Adriana recommends you:
Mostly Mumbai - 10 Days in the City
#Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is as alive as ever. Never asleep, this city offers #foodanddrink and #shopping amidst the noise and smell. I spent 10 days here, and fell in love with the #butterchicken, the people and the extremity of contrasts. From the Taj Hotel to Dharavi #slum, #India is bound to grip your heart.
You either love or hate India. I’ve heard many friends commend and complain about this country, with stories and wish-I-never-knew experiences to prove Slumdog Millionaire as a documentary. Truth is, India has all the stereotypes of dirt, noise and smell, but behind these small obstructions you find a country filled with hospitable people, palm trees, historical architecture and the most amazing butter chicken.
you find a country filled with hospitable people, palm trees, historical architecture and the most amazing butter chicken
Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait
Rudyard Kipling saw something in Mumbai, and so did I. The moment we left the cool airport I was struck by the amount of cars, noise and the mix of historic and modern high-rise buildings. Camera out, I couldn’t help but take pictures through the car’s window. My curiosity on fire. The madness merges into beauty in this juxtaposed city where rich and poor, young and old all live, work and move together. A modern-day jungle book with characters you’ve only seen in movies.
A modern-day jungle book with characters you’ve only seen in movies
We made our way to Colaba, the old British quarter of the city and home for our 10-day stay. What struck me first was the heat, and secondly how everything in this city happens on the streets: Cars racing, people waiting, eating, shouting, sleeping, selling. Intrigued, warm and hungry, we dropped our bags at Hotel Diplomat and went for our first Indian meal.
The Three Cities and Wine Tasting Tour
PADI Certified Course
Convenient in location, Colaba hosts a number of restaurants just walking distance from our accommodation. Americans who still prefer the Starbucks Chai don’t need to worry, there’s a fancy, air-conditioned Starbucks in the area that brings all the western tourists and local businessmen together. I must admit, even a seasoned traveller like myself did enjoy a cold Starbucks frappucino to cool down from the heat.
Still home to incredible architecture like the iconic Taj Hotel and the Gateway to India, Colaba almost feels like a futuristic dystopian London.
Colaba almost feels like a futuristic dystopian London
One corner to the next seems worlds apart, from luxury to poverty and the bourgeois to the bargainers. These contradictions keep things ever-fresh and unexpected.
For the literary and culinary inclined there’s Leopold Cafe, which came to the spotlight after the 2008 Mumbai attacks and features in the novel Shantaram. If you don’t know about either, don’t worry, all you need to know is that it’s a restaurant and bar worth visiting. It has a wide variety of western options on the menu, but I recommend you stay for only a drink and keep your appetite for a local Indian meal.
Butter chicken got its hold on me. I’m not talking about the Delhi Belly or the Mumbai Mamba, but the type of hold that takes you back for more. Bagdadi restaurant is one of the oldest eateries in Mumbai and one that we visited not only once, but twice in our 10 days. Don’t judge the simple and ordinary look of the restaurant, the food is incredible; generous portions at affordable prices. I recommend the butter chicken, a naan and a roti and an icecold Coca Cola. Trust me, you’ll be back for more.
Mumbai offers plenty of option for foodies. Don’t think curry is all that the cuisine offers, there’s plenty of dishes and tastes that I’m unable to properly describe or pronounce. I’d recommend a food tour with Mumbai Moments. Choose from a variety of tours; from an introduction to different foods to a market tour where you get to explore the local markets.
Mumbai Food Tasting Tour
Goa City Tour
If you like travelling in your own time, keep the Colaba Causeway and Crawford Market on your list. Most taxi drivers know exactly where it is and can take you there for a small fee. Negotiate the taxi fee before you get in, and ask a local for an estimate on the average price. Doing it this way means you’ll have more cash for gifts.
Shopping is essential to your Indian experience. For me it was spices and textiles. Crawford Market is your one-stop market stop; situated in a beautiful historical building.
Shopping is essential to your Indian experience. For me it was spices and textiles
With everything from fresh fruits to pets, you’ll probably want to get fresh mangoes or dragon fruit. I walked away with a bag full of garam masala, turmeric, butter chicken and vindaloo and a few fresh mangoes.
For everything else go to the Colaba Causeway. Here you can find jewellery, books, brass items, clothing, handicrafts and leather bags. It’s a social experience too, with some vendors who’ll follow you down the street until you buy from them. Don’t be intimidated, as a westerner the advice is to always offer half the price they initially ask you for. It’s here where you oil your bargaining skills.
For an insight into the heart and hub of India, book a tour of Dharavi with Reality Tours. Known as the largest slum in Asia, it’s home to numerous businesses; with everything from baking bread to making soap. Small corners and dark alleyways, the slum felt safe and inviting.
Small corners and dark alleyways, the slum felt safe and inviting
Mumbai Food Tasting Tour
Goa City Tour
A highlight of my time in Mumbai, the day in Dharavi was incredibly humbling and educational and compared to South African slums I found the Indian people to be extremely hardworking and innovative. You can watch a short clip of our time in Dharavi here on Vimeo.
And the men that breed from them,
They traffic up and down,
But cling to their cities’s hem,
As a child to a mother’s gown,
Like Rudyard Kipling, I fell in love with Mumbai and you can expect me to traffic up and down the streets of this city soon again.