This incredibly large and bustling 21 million city will be for many of you the gateway to India. Thanks to many flight tickets deals, it is possible to get a return ticket on the Prague/Vienna - Mumbai route starting at 9,000 CZK (403 USD). In February 2013, we began in Mumbai our incredible half-year Indian adventure. My first harsh moments and exciting experiences during the first days in Mumbai are described in the following article.
If you are visiting India for the first time, definitely get ready for the initial cultural shock. Words would hardly describe this entirely new experience. Already on the way from the airport to the tourist center in Colaba, that we traveled via the local route, we had the chance to come in contact with the unprecedented poverty, the masses of people, the packs of wandering animals. You are entering an utterly unknown world full of stunning sensations and experiences. Prepare yourself for a completely different culture, incomprehensible hygienic habits, unbearably humid and hot Indian climate, a number of beggars lying in the streets. In terms of sensations, even your nose and taste will record many completely unknown and exotic scents and flavors.
Acclimatization in this largest Indian city took us about 2 days, during which we were just amazed and did not believe our own eyes registering the exotic life scenes all around us. The very first day I was lying on the smelly mattress of my bunk bed in a cheap hostel, and in my mind, I was wondering why? Why did I go to India for God's sake? Over time, we began to indulge our new environment, and the initial feeling of disillusionment was replaced by a very intense feeling of enthusiasm.
Accommodation options and most of the tourist attractions you will find in Colaba - one of the seven Mumbai islands, located in the southern tip of Mumbai City. Colaba, formerly a region under Portuguese domination, is now rightly referred to as the center of history, art, and luxury. You will find here many monuments, boutiques, shops, bars, restaurants, galleries, and museums. In short, everything the ordinary tourist desires. The most interesting cultural monuments and points of interest of Colaba most definitely include:
Colaba Causeway: Shopping streets - Shahid Bhagat and Singh Rd
Cowasji Jehangir Hall: Museum of Modern Art
Cathedral of the Holy Name
Gateway of India: An impressive monument in the form of an arched gate built on the shores of the Arabian Sea
The Taj Mahal Palace is a luxury hotel boasting the name of the most famous Indian building. If your itinerary does not allow you to visit Agra, you can take a look at Taj Mahal at least in Mumbai. For a night in a double room expect to pay about 21,000 INR - the same amount that would pay a low-cost traveler for a month of budget traveling in India. Breakfast is included in the price. Hard to resist, isn't it.
The architecturally impressive buildings of Old Secretariat, Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library and Bombay High Court (all at Cricket oval)
Colaba, as a tourist hub, next to the dishes popular in the Western world (Domino's Pizza, Starbucks, McDonald's), also offers numerous local dining options right on the street. In the narrow alleyways of Colaba, try the real Indian classics (INR 50-180) or the Arabian kebab (70 INR), which you can flush with a chilled Kingfisher beer (180 INR), or Sugar Can drink (20 INR).
If you decide to go on a trip to the beach, take the local train at the Churchgate Station and head to Charni Rd (5 INR). From there, Girgaon Chowpatty Beach is a stone's throw away.
Also, check out the world's largest outdoor laundry Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat. Again, take the train at the Churchgate and get off at Mahalaxmi Dhobighat (5 INR).
For those who want to have a glimpse of the slum of Mumbai, head to the nearest slum built within the railway tracks at Mahim Junction (train Churchgate - Mahim Junction, 10 INR).
There are more than enough accommodation options in Colaba. However, do not expect any great deals. The cheapest accommodation option will be probably the Salvation Army Hostel (250 INR per bed). The hostel has a unique location, but the comfort is definitely not to be found here. The price for a regular double room starts today in Colaba at INR 1,800 (in 2013 it was 900 INR).
While wandering around Colaba (not only), beware of the fraudulent "holy men" offering blessings for "just paper" money, persistent women offering jasmine bracelets for free (and then they chase you as long as they get their gratuity) or exuberant rickshaw drivers who tend to give short rides for a lot of money - without a taximeter turned on. But the best scammers are the local thugs, who scan every tourist passing nearby and thereupon come up to you notifying you to have soap in your ear. They take advantage of the element of surprise and offer to wipe the soap off, and boom, you have a steel needle in your ear! The lovely boy suddenly becomes a ruthless original-way ear cleaner, hence a needle. The refusal to pay the demanded astronomical amount is rejected by a sharp needle in your ear pushing on your eardrum.