My first visit to Mumbai had only involved an extremely rushed visit to the Elephanta Caves. So, when I a second chance to visit the city I decided to make the most of it. But as fate would have it, I had only one day in Mumbai before I rushed off to Pune, a 2 hour drive from Mumbai. So my rendezvous with Mumbai, or Bombay, as many of us would love to call the city, was only for a day; and I made up my mind to make the best of that day.
Mumbai, as they say, is the city, but Bombay is an emotion. Our aim was to explore as much of that emotion as possible. Now going to Bombay of course involves a little bit of homework to get an idea of the city because the city sprawls across a strange peninsula divided by streams of water bodies and connected by confusing railway networks. So let’s get started:
Mumbai is basically divided into two parts, Brihnmumbai, better known as just Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, the former being the home to all major railway stations, airports, beaches and places of tourist attractions while the latter is a newly developed extension to the city which can also act as the gateway to the Western Ghats. These two parts as well as other suburbs are connected via innumerable local railway networks, which are known to be the lifeline of Mumbai. Tourists arriving from other countries as well as from India will arrive in the former part of the city and can stay in this part as well as most of the places of tourist attraction are in this part only.
My Day in Bombay and How We Explored the City:
I had been to Bombay with a friend this time and decided to put up in one of the Youth Hostels based in Kharghar, a locality in Navi Mumbai. Staying in Navi Mumbai would facilitate our next day’s early morning travel to Pune. So we arrived at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Kurla and took an auto to Navi Mumbai as we did not want to take hassle of getting into local train with all our luggage. And that was our first mistake! We had no clue about how long the journey was going or about the rates of autos worked in the city. So when we reached our destination, the metre read 500 rupees and that burnt quite a big hole in our pockets going by the standard cost of public transport in India.
The Stay at Youth Hostel, Kharghar:
The Youth Hostel deserves special mention because of a number of reasons. To begin with, they provided us with a studio apartment with everything one can expect for a price that you pay for a hotel room. It had one big bedroom, a living room, a nice balcony with a bathroom and a kitchen of course! The kitchen was decked with all basic amenities required for cooking. Second, they are not the kind of people to not let couples stay (many hotels in Bombay does that), they never bother you and are yet always ready to help with whatever you need. Lastly, they give a copy of the keys of the main gate so that you can go out and come back at any time of the day without bothering anyone at the reception.
The Afternoon Rendezvous with Colaba:
As they say, people learn from mistakes, so did we. While we went out in the afternoon to explore the city, we went straight to the Kharghar Rail Station and bought two return tickets to Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus or Victoria Terminus. This station located near Fort Colaba is literally in the heart of the city. We decided to just walk and explore the roads and have dinner somewhere before catching the last train. In the process of exploring the streets, we obviously could help ourselves from diving into street food. We helped ourselves with a number of sandwiches known for their generous amount of cheese and a couple of Vada Pav. We paid a customary visit to the Gateway of India like everybody else does and began to explore the nearby alleys while searching for a place to have dinner. Hidden in an alley behind the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, we spotted a quiet pub called Alps for Sizzlers. The quirky name caught our attention first and upon entering realised that we had made no mistake this time. The sausages, sizzlers and beer were the best we could imagine after a draining walk of about 2 hours. And after realising that we still had 20 minutes before rushing off to catch the train, we had an amazing faluda, a popular dessert.
In a nutshell, my whirlwind day in Bombay could be the best I ask for! Yet there are a lot many other things that one can do here if time permits. Here is a quick guide:
How to Reach:
The Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai is connected to the major cities of the world by regular direct flights.
Direct trains connect almost all of the states of the country with Mumbai, the terminus stations either being Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus or Lokmanya Tilak Terminus.
Where to Stay:
Mumbai has all sorts of accommodation options, starting from posh hotel chains like the Taj or the Oberoi to cheap hotels in Cawford Street. There are quite a number of backpacker hostels in Colaba and Andheri. Alternatively, one can choose cheap yet cosier options like the Youth Hostel.
How to Get Around:
Apart from the confusing network of railways I was talking about, there are a number of ways to get around the city. Metro Railway have recently been started in the city which is yet another way. Buses extensively connect every part of the city, but bus rides can be boring and often troublesome in peak traffic hours. Metered cabs are a comparatively costlier way to get around, their cheaper counterpart being the autos, known as ‘rickshaw’ here. But an important point to be noted here is that these rickshaws cannot enter major parts of the southern part of the city, including Colaba, the tourist district.
Places to visit:
Bombay is known for its beaches spreading along the length of the coastline. Visit Chowpatty, Juhu or Bandstand in the afternoon and witness the sunset or explore the street food scene while the beaches get crowded in the evening.
The National Gallery of Modern Art, the Prince of Wales Meuseum or the the Jehangir Art Gallery are a few of the notable meuseums of the city.
The Elephanta Caves are located in an island which can reached by a 40 minute ferry ride from the Gateway of India. Keep ample time for this trip as going to the island, hiking up to the caves, exploring them and coming back will take almost 6 hours.
Kanheri Caves, other wonder dating centuries back, is located within the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The park itself is a delight to visit in the monsoon when numerous small waterfalls become visible and the entire park is painted in lush green.
Well, there are lot many other places to visit as well which are impossible to included in one single list. Do a bit of homework, choose the places, or just discover them while you explore through the city!