Prior to visiting India, Mumbai did not really attract me in any way, and thus I had only half a day for sightseeing in the city. After having breakfast at the Grand Hyatt, I hired a taxi for 4 hours to bring me around town. As I mentioned in my previous post, the Grand Hyatt Mumbai is located in the northern part of town near the airport, while Mumbai’s city centre is located in the south by the bay with waterfront views. Luckily for me, the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link that connects and shortens the route between the 2 areas was complete. However the mistake I had was that I did not negotiate on the pricing of the cab to include toll fees and the driver wanted to jack up the price by more than twice the toll fee was. Fortunately I spot the rates which was written in English as well.
There was a queue for the sea link, but this stop meant I could savour the skyline of Mumbai from this vantage point. The real traffic begins past the sea link and my smart driver had to stop and fill up for natural gas. I know I was not rushing for time, but it still costed valuable time and the cab I was on is not exactly the cleanest. From the gas station, there was still another 20 minutes drive through Mumbai traffic which is really slow but we did pass the first point of interest being Haji Ali Bay. Located in the middle of this bay is the Haji Ali Mosque and is also the tomb to a wealthy Muslim merchant. What is unique about the mosque is that it can be accessed only during a low tide as the pathway linking the mosque to the mainland is submerged during a high tide. The white-washed walls of the mosque also cuts a fine silhouette against the blue sky and water of the bay.
From the Haji Ali bay, there was still some time before we reached the Gateway of India as we passed several high end mansions along Pedder Road like the Jindal Mansion and caught a glimpse of the skyscraper residence of Mukesh Ambani also known as Antilia. This part of town is probably where the moguls of Mumbai live in and thus resulting in the city to have some of the most expensive real estate in the world.
From Pedder Road, my hired driver went past Marine Drive and passing through what is known as the Queen’s Necklace and this area is supposedly beautifully lit up at night and certainly looks impressive in the day as well. There is a waterfront promenade along this stretch of the bay with a view of Mumbai’s skyline. Along this section of Marine Drive also lies Chowpatty Beach which reminds me of the English Bay Beach in downtown Vancouver.
After Marine Drive the next stop was the Gateway of India and the taxi driver dropped me off at a small shop asking me to patronize the shop first so that he may park for free in the parking stall outside. It was basically a shop selling handicrafts, silk and carpets. From the shop it was another 3 minute walk across the street to the Gateway of India. Due to the terror attacks that caused chaos in Mumbai, there was a security screening for all visitors entering the plaza where the Gateway of India is located at. From the plaza, visitors can also see the neighbouring Taj Mahal Hotel which is probably India’s most famous luxury hotel and is a part of the Taj Palace Hotel chain.
The highlight of Mumbai is definitely the Gateway of India, also one of the city’s landmarks and most well visited attraction. There is no admission fee to visit the massive structure which was built in 1911 to commemorate the visit to India by King George V and Queen Mary. Till today, this place is home to a jetty where passengers take the ferry to visit places like the Elephanta Caves.
Other sights to take note in the area besides the Taj Mahal hotel and the Gateway itself would be the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha kingdom in the 17th century. Many of Mumbai’s major venues have been named after him including the airport and the main railway station.
The next sight on my trip to Mumbai was the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or CST for short. This is the major railway terminal in Mumbai and was known formerly as the Victoria Terminus. The station facade itself is a sight to behold and its gothic influences blends in very well with the rest of the buildings in this area. Inside the railway station itself, one can see the hustle and bustle of an Indian city and experience all the sights and sound of passengers rushing to and from their train.
The short visit to Mumbai gave me a glimpse of the financial center of India where the business moguls reside and the pace of urban development in this city seems to mirror the growth of the Indian economy. On the way back, I asked the driver to stop by the Marine Drive so I may get down and take a photo of the city skyline from the promenade. If I had more time, I would definitely explore the waterfront area as well as the various colonial era architecture in this city.
Comparing Mumbai to Delhi is like sizing up Shanghai to Beijing. And I would say that for first time visitors, a visit to the historical capital of Delhi would provide a richer history of the country since that is where all the major sights are located at. However seasoned travellers and urbanites might enjoy the financial center of Mumbai much more due to a good mix of sights and luxury along with a more impressive city setting by the bay.