorded who fell, mindful of their duty, by sickness or by sword in the campaigns of Sind and Afghanistan, A.D. 1838-1843.”

Just one sentence.

And it conveys the terrible loss of lives in the First Afghan war.

The Church of St. John the Evangelist, locally known as the Afghan Church, was built to commemorate the British soldiers who lost their lives in the retreat from Kabul, Afghanistan in 1842. Every time we visit this church, it seems to be telling us the story in a different form. An inscription we didn’t notice before; a plaque that calls out to us; the worn ribbons on the wreaths. They all tell stories of lives lost before their time.

Inside of the Afghan Church - TheWingedFork
Inside of the Afghan Church

Set in Navy Nagar, Colaba surrounded by a few tall trees, this Anglican Church also holds memorials to the dead lost in the Second Afghan War.

In the early 1840’s, the faithful were attending church in a makeshift chapel in what was then called the ‘Sick Bungalows’ and is now the naval hospital INHS Asvini. The East India Company’s Bombay Chaplain, Rev. Piggot wanted construction of a permanent church, and after some efforts the foundation stone was laid on 4 December 1847, and the Bishop of Bombay, John Harding consecrated the Afghan Church on 7 January 1858. The spire, however, took longer and was completed on 10 June 1865.

Henry Conybeare, designed the plans for the magnificent church structure with its 60 metre high tower and spire can even now be seen from afar off against the backdrops of the buildings. Students from the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art designed the reredos under guidance of the architect William Butterfield. He also designed the Afghan War Memorial mosaics, screen, choir stalls, pews and the polychrome floor tiles. The beautiful stained glass windows were designed by the stained glass expert William Wailes. And the bells were made in the Taylor Foundry in England in 1904.

The gothic arches and beautiful stained glass windows make you think you’re in a chapel in Europe somewhere.

Take this tour of Mumbai and it’s famous attractions!

17. Aksa Beach

A popular beach, Aksa is a picnic spot and a snack spot where locals spend their evenings. Although the beach is not safe for swimming, shacks and hotels such as The Retreat and others are frequented by Mumbaiites and tourists. Eat bhutta aka roasted corn or bhel puri from the pebblers on the beach. 😉

Bandra Worli Sealink - Pic by Sam K

Bandra Worli Sealink – Pic by Sam Khedekar

18. Bandra Worli Sea Link

Okay, maybe it’s not as big as the Viaduct de Millau, the tallest bridge in the world. But the Bandra Worli Sea Link, a cable stayed bridge over the Mahim Bay in Mumbai, India has been a godsend for the people of India, Bombay City. It reduces an otherwise long 30 minute commute to a 10 minute one, and has an average traffic of 37,000 vehicles a day. Of course, it also has the normal everyday problems like traffic, a few ptholes and more. But what’s a road without speedbumps in Bombay?

19. Gorai Beach

A tiny part of the Salsette Island, Gorai was once a beautiful beach for locals to go to for family picnics. All you had to do was cross the Gorai creek by boat, take a tonga ride or a bullock cart ride and reach these lovely old houses where you could spend a lazy afternoon or stay overnight. Nowadays, although you can still do that, you won’t like to go swimming in the water anymore. Too much pollution! But it’s still a great place to enjoy the slow life and see what’s left of times past.

Looking for mudskippers in Gorai, Mumbai, India
Looking for mudskippers in Gorai’s marshes

This pic above, it’s those people who look through the muck to collect newties. Just watching them dance around in the muck, or should I say marshy land, while these guys try to catch them is fun. Right, I should have mentioned, newties are called mudskippers in English; but you already knew that, didn’t you?

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Off the beaten path on the outskirts of Mumbai

1. Elephanta Caves

Here’s a bit by Reshma from Love Travel Things

Elephanta Caves - Reshma from Love Travel Things
Elephanta Caves

Can’t think of Caves in Mumbai?? Even I couldn’t until I witnessed this beautiful piece of World heritage site. It is about 10 KMs away from Mumbai’s mainland shore in the Gharapuri island better known as Elephanta island and the only way to reach here is by ferry boats available near the Gateway of India.

Get ready to experience the waves splashing onto your faces enroute the journey which takes approximately 1 hour. Also you can spot big cargo ships at the Bombay Harbour. You will get to see the Mumbai from a distance along with the iconic Gateway of India and Taj Mahal hotel.

