Magical Mumbai – an express tour by our friend Mumbaikar

What brought Marlena and Michao to Mumbai ..?

Singapore has a large community of native- and Singaporean-Indians, so we can’t help having many Indian friends . One of them, Shikha kindly invited us to her wedding, taking place in her hometown that happens to be in India. Traveling to unfamiliar, exotic places is always exciting, but going to an unknown, exotic place with a whole bunch of friends to attend a ceremony of local religion with local families is a whole new level! ūüėÄ

I admit that I had some second-thoughts before this trip, perhaps because of so many peculiar and horrifying news from India on collective rapes, assaults and crime in general. However, ¬†I’ve found out many times already, that you should not shape an opinion before seeing the place by yourself. The morning paper on the doorstep of my hotel room curbed my optimism a little bit…

:: Hello India and your creepy newspaper captions…::

   I feel that I should be writing a post about what NOT to do in Mumbai, because we have been keeping told by our Mumbai-friends NOT to take public transport, NOT to take a taxi on ourselves, etc.  I must immediately spoiler that throughout the whole weekend we stayed perfectly safe and nothing bad happen. Moreover- Mumbai made a really good impression on us!  How intense the weekend was -and how little time we had for sightseeing- I will try to convey in the next post on the Indian wedding (actually weddingS because there were three!) ;

A few quick introduction facts about Mumbai:

  • Mumbai lies on the west coast of India¬†and -naturally- has a deep natural harbor
  • Mumbai is the richest, but also the most populous city of India, where about 20 million people live. But! You can not see it so much in the city center streets or in the cafes. It is crowded, but in a colorful and lively way (most ladies wear traditional Indian outfits)

  • Mumbai is known worldwide for being home to Bollywood, the Hindu film industry. And although Bollywood is not a single place, but rather a film studios scattered throughout the city, you can go through the neighborhoods of the Bollywood star’s residences and even meet them in nightclubs. Bollywood is, of course, a reference to American Hollywood, as a reminder of the overwhelming number of movies produced when Mumbai was still called Bombay.

:: Feeling like a Bollywood star in my wedding outfit¬†ūüėÄ :::

  • What is it in the end – Mumbai or Bombay? It turns out that Bombay is the anglicized name of the original ‘Bom Bahia’ (‘Good Bay’), and everything English is associated with colonial times, so in 1995 it was changed to Mumbai. As for me, Mumbai sounds as English as Bombay but what do I know.

The sentiment apparently remained:

:: Michal does not know yet how hot it is going to be in this outfit…::

   Due to the intense wedding schedule, we did not have much time to explore, so the native Mumbaikar (and accidentally our fellow PhD Student) took us for an express tour to all the MOST amazing places&activities in his city. Here they are Рarranged subjectively in random order:

No 1. Taking a ride on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link
Our hotel was located near the airport, so to get to the city center there are two options: the road through the city or a new sea-link on the bay, shortening the travel time from 60-90 to 20-30 minutes. Believe me, shortening time is not the strongest argument for sea-link. The costly (250 million $!) bridge guarantees a panoramic view of Mumbai like no other place. As soon as we got on the bridge we all gasped the well-deserved ‘Wooooowww’. The ride lasts a few minutes, so you can enjoy the view or turn around and ride again (the bridge is inaccessible for pedestrians).

No 2. Mysterious, haunted places and old colonial estates
Mumbai is full of unusual Indian-British (or correctly: ‘Indo-Saracenic’) architecture and walking the streets, I could not take my eyes off the beauty of aged and authentic tenement houses.

Strolling in the nicer part of the city¬†center, among the wealthy estates, we noticed that one of them looks very neglected and abandoned. Nihar (not to be confused with Michal) solemnly declared that the house is empty because everyone in Mumbai knows that it is haunted and no one dares to occupy it… Alvaro teased me to take a photo, because apparently only then you can see the ghost. I refuse to look closely at this picture … and you?

It turned out that Mumbai – as befits a former English colony- is full of haunted places! One of the most unusual I’ve seen was the luxurious Trident Hotel, or actually its 13th floor. Located just above the ‘Queen’s Necklace’ (see below), despite the privilege of one of the best views in Mumbai, it decided to close the entire floor of the building! I’ve heard that some hotels skip the 13th in their rooms numbering¬†but to skip the whole floor …? In such a location ..? With such a view ..??? Supposedly, there were so many complaints and strange incidents involving not only hotel guests on that floor, but also people on the street passing underneath it, that the hotel decided to totally shut it down and paint over the windows. Equally strangely, the rooms above and below this floor began to be besieged by tourists …

:: Over-painted¬†windows on the 13th floor of the Hotel Trident … brr! ::

No. 3. Marine Drive and admiring the “Queen’s Necklace”¬†
Marine Drive is a 3.6 kilometer boulevard by bay of the southern Mumbai, gracefully shaped in a letter C. Called the Queen’s Necklace, because of the street lanterns lights reflecting in the water of the semicircular bay, resembling a string of pearls. Local meeting place and great spot for watching sunset over the city and chill out with friends!

