Our first foray with India, began with the jewel that sits on the south west coast of this majestical land, Mumbai.
There is a fervent energy to this grand city that inhabits an estimated 12 million people. From all walks of life, people are pounding the pavement, squeezing into train carriages like a tin of sardines, or honking overzealously from their cars. You could be amongst the hustle and bustle, haggling with a store owner on some antique curio at the Chor Bazaar. Then find yourself strolling down a quiet, leafy green street lined with white art deco facades. You may also happen to bump into the odd cow chewing happily on some grass on a street corner.
We had a great time in Mumbai, and three days just wasn’t enough to soak up the old and new in this cosmopolitan city. Here are some of our trip highlights and recommendations for shopping and eating in Mumbai.
We chose to stay at the southern end of town, Colaba, which turned out to be a fantastic base to explore from. Considered the prettiest part of Mumbai, the area was once the old British quarter, leaving behind some magnificent architecture with an old world charm. At its doorstep are some of Mumbai's most iconic landmarks and an array of interesting boutique shops, galleries and overwhelming choice of eateries.
First Floor, Lansdowne House, M.B. Marg (near Regal Cinema), Colaba
A boutique hotel in the heart of Colaba. Everything from the handmade cement floor tiles, locally sourced interiors and signage that has been handpainted by local truck painters, is just so on point! Designed by Sian Pascale from Young Citizens (Melbourne gal), you can see the love and hard work that has gone into this accommodation experience.
Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
Try to visit this World Heritage site at night. The energy and colourful lights is mesmerising. Watch as locals come and go from the station that housed the very first steam engine in India.
Gateway of India
Facing the Mumbai Harbour and Arabian Sea, the Gateway of India was originally the main port for visitors arriving into India. This grand monument is now a gathering spot for locals and a nice place to enjoy some sunshine and partake in some people watching.
Taj Mahal Hotel
Just behind the Gateway of India, you can feast your eyes on the glorious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This 5 star luxury hotel is definitely worth a look, not just for the remarkable exterior, but also for the culinary delights and dreamy cocktails from the many bars and restaurants inside. The hotel first opened in 1903 and since its opening has seen the graces of great Maharajas, world renowned celebrities and Presidents.
Dadar Flower Market
Make the effort to get up early one day and pay a visit to the Dadar flower market. The array of colours from thousands of fresh flowers, the fresh scents and market buzz will snap you out of any hazy jet lag or hangover. And try to not walk away with a beautiful arrangement like the one this gentleman was putting together.
Dhobi Ghat laundry
Known as the world's largest open air laundry it's estimated that there are 200 Dhobi (laundryman) families that have been washing clothes for decades. Brightly coloured clothes and linens come in from all over the city. Hand washed in sudsy water, beaten on stone, boiled and strung across hundreds of lines and tin sheet roof tops for drying. You will need to find a willing local to take you into the laundry for a fee, however you can take some photos and view for free from the nearby bridge.
There is an abundance of traditional Indian homewares and fashion stores that cater to the local market. If you are looking for something different from the typical tourist souvenir, and have in interest in contemporary Indian design, check out our picks below. These cool homewares and fashion boutiques, are showcasing some of India's very talented and up and coming designers.
Inside Wankhede Stadium, North Stand, E & F Block, D Road, Churchgate
Trying to find this place is no easy feat. You would almost think you had definitely taken a wrong turn, as you pass the lone security guy guarding the outer ring of this sporting stadium. Keep going and you will finally reach this eclectic fashion and homewares boutique. Bungalow 8 showcases some avant garde Indian fashion. Beautiful antique furniture is dressed with Indian silks, table wares and curiosities including homewares and objects from one of our makers, Claymen.
Behind Rhythm House, Fort
Mad on design inspired stationery, prints and oddities? Tucked away in the laneways of Fort area, Filter is your best bet for picking up some work from graphic designers, photographers, illustrators and product innovators.
Hill View 2, No. 201, 241 Hill Road, Bandra West
A new indie design boutique that has international magazines like Wallpaper, New York Times and Timeout singing praises for bringing art out of the galleries and into homes. Located in Mumbai's creative hub Bandra, discover some of India’s most talented graphic designer and illustrators and take home a cool tee, framed print or unusual object.
137, Jeroo Building, M.G. Road, Kala Ghoda, Colaba
This lifestyle brand can be found all across India, bringing a contemporary range of craft based homewares made from artisans across India. You are more inclined to find here traditional Indian pieces made from locally sourced materials like marble, copper and wood.
A noteworthy mention, was the very eclectic fashion and homewares store in Colaba. Unfortunately since our visit, the store has now closed as they have set their signts on London town, but you can still check out their array of cool Indian fashion and goods online.
EAT | DRINK
After all the walking, one surely needs to refuel over some Indian cuisine. From high end restaurants to hole in the wall family run eateries, you will be sure to get your fix of North and South Indian flavours.
An absolute must in India is to order a Thali set. Named after the platter and little bowls it's served on, this is a superb way of sampling a number of different Indian dishes. Usually served with vegetable curries, lentils, rice, breads, yoghurt chutneys, pickles and sweets. The flavours and spices are so tantalising, you won’t even miss the meat. Don't be fooled by the sizes of the dishes either! It’s amazing how quickly you can fill up on a thali set, and you may regret ordering those extra dishes!
We tried to eat as much as possible in our short time, and can quite confidently recommend the following range of cheap and cheerful, and upmarket Indian cuisine restaurants.
Kailash Parbat Hindu Hotel
5 Sheela Mahal ,1st Pasta Lane, Colaba
If you are on the go, you can pick up some of the most delicious savoury and sweet delights from the ground floor counter. If you have the time, head upstairs to enjoy these street snacks with blissful air-con and speedy wait service. This is a family owned no fuss no frills eatery, serving up some of the tastiest vegetarian small eats in Mumbai. Try the pani puris, which are crispy warm shells filled with tamarind chutney, masala, chickpeas, onion and potato.
Image courtesy of Pinterest
Sher E Pujab
264 Shaheed Bhagat Singh Rd, Fort
When you approach this restaurant, you could do a double take. Yes there is the same restaurant across the road. Have no fear, they are owned by the same people, and have opened up another restaurant to handle the abundance of hungry and eager guests. Chicken tandoori is the signature dish here, and it does not fail to disappoint. Amazing! Enjoy the full Pujabi experience and quaint decor.
Image courtesy of Evening Flavours
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Apollo Bunder, Mumbai
Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail at the swanky Harbour Bar before heading to Masala Kraft, one of Taj Mahal's premium restaurants. A contemporary take on Indian cuisine, you can enjoy fragrant non-vegetarian and vegetarian curries and delectable Biryani rice dishes. There is a Taj Mahal price tag on this Indian restaurant, but you will not be disappointed with the flavours, impeccable service and grandiose decor inside.
Image courtesy of Taj Mahal
NEXT UP.... JAIPUR
I hope you've enjoyed reading our guide as much as we've enjoyed sharing it with you. Have you got any tips or places to share? We'd love to hear! Please drop us a comment below...