After getting down from the ferry boats, you can opt to walk a distance of 1 km or take the toy train to reach the downside of Elephanta caves. And from there you have to walk uphill. There are nearly 110-120 steep steps, which are lined by stalls on both sides. There are many beautiful things you can buy here, like handicrafts, t-shirts, bangles and many restaurants are there.

Best time to visit this place will be during monsoons or in the winter season. Walking during the sunny times might be very tiring.

This place got its name as Elephanta, because a large statue of an elephant which guarded the island before the British attempted to relocate it. Though it is broken, reassembled pieces now rests at Jijamata Udyaan in Mumbai. There are a total of 7 caves dated back to the 5-7th century AD, carved out of Basaltic rocks, 5 on the western hill and 2 on the eastern hill.

Little I knew about the 2 caves on eastern hill side and the about the trekking trail here which I read after coming back. There should always be a reason to go back, isn’t it?? After all Mumbai has stolen a part of me..

So on the western hill rests a group of 5 temples which are predominantly dedicated to Lord Shiva, overlooking the Arabian Sea. Out of the Five, 1st cave takes up all the attention, with A three faced Shiva which represents three aspects of Shiva the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer, identified, respectively, with Aghora or Bhairava (left half), Taptapurusha or Mahadeva (central full face), and Vamadeva or Uma (right half) and obviously it is the crowded one.

Also witness the beautiful pillars and other rock cut stone sculptures, most of them destroyed by the portugal during the colonial past. Remaining caves are not as big as the first one, and one can silently sit and enjoy the nature.

If you are interested in history this is a must visit place which rests in the lap of Arabian Sea.

Beware of the monkeys which are hungry and thirsty. Even the bottles they will snatch from you…

2. Sion Hillock Fort

Khushboo from Munni of all Trades

Sion Hillock Fort - Khushboo from Munni of all Trades
Sion Hillock Fort – City View
Sion Hillock Fort - Khushboo from Munni of all Trades
Sion Hillock Fort
Sion Hillock Fort - Khushboo from Munni of all Trades
Sion Hillock Fort

The Sion Hillock Fort has a special significance for me. Located at 10 minutes walking distance from Sion station, this 341-year-old fort built by the East India Company is a place where I spend most of my Sundays. History reveals that this fort marked the boundary between Salsette Island ruled by the Portuguese and Parel island held by the British.

The fort is in ruins and the stone steps leading you to the top are broken, but the climb is fairly easy for anyone who is modestly fit. As you enter the fort, you will be greeted by several small gardens created for kids to play. There is an old dysfunctional waterfall made of tiles which now doubles up as a slide for children and adults alike. The fort is green and lush after the monsoons and attracts a number of parrots. The panoramic view of the city from the top of the fort inspires many budding photographers including myself to spend time attempting to get the perfect shot. The sunset from the top looks beautiful and is a perfect backdrop for a small picnic with your family.

3. Dhobighat

Lights together, dark together; cottons, wool, denim, sort them all. Try doing that for hundred of clothes a day. Or rather, for 1 lakh. That’s 1 followed by five zeroes. 1,00,000! A hundred thousand clothes washed a day in Mumbai, India.

No wonder Dhobighat featured in the Guiness Book of World Records in 2011 for the ‘most people hand-washing clothes at a single location’.

A view of Mahalakshmi Dhobighat - Pic by Sarah from TheWingedFork
A view of Mahalakshmi Dhobighat

The world’s largest open air laundry, Dhobighat in Mumbai, was built in 1890 and still works in the old style. Over 200 families of around 7000 dhobis live here and most of them have inherited this profession from their fathers.

Clothes from homes, hotels and hospitals all over Bombay make their way to this traditional old laundry. Clothes are sorted based on colors, material and more. Together they wash clothes by rinsing and hitting them on flogging stones in their open concrete pens. Lines of washed clothes are then hung out to dry. You can see them sorted by colors here.

Some of the clothes then go back to their owners, while some are ironed. It depends on the clients requirements. It’s amazing to see how the dhobis who have little education, have such an efficient sorting and management system.

Enter Dhobighat, and you’ll find a number dhobis offering to guide you for around INR 200. That’s circa 3 to 3.5 USD. It’s interesting to hear the anecdotes from the local dhobis. If you prefer a tour guide, Google has a lot of info on agencies for that.

