Bombay. They call it the city of dreams. Why? Because it is a place where anyone can be anything they want, it's a place where everything is possible and a place where nothing can surprise you. I spend 2 years there. It has been a year and 5 months since I didn't visit India and I came back, for a day. Initially I thought it would feel weird, strange, but it was exactly the way I left it. Few new buildings and cafes, but all in all it was like time stopped when I left and it continued when I came back.
The moment I approached my airport gate I remembered all my flights to India. Usually I'm one of the few foreigners who are on the flight. This time I was the only one. It actually makes sense, who else would fly to Bombay from Abu Dhabi with Air India when there is Etihad Airways? Well, I surely would - It's cheaper and it prepares you well, shows you a small part of what's waiting for you on the other side of the sea. As we approached Bombay around 5 am, it was still dark and I could see the city glowing. It was as if all the lights in Bombay were on, that's how it always is in a city that never sleeps.
The first thing I noticed about Bombay, on that first day, was the smell of the different air. It's the smell of gods, demons, empires, and civilizations in resurrection and decay. It's the blue skin-smell of the sea, no matter where you are in the Island City, and the blood-metal smell of machines. It smells of the stir and sleep and waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats. - Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
The first stop should definitely be South Bombay, the old British Bombay, the unique architecture which you will find only in this part of the city, the most popular tourist destination. Head completely south to Victoria Terminal (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus), the biggest train station in Bombay, but make sure you avoid a rush hour between 6-8 pm, unless you want to be carried away by the crowd. From there you can take a walk to Gateway of India, a monument that was built to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder, when they visited India in 1911. Next stop is the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, built in 1903. Step inside to see the beautiful interiors and have a cup of masala chai in one of their restaurants. After a long and exhausting walk around Colaba area, the best refreshment you can get is a fresh juice from the street and for that ask the locals for "Modern Juice Center" at the end of PJ Ramchandani Marg, opposite Koyla's Restaurant. Continue your journey along the Shahid Bhagat Singh Road for the best shopping experience in Bombay. Here you will find everything from souvenirs, jewelry, scarves, kurtas and many more. Don't forget to bargain! Finish your Colaba trip in the most famous restaurant of the area - Leopold cafe (since 1871), where you can choose from variety of Indian and Chinese cuisine and great deserts.
Left: Colaba, back side of The Taj Hotel. Right: Colaba, Gateway of India in the background.
Left: Colaba, South Bombay. Right: PJ Ramchandani Marg, walkway.
Modern Juice Centre, Colaba.
Colaba street market, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road.
Leopold Cafe, Colaba.
I know I already mentioned many places, but this is just half of your day, if you hurry up. From Colaba take a taxi to Bandra West and make sure to go via Bandra Worli Sea Link to see the magnificent view of the whole Bombay from the seaside and see the mixture of slums and skyscrapers. Head to Hill Road for more street shopping, visit Elco market to find the most beautiful materials and the best tailors in the city. For dinner visit the local restaurant "Papa Panch da Dhaba" and order Dal Makhani and Roti, the simplest and best North Indian meal.
Left: Restaurant Papa Panch da Dhaba. Right: Dal Makhani and Roti.
Finish your day with drinks at one of pubs at Juhu or Andheri West. I visited a relatively new place "True Tramm Trunk" with nice outdoor sitting area and indoor clubbing place.
I hope you liked my suggestions for a day in Bombay. For any questions about Bombay or India feel free to contact me.
Sometimes I wonder "Why I left India?" and I don't know. Why do I want to go back? I don't know that either. Bombay just gets to you if you stay long enough.
Thank you Mohit Holani (www.mohitholani.com) for pictures ad videos!