There is more to Mumbai than strolling on Marine Drive and clicking photos at the Gateway of India Remember, this trail is only to get you started.
It goes without saying that a trip to Mumbai is incomplete without visiting the legendary Gateway of India. Add to the magic by taking a boat ride out into the sea to check out the city’s skyline from the other side. The harbour gave me two options to choose from. There were the uber chic yachts and the humble ferries. I took the latter with 30 other passengers for company and watched the city recede into a blue panorama within 15 minutes of leaving shore. If you have a few hours to spare, you can even take a boat to the Elephanta Caves at Gharapuri Island that are only a few miles away. Besides the rock- cut caves from the fifth and eighth centuries, the destination is also a perfect picnic spot. Take pictures, indulge heartily in some authentic Maharastrian fare and catch the last ferry back to the mainland.
APOLLO BUNDER EMPORIA
Once back on terra firma, shopping in the vicinity is a must-do. The streets around are full of small and large stores that offer plenty of choices to pick up memorabilia for your friends back home. Known as one of the city’s quirkiest areas, the Apollo Bunder stretch and beyond provides ample opportunities to indulge in retail therapy with emporium boutiques that cluster around the art galleries and cafes. From patent leather jack¬ets to antique pearl ornaments, copper gramophones, wall clocks and pashmina shawls everything is sold here at dirt-cheap prices. If you are a silver fiend, the row in line with Regal Cinema will woo you with small stores that sell the most exquisite and intricate silver artefacts from vases to earrings and rings. Most of these places also do piercings for a meagre price in exchange for some shopping. Three must-visit stores are Aquamarine, Popley and Sons, and Curio Cottage. These boutiques offer a mix of knick- knacks and one-off imitation jewellery.
BHULESWAR’S KHAU GULLY
Khau gullies in Mumbai are streets cluttered with teensy eateries selling food that may have its origins abroad but is cooked local-style. One such locality is Bhuleswar’s khau gully, situated at the end of Kalbadevi Road. It is abuzz with eateries selling scrummy khichiya chaat, which is papad topped with flavourful potato cubes, grat¬ed cucumber and slim gram flour strings. There is also the Chinese bhel which stands for a plate of fried noodles tossed with multiple chutneys and Asian sauces. I dug into dosas, paanipuri and Gujarati-style burger which is known as dabeli in this locality. There are also fresh fruit juice and lemonade stalls to help soothe your palate after all this.
THE ASIATIC SOCIETY STEPS
One look at the iconic steps of the Asiatic Society and it took me back to the scene in Battleship Potemkin in which the pram tumbles down the white stairs with melodramatic music in the background. The pristine white steps leading to the Asiatic Society’s town hall are as magical and legendary as the movie itself. Since Mumbai lacks open spaces, these gigantic steps provide weary travellers a place to rest, stretch a leg or mingle with locals who come here after sunset. I like to sit here with a favourite book and watch the city wind down and the street-lights come on. It’s a good idea to pack a snack and coffee from the near-by Starbucks that opened just a few months ago.
COLABA’S ART GALLERIES
From rickety buildings to posh towers and unknown basements, the Colaba causeway is peppered with art galleries. An art walk here opens up new horizons. Mumbai’s gallery-own- ers have picked up a lesson or two from 1980s Europe, where galleries opened in garages and house basements instead of fancy places. Take, for instance, Project 88—a gallery at Pasta Lane that is a converted warehouse which once housed a printing press. Many huge and airy flats, and basements have been rehabilitated into interesting art holes by Mumbai’s gal- lerists. You can start your walk at Chatterjee & Lal at Chemould Prescott Road; then there is the cool Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, situated inside a building complex; next, hop over to Gallery Maskara, Lakeeren, Mumbai Art Room and the Guild Gallery. It is important to carry a map when visiting these galleries as locals seldom know about their existence, since most are discreetly located.
FLORA FOUNTAINS BOOK BAZAAR
What if we told you that you could have a copy of Satyajit Ray’s Feluda for Rs 300 for a week? And that half of that would be refunded on return of the book? The streets opposite Flora Fountain are a treasuure trove for second-hand book buyers. With books on architecture, food, interiors, finance, science, as well as fiction, the entire area comes alive with stacks of books that would put Elinor Loredan from Inkheart to shame. While some are only for loan, most are for sale. A word of caution for new buyers: make sure your copy has no missing pages.
This is Mumbai’s favourite flea market. From clothes, shoes and bags to accessories, all fashion purchases can be made here. The serpen¬tine stretch is so long that it can easily take up an entire afternoon. Try to spot the shops sell¬ing the export surplus goods for these are the most stylish. On a lucky day, we’ve bagged Zara, Banana Republic, GAP, H and M, amongst others. One of the bestselling items here are the winter hoodies and colourful sneakers that are available all year round. And don’t miss the chilled lemonade outside the Oval Maidan.
Situated on the rooftop of Mumbai’s Four Seasons Hotel, Aer is the highest bar in the city. Visit it to check out the juxtaposition of old Mumbai with the new one. On one side you will see a line of chawls, shanties, dysfunctional mills and Mumbai’s ubiquitous railway line; at the other end of the spectrum will be malls, skyscrapers and the uber chic Bandra-Worli sea link. While their olive oil-drizzled pizza is a good enough reason to visit the restaurant, it is also a wonderful location to watch the sun go down. A little birdie also told us that it is a favourite spot for lovers to pop the question.
SPICE WALK @ CRAWFORD MARKET
Achoo! I went, as I walked into the spice bazaar hidden inside the bustling Crawford Market area. Not to be mistaken with the Mahatma Phule Market in the same locality, the spice market is situated in the lane adjoining Minara Masjid. The street sells the most potent spices and dry fruits found in India. From various varieties of chillis, dry red peppers, lotus seeds, pathar kephool and dry ginger to macadamia and pine nuts, the street sells ingredients that are hard to find elsewhere in the city. Each of these shops is characterised by brilliant white lights and stark white low-seating sofas where the buyer is made to touch, inhale and taste the product before buying it. After you are done with your spice shopping, don’t forget to pack some mithais from the only sweet mart in this lane.
KUMBHARWADA AT DHARAVI
Kumbharwada means ‘potters’ colony’. The backdrop of the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, Dharavi is popular for its leather bazaar. But, apart from hide, it also has exquisite home-style pottery of red terra cotta. The locality is home to clay artistes who have mostly migrated from villages in Saurashtra, Gujarat. If you visit the area in the wee hours, you will see the potters knead the clay with bare feet and put the pots to fire in the bhattis. Since most are quite friendly towards tourists, you can ask for an impromptu pottery class as well.