The very mention of Mumbai conjures images of relentless crowds, endless streams of commuters, traffic congestion, heat and humidity, and slums. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Mumbai suffers from overpopulation and chronic shortage of space, the city seems to be bursting at its seams.
For those living in Mumbai – Mumbaikars – they have to deal with such realities on a daily basis. And just like any Indian in the country, they take all of this in stride. Despite the city’s problems, Mumbaikars seem to have a soft spot for the city. I’ve heard them say, “Mumbai meri jaan” in Hindi which roughly translates to “Mumbai my love”.
I’ve been to Mumbai only twice. The first visit in 2014 was mainly visiting the usual tourist sites in Fort Mumbai. History, heritage and culture have always been my interests, as such, I loved the city’s historical buildings – Gothic and Art Deco-styled architecture – old churches and synagogues, the Oval Maidan where locals play cricket, and Marine Drive promenade. Also, what made my first visit memorable was the walking tour that I went for. My guide was incredibly brilliant at interweaving stories and facts that till today, I could remember some of the stories that he had shared with me. I have yet to come across another guide as wonderful as him!
Related Post: Dabbawalas – Mumbai Lunch Delivery Service
My second visit to Mumbai was in 2017, and I spent most of my time in Bandra suburbs. I purposely chose to stay in Bandra as I wanted to have a short break from official media trips (I was travelling in Madhya Pradesh and Kashmir a few weeks before). I knew that Bandra has amenities that were easily accessible, rickshaws that use meters, and wonderful hip cafes for my caffeine fix 😊
It was during the second visit that I began to understand this love and affection that the locals have for the metropolis – that special feeling that Mumbaikars and some foreigners have for the City of Dreams. But at the same time, I could not pinpoint the exact things that make them love the city that much. Perhaps it was the fast-paced lifestyle and opportunities that come along with Mumbai being India’s main financial centre. Or that Mumbai is a melting pot of different cultures, thus the variety of food. Or that the city is relatively safer for women to travel on their own and that you can do your own thing and nobody cares. Or maybe it’s just Bollywood 🙂 Whatever it may be, Mumbai is indeed different, but only if you allow yourself to experience it.
Admittedly, my past trips to Mumbai were fairly short, therefore I cannot say that I’m an expert on the city. But if there’s an opportunity for me to go back to Mumbai again, I would – in a heartbeat – for there are many cool, alternative places (and delicious food) to explore and experience.
Because of my multiple trips to India this past decade, some might say I could be biased about Mumbai, or India, for that matter. I don’t deny that. And that’s why I put together information and thoughts from a couple of fellow travel bloggers from Mumbai, India, US, Canada, Australia and Malaysia, on why they love Mumbai. Hopefully, it would give you reasons to travel to Mumbai and experience some of the love that we have for this fascinating city!
UNESCO World Heritage Sites by World Heritage Journey
Travelling with a focus on UNESCO World Heritage sites has led me to some fantastic and remote places. Although I enjoy tiny wooden churches or remote national parks, my favourites are always the big city World Heritage sites, which is one of the reasons I loved Mumbai – it’s home to three sites! This puts Mumbai in an upper echelon, on par with Berlin, Beijing, and Moscow, and above famous historic destinations like Paris, Rome and Istanbul.
So, what can we see in Mumbai? Firstly, there’s the beautiful Victorian Gothic and Art Deco buildings of downtown Mumbai. Second, it’s the incredible Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station, and the third is Elephanta Caves located in Mumbai Harbour. Of these, my favourite was the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco buildings collection, clustered around Fort Mumbai and downtown. The centrepiece is the incredible CST railway building, but the fantastic detailing and craftsmanship on display elsewhere like the Bombay Civil & Sessions Building, the High Court, BMC Building, Rajabai Clock Tower and many more is just astounding.
I spent hours wandering around the area, marvelling at the buildings. I also loved the symbolic statues entering CST station: an imposing British lion with a prowling Indian tiger. Although these are all products of the colonial era (and all that it entails), it’s heartening to see how proud Mumbai locals are of their heritage – another reason to love Mumbai!
When visiting Mumbai, I’d also strongly recommend taking the boat trip out to visit Elephanta Caves. Although not as large as Ellora Caves or Ajanta Caves elsewhere in Maharashtra, Elephanta is home to an incredible 6-metre high Trimurti rock sculpture. This amazing artwork depicts the three faces of Shiva: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Protector, and Aghora the Destroyer.
Marine Bay by Backpack & Explore
The Marine Bay of Mumbai is what comes to my mind every time I reminisce the moments from my one year spent in the city. This 3.6 km long promenade across the Arabian sea is not just a must-visit attraction, but it defines Mumbai. It is a six-lane concrete road with a wide sidewalk running along a coastline defined by peculiarly shaped boulders. It is officially named Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road, after the great Indian freedom fighter.
Mumbai is a city of dreams and a city that never sleeps. In Marine Bay you will always find people, no matter when you visit. You can go for jogging in the morning or sit on the boulder beach. Sit for hours watching the sunset and see the Queen’s necklace lit up slowly in front of your eyes. You can spend the whole night there chatting with friends or contemplating life. Located in south Mumbai, it is at a walkable distance from the Chhatrapati Shivaji train station and the Gateway of India.
