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A DAY IN MUMBAI

If you’re in Mumbai for a day, and wondering what to do, here's a list of must-see places!

  1. Gateway of India

This of course, is the logical place from where to begin your tour. After all, you're following in the footsteps of royalty!

The English King George V landed in India in 1911 at this very spot, and the citizens of Bombay pooled money and ideas to build this grand memorial to him. After Indian independence, the last British soldiers departed through this arch.

But the most important thing about the Gateway is not the arch at all, but the sea beyond it. It was this deep and safe harbour that first attracted the Portuguese, who called it "Bom Bahia" - Good Bay (that's where the city's name comes from). The Portuguese later gave away the island to the English as part of the dowry of the Portuguese princess Catharina Braganza. And the English East India Company developed Bombay into a major shipping and trading harbour.

So, you see, the city's very existence is because of this stretch of calm water.

  1. Regal Cinema Circle

Just after the Gateway is the Regal Cinema circle. Stand at the parking lot in the centre of the circle, with the Police Headquarters behind you and look around - the roads that lead away from this circle each show you a unique facet of Mumbai.

  • To your left, starting at the art deco Regal Cinema, is Colaba Causeway. This road is linked to Mumbai's physical history - it was built by the British to connect Colaba island to Bombay, as a part of the city's expansion drive. You can still see fisher folk if you drive further down this road towards Sassoon Docks. Drop in at Leopold or Cafe Mondegar for beer, and wander the street markets. Lots of neat stuff to be bought - jewellery, footwear, leather, and gifts - but remember it takes bargaining!
  • Next is Madam Cama Road that goes to Nariman Point, past the Institute of Science. This road leads to Mumbai's modern business district and reminds you that Mumbai is the commercial capital of India. Phillips' Antiques at the corner has wonderful old maps of Mumbai. They're expensive, but worth a look.
  • Next, past the National Gallery of Modern Art, is the road to the art district of Mumbai and into the heart of the old British Fort Area. The Prince of Wales Museum is to your right on this road. You can spend a happy couple of hours there, if you're interested in history, sculpture, painting and art.
  • The road to your right is the one that goes to Bombay’s docks. Bombay started out as a shipping port and harbour in the 1600's. So this road is a link to the city's traditional business history. If you walk along this road, you will see the Old Custom's House, where goods were taxed, and the Asiatic Library which served at the old Town Hall.
    Exploring the areas around Regal Cinema can take you upto two hours if you exclude the Museum.
  1. Koli Fishing Village, Cuffe Parade

A trip to Bombay is not complete without a look at the city's original inhabitants - the Koli fisher folk. Take a taxi from Regal Cinema Circle to Cuffe Parade.

On the way to your right, you will see colourful fishing boats. This is a little Koli village that has kept its traditional occupation and culture.

You'll see salted Bombay Duck, hanging by the dozen, drying in the sun. You'll see fishermen mending nets. Walk into the village and you'll see the women selling fish at the markets. You'll see little kids flying kites and playing cricket. There's a village temple, a barbershop, a goldsmith, a grocer, a tailor, a small jewellery store - all in a little 10-minute walk.

The fishing community has a clear division of labour. The men go to fish, while the women take the fish to the markets. So the fisherwomen - the Kolins - hold the economic reins of the household. Nobody messes with them! So don't leave Mumbai without seeing a Kolin!

  1. Fort District

Once past the fishing village, take a drive through the historical Fort District. There are several things to see, but I recommend you don't miss the following:

  • Victoria Terminus - a magnificent building. Don't miss the Indian peacock motifs, or the logo of the GIPR (the Great Indian Peninsular Railway).
  • Bombay University - honestly, this building is lovely! Check out the carved figures of various communities of Western India.
  • The Asiatic Library and Town Hall - this is the historical place from where, after the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, the proclamation of India reverting to the Crown was read out.
  1. Bazaar Walk at Crawford Market

The British Fort district ends at Victoria Terminus, and past that, the old "native" bazaar areas begin.

Jyotiba Phule Market is the official name of this must-see market - but of course, no one calls it that! Crawford Market it was, and Crawford it remains. The market is housed in a building that looks like something out of Victorian London, but over-run with a crazy riot of local colour. There's a 50-foot awning, which lets in light, and in the natural light, you will see little shops and stalls everywhere. Go during the daytime. You'll stumble across lots of fruits and vegetables - there are mounds and mounds of them on display, not just an orderly stacking of a few dozens!

There are tiny knick-knack shops that sell masalas, pickles, chocolates, toothpaste and lots of other stuff that people want to buy. Lots of things to photograph if you are a camera-addict.

There's also a meat section and a pets market - but if you're squeamish, you should avoid this area. Pets are housed with a casual disregard for their well being, in cramped conditions. But then, this is a city where even humans live in very tiny cramped huts.

From Crawford Market, you should walk into the nearby lanes, to see the traditional bazaar areas. It's highly recommended. After all, Mumbai is a city that lives not in its monuments or buildings, but in its streets and markets and people. The Jama Masjid is nearby as well as the Mumbadevi Temple.

  1. Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach

From the bazaar areas near Crawford Market, drive through the Princess Street Flyover to Marine Drive.

Ask your driver to stop at the top of the flyover, from where you'll see your first panoramic view of Marine Drive and the sea. The new business district of Nariman Point is at one end of Marine Drive, and Chowpatty Beach at the other.

While the Gateway of India is on the sheltered harbour between the island of Mumbai and the mainland, Marine Drive is on the other seaward western side. As a result, in the evening, you'll see glorious views of the sunset on the Arabian Sea. In the late evenings, the streetlights come on, lighting up the curve of Marine Drive in what locals call 'The Queen's Necklace'.

Evening is also a wonderful time to spend at Chowpatty beach, just watching local families out to enjoy the evening breeze. There's a lot of colour at the beach. Take a peep at the food stalls selling local favourites - pavbhaji and bhel puri.

  1. Lots more to see

If you have more time, drive down to Haji Ali, to see Mahalakshmi Temple, Haji Ali Mosque and Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai's unique laundry system!).

And you can drive to Malabar Hill, to take a look at the Banganga Tank (and old and quaint pilgrimage area), the Hanging Gardens, the Jain Temple, and the Parsi Towers of Silence.