Mumbai sits on a narrow peninsula that juts into the Arabian Sea. This congested and densely populated city is home to 25 million people. The public transit system is poor, however the business district is booming and many famous Bollywood actors and actresses live here.
Nick and I spent 3 days Couchsurfing in Mumbai. Our host took us out for late night rides to the beach, kulfi ice cream, paan (refreshment leaf) and tours of Bollywood homes. I particularly had an interesting experience as his views of women made for a unique experience. However, not negative as I was excluded from conversations and actives. Nonetheless, it was a cultural experience and we were thankful for the hospitality.
We spent time wandering the south and taking in the old architecture: High Court, Gateway of India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (awesome train station), Taj Mahal Palace (high end hotel), Chhatrapti Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, and Rajabai Clock Tower.
We explored the bazaar district and loved the variety of fruit sold at the Crawford Market, the largest market in Mumbai. We were lucky to be there during the beginning of Alphonso mango season. We paid 400 R ($6) for 12 delicious locally grown mangos and drooled over beautiful papayas, pomegranates, cashews, dried fruits, spices, and figs.
Dharavi slum- Nick and I decided to visit the Dharavi Slum, as 53% of Mumbai’s population lives in slums. This slum is home to 1 million people and stretches over 432 acres. Parts of the movie “Slum dog millionaire” were filmed in Dharavi. There are over 10,000 government registered businesses located in the slum, mostly in the leather, recycling (plastics), and pottery industry.
We were torn whether or not visiting was ethical, however decided that in order to address issues within our society we need to educate ourselves in every way possible. In addition, by booking a tour through Reality Tours & Travel, 80% of the proceeds went to community centers educating youth. Nick and I found the experience fascinating as it didn’t feel like we were in a “slum”. It felt like we were in any other part of India, walking through back alleys to a bus station. The word “slum” simply means a settlement residing on government land. The degree of poverty within slums vary, however the West puts such a negative connotation on the word. This community had shops and did the work that others would not. The jobs were dangerous (burning paint, melting aluminum and recycling plastics) and takes years off of the local’s lifespan. Since photography was prohibited (rightly so) check out the great photos we were provided.- read more on slum tourism
Marine Drive – Here, Nick and I watched the sunset over the Arabian Sea. The twinkling night-lights of Mumbai were nicknamed, ‘the queens necklace’, and hundreds of locals gathered for the evening. Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually see the sun set due to the dense air pollution.
Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat- This 140 year old area is known as the largest human powered washing machine. Thousands of kilograms of clothes are cleaned a day and there are over 1,026 open air troughs.
Bombay Panjrapole- 300 homeless cows are located in the middle of the city. Goats, donkeys and dogs can be found and they are all provided shelter and fed.The Mumbai Wall Project – Nick and I wandered parallel from Bandra to Colaba train stations. The 2 km wall of street art addressed issues regarding pollution, gender equality, aborting females, and child abuse. Although the majority of the wall seemed to be repainted, the murals left were thoughts provoking and beautiful.
Malabar Hill- At the tip of the peninsula, Nick and I roamed around an exclusive and quiet neighborhood. The homes were large and it felt like we escaped the chaos of Mumbai for just a few minutes. Hidden between streets, we visited Banging Tank where kids played and Hindu pilgrims bathed.
-Try a bombil (Bombay Duck) thali, it’s sun dried fish that’s then deep fried.
-Near Marine Drive there is an amazing kulfi shop that serves pre sliced ice cream between wafers.