We arrived Saturday morning in Mumbai by internal, one and half hour, flight from Jaipur. Mumbai was officially renamed from former Bombay but most locals still refer to it as Bombay. It’s now world-famous for Oscar-winning film “Slum Dog Millionaire”. We left the modern airport, crossed the stunning new bridge, across the Arabian Sea and entered the prosperous south of the island. Bombay is full of enormous contrasts. As we the left airport, we passed mile after mile of shanty-town but the highway, full of expensive cars, was very detached from the life in the shanty-towns. Meanwhile, there is enormous prosperity and wealth to be seen in Bombay, with billion dollar homes, in fact we were told that Bombay is home to the most expensive property in the world, a two billion dollar home and having something like twenty-four floors or more with six floors reserved for car parking, five people live in the house and there are three hundred servants, maybe they have a lot of parties? We later learned that the shanty-towns that we spotted was the famous “Dharavi“, Asia’s second largest slum, and film location for Slum Dog Millionaire. Interestingly, on our extended visit to India, we had not found a single Indian who had viewed this film – a travel guide explained that Indians know too well about poverty and wanted distraction in their films – perhaps that is why Bollywood has been so successful? To put it into perspective, nearly 55% of Mumbai’s 20 million plus population do not have proper homes. Mumbai, India‘s largest city, is the commercial capital of India – it is competitive and highly cosmopolitan.
Anyway, our hotel was in South Mumbai on Marine Drive, known locally as the Queen’s Necklace which it resembles with its yellow lights at night. We were privileged and had a fantastic view of the bay, plus the activity below from our 16th floor room. We were downtown, in the popular business and hotel area of Nariman Point. This is close to the main tourist area of Mumbai, and home to most of Mumbai’s museums, art galleries, bars, upscale restaurants, luxury retail outlets.
Mumbai is a fun city and the people are nice here and very friendly – it is also a safe city and we never felt threatened,as we did in Delhi.
Saturday afternoon, we took a long leisurely walk along Marine Drive, beside the magnificent view of the bay and the Arabian Sea. It was sunny and hot. At weekends, this is a popular location with families. It reminded us of our walks along the Bund in Shanghai, China. That evening, we took a recommendation from the concierge in our hotel and went to an excellent and inexpensive local Indian restaurant called the Khyber. We, of course, ate curry!
Sunday, we took an early breakfast, and made a lovely excursion by boat to the Elephanta caves. Elephanta Island got its name from the Portuguese, after the statue of an elephant near the landing area of the island. We traveled across by ferry and, once on the island, we took a very short train ride and then began to climb the one hundred and fifty stairs, passing lots of trinket sellers and beggars, to finally reach “Shiva’s Cave” the highlight of the trip. This is a cave temple, carved out of the basalt hillside, and inside there is a sixteen foot rock carving of Lord Shiva. Sunday afternoon, we just joined the local people on Marine Drive and watched the activities along the sea front, like tight rope walking! We admired the many Art Deco buildings and felt sad that so many were in a poor state of repair, probably waiting for a property developer to convert them into luxury hotels.
We had had a lovely weekend in Mumbai. It was great just to chill out and enjoy the city along with the local people. But in all fairness we were very privileged to be staying in the part of Mumbai that the majority of locals will never even visit!
We have two more days in Mumbai before we head south for Kerala, so please watch this space!