We took advantage of the Independence day long week end to travel to Mumbai via road. We departed from Pune at 10 am and took the old highway. There was not much traffic and because we had to pass many villages, cars were not really speeding. On the way we passed beautiful green hills with waterfalls and idling buffaloes and monkeys.
We arrived in Mumbai minutes before 3 pm because it took us one hour to enter the city. We checked in ITC Grand central hotel located in Parel. The hotel is called a luxury hotel and you could see why upon entering the lobby: high ceilings with beautiful chandeliers, rich seating areas. The room itself was small but nicely decorated.
Anyway, we stayed only thirty minutes there then went in search of a restaurant. It was hard to find one in Parel so we headed towards Marine drive. We found Sukh Sagar restaurant opposite Chowpatty Beach. Unfortunately the lunch menu was not available as it was almost 5 pm. We ordered Dosa for the adults and veg sandwich and pizza for the kids. The food was just okay, nothing to complain or gloat about.
After lunch we drove to the Gateway of India (which was so packed we decided against going), Taj Hotel, High Court and ended up in Colaba Causeway market. The city was bustling with people, due to the holiday I supposed. The traffic was also crazy with yellow and black cabs and motorbikes sneaking in between cars. We walked a bit around the market where the kids enjoyed sights of goats stealing vegetables. Then we headed to Crawford market. This market is huge and sells pretty much everything. You have real shops and just in front of them make shift ones that blocks the street. It reminded me a bit of Bangkok. There you could buy Kurtis for men, some simple, some blinged with rhinestones and sequins, fake jewels as shiny as the real ones, kids clothes, produce and more. There was a strong Muslim presence around the market. Many men were sporting beards often dyed in henna and women wore black cloaks with matching Burqa or Ridas. And everywhere you look you could find Mosques competing in beauty. We bought some fruits and nothing else there but I was quite tempted by the sights.
Back at the hotel, the kids went for a splash at the indoor pool while I wondered around town in search of food. I ended up in High Street Phoenix mall packed with a huge crowd attracted by the holiday sales. There was a big line at the food court so I went inside the first restaurant I saw and ordered takeout. It was Spaghetti kitchen where for a ridiculously high price I bought a succulent Pomodore pasta, Greek salad and Tabouleh salad. Again traffic was my biggest enemy as it took me (or my driver) thirty minutes to get back to the hotel instead of the normal ten. I have to say that I was disgusted by Mumbai the first day; the crowd, the beggars, the traffic, the humidity all did me in and I just wanted to run back home to Pune.
The second day was way better. It started with a great breakfast at the hotel. I had smoked salmon which I missed since Japan and this exquisite multi grain croissant. After the meal we went to the 31st floor of the hotel to check the viewpoint. It was okay but nothing to rave about. It was humid, so the sights were a bit foggy. After that we went into town to check Haj Ali Mosque. It was another disappointing site; the Mosque was falling a apart or going through renovations. Frankly it was hard to tell. The small road leading to it is in a middle of a polluted sea. And around the Mosque you can find what look like beach shacks selling food and knick knacks. It was a huge tourist trap. We quickly finished there and headed to Colaba Market. There were less people so we had an enjoyable walk. We