Features > General > Mumbai Basics You Need To Know

Mumbai Basics You Need To Know


Mumbai is the commercial and entertainment capital of India. Formerly, known as Bombay, true blue Bombayites refuse to acknowledge its new name, Mumbai, named after the patron Goddess of the local villagers, Mumbadevi. It gained more attention recently at both ends of the spectrum, for both the Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire and terrorist attacks at tourist hotels.

Mumbai is the home of the largest film industry in the world, Bollywood. Hindi films are usually full of songs, dances, exotic locations (usually dream sequences set in Switzerland or New Zealand), fights, love stories, comedy tracks and spectacular costumes. In short, full of masala (spices).

In terms of sights to see, Mumbai has several historic buildings constructed by the British during their rule. Most of these are clustered around the Colaba area. The Gateway to India, built to commemorate the visit of King George V is also located in Colaba. Mumbai is also famous for its shopping. Fashion Street is an entire street mall filled with open air stalls selling designer knockoffs and export rejects. If you are diligent in browsing you can get several popular brands at cut rate prices (sometimes with original price tags reading $29.99). Bargaining is a must and stall owners recognise a tourist at 100 meters. If you do not look Indian, be prepared to start your bargaining at 20% of the price quoted to you.

Photo by Flickr's Wolfiewolf

Colaba Causeway - Photo by Flickr's Wolfiewolf

Colaba Causeway is also popular with tourists once you are done with seeing the sights of historical Colaba. You can get fake antiques, beads, jewelry and cheap shoes and clothing here. The Causeway also has cafes that serve up fish and chips and a refreshing beer once you are done with the hot business of shopping. Café Mondegar and Leopold's Café are the most popular with tourists who just need to take a break. The service is slow, food is cheap and plentiful and the best is you can stay for hours with just a coffee.

Marine Circle - Queen's Necklace - Photo by Flickr's Swami Stream

Marine Circle - Queen's Necklace - Photo by Flickr's Swami Stream

Marine Drive is one of the prettiest parts of Mumbai. A two mile stretch along the sea, it curves around a little bay. At the night, the double row of traffic lights gives the stretch its nickname The Queen's Necklace. Marine Drive Chowpatty (Beach) also has plenty of another Mumbai staple “ street food.

Chaat - Photo by Flickr's .Bala

Chaat - Photo by Flickr's .Bala

Chaat as the local street food is called is not for the faint of heart. There are plenty of sanitized versions available in restaurants (try Vithal's Bhelwala in Colaba, behind Sterling Cinema) that Use only mineral water but the original chaat is best eaten standing on a roadside from a push cart. The varieties are mind-boggling but all of them have a few things in common. They are very spicy and the main garnishes are a chilly coriander sauce and a sweet tamarind sauce.

Getting around in Mumbai is relatively easy and cheap. In the suburbs, you can get around in an autorickshaw. In South Mumbai, you can take a cab to get to your destination. While Just remember that an autorickshaw's fare is the fare on the meter multiplied by Rs 7.5 and in the taxi's case, it is multiplied by Rs 13. All of them are required to have fare cards showing the conversion, so if you are in doubt, insist on seeing the card before you pay up.

In my opinion, no visit to Mumbai is complete without trying a paani puri, picking up some clothes in Fashion Street, a horse-drawn carriage ride along the Queen's Necklace and a wild night of partying at one of the many fashionable pubs and discos that dot the landscape. Whether your budget is a shoe-string or a string of diamonds, Mumbai will always have something for you.

Cindy | Apr 15, 2009 | Category: General

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