:: Semi-circular bay, Michao, our Indian princess Anania, Francesco ::

:: Colorful Mumbaikars on the boulevard of Marine Drive ::

:: Also- an awesome place to watch the sunset::

No. 4. Gateway to India – the most symbolic monument representing Mumbai
The construction on the threshold of the small port was meant for the majestic welcome of King George V in 1911, but got completed … 10 years later. Sadly, King George could admire the promise of something amazing instead, in the form of ¬†the cardboard model (upon his arrival to India, only the foundations were laid). For the British coming to India was supposed to be a symbol of the power and majesty of the British Empire.

* Fun Fact* – After the announcement of independence by India, the last British troops symbolically passed through the Gateway on their way out, during the ceremony in February, 1948.

::Photo of Gateway to India at night and from behind the fence- the effect of sight-seeing before or after some wedding ceremonies.. ::

No. 5. Taj Mahal Palace HOTEL(just across the street)

Nihar brought our attention to this particular hotel, because apparently it is very famous. What is it famous for..? For pretending to be THE Taj Mahal ..?¬†You’ll be surprised, but no (but I wonder if someone ever went for it). The 5-star Taj Mahal Palace HOTEL, opened in 1903, and was a symbol of India’s economic progress. And that’s why it was chosen as the main target of a Pakistani terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008. The attack, or actually a series of attacks, were conducted on such a scale and in such legendary places that it’s still vividly remembered (more here) …

:: Do we look poor..? We tried to enter the famous Taj Mahal Hotel but they did not let us in ::

No. 6 Marketplace with mega-cheap clothes, handbags and shoes in Bandra West
Magical place where we first felt what the Indian crowd meant and where you could buy a piece of clothing for a dollar.
(There is no photo because a I was a bit scared to take the camera out, plus Michal was complaining on the heat in his long-sleave shirt shirt and tight jeans, therefore we had to take refuge in the coffee shop with air conditioning)

:: The best side of globalization- cappuccino in Mumbai ::

No. 7. Bars and Cafes
‚ÄĘ Our favorite Bombay Coffee House, a salvation from the crowds and heat:

‚ÄĘ Leopold Cafe, known for its noisy atmosphere and the dirty fans since 1871, is currently attracting (?) tourists thanks to the bullet marks visible in the walls from the above-mentioned 2008 attacks. It was here that terrorists started the horror and after few minutes of massacre of cafe’s quests and staff, they headed for the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

:: Interior of the famous/infamous Leopold Cafe ::

::Upstairs of the Leopold Cafe ::

No. 8. Mumbai slams
I don’t know how about you, but ever since the Slumdog Millionaire movie, I was embarrassingly curious how the real slums look like and I ask Nihar if we could make a ‘tour’ around them. Nihar explained, that even passing through wouldn’t be too safe, though. Also, I should not be overly sympathetic,¬†because the government is trying to help people and reduce the slums, for example by occasionally demolishing slums neighborhoods and giving out decent flats. What the clever Mumbaikar does then? Apparently- rent out the flat and build themselves a new slums,returning¬†to sweet doing-nothing, living on the rent money…

No. 9. Urban beach- ¬†the only beach in the world where people do not come to sunbathe…

Is there any other reason to come to the beach? It turns out that … YES! Since India is a country of amazing food, the Indians are holding picnics there. Another shocking fact is that no one undresses to trunks or bikinis- even in spite of 40 (!) heat…

Moving around Mumbai, such beaches, boulevards and places to chillout in the outdoors are at least plenty.

:: Picturesque low tide ::

:: Group photo over the low tide is a must;) ::

No. 10 City taxi ride and local tuk-tuk
As you may imagine, Mumbai is huge, and as I wrote, we did not have much time. Using public transport is one of the things that apparently you should not do as a foreigner in Mumbai. ¬†Luckily, the taxis are cheap, so it’s not the worst idea to ride in it around the city, admiring Mumbai through the car windows (preferably with a local friend , who will explain to you what you are passing by).

:: A tuk-tuk ride is an adventure in itself::

No. 11. Romantic park near the hotel

Romantic, because of¬†the hugging couples sitting around, but as you follow¬†the alley a little further, there is an unhealthy proportion of the number of men to women, so we gave up the exploration …

   In summary Рthe pictures will never reflect the crazy and hot vibe of Mumbai Рyou just have to come and see it by yourself! And if you are curious about the main purpose of our trip, ie Indian wedding Рcome back here soon!


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