Weekly Drifter: Mumbai, INDIA

LISTEN UP. We’ve decided to offer weekly destination ideas with complete overviews and practical information of randomly selected locations. ‘So what’s destination of the week #1,’ you ask? Glad you did: Mumbai (Bombay), India.

Overview: The film, Slumdog Millionaire, captured the crux of Mumbai faultlessly. I found former Bombay to be exceptionally over-crowed, polluted, and poor. With a population of over 19 million people and the number of commercial cargo ships sailing to and from the port, still one could not help but marvel at the world’s second most populous city and home of Bollywood entertainment. Past the slums where children stoop on open walkways for a poo- where mothers hustle to sell their babies for $1-and where 50 bodies line up on the street median for bedtime, therein lies a hidden wealth: textiles, temples, bazaars, gold, jewelry, rugs, night life, restaurants, art deco, and grand colonial relics. Beyond the poverty and smog, the beautiful marvels of India have travelers, backpackers and ex-pats from all over the world drawn to this incredible place.

Top Picks: Transportation about the city is quite efficient with the suburban train network, although I wouldn’t recommend the train unless you are thirsting for an intimate Mumbai adventure. Locals hang from the window as bodies pile on top the other, barely hygienic. Taxis are cheap and you can easily negotiate a one-way trip for $3 or more. Here’s where you must go:

  1. Chowpatty Beach: During the day, stretch out on the sand or sit on the stone wall with the happily unemployed locals and enjoy a savoury fried puri from one of the behlpuri shops. Be sure to return for the sunset. You may even catch a film shoot or a street play. In short, Chowpatty Beach is a must for travelers and tourists alike.   
  2. Banganga Tank: Visit the sacred spring water near the Walkeshwar Temple. Listen to the tolling bells and mantra-chanting jujaris as devotees gather in worship. 
  3. The Gateway to India & The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower: Take pictures in front of this historic monument derived from 16th century Gujarat design. Through the arc, rent a bobbing motor boat for a short cruise through Mumbai’s natural harbor. Directly across the street is the beautiful 5 star luxury Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, a symbol of Indian art and culture. If you’re feeling adventurous for a bit of slum life reality, walk about 20 meters northwest… and be humbled.  
  4. Colaba Street Market: The must go to shopping district for any traveler or tourist where the densely crowded streets are powered by hustle and energy. For antique lovers, visit Choor Bazaar. For a taste of sweet mangos and fresh vegetables, visit Crawford Market.
  5. Dhobi Ghat Laundry: Over 5,000 Indians here are Dhobis, a Hindu caste born to wash the cities laundry by hand under the grueling sun. From sunrise to sunset, these families use stones to clean, scrub and hang dry clothes brought in from all over the city. 
  6. Jehangir Art Gallery: The world’s most intrinsically beautiful artwork of Indian artists can be found at this famous art gallery.

* The nightlife in Mumbai is alive and diverse at the Blue Frog, a revolutionary integrated music project featuring live musicians. You can also mingle with travelers like yourself at Ra’s where the glass rooftop opens to the stars.

Before traveling to Incredible India one must obtain a visa by visiting the India Visa Center. The best time to visit is anywhere between November and March, to avoid muggy heat and humidity. If you’re feeling intrepid and fearless, hop on an 10 hour train ride through the country to Delhi and marvel at the one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the awe-inspiring Taj Mahal. Visit India and let the land of spirituality and philosophy speak to your senses. I guarantee you’ll return humbled. Namaste.- tnoely