Holidays to Mumbai

Once a modest fishing settlement, Mumbai is one of India's biggest cities, the most dynamic and westernised, and the country's financial powerhouse. It is an inebriating mix of congested traffic, Hollywood, crowds, poverty, colonial relics, ancient bazaars, swish bars and restaurants, plus expressions of two of the world's biggest faiths: Hindu and Islam. Chaotic and frantic, Mumbai is a heady mix of Indian extremes. Glistening skyscrapers rise up amidst slums, and malls mushroom amongst grinding poverty. More than half of the population live in slums and religious-based social unrest is always simmering away underneath Mumbai's financial excess as it heads towards a brave, new developed world.

Once the initial whirlwind experienced upon entering Mumbai subsides, you can soon appreciate the city's more cultural allure. It is home to innumerable Art Deco and grand colonial relics, temples, bazaars and the occasional pocket of tranquillity. In the middle of Mumbai’s harbour is Elephant Island, a UNESCO world heritage site worth crossing the water for. The stunning temples give way to a labyrinth of caves carved into the basalt rock of the island, and the artwork represents some of the most exquisite temple carvings in the whole of India. The main temple is a mix of courtyards, pillars, halls and shrines that culminate to provide the perfect setting for its incredible six metre tall statue of Sadashiva. This enormous Shiva tribute has its eyes closed as if in eternal contemplation, and emanates serenity that extends to those who peer upon it.

Sanjay Ghandi National Park is amidst 104 square kilometres of protected tropical forest and makes for a relaxing break from the bustling metropolis. Just 90 minutes from the centre of Mumbai, the national park is home to innumerable species of birds, butterflies, bright flora and elusive wild leopards. All of the park's wildlife inhabitants are surrounded by forested hills on the city's northern edge. Urban development and shantytowns have attempted to penetrate these lush walls, but the national park status has been upheld so it remains peaceful and calm.

One of the most iconic spots in the city, and one that regularly features on Bollywood flicks, is the Marine Drive. This three-kilometre promenade is always populated with people who come here to sit by the ocean and enjoy the warm, day winds, or cool evening breeze. Often referred to as the 'Queen’s Necklace', the lights that adorn the promenade look like a string of glowing jewels. Snack on some roasted corn, sit back and relax while listening to the crashing waves, or dine in one of the sea facing restaurants.

Mumbai has some of the finest restaurants in the country and ultra chic bars where you can hit the dance floor with wannabes and Bollywood starlets. It has a wide range of drinking establishments from hole-in-the-wall beer bars, chic lounges and garish multi-level super clubs, to live music spaces, fantastic theatre performances and gallery crawls. Wednesday and Thursday evenings are as popular with night revellers here as Friday and Saturday nights. Resto-lounges are the rave in Mumbai as opposed to the traditional mega clubs.

Bluefrog is one of Mumbai's most happening places. It is a concert space, a production unit, and home to one of the city's trendiest up and coming restaurants. It books both local and international acts and has a space age booth seating area in the main room. They also have a 'happy hour' with two for one drinks offers each and every evening.

Mumbai's crazy bazaars are a hotbed of humidity and haggling. The native bazaar area of Bhuleshwar has colourful people, vibrant street markets and a multicultural mix of temples and mosques. There are many different cuisines on offer and a throbbing energy that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else. There is also a spice market, a gold market, a flower street, and the incredible Mumba Devi Temple from where the city took its name. Mumbai is generally known for its malls, department stores and designer shops, more so than its markets, but Mumbai's heart lies not in its monuments, but in its bazaars. There is a lot to see and do here and it is perfect for visitors who love a bit of retail therapy.

How enjoyable you find your visit to Mumbai will depend on how well you handle the heat, humidity, traffic fumes and the alarming shortage of space. With all its chaotic undertones, this city is a hotbed of adventure, faith and contradiction that will leave you with unforgettable memories and guaranteed stories to tell those back home.


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