Saturday, 18 September 2010

Breakaway - A Whirlwind 48 Hours in Mumbai

For a weekend that is just five hours away, look beyond the usual hotspots of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Mumbai, the financial and entertainment capital of India oozes more than Bollywood glam. Its history, stunning architecture, old world charm, great bargains and lip smacking culinary gems at one go. Our guest writer, friend and Simply Fab reader, Mei Lin shares her whirlwind visit to Mumbai.

Dhoby Ghat
Hmmm - doesn't this name sound vaguely familiar? A manual laundry operation was the last thing we expect on an introductory tour of Mumbai so we were mystified when our guide Shilpa brought us to the Saat Rasta Dhoby Ghat - a slum converted into a remarkable open-air laundry operated by hundreds of ‘dhoby’ or laundry washers. What’s more amusing are the tourists peering and photographing these industrious ‘dhoby’ work thrashing their linens on flogging stones. “Their washing water is changed twice in a day. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon. And yet, their laundry turns out sparkling white!” said Shilpa. Despite the thousands of clothes, uniforms, sheets etc, very few mix-ups occur.

Mani Bhavan - Gandhi’s Residence
Skipping a visit to Mani Bhavan, the residence of the ‘Father of the Nation’, Mahatma Gandhi is almost a sign of disrespect. Owned by his good friend, the house, located in a leafy neighbourhood, was Gandhi’s residence during his visits to the city between 1917 and 1934. Mani Bhavan is now a museum and reference library with over 2,000 books, photos, letters to various politicians, written musings and a dioroma chronicling his life. Even his old room is still intact with his charkha, or spinning wheel, and the three holy books from Islam, Hinduism and Christianity laid out in his simple spartan style.

Old Mumbai
Architecture buffs would be totally enamoured by the rich heritage in old Mumbai. Although a little scruffy from wear and tear, the city’s legacy from the Empire is very apparent. The UNESCO World Heritage Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus – formerly called Victoria Terminus and opened in 1887 to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee – is a striking example of Gothic architecture complete with its carved stone friezes, stained glass windows and flying buttresses, servicing a mindboggling average of three million commuters daily. The station may seem vaguely familiar as some scenes from ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, were shot there. Another magnificent landmark is the Bombay University, with its impressive clock tower and beautiful lawns which boasts alumni like Miss World Aishwarya Rai and former Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao. Other architecturally memorable buildings are Prince of Wales Museum, Town Hall, High Court and the National Gallery of Modern Art.

Gateway of India
Mumbai’s most prominent landmark, the Gateway of India on the waterfront is a major draw for tourists near and far. The monumental arch, complete with four turrets and intricate latticework carved into the yellow basalt stone was built to welcome King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. Ironically, this was also the gateway by which the last of the British troops left India in 1948 and it also earned an infamous place in history as one of the entry points by sea for the terrorist attacks in 2008. (Beware of having your photos taken by local enterprising youths and printed on the spot with a portable printer!)

The Taj Mahal Palace Resort and Tower
Cross the street directly to another equally regal monument, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, the 107-year-old grande dame, which has seen royalty, eminent political figures and celebrities passing through its doors. It was believed that owner Jamsedji Tata had built the hotel after being slighted by the ‘whites only policy’ when he tried to enter another hotel. The tragic site of the 2008 terrorist attacks, the hotel has been elegantly restored to its former glory and a wall memorial in the lobby pays respect to the 31 hotel guests and staff who perished in this calamity.

Luscious Shopping!
A few doors away is Fabindia, a local chain specializing in garments and home products made domestically and embodying the best of traditional and contemporary ideas. Made mostly of light cottons and linens, there is a superb range of table cloths, cushion covers and bed linen in various colours. It’s also a good store to try out fashionable Indian wear at reasonable prices before buying them. Being fans of chai (tea), this is where we stocked up on tulsi tea, ginger tea, marsala tea, pickles, chutneys, cashew nut butter, massage oils and other organic spices and herbs.

If you like haggling and street shopping, don’t miss the Colabar Causeway filled with carts and shops selling all varieties of clothing materials, accessories, antiques, jewellery and more. Fans of the Himalaya herbal healthcare range of toiletries, vitamins and skincare (found in our local Watsons!) made of natural products would do well to purchase their products here at prices lower than Singapore. Be wary of street beggars, fluent in English, who run a smooth operation on unsuspecting tourists. (Sorry no pic, cos she was too busy shopping!)

Food From Mughal To Coastal
The Mughal-themed Khyber restaurant chain serves delicious Northern Indian cuisine. The skewered prawns tikka marinated in Khyber’s classic spicy red masala, is divine. For the adventurous, there’s lamb’s brain coated with mild coconut and corriander chutney, basted with whipped egg whites and seared until crisp.

For yummy seafood in Mumbai, we were just thrilled to feast on excellent seafood at the Gajalee Coastal Restaurant of which there are several around city. There’s tandoori crab, huge pieces of Sri Lankan crab, perfectly spiced up for a finger licking experience and the popular Bombay Duck, which isn’t a duck but a local fish sliced and marinated in a lovely blend of turmeric and mirei powder before deep frying. Simple yet so delicious! For a repeat performance, Gajalee has opened at the Cuppage Terrace in Singapore.

Jet Airways flies direct to Mumbai daily from Singapore. Pictures by Mei Lin.


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Simply Fabulicious Copyright © 2009 Cosmetic Girl Designed by Ipietoon | In Collaboration with FIFA
Girl Illustration Copyrighted to Dapino Colada