In Celebration of India’s Independence! Go to Mumbai

written by Anjula August 16, 2007

Mumbai’s entrepreneurial dreams climb as high as the gleaming skyscrapers that define its skyline. This great city of more than ten million people is the capital of the state of Maharashtra and also the commercial capital of the whole country…center of industry, transportation, and communication, its fine harbor on the Arabian Sea makes its one of the world’s busiest ports. …..”Bombay” to locals, Mumbai is totally a hip place to be — from food, to fashion and a thriving nightlife, this town will keep all your senses on high alert.

Gateway of India

Gateway of India

Be sure and visit Colaba, the tourist hub of Mumbai. Colaba starts with the Gateway of India — the landmark of Mumbai. Colaba is the South Mumbai district filled with cafes, bars, and plenty of shops. Chowpatty Beach is a popular beach where many celebrations of festivals such as Coconut Day and the Ganesh Chaturthi immersions take place. On the beach you’ll find statues of India’s freedom fighters, Lokmanya Tilak and Vithalbhai Patel who symbolize the freedom struggle. Chowpatty occupies a special place in the life of Bombay, having been the venue of mass political meetings in the pre-independence era.

In the evening Chowpatty develops a magical atmosphere, similar to a carnival. A favorite gathering place for romantic couples and families alike; you’ll find many enjoying the fresh air and the scenery. Be sure and stop at one of the many kiosks along the beach selling delicious kulfi (Indian ice cream) and Mumbai’s signature dish bhelpuri (a combination of crisp noodles, puffed rice, potatoes, onions, puri, mint, coriander, chutney and chillies)…it’s scrumptious!

Reminiscent of Coney Island, but w-a-y more exotic, you’ll find professional masseurs, contortionists, snake charmers, monkey-trainers, balloon sellers, flower-girls and lots more.

Where to Stay:

The ultimate name in luxury, The Oberoi has long built a reputation for gracious hospitality and unsurpassed comfort. Overlooking the Arabian Sea and the famous Queen’s Necklace, the Oberoi has a selection of great restaurants and bars and a great spa to work out all the kinks you developed on the long flight over. Rooms and suites are arranged around a vast marble-floored atrium at the centre of the hotel, with outer views over the city.

Taj Mahal Palace

Suite at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower

The regal Taj Mahal Palace & Tower: This majestic architectural marvel located on the waterfront next to the landmark Gateway of India was built by Jamshedji Tata in 1903. According to popular folklore, this hotel was commissioned by him after he was refused entry into one of the European hotels. Designed by W. Chambers, the Taj offers sweeping vistas of the Arabian Sea. Its 565 rooms including 46 suites offer a refreshing blend of Indian elegance and Western style.

The Orchid:
An Ecotel Hotel. According to the hotel, The Orchid is Asia’s first certified Eco-friendly five-star hotel and world only Ecotel to be certified as ISO 14001. The Orchid is the winner of 26 National and International awards for being environmentally sensitive. The hotel has 245 rooms and suites designed to provide an oasis to travelers coming to Mumbai.

The Gordon House: For those looking for clean, minimalist décor.

Bollywood Cinemas

Bollywood Cinema

Cinemas of Bollywood:

You can’t visit Mumbai without taking in at least one Bollywood blockbuster. Try the Art Deco movie house at Eros Cinema – Cambatta Building, opposite the Railway Station. The tickets cost next to nothing and you will experience two shows in one: the film on the screen and the theater goers attending. With their jeers, clapping, laughing and dancing in the isles, it makes for a fascinating experience.

Take a ride to the Hanging Gardens on Malabar Hill which overlooks the modern metropolis of Nariman Point and then onto Banganga Tank, one of the city’s holiest sights. On Malabar Hill sits the Banganga Temple. Legend has it that Lord Rama shot an arrow into the ground to get fresh drinking water. From the place where the arrow hit the ground a stream of fresh, sweet water gushed out, that is considered to be tributary of the Ganga. Thus the place is called Banganga. The Banganga Festival Music is held here annually in January.

Mumbai Cuisine

Mumbai’s delectable cuisine

Eats:

Nosh – Regal Cinema Bld. Colaba Causeway – Be sure and try their sugar-cane juice, then try the Chiang Mai wontons, Lavoche crispbread with labneh (yogurt cheese) and zhoug (hot pepper sauce). From Indonesian to Arabic to Afghani – this menu has it all! The best way to get a true sampling: order several different starters and take it from there.

Swati Snacks (248 Karai Estate, Tardeo Road, opposite Bhatia Hospital; +91-22-2492-0994).
You get to eat real Mumbai-style street food under very sanitary (yet busy and noisy) conditions at Swati Snacks, in Tardeo (tel. 022/5680-8405 or -8406; daily 11am-11pm). This is the best street food that’s not actually on the street. Try the sev puri, bhel, dahi batata puri (Rs 41/90¢ each), or any of the numerous snack items topped with delicious sweet, sour, and spicy chutneys and sauces (ask for milder sauces if you prefer). Round out your meal with homemade fruit-flavored ice creams. Locals come here more for the traditional Gujarati dishes not found anywhere else. If you want to experiment, try the superb peru nu shak (spiced guava eaten with Indian bread) and panki (thin pancakes steamed in banana leaf). Come for a late lunch, or you will have to wait at least 15 minutes for a table — a wait that’s justly rewarded once you’re inside!

