TUK-TUKS AND COOL RESTAURANTS: Five days in intense Mumbai

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We visited Mumbai at the beginning and the end of our India trip, so it was both our introduction and farewell to this amazing country.

Mumbai is huge and crazy, and the different areas of the city are really diverse. The area around Colaba in the south is the nicest, but there are cool places to visit elsewhere too.

DAY 1

We left our stuff at our hostel and got on a Uber to Juhu beach. The beach itself was full of rubbish, but we headed inland to Juhu Church Road which was really nice and where we found lots of cool places.

We stopped at Alfredo’s, a place serving European food where we tried Indian wine and beers (plenty of drinks for three and snacks for 2800 rupees). We continued along the road and found a nice spot where locals were gathering at the beach to watch the sunset.

We then carried on until we found Tap, a nice bar with a view of the sea (and the crazy traffic) where we had another beer and some more snacks (2100 rupees) before heading back to the hotel by tuk-tuk, which would have been intense if we weren’t so completely spent and ready for an early night.

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DAY 2

We started off day two with a delicious brunch at Indigo Delicatessen in Bandra (2800 rupees), before heading off to explore the neighbourhood a bit.

We then joined the crowds at Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a massive urban forest. We didn’t make it in time to visit the Kanheri caves, but we still had a chance to explore the park and spot lots of monkeys.

For dinner we headed to another branch of Indigo where we splurged on dinner (6000 rupees for three) and completely blew our budget. Then it was back to the hostel as we had an early start the next morning.

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DAY 3

We started our third day in Mumbai with a tour of Dharavi, the largest slum of Asia (US$8 per person). We walked around the many alleyways and saw people working on plastic recycling, tanning leather and going about their lives.

I’m not one to usually go on this kind of tour, but it was an interesting learning experience.

We then headed to Mahim, where we had beers at the Beer Cafe (a pitcher for 1500 rupees) followed by an amazing thali at Goa Portuguesa, an Indian restaurant serving delicious food from the south (2200 rupees for three).

After a break at the hostel, we headed out to Capital Social, a really cool bar selling cheap drinks and yummy nibbles (1500 rupees), before heading back to the hotel as we had an early flight to catch.

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DAY  4

We got back to Mumbai for our last day and a half in India. After dropping our bags at our hotel, we went to Leopold, a cafe made famous in the popular novel Shantaram and a great place to get a feel for colonial India (lunch for three for 2000 rupees).

We then walked around Colaba, the area in the very south of Mumbai. This is very different from the north of the city, and you can really see the British influence. We reached the Gateway of India, a famous landmark where people stopped us to take selfies with them.

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We then walked to Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, another impressive example of colonial architecture. After a little stop for coffee at the cute Kala Ghoda cafe (coffee for three for 600 rupees), we headed back to the hotel to escape the heat and freshen up before heading out again.

We decided to go to Colaba Social for drinks and nibbles (drinks from 300 rupees, nibbles from 400 rupees), as we’d visited other branches of Social before (as above) and they were always good and cheap. For a nightcap we headed to Havana, a really nice Cuba-themed bar which was unfortunately really empty when we visited (a pitcher of mojito for 900 rupees). Then it was time to call it a night and enjoy the comfy hotel bed.

DAY 5

We had a yummy breakfast at our hotel then headed to the area around Chor Bazaar, which is full of traditional markets (and some scary goats).

We then visited Mani Bhavan, a building where Gandhi used to stay when he was in Mumbai and a great place to learn more about India’s independence (tickets for 10 rupees).

We then visited Dhobi Ghat, a traditional open air laundry which was really unique.

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Looking for a place to scape the heat, we took a taxi to the delicious Bombay Brasserie for a lunch of the best potatoes ever (a generous lunch for three including drinks for 2600 rupees).

After resting at the hotel, we went back to the Colaba Social for a final night of drinks and nibbles. We then had a nightcap at the Stock Exchange (beers for 350 rupees) which has a great rooftop bar.

Then it was time to say goodbye to our India adventure and head to the airport – such fun times were had!

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: We visited Mumbai at the beginning and end of our trip. Our first stay was at Bollywood B&B, a simple but nice hostel that was quite cheap. Located in Kalina, it was close to the airport and not too far from Juhu beach and Bandra. At the end of our trip we stayed at Abode, a cute boutique hotel at the heart of Colaba – it was a great place for a relaxed stay in a nice area, and definitely a good upmarket option.
  • Weather: We visited Mumbai in the monsoon season, which means hot and humid days. We didn’t get as much rain as we thought we would though, and there are plenty of places with air conditioning too, so it wasn’t too bad.
  • Transportation: Mumbai is huge, so we took a lot of taxis, Uber and tuk-tuks. We took the train a couple of times but that was a bit of an experience and not that cheap when there are three of you to share a ride. Tuk-tuks are metered and work really well, but they can’t go south of Bandra. Although you spend a lot of time trying to go from one place to the next, transportation is cheap and easy to find.
  • Money: Prices vary hugely in Mumbai, as there’s something for every budget. High end places are cheaper than their European equivalents but not by much, whereas at the cheaper end of the scale you can eat a main for £2. Alcohol is not always available and can have a big impact on how much you spend.
  • Read: While in Mumbai I read Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo. My friend and I both took this book to read in India, and it provided interesting context. Set in a slum, it is a work of non-fiction telling the stories of some people trying to get by in very difficult situations. It is a good book, but what I found most interesting about it was seeing some similarities in real life as I travelled around, and it gave relevant insight and a bit more depth to what I saw as a tourist.
  • Mumbai’s airport lounge: I had never been to an airport lounge before, but as I had a few hours to kill I decided to check out the Airserv lounge at Mumbai airport. I paid 650 rupees for three hours, which included acess to the lounge, food buffet and wifi. The food was nice and it was also good to have a quiet area where to rest for a while. But the whole time I was there it was only me and about 10 employees (all very nice) which seems like a bit of a waste. They also offer other services such as sleeping pods and showers at different prices.

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