Hop off the plane and Uber straight to the Taj Hotel. If you have the dough, go for the old wing; if not, the new tower is not so bad, but make sure to request an ocean view. Right outside the hotel, in pomp and failed circumstance, sits The Gateway of India-—lovely to walk around morning, noon and night, as the light dramatically shifts.
Just around the corner you’ll spot the pricey antique store Phillips, a good place to check out the real deal before heading over to Chor Bazaar on Mutton street. The prices are high but some of the things they have are quite hard to find. They’ll ship them for you—-and they will actually arrive!
Keep walking to V.B. Ghandi Marg, where you’ll find cool art galleries and design shops. A few of my favorites are Filter and Dag for nicely edited selections of framed photographs, old labels and stationery items. Across the street is the DAG collection itself, one of India’s largest contemporary art galleries housed in a lovely old building.
Nearby is one of my favorite Zoroastrian temples, Maneckji Nowroji Sett Agiary, one of Mumbai’s oldest fire temples, built by the Parsi community. The entrance is guarded by two magnificent iamassi figures, kingly bearded human heads atop powerful bull bodies.
Continue down the main avenue to see all of the incredible buildings. I snuck into the Asiatic Society and wandered through the grand halls. Nearby is the Bombay High Court, General Post Office, and the former Victoria Terminus—-architectural gems all—-well worth the heat and crowds.
Of course, you are hungry by now. Don’t worry—-the incredible Burmese place Burma Burma is right here. Don’t miss the tea leaf salad and their Khaosay, an outstanding noodle specialty. While strolling about, be sure to check out the old paperback vendors along the way. They sell great old book covers at 30 Rp.
Now you are finally acclimatized and can hit up the Chor bazaar, one of my favorite spots in Mumbai. Grab a taxi and in about twenty minutes you’ll be on Mutton street where, true to its name, you’ll see a lot of sheep milling about, sitting on scooters and giving you quizzical looks.
The street is packed with antique dealers of all shapes and sizes. I bought an old English watch for 5000 Rp and some old British ad posters, inlaid boxes, and a few wooden heads from Karnataka. Bargain hard, of course, but there’s lots of fun loot to be found here.
Since you’ve been fighting crowds all day, have dinner at The Table, just around the corner from the Taj, where you’ll find a refreshing range of farm to table dishes and one of the best burgers in India. It’s always packed, so book ahead or ask the Taj to book for you.
The next day I decide to visit some museums. One of my favorites is right nearby. Formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum, it’s been cleaned up and reorganized and is now a pleasure to wander. I love the stone carvings, Indian miniatures and, of course, the textiles. The former Victoria and Albert Museum is a also a quick cab ride away. There you’ll find wonderful examples of the craftwork that once filled ships departing for the West, charmingly displayed in the gilded interiors of this restored Victorian gem.
Not far away is a Parsi sweet shop, The Regal Bakery. Sit and try some of their tasty biscuits while admiring the unchanged signage proclaiming ‘all kinds of provisions at market rates, ice cream and Faluda served on order only.’ Also nearby is Le Mill, a fancy shopping area in reclaimed mill buildings. Le Mill itself is a modern clothing store. Other shops like Good Earth are also in the neighborhood.
I hope nighttime finds you at the racetrack hotspot Keiba at the Royal Western India Turf Club. You can have drinks or eat dinner looking out on the stables themselves as horses stare back, eating their own dinners. If you want something quite spectacular, head to Masque for an intriguing tasting menu in another refurbished historic mill.
I was lucky enough to visit Mumbai during the Ganesh festival, a weeklong birthday celebration for the god himself. Parades wind through the streets at full speed, bands playing, marchers chanting, as statues of Ganesh are given to the river—-150,000 statues are immersed!
But really there’s never a wrong time to be in Mumbai.