If you don’t have the time to visit Dhobighat, you can still view them from afar. The best place to get a bird’s eye view of the dhobi world is from the bus stop outside Mahalakshmi (Train) Station. Just go up the walkway from KK Road to the Mahalakshmi Station bus stop. From there you can see everything – the washing, drying, and more. You won’t get to see the ironing though. For that you need to go down into Dhobighat.

Dhobighat is not necessarily something you have to visit, but if you consider that a few handful of dhobis are working in such an efficient system that they have a turnover of INR 100 Crore (13 Million USD) a year, it’s definitely worth taking a peek!

Here’s a full-day private tour of Mumbai!

4. Sewri Mangrove Park and Sewri Fort

A short 20 minute walk from Sion Station is the Sewri Mangrove Park. Of course, we didn’t walk there. The sun was too hot even that early in the morning. So we took a cab. The last bit of the road to Sewri Jetty is now closed to vehicles, and you have to walk about 400 metres to the jetty.

Trans harbor link - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Trans harbor link

It’s not what it used to be. There’s a Trans Harbor Sealink being built nearby and the noise is scaring away the birds. (The link is expected to be completed by 22nd September 2022.) So you can only see a few birds nearby, and you can see the flamingos, but they’re afar off during the day. All we could see were tiny pink dots in the mangroves.

And considering we didn’t have my sis and her camera with us, we were doomed. The only thing you can see clearly is the numerous newties aka mudskippers moving about in the muck of the mangroves.

If you come early in the morning though, in the few hours around sunset, when the noise from the construction cannot be heard, you’ll see them closer by.

Boats at rest in Sewri Park - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Boats at rest
The hollows of the boats - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
The hollows of the boats

So we just caught a few shots of the many boats at the jetty. Some were on their last legs; some had even been stripped down to a bare hollow.

Jalal Shah Murad Shah Baba Dargah - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Jalal Shah Murad Shah Baba Dargah

We then walk for about 10 minutes to the nearby Sewri Fort. Climb up the many steps past the buildings and the Jalal Shah Murad Shah Dargah, a shrine to honor their saints.

The entrance to Sewri Fort - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
The entrance to Sewri Fort

Enter the fort and see that it’s just a regular old fort.

Sewri Fort - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Passage to the future
Dad and cousin at Sewri Fort - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Dad and cousin at Sewri Fort

There are local kids playing there and hiding among the passageways.

On one of the ramparts of Sewri Fort - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
On one of the ramparts of Sewri Fort
Walking by at the Sewri Fort - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Walking by at the Sewri Fort
Their names set in stone - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Their names set in stone – Sewri Fort

And as always, for every fort we see lovers writing their names in stone. This is just one more of those walls, like at the Cabo de Rama Fort in Goa.

But then we walk around and get to the other end of the fort. From there, standing on the edge with a drop down to the mangroves below us, we can see the flamingos.

Of course even with an iphone and a Vivo, they’re too far away to get decent pics. Sis should have been there.

Pink flamingos and pink flowers - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Pink flamingos and pink flowers

The flamingos and their little ones come down South from the Rann of Kutch from November to May. They had returned to Mumbai in 1994 after a break of 40 years, and can be seen in the 15-acre park that stretches all the way from the Sewri mudflats right up to Trombay.

Found the flamingos - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Found the flamingos

And then they flapped their wings in unison, pink and black in perfect waves. Tried to get that pic, but just got the half of it. Cry me a river now. Have you ever noticed how the natural eye sees so much sharper than the 24 MP and 32 MP cameras?

Flamingos getting ready to fly - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Flamingos getting ready to fly

After we’re done taking pictures, just before we walk away, a voice from above our heads asks if we’re newspaper peeps. We look up to see a kid of about 13 or 14 wearing a grey taqiyah and dishdasha sitting there cross-legged. We just say no. We were too surprised by how he had managed to scramble to that part of the wall to say anything else.

Update 17 Jan 2019
Someone mentioned that the mangroves are closed to the public at the moment. So I got in touch with Nitya, a local bird-watching guide to ask her what the situation was. This is her reply.

When you had visited the place in November the number of flamingos were few. Their numbers have increased now. Although the sighting is not same as it used to be since the construction work has started. 

Also their sighting is not best in mornings and evenings but is actually dependent on the tide timing. During low tide flamingos are extremely far to be seen from the jetty point. During high tide, entire mudflats are covered with water, so ideal time to visit is around 3 hrs after the high tide when water starts receding and birds start coming to feed in the mudflats or  around 4 hours prior to high tide when they start coming closer to the viewing point as the water starts coming closer to the shore.

