My list of the ten iconic must-do things in Bombay
Or the TL;DR version : #MyBombay
Whether you’ve lived here for a while, or are a first-time visitor, these places define Bombay – the inclusive, cosmopolitan, safe (arguably!) city-on-the-go. These places are a mix of old and not-so-old, places to see and places and to hang out at, “local” eateries and high-end bars, and yes, this would have been a much longer list if I’d made it ten years ago. So many of our iconic city-defining places are gone, replaced by generic, nouveau-riche outlets of instant gratification. But that’s a rant and a list for a different day.
Of course, this is my list, and not exhaustive by any means. I think I may have to write part 2 and part 3 pretty soon.
1. Spend a few hours at Café Mondegar – preferably on a Friday or Saturday evening. Yes, Café Leopold is more well-known and touristy, but Mondy’s is Bombay in a microcosm. Chilled out, accessible and affordable, quirky (yes, the waiters are the opposite of the polished “have a nice day” type!) and original. Bonus – one of the few remaining jukeboxes in the city. Double bonus – the Mario Miranda murals.
2. Stroll along Colaba Causeway and buy “authentic” “antiques”, as well as cheap and stylish sarongs and scarves, handbags and jewelry, telescopes and pocket watches. And just watch the tide of people walking past – hippie tourists, shady vendors, college kids and locals.
3. Eat the street food – preferably from a street vendor. Yes, there are reasonably hygienic options, but only if you’re Indian. If not, please contact your local host for advice on “what’s safe to eat and where” ^^ Oh, the street food must-eats include _bhel puri, pani puri, vada pao, misal, cutting chai
4. Take a walk in the rain…… - on any sea-front. Choose from Carter Road, Worli sea-face, Marine Drive, or Juhu / Chowpatty, or Versova. And don’t forget the corn-on-the-cob aka bhutta
– freshly roasted corn, slathered with salt, red chilli powder and lime.
5. Must-try sea food : Yes, Goa has fresher produce, but that’s Goan seafood. In Bombay, try the local cuisines – Kolhapuri, Malvani, Koli
. Choose from the hip, urbanized places like Soul Fry, or the somewhat authentic but still urbanized Gazalee, or the famous but touristy Mahesh Lunch Home or Excellensea, or the seriously authentic holes-in-the wall Saayba or Chaitanya.
6. Watch a play – either at Prithvi Theater in Juhu, which is the hub of the theater scene here (bonus : hang out at their iconic café, stare (politely) at some pretty well known theater actors, and drink their famous Irish Coffee) or at NCPA in south Bombay which puts on interesting and experimental work.
7. Gaze at the architecture – you can do that as you travel hither and thither, of course, but it’s fascinating enough to plan a day around it. There are organized heritage walks of South Bombay, Bandra village etc., but feel free to do your own thang. The Victorian / art-deco buildings of South Bombay’s business district, the Portuguese village remnants of Bandra, or the quintessential chawls
of central Bombay are all enthralling walks through the city’s history.
8. Visit an Irani café – before they all disappear (too many already have). Visit them for a subculture that exists only here, and food that is unique, as are its owners / servers. Whether it’s the astonishing berry pulao
at Café Brittannia, or the brun-maska
, or keema-pao
, caramel pudding at any other café, the flavor is un-missable. Bonus : the hilarious signs in the café such as “Don’t talk to the cashier”. Double bonus : An ancient, irascible, eccentric owner who calls you ”young lady”, ignoring your silver hair, and insists that you try some dish of the day.
9.Travel like the locals – whether it’s by local train, or by a black-and-yellow cab or an auto-rickshaw. Yes, ditch the Uber, and see and feel (and smell) the city as she is. And revel in how safe and easy it still is here (compared to other Indian cities). Just, y’know….. the usual big-city precautions apply.
10. End the day in style - grab a drink at a local bar or pub – preferably a dive. Choose from The Ghetto in South Bombay (dingy, very divey, graffiti and murals, cheap booze and avoidable food, brilliant music and an awesome vibe) or Toto’s in Bandra (sanitized, a little yuppie, but very chill and quaint), or any of the small but trendy places littering Bandra, Khar and Colaba. And if you’re in the mood to splurge, try the 5-star options – either the famous Bayview Bar at the Hilton, or the new(ish)Aer at the Four Seasons. And last, but so not least, finish your night with street food from the late-night places that only locals know of - _bhurji-pao
outside Santacruz station, or keema-baida-roti
at Bade Miyan
, or biryani at Haji Ali Juice Center.
Each of these is its own post, I think. But this will do nicely to start with.
Picture graciously provided by +Lacerant Plainer
Links to some of the places I’ve referenced:
About Bombay : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mumbai
Bandra : A suburb or borough of Bombay – on its western coast. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandra
Colaba Causeway : The main street in an upmarket neighbourhood in South Bombay. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colaba_Causeway
Café Mondegar : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cafe_Mondegar
Irani cafés: Irani caféare Iranian or Persian style cafes in India. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irani_caf%C3%A9
More reading : http://blog.travelyaari.com/mumbai/mumbais-architecture-heritage/