Mumbai is a fantastic, frenetic fusion of masala (spices), mendhi (henna), and masti (merry making). Bombay, as it was known under the British Raj, is India’s biggest and boldest city where glitz and glamour, traditions, and tasty street food are just some of the things that your senses will experience. Here’s why we think Mumbai should not be missed on a journey to India.
Don a sparkling sari and get ready to shake those hips. The world’s largest film industry, Bollywood bloomed in Mumbai, and a Ker & Downey guide can get you into Film City where a lot of these movies are made. Bollywood films are known for their exuberant dance sequences, elaborate sets, over-the-top costumes, and dramatic story lines. Their movie stars and singers are loved the world over. If you are brave, hop in a rickshaw and zip around Bandra to see the hordes of fans pining away at the gates of luxury high-rises and mansions where mega stars like Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan reside.
Heading south along the curved coastal Marine Drive, you will find yourself in a a part of town with an entirely different feel. Known as the Queen’s Necklace, this avenue is lined with elegant Art Deco homes on one side and the glittering Arabian Sea on the other. Colaba has a regal air, retaining its character from its days as a Portuguese and later British settlement. Handsome architecture and remnants of colonial rule give this southern tip of Mumbai a character all its own.
The iconic Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Mumbai, an elegant property surrounded by chic designer boutiques, and is a wonderful base from which to explore this historic area. As you wander the narrow, well-kept lanes, see the Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue, a turquoise place of worship that fits in brilliantly among Mumbai’s charismatic color scheme. Tuck under the Gateway of India, built to welcome King George V and Queen Mary, and hop on a private boat to sail over to a small island to see the Elephanta Caves. Climb up a hill lined with artisans selling delicate paintings of beautiful Indian brides on paper-thin leaves. Curious monkeys leap through the trees; tiny babies cling to their mothers. Up top, the UNESCO-listed caves are majestic reminders of India’s ancient history. Massive rock carvings date back to the fifth century and tower above you in the cool shade of the caverns.
Every inch of Mumbai is teeming with activity. Tiny lanes, barely wide enough to pass through, miraculously house little shops selling a dazzling array of candy colored saris, clinking bangles, and bold bindis. Shopkeepers enthusiastically buzz around offering steaming cups of fragrant chai, encouraging you to try on the latest fashion. They will even help tie the yards of sari fabric on, making you feel like you just walked off a Bollywood set. A must-see is Indian designer Sabyasachi’s flagship store, a moody boutique lined with antique glass, jewel-toned chandeliers, and Indian bridal outfits worth their weight in gold. The ladies of Mumbai love to see and be seen and are in the know of the latest fashion events. Among the activities here, Ker & Downey can arrange a visit to a uniquely-Mumbai fashion show; buzzy affairs where movie stars are often spotted front row or even sashaying down the runway.
Mumbai is a city that never sleeps. At night when the weather cools down, families gather on Juhu Beach to socialize and munch on spicy street snacks. A Ker & Downey guide can take you to the best places to sample bhel puri, a concoction of crunchy puffed rice, chickpea flour sticks, chopped onion, potato chunks, and tamarind chutney. To cool your mouth from the spice kick, sip on a falooda, a lovely milky pink drink infused with rose syrup, vermicelli noodles, nuts, and basil seeds. Trust us… your sweet tooth will thank you.
The reality of such a populous city is that there are pockets of extreme poverty. India is a land of contradictions. Opulence often sits side by side with scarcity. But this is also an opportunity to give back. One of Ker & Downey’s missions is to help to the communities we visit. We can arrange for you to meet local students or go into Dharavi, a community where innovative businesses are improving the local economy through soap making, recycling programs, and textiles. It’s a fascinating opportunity to chat with the men and women as they sit cross-legged creating intricate floral patterns with delicate threads and tiny beads on stretches of brilliant fabrics. Several of the fathers told us they are doing this to improve their children’s lives.