Thane creek and Navi Mumbai are also good places to spot flamingos.  

If you want to reach out to Nitya and go on one of her bird-watching tours, you can contact her at nitya@wildnest.in or +91-9967056674.

5. Salt Pans at Vashi

Dad and cousin brother DFon were wondering where on earth I wanted to go. They’d come along for the ride that morning since they’re better with directions than I am. It’s good they did because the route Google Maps gave me turned out to be in the middle of nowhere and actually required an SUV. The poor cab driver kept hitting the underside of the vehicle on the bumpy road till dad told him to tilt the car to the side and drive. So that led to us driving at an almost 30 degree angle and our heads bumping the top of the car every few minutes.

The driver was a good sport though and didn’t ditch us in the middle of nowhere. Soon we reached the salt pans and were thankful we hadn’t given up. These are the salt pans in Vashi. I’ve seen them from the train before, but never close up. There are also salt pans in Vasai, but why would I go off road in Vasai that’s close to home, when I can go off road in Vashi, right? Daft, dumb, etc.

Salt Pans in Vashi - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Salt Pans in Vashi
Working on the salt - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Working on the salt

We find the workers and watch them for a long time. Dad finds one to explain the process of salt making to us. Here’s the short version. They have rows of large shallow pans that are filled with water from the ocean. Once the pans are filled, they are blocked off so that no more water flows into them.

My cousin DFon posing in front of the salt pans in Vashi - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
My cousin DFon posing in front of the salt pans

The sun evaporates the water and salt brine is left. To aid in the drying process the brine is collected, moved to another pan and raked to aid in evaporation.

Mountains of salt - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Mountains of salt

Since the pans we visited were larger, the process takes longer. The salt worker said that from start to finish it takes a total of 4 months.

Here’s a video I managed to take with a few butterflies flying around. I liked how the workers moved in sync. Interesting right?

Did you know that India is the third largest producer or salt in the world (after USA and China)? It produces about 230 million tones of salt, mostly in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

You can buy salt to take home. The guy first offered us a choice of 1 ton or 5 ton sacks. Ha! Maybe next time. This time we just took a few kgs of that pure fresh salt at a lower amount.

Oh, and while leaving the salt workers told us of a shorter route to the main road. So if you’re going for a visit, play around with Google maps for a while till you find the shortest off road path there. Or if you’re taking a SUV, don’t worry about whatever route you take. Enjoy.

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Off the beaten Path in Mumbai - Places to visit by TheWingedFork

Foodie places you must eat at in Mumbai aka Bombay, India

1. Yazdani Restaurant and Bakery

By Teresa from Brogan Abroad

Yazdani Restaurant and Bakery - By Teresa from Brogan Abroad
Yazdani Restaurant and Bakery, Mumbai

Mumbai is the most culturally diverse cities in India and that comes across the food that you can find in this cosmopolitan city. Yazdani Restaurant and Bakery is one of the oldest and most loved Iranian bakery in Mumbai.
Currently owned by the second generation of a family of Iranian-descend, Yazdani is an institution in the South of the city. It started its life as a fancy bakery that used to make 7-tier cakes, and it now serves the simplest of worker’s meals – brun-maska (translated as bread and butter) served with half a glass of chai. The freshly-baked bruns are served with a generous spread of butter, and the best way to enjoy it is to dip it into the chai. Simple yet satisfyingly delicious! A must try in Mumbai.

Find Yazdani Restaurant and Bakery at 1, Horniman Circle, 11A, Cawasji Patel Rd, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001.

2. Elco Pani Puri Restaurant

By Sarah from The Winged Fork

Bhelpuri at Elco's in Mumbai, India - Pic by Sarah from TheWingedFork
Bhelpuri at Elco’s in Mumbai, India

Once upon a time around 50 years ago a small street stall opened on Hill Road in Bandra, Mumbai. The owner started selling his tasty pani puri to the tired and hungry shoppers, and a fad was born. Soon everyone started eating at Elco Pani Puri Centre. The chaat and pani puri stalls are iconic in Mumbai and serve many mouth watering treats. Over time their dahi kachori, pani puri, ragda pattice, cocktail juice and dahi kachori became synonymous with food in Bombay. If you’re ever in Mumbai, you have to try some.

Find Elco Pani Puri Centre at 2/A, Elco Market, Ramdas Nayak Marg, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050.

