Mumbai isn’t like the rest of India. This was a shock to me, and I noticed it as soon as I set foot in the airport. It’s my 5th time to India, but first to Mumbai and it felt different (because it is!). Sleek, cosmopolitan, modern, Mumbai is India’s business hub. I was there for 4 days for work. I actually started to think it didn’t feel “India enough” for me (but it is).
It was a 5 hour flight, a 5 hour layover, plus a 15 hour flight, which made for quite a bit of jet lag when I arrived (1am room service, don’t mind if I do). I spent a day with my colleague who had never been to India on a sightseeing trip, followed by relaxing poolside at the hotel to decompress. We hired a driver and a car with excellent a/c for a half day trip around town. After the client meetings, we managed to go to a great dinner spot.
Gateway of India: Classic spot for sightseeing, it was filled with families and tourists checking it out. There’s a bit of security (leftover from the terrorist attacks on the Taj Mahal Hotel in 2008), so you go through a metal detector. It’s also a jumping off point for boat trips to Elephanta island (we skipped it). Apparently, casting directors also look for western tourists to play roles in Bollywood films. Our driver shooed a few guys away, and I’m bummed I didn’t get my chance to be a Bollywood star.
Taj Mahal Hotel: A gorgeous piece of architecture next to the Gateway. I didn’t go inside for high tea (should have!).
Dhobi Ghat: Mumbai’s human laundromat.
Victoria Station: The old train station is a beautiful piece of architecture.
Marine Drive: A pleasant enough drive up the coast filled with high rises and good views. There are a bunch of art deco buildings.
Haji Ali: Jutting out from the peninsula and built in 1431, this is a very old mosque. It’s a little worse for wear considering all the sea water.
Hanging Gardens: The driver said they were really nice, but it was “too hot” to walk around (I think because he didn’t want to walk around them, honestly. If it wasn’t so blazing hot, they’d be nice to meander around.
Babu Amichand Panalal Jain Temple: I asked to go to a temple, and I didn’t specify that I wanted to go to a Hindu temple, so we ended up at this Jain temple. They wouldn’t let visitors go in, but it was colorful and there was a cool big elephant out front. Probably not on the “usual” tourist route, but an interesting stop.
There wasn’t much shopping going on. There was a lot of working. Apparently, the Phoenix Market City in Kurla has a good variety of shops–but probably not the typical trinkets and souvenirs I think of when in India.
To make sure I avoided Delhi belly until at least after my client meetings, I stuck to the hotel food at the ITC Maratha (luckily it was freaking delicious).
Peshawri: In the ITC Maratha, bills itself as food of “the northwest frontier.” Tandoori grilled meats and breads were on offer and it was amazing. Plus, you wear fun checkered aprons, eat with your hands, and the tables are made of wooden stumps. Can’t beat that.
Soda Bottle Opener Wala: In the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) which feels like any large city’s business district, SBOW is a chain of Parsi restaurants around the country. It feels like it’s a hipster joint that doesn’t try to hard, offers very interesting dishes, and has a great atmosphere. We had amazing berry pulao (rice), pomfret (fish) steamed in a banana leaf with mint and chutney, and (crazy) tomato macaroni and cheese. This is a must-eat.
Capital Social: Next to Soda Bottle Opener Wala, we didn’t intend to go here, but the wait was long, so we grabbed a few quick bites in this very cool pub. Good snacks and fun atmosphere.
A few more recommendations I received and couldn’t go to…the BKC area seems to have all the cool joints: Masala Library and The Good Wife.
ITC Maratha: Across the street from the airport, the ITC is lovely. Luxury with a touch of Indian charm. The pool was being renovated, so we ended up going over to the more modern Hyatt next door, which also looked great. 5* hotels are really affordable in India, and the service is ridiculous. There was always 2-3 people helping me on any need or request and a “namaste” and a smile on every encounter.
Sofitel: My client contacts stayed here, and it’s closer to the action in BKC if that’s what you’re looking for.
Slum tour: I skipped it. I am not super into the idea of paying to see “how poor people live.” I get that it would be enlightening but feels like there’s a better way to contribute to making people’s lives better than ogling. Not my jam.
Elephanta Island: A 45 minute ferry from the Gateway and I wasn’t feeling it. Especially after watching the ferry workers chucking people onto boats.