Tag Archives: Gateway of India

Showing Off Mumbai in a Day – Is That Even Possible?

Sea Link Bridge
Source: Wikipedia

By Lakshmi:

Last week Siddhi and I passed through Mumbai and literally had a day to explore one of my most treasured cities.

While an ideal multi-day sojourn would have involved taking a local train to Victoria Terminus to experience local life at its fullest, the time restriction limited us to renting a car for a day.  In Mumbai, you can find a plethora of air-conditioned taxi companies and our hotel arranged an air-conditioned Cool Cab for Rs. 1,500 ($27).  I rattled off our must do’s to our driver and we commenced our journey snaking through Mumbai’s infamous traffic.

It is hard for any visitor to not be taken aback with the traffic and congestion.  For Siddhi, who is used to keeping a three car distance between vehicles, she simply flipped at watching cars, motorcycles, humans and animals all share space on the packed roads with the noise of horns filling the air.

The first break from traffic was along the beautiful Bandra Worli Sea Link Road.  We traveled along this new marvel and our first stop was at Siddhi Vinayak Temple.  This temple, infamous in Mumbai has been a part of every key phase in my life and so a visit here was a must do.  Of course, it is another matter that compared to my childhood days, entering the temple requires passing through metal detectors and security.  After a beautiful “darshan” we drove to Dhobi Ghat, a must do on Siddhi’s list.  This famous outdoor laundry market processes kilos upon kilos of the city’s laundry and Siddhi’s perspective on Dhobi Ghat can be found here.  http://pauperswithouttravel.com/2012/09/02/dhobi-ghat-a-cinematic-slice-of-mumbai-life/

From Dhobi Ghat, we drove past Mohammed Ali Road, the crossroads of some awesome cuisine and shopping if you can brave the crowds.  We passed by Victoria Terminus, the train station that handles over three million commuters a day and played a role in the infamous terrorist attacks on the city.  I showed off Flora Fountain an exquisite fountain, the Times of India building, home to one of the most popular newspapers, passed by Jehangir Art Gallery, a favorite hang out spot before ending this phase of the drive at the Gateway of India.

Of course, throughout our drive, I excitedly piped in my running commentary on my husband’s and my favorite spots to hang out in  our new found romance days.  Thakker for its vegetarian Thali, Vithal Bhelwala for some amazing street food, Delhi Durbar for the most amazingly fine Roomali Rotis (bread fine enough to pass through a ring), Khadi Bhandar and the Mumbai store for shopping, Regal Cinema for movies and so much more.

At the Gateway of India, a monument built during the British reign, we walked among the zillion pigeons and people, looking at Elephanta caves on the horizon.  After our walk, we ventured into the grande dame of Indian hotels, the Taj Mahal.  The hotel had been a target of terrorist attacks, but in the typical resilient spirit that is pervasive throughout the city, has now been fully restored to its former glory.  We stopped for coffee at Sea Lounge and more on that experience can be found here.


After that much-needed fueling stop, we drove to Chowpatty, one of Mumbai’s most famous beaches and then along Marine Drive (a stretch of road which at nighttime is so beautifully lit like a necklace that it is known as Queen’s Necklace).  Our next spot for gawking was the home of one of India’s richest men.  We looked at Antilla, the 27 story, billion dollar apartment building housing Mukesh Ambani’s family.  Almost on cue, at the next traffic light our car was swarmed by beggars, contrasting the extreme lives that coexist in the womb of Mumbai.

Soon, we were in the Mahalaxmi area, home to the famous temple dedicated to the Goddess with the same name and the site of the famous Haji Ali mosque.  The two dedications to the most populous religions form an interesting juxtaposition on the seascape.

At this point, with a cold that seemed to get worse by the minute, Siddhi was getting a bit cranky.  So after a pharmacy stop (she found it amusing that these were referred to as chemists and druggists) and an abundance of Vicks on her nose, we did what most film crazed fans do.  We drove to Bandra and gawked at the homes of Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, two of the most popular actors in Hindi cinema.

It was now several hours since our last coffee break and given our penchant for bookstores, we stopped at Crossword.  After picking up Shashi Tharoor’s new book and several more, we went upstairs to get some caffeine at Cafe Coffee Day.

With the clock ticking closer to our car turn in time, we made one final stop at my cousin’s house and returned to our hotel, feeling that we had skimmed the surface of that complex enigma called Mumbai.

Sea Lounge, Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai – Spectacular Views with an Old World Charm

Sea Lounge

By Lakshmi:

Earlier this week, on a typical Mumbai August day with the clouds playing hide and seek with the monsoon rains, we sauntered our way to the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.

Unlike when I was growing up in the city, the Taj post the havoc created by terrorist activity is now a heavily guarded space.  As we passed our way through the metal detectors and security guards, the images of that infamous day in November which made this Mumbai landmark a hotbed of violence with a good chunk of the hotel burning down came to mind.

Resilience is the word that rang in our heads as we walked our way from the new wing to the completely redone older part, passing by photographs of the rich and famous who had rested their head at this iconic property.

The Sea Lounge is a coffee shop done up in beautiful shades of blue, evoking an old world grandeur and charm.  We were fortunate to nab a prime window seat.  It tickled us to find a movie star on a date adjacent to us and hear about the intricate wedding planning activities of a wealthy bride to be a few seats away.

Of course, what makes the trip to the Sea Lounge so completely worthwhile is the microcosm of Mumbai life that you can take in from its windows.  Staring at us was the expanse of the Arabian sea with the sky changing colors from light to dark before thundering down some rain.  The majestic Gateway of India was crowded with families on an outing, locals and visitors feeding the swarm of pigeons that congregate here, hawkers offering everything from food to photography services, horse-drawn carriages moving tourists wanting an old world charm and of course, the many couples seeking a haven from the hustle and bustle of the city.

As we waited for our coffee and masala milk (a Mumbai delicacy of milk served hot or cold flavored with saffron, cardamom, pistachios and sugar), my eyes honed in on one particular couple.  There they were smiling, laughing, teasing, almost alone among the crowds in their own world.  As the rains drops came trickling down, out came a single umbrella, its profusion of flowers a beautiful contrast to the darkening clouds.  As they playfully twirled their umbrella, we returned to focus on our delicious drinks.

Scanning the room, we saw a mix of locals and visitors, romance mixed with business, playfulness blended with intensity all within a lounge with old world grandeur and charm.

Depending on how hungry you might be, the Sea Lounge offers a plethora of menu options.  In my opinion, one goes here for the view and ambiance with food being a secondary thought.

If you are in Mumbai even for a day, the beautiful Taj Mahal Hotel is certainly worth a visit and if you can manage to sneak in a short getaway, do stop by for a bite at the Sea Lounge.  The Sea Lounge is located on the first floor of the hotel.  More details on the lounge can be found here.