3. Mohammed Ali Road in SoBo aka South Mumbai

On Friday’s during the year, and especially more during the month of Ramadan or Ramzan, Mohammed Ali Road, one of Mumbai’s famous khau galli’s gives off tantalizing aroma’s of rich biryani’s and spicy kebab’s.

Kebabs at Khau Galli in Jogeshwari - TheWingedFork
Kebabs at Khau Galli in Jogeshwari - TheWingedFork Kebabs at Khau Galli in Jogeshwari

It’s a must visit for any foodie, much like the Khau galli in Jogeshwari opposite Bostan Hotel (yeah, not Boston).

Barfis at Suleiman Usman Mithaiwala on Mohd Ali Road - TheWingedFork
Barfis at Suleiman Usman Mithaiwala on Mohd Ali Road - TheWingedFork Barfis at Suleiman Usman Mithaiwala

One of the more well known sweet shops on Mohammed Ali Road is he Suleiman Usman Mithai Wala. Phirnis, halwas, dry fruits and the a range of barfis. My favorite barfi at their store is the black currant barfi. 🙂 To die for!

Find Suleiman Usman Mithaiwala at 167, IbrahimMerchant Rd, Below Minara Masjid, Pydhonie, Mandvi, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400003.

4. Mumbai ka Vada Pao at these street food stalls

Wada pav is a popular streetfood in Mumbai, India
Wada pav is a popular streetfood in India, especially in Mumbai

Street food is a thing that everyone loves to eat. In Mumbai, the love is dedicated to Vada Pao. You will find street stalls at every corner especially on push carts or thelas. These are some of the places that sell amazing Vada Paos:

  • Ashok Vada pao stall has been selling the dish for several years. They set up their stall at Kashinath Dhuru Marg situated in Dadar west.
  • Anand Vada Pao is another famous stall that is present in the Vile Parle area. It is famous among the college students and they love the garlic chutney provided by the stall.
  • Jai Maharashtra Vada Pao is a quintessential store that has been rolling out Vada paos since 1966. It is a situation in Azad Nagar, Andheri West.

These are some of the best places for Vada Pao in Mumbai. All of them are flocked with people from the very time of their opening. So, you may need to wait some time to taste their creations.

5. K Rustom’s near Marine Drive in Churchgate

Walnut-Crunch-ice-cream-form K-Rustoms-by Ritesh-TheWingedFork
Walnut Crunch ice cream by Ritesh from Tinted Tales

Set up in 1953 by a Parsi family, K Rustom’s in Marine Drive serves the most amazing ice cream sandwiches. People from all over the world visit this wee shoe in South Mumbai for their ice cream. Of course, the crowds in the evenings make it a bit difficult to get your share. But hang in there, and soon you’ll get your favorite; from almond crunch to rum and raisin, to guava or my favorite walnut crunch ice cream. You really can’t stop at one. 😉

Find K Rustom’s Ice Cream at 86, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400020.

6. Leopold Cafe on Colaba Causeway

Leopold Cafe and Bar - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Leopold Cafe and Bar

Located on the famous Colaba Causeway, the Leopold Café that was established in 1871.This Irani cafe survived the 2008 terror attacks and stands as a testament to the resilient spirit of the Mumbaikars. We can still see the bullet holes left in the walls.

Bullet holes left in the wall from the 2008 shooting - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Bullet holes left in the wall from the 2008 shooting

A favourite haunt for travellers and locals, the Leopold Café also featured in Gregory David Roberts’ novel and movie Shantaram. Over the last 150 odd years, the cafe has moonlighted as a pharmacy and a cooking oil store as well. In fact, it’s supposed to have started out as cooking oil store.

An interesting fact about their logo. It uses a Persian Lion Rhyton to denote its Zoroastrian roots.

Leopold Special Chicken Pasta - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Leopold Special Chicken Pasta

It’s a great place to enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner with friends or family. We enjoyed the Leopold Special Pasta with pink sauce, though they ended up giving us the vegetarian one instead of the chicken one. The waiter offered to change it for us, but it was delicious enough to eat as it is. I think a lot of people come here just for their chef’s amazing pasta.

Spicy Chicken Tikka Sandwich - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Spicy Chicken Tikka Sandwich

The other dish we ordered was the spicy chicken with rosemary sandwich. Yummy! And the third one, the beef with onions and chips was well done and the meat cut through like butter. Yummy!