Anyone with a penchant for seafood will love dining in Mumbai — whether it’s Coastal, Konkani, Manglorean, or Malvani cuisine, you are in for a treat. Besides Mahesh Lunch Home and Trishna, you can try Apoorva (Brelvi Marg, near Horniman Circle; tel. 022/2287-0335 or 022/2288-1457), which has similar Manglorean fare, as does Excellensea (Mint Rd., near RBI; tel. 022/2261-8991). The latter is on the first floor above Bharat Restaurant, a non-air-conditioned economy version of Excellensea serving the same food. Note: that if you are in a Konkan restaurant, you may want to try the soul kadi, a slightly pungent coconut milk drink and a great appetizer. Also sample fresh appams and neer dosas — both these Southern breads make excellent accompaniments to your seafood.

Closer to central Mumbai is Pisces (tel. 022/2380-5886 or -4367), done up in the standard fish-themed decor but offering more variety in cooking styles. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried the tamarind prawns (not on the menu; they can be requested) — these alone are worth the trip. Also try the malai chingri (a cashew nut-based coconut curry with prawns). Manohar Shetty, the owner of Pisces, believes patrons should know exactly what they are getting, so the uncooked fish, prawns, and crab are paraded before you before they are transformed into one of these delectable dishes.

In the suburbs in Bandra, you’ll get real value for money and atmosphere at Soul Fry (tel. 022/2604-689), which makes great flaky stuffed grilled rawas (a local fish). Monday is karaoke night, and even if you can’t sing to save your life, it’s a great experience to watch extremely talented locals unabashedly take the mic and have the whole place rocking till at least 2am. Soul Fry is an extremely lively and friendly restaurant. On weekends, live music often accompanies the home-style Goan dishes.

Bollywood Viewing:
Mingle with Mumbai’s glitterati at the chic Mediterranean Olive Bar & Kitchen (Address: 14 Union Park, Khar; +91-22-2605-8228).

Mumbai Shopping

Shopping in Mumbai

Go Shopping:

Be sure and have plenty of room in your suitcase to fill with souvenirs you’ll not necessarily want to give away. Colaba Causeway and Fashion Street are the best place to bargain for clothes. Some of the most trendy and costly shops are at Breach Candy and Kemps Corner. The most interesting bazaars are in Kalbadevi and Bhuleshwar. Shops are generally open from around 10am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday. Some large shops open on Sunday and busy areas like Colaba Causeway are open for business seven days a week from early in the morning until late at night. Tip: Don’t be shy; bargaining is the name of the game here. Once you’re quoted a price, start the bidding and bring it down to at least half.

Chor_Bazar

Chor Bazar Merchant

Chor Bazar (Thieves Market)

Chor Bazar is a paradise for the antique hunter. It is arguably one of Mumbai’s best shopping centers. This much talked about market in Mumbai occupied by an odd collection of shops deals with goods from second hand car parts to handmade furniture. One can buy paintings, jewelery, wooden articles, statues, leather ware and general bric-a-brac, silver coins and lots of other things from here. There are a number of shops where bargain is possible. The main avenue is Mutton Street, flanked by rows of little antique shops. Open Sat-Thurs 11am-7pm. (Address: Mutton Street, Between SV Patel and Moulana Shaukat Ali Road, Mumbai, 400003 )

Indian Jewelry

Jewels of India

Jewels of India:

Zaveri Bazar (Jewelry Market)
Zaveri Bazar offers a range of jewelry in diamond, gold and silver. The market is crowded and bursting at the seams. Picture frames, snuff boxes, bangles and necklaces in old silver can be purchased for reasonable prices. This is where the Mumbai’s bullion exchange and diamond market used to be, though it is now primarily a retail centre. Mumbadevi temple (link: http://www.cultureholidays.com/Temples/mumbadevi.htm ) is nearby. Open Monday to Saturday 11am-7pm. (Address: Near Charni Road, Sheik Memon Street, Mumbai, 400033 )

If you’re shopping for jewelry, be sure and stop by the Curio Cottage for semiprecious stones. Be sure and ask for Suresh, he’s the man in-the-know (Address: 19 Mahakavi Bhushan Marg, near Regal Cinema; +91-22-2022-2607).

Fashions on Fashion Street

Fashions on Fashion Street

Fashion Street

Fashion Street, also knows as FS is very famous for its readymade garments. It has at least 130 to 140 shops. You can see the latest fashion trends here, and casual wear is probably the cheapest anywhere in the world. It is a very popular area with college students and teenagers. The clothes are usually surplus exports and therefore are of very good quality and make. There are also several shoe and jewelry shops and pretty much anything else you can think of. (Address: MG Road, Near VSNL building, Mumbai- 400032, Maharashtra)

Inner Beauty:

For beautiful, smooth skin…be sure and stop by Forest Essentials. They make great ayurvedic self-care products like their cane sugar and tamarind body scrub. (Address: 12 Tirupati Apartments, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Breach Candy; +91-22-3290-8114).

If you can’t afford a plane ticket and happen to be in NY, be sure and stop by the India Day Parade,

Date: Sunday, August 19th
Location: Madison Avenue from 41st to 23rd Streets
Time: 1 pm onwards

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