Bandra by Breathe Dream Go
Quirky, laid-back, diverse, chic. These are just some of the words that describe Bandra in Mumbai. On the Western Railway line, Bandra is a coastal suburb that grew from a fishing village, to a Portuguese settlement, to one of the most sought-after addresses in the city. Today, the history of Bandra lives on: heritage bungalows, historic churches, carts piled with fresh fish, and Christian iconography jostle cheek-by-jowl with swanky restaurants, hip bars, busy markets, chic design stores, and an explosion of street art.
But in spite of its soaring rents and Bollywood cache, Bandra still retains a casual, laid-back vibe and community spirit. In Bandra you can find shady streets winding through residential neighbourhoods, the remnants of an old fishing village, and sea-front promenades like Bandstand and Carter Road, where locals walk, jog, and people watch. You can also find fashionable enclaves like Pali Hill, filled with hip cafes, high-end shopping streets, and the homes of some of the biggest stars in Bollywood.
There is something very endearing about Bandra. I stay there every time I’m in Mumbai, usually within spittin’ distance of the landmark Mehboob Studios. Opened in 1954, the movie studio attracted the Bollywood set and the transformation of Bandra into fashionable suburb began. A lot of very famous Bollywood movies, and movies about India, were made here. Ocean breezes, palm trees, and a clutch of deco buildings add a touch of glamour to a comfortable suburb. What more could you want?
Pav Bhaji by India Up Close
While Pav Bhaji has become a favorite snack and street food item across India, Mumbai is Pav Bhaji food heaven. You can gorge yourself on it on every street corner, yet every Mumbaikar seems to have an expert opinion on where to get the “Best Pav Bhaji in Mumbai”! Even the Times of India weight in on this, sharing their take on the best Pav in the city.
To be honest, Pav Bhaji is not the prettiest food you come across. It actually looks a bit boring and bland. But once you take your first bite, you will understand why this is the ultimate comfort food and one of the most popular Indian street food dishes liked by omnivores and vegetarians alike.
So, what is it? Pav Bhaji is a vegetable gravy served between buttered and toasted buns, generous dollops of ghee and crunchy raw onion. The fluffy bun and creamy vegetables melt in your mouth, the tangy lime juice and the crispy fresh onion wake up your tastebuds. It is the kind of comfort food that makes you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside and puts a smile on your face as you enjoy it.
If you visit Mumbai, trying Pav Bhaji deserves its own spot on your Mumbai itinerary.
Sailing Around Mumbai Harbour by The Gone Goat
Mumbai, an unusual destination that is often high on someone’s bucket-list simply because for its food, Bollywood or insanely mad rush-hour. Not many people give this city a chance to visit, to slow walk the busy book lanes, or see the rustic and rising coffee-shops or savour the long walk at Mumbai’s Marine Drive, or even better take a sailboat and sail into the sunset.
After 3 months backpacking in the Indian Himalayas, Mumbai was my last stop to catch-up on much-needed laundry chores, cafe breaks, a chance to savour the cultural city, and also sail and explore the Indian city on sea. After an afternoon stroll with a friend, who was a member of the Royal Yacht Club, we decided try our hands at sailing. The starting point was at the entrance of the Taj Mahal Hotel, and before we knew it I was in the boat, I was spending the next 90 minutes navigating the sea and seeing Mumbai from a new dimension.
It was a delight to escape the hustle and bustle of Mumbai and to discover a harbour dotted with lighthouses and naval ships with the iconic Taj in the background. The thrill of steering the boat and fighting it against the waves was an adventurous and fun moment to experience in Mumbai. It was a fitting end to find my sense of calm and clarity in Mumbai’s waters with a Mumbaikar. The sound of waves breaking is probably one of a reason where you can spend your time in Mumbai away from the usual crowded streets.
A Poem About Mumbai by Quirky Wanderer
I have been raised in this city.
A city that is chaotic, yet addictive. A city that is messy, yet loveable.
A city where people let you do their own thing, without interfering, yet jump to each other’s help during calamities.
A city that is inclusive, a city where scores of people come to achieve their dreams because it is, of course, the city of dreams.
A city that is rechristened Mumbai, but will always be Bombay for me.
There may be towers and skyscrapers, but there also old rustic mills and potter villages hidden in the mesh of concrete.
There may be flyovers and freeways, but every morning boats line up to catch fish and dabbawalas have a unique, fool proof system of their own.
There are festivals celebrated with zest and faith galore.
We may curse its traffic, complain about its potholes, but we miss the professionalism if we go anywhere else.
No toll is quicker than the Navi Mumbai toll, no train system is as impeccable as the Mumbai locals!
While Mumbai flaunts its infrastructure, Bombay lurks in the gothic styled architecture buildings.
Mumbai is a city, Bombay is a feeling.
And given a choice, there is no other city I would ever live in, except this addictive one.
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