Upstairs at Leopold - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Upstairs at Leopold

The noise in there can get quite loud at times, but the ambience is perfect and it’s still got that old world feel. The waiters are quite busy, so you need to try a few times before you get their attention.

Leopold Cafe and Bar - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Christmas at Leopold Cafe and Bar – ground floor

If you visit during winter, you’ll love the Christmassy decorations. There was also a sticker on the upper floor that I loved. It read,

“If you have the time, isn’t every place walking distance?”

Find the Leopold Cafe opposite Olympia Coffee House, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba Causeway, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001.

7. Sea Lounge at the Taj Mahal Hotel Palace near the Gateway of India

Gateway of India - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Gateway of India

Right opposite the Gateway of India is the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
Mom at the Taj - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Mom at the Taj
Taj Mahal Palace Hotel - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Sea Lounge at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

If you visit the Palace Wing of the Taj Mahal Hotel Palace, there’s a Sea Lounge on the first floor, where one can enjoy a coffee with muffins or a cocktail with light snacks. 

As you enter, there’s a grand piano on the left. I loved the décor of the room – shades of brown and green with classy art deco furnishings.

Book table at the Sea Lounge - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Book table at the Sea Lounge

A table right opposite the entrance displayed a variety of coffee, while a table to right of it was laden with books.

View of the Gateway from the Sea Lounge - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
View of the Gateway from the Sea Lounge

It was quieter in here as opposed to the crowded Gateway of India on the other side. You’ll also find an amazing view of the Gateway of India and the Arabian Sea from here. Really, if it weren’t for the street lights in your way, this view would be picture perfect!

Find the Sea Lounge at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001.

Experience Mumbai with these trips!

8. Parsi Dairy Farm

Parsi Dairy Farm was started by Nariman Ardeshir in 1916, and the family has been serving Bombay’s sweet tooth for over a 100 years.  Back in my college days, it was difficult to pass by the Parsi Dairy Farm, Mumbai without buying some sweet barfi or dahi (yogurt) to take home. And we loved the old fluffy dog that used to sleep just near the door. I forget what his name was.

Find the Parsi Dairy Farm at 261/63 Shamaldas Gandhi Marg, Princess Street, Marine Lines, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400002.

9. The Fatty Bao

An awesome enterprise by the group that started Olive in 2000 and has served us many amazing dishes since then, The Fatty Bao serves us inventive Asian food and oh so yummy baos.

Prawn Momos at The Fatty Bao - Pic by DFon from TheWingedFork
Prawn Momos at The Fatty Bao

Their prawn momos are to die for. Don’t ask me, ask my friend. I’ll literally die if I eat them. Okay, not literally. But I’m allergic to prawns. So I’m missing out on this deliciousness. Our friends though love them!

Char Siu Pork at The Fatty Bao - Pic by DFon from TheWingedFork
Char Siu Pork at The Fatty Bao

And don’t forget the Char Siu Pork. This fantastic tasting barbecued pork belly that just melts in your mouth. We need some seconds!

Find The Fatty Bao in Mumbai at:

  • Ground  Floor, Summerville, Linking Road, Near KFC, 14th & 33rd Cross Road, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050.
  • Plaza, Ground Floor Sentinel, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400076.
  • G1, 108, Ground Floor, Morya Classic, Andheri – West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400102.

10. Kaitlyn’s Beer Garden

The cousin DFon recommended heading over to Kaitlyn’s Beer Garden when in Bandra. The cheery bar with a faux garden decor offers a variety of beer on tap as well as other dishes. If you go here, try the Shrimp Potsticker says DFon. These soft and juicy pan-fried dumplings are served with a citrus sauce that gives it a tangy clip at the end. Pair with a glass of stout beet and you’re good to go!

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Bombay is so much more than meets the eye. Experience her well! Enjoy her and remember her.

And a PS. There’s always a PS. There are so many more places in Mumbai that I have to still discover. If you love a place in Mumbai that isn’t on this list yet, just email a pic and description to abby@thewingedfork.com and if we like it, we’ll add it in.

Mumbai City Guide - TheWingedFork
Mumbai through my eyes - The heartbeat of India - TheWingedFork

Questions we get asked about Mumbai!

What do you love about this city? What makes it special to you?

