Whether you are a Bollywood buff or just someone who likes to travel and experience new cultures, Mumbai needs a spot in your bucket list
It all started with an idea last May - why not celebrate the New Year in a “new” city? The place had to be far away from home, but not very far so that we could get there, celebrate the New Year, and then come back to work on Monday morning.
Our first choice was Mumbai, touted as India’s financial capital, and the home of Bollywood. Within a matter of days, we settled on the city as our venue for welcoming 2015. Then, in the next few months, the trip became likelier than ever before. On New Year’s Eve, we were in the city.
The next evening we began our tour of Mumbai, mostly focusing on trying out its famous eateries.
Haji Ali: Yes, this is the same Dargah the song Haji Ali…from the movie Fiza talks about. Haji Ali Dargah is a mosque located on an islet in southern Mumbai. At night, Haji Ali, one of the most recognizable landmarks of the city, becomes visible from a distance as it is decorated with lights. On the way to the mosque you find Muslim men selling different varieties of perfumes, which they call ‘itra’. You can get a splendid view of the skyline of southern Mumbai from the Dargah. Just outside the mosque is the equally famous Haji Ali Juice Centre that serves more than just juice. While there, you should definitely try their sandwiches and pizzas (They are very generous with their cheese!)
Bademiya’s: Bademiya’s is not your typical restaurant where you go sit at a table and food comes to you. Instead, here you go to the eatery, famous for its seekh kebabs, in a car and place your order when a uniformed man comes to you. When he brings you the food, you open the bonnet of your car, place the food on it, and start savoring the kebabs.
Candies: This café has many outlets in the city. The one we went to was in Pali Hill. A favorite among local students, Candies is famous for its dessert. Try their chocolate tarts, cakes, and crunchy burgers. They also have a salad bar offering green vegetables and pasta, that too with unlimited refills.
Kayni and Co: Kyani is one of the oldest Irani cafes in south Mumbai. The Parsi café is in a neighborhood that will teleport you to the 19th century. While there, try their bun muska (bread and butter) and pani kam chai (strong tea). And yes, refrain from calling the waiters bhaiya (they might take offence!). Call them “boss” instead.
There are many other famous eateries spread across the city. But this list should be sufficient for one day. After the culinary tour, don’t forget to visit a few places that every proud Mumbaikar brags about.
Mumbai locals: The local trains are Mumbai’s lifeline. Getting from one point of the city to the other is easy, if you can bear with the crowd, and don’t mind giving up your personal space. When you are in Mumbai, you should try the local train at least once.
Maratha Mandir: Have you seen the 1995 Bollywood super hit Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (aka DDLJ)? If not, then Maratha Mandir, an old-fashioned theatre, is the place to go. Even if you have seen the movie already, you should still visit the theater for the experience. Maratha Mandir screens DDLJ at 11:30am every day to a packed audience, which it has been doing for the past 19 years. As you watch the movie, don’t be surprised if fellow members of the audience start saying the dialogues out loud. The ticket is just 20 bucks, but the samosas for sale during the intermission will cost you Rs.30.
Siddhi Vinayak temple: Siddhi Vinayak is one of Mumbai’s most famous religious sites. The temple, located in Prabhadevi, has a legend associated with it. Devotees who go to the temple whisper their wishes to a mouse, Ganesh’s companion. It is believed that such wishes come true. “Well, I wanted some action figures when I was kid, but I never got one,” said a Mumbaikar friend, discouraging me from making wishes. However, his story didn’t prevent me from doing just that.
Bandra Fort: After a busy day of shopping and eating, the best place to catch your breath is Bandra Fort. Here, you get a spectacular view of the setting sun, and after it gets dark, head to the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link that joins Bandra to Worli (two of the seven islands that make up Mumbai). Unfortunately, the coast guard does not allow the public to stay there till late. This is a measure they took after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, locals told me. Just a few meters away from the fort is Mannat, Shah Rukh Khan’s house. Salman, the other Khan, also lives nearby, according to my Mumbaikar friend.
Juhu Beach: Juhu is famous because of its celebrity residents. Amitabh Bachchan stays in the area as well. They say that Big B himself comes out to greet his fans on Sunday mornings. But even when he’s not there, you can see a crowd outside his gate at any time of the day (or even night). A few minutes drive from Bachchan’s place is Juhu beach, where locals come out for a stroll at night. You get the famous chanaa chaat and the cutting chai here.
There are two direct flights from Kathmandu to Mumbai every day. But if you are looking to save up on your travel expenses, book a flight to Delhi and from there to Mumbai. If you have time to spare and are travelling in a big group, then opt for the train. Take a bus to Sunauli, and from there to the Indian city of Gorakhpur. From there take the train to Mumbai. Plan well in advance to get cheaper tickets.
Accommodation in the city does not come cheap. But relatively inexpensive rooms are available in the Colaba area in south Bombay.