What I love about Mumbai is that it’s a cosmopolitan mixture of different cultures and people. You could meet anyone from anywhere here. And yet, it is so steeped in tradition and culture that we can still call it home. It’s a melting pot of past and present, of food and drink, of history and culture.

If a traveler only had 24 hours in the city, what are some places you’d tell them they absolutely can’t miss?

In just 24 hours, you won’t have much time, but you must visit the Gateway of India, shop and eat at Colaba Causeway and walk along Marine Drive. If you really rush around, you can also visit the Mount Mary’s Church, Haji Ali Mosque and the Mahalaxmi Temple. Take pictures of the Worli Sea Link, and eat snacks at Juhu Chowpatty to end the evening.

If you have one more day, in South Bombay you could also visit the Nehru Planetarium, the Nehru Science Centre, The Prince of Wales Museum and Taraporewala Aquarium. And if you can travel further, go to Dharavi of Slumdog Millionaire fame, and Dhobighat, the largest open air laundry.

What’s an off-the-beaten-path thing to do that wouldn’t be found in a typical guidebook?

Gilbert’s Hill. It’s not in the guide books. It’s a simple unassuming almost shamble-of-a-rock that on most days is cordoned off. But some days you’re allowed to climb the narrow stairs to the top where there is the Gaodevi Durgamata Temple. Gilbert Hill is one of the last basalt rocks from the Mesozoic era. The only other similar rocks on the planet are the Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming and the Devils Postpile National Monument in California. Of course, the opposing viewpoint is that it’s just a rock surronded by slums and shambles. So deciding whether to visit is up to you.

What do you recommend to visitors looking for something a little different?

If you have more than a few days after sightseeing in Mumbai, visit the old forts. You can also do short hikes to Bassein Fort, Vasai Fort, Sion fort or Mahim Fort. Or take a boat ride to visit Elephanta Caves or hike through Sanjay Gandhi National Park to the Kanheri Caves.

Is there any food, dish, or cuisine that you MUST try when you’re in Mumbai? Where’s the best place to try it?

Lassi! A sweet heaven made of cardamom flavored yogurt. The best plain or mango flavored lassi I’ve had to date is from M M Mithaiwala just outside Malad railway station. Also try the Falooda from Badshah’s near Crawford Market, the pani puri from Elco Pani Puri Centre, the halal kebabs at Bademiyan, the dosas anywhere.

Also try the local version of the toast sandwich at any of the street stalls in India. It’s in a world of its own! Chai, samosas and vada pavs from the street stalls; sea food at Mahesh Lunch Home, breakfast at Leopold Cafe of Shantaram fame; ragda pattice or bhel puri from just anywhere, and so much more…

What are the most photo-worthy or Instagrammable spots in Mumbai?

The sunsets at Bandra Bandstand or Marve Beach are perfect for Instagram. But they’re crowded too. You could also get good instagrammable pics of CST Terminus, Taj Hotel, Elephanta Caves, Marine Drive, or at the many Indian street food stalls across the city. There are so many!

What tips do you have for travelers looking to avoid the crowds? What should visitors know about transportation around the city?

This is Mumbai. It’s impossible to avoid the crowds. But you could travel at odd hours to avoid the throngs at the train station or the traffic jams on the road. Avoid train travelling between 8 and 10 am and also between 5 and 8 pm. After that, it’s a bit easier. But you still have to scramble to get into a train. Be careful of pick pockets though. They’re everywhere!

While visiting monuments be prepared to wait some time, as Mumbai is not just popular with foreign nationals, but with people from other parts of India too. Some of the historical attractions have different lines for international tourists, so take advantage of that when you can. There are a lot of people saying they offer you free guide services in a ploy to get you to pay them at the end. Avoid these people and use an official guide or a good online guide for Mumbai if you need to.

Anything else to keep in mind while visiting Mumbai or Bombay?

Bombay is a beautiful city. Whether you spend a day or ten here exploring the culture and history, or whether you spend your time discovering the nightlife and food scenes; you’ll find something that catches your breath and stays in your heart. Follow your instincts and you’ll have the best time getting lost in this vibrant city.

Mumbai City Guide

1 thought on “Mumbai City Guide: Bombay, India City of Dreams”

  1. Awesome this what I was looking for! I think no blog is perfect like this. In this blog the information about Mumbai is given. Those who want to know about Mumbai in deep, I think this blog is for them. In this everything is given about places to eat. This is the best blog I have ever seen for Mumbai. Thanks for this I would like to see more like this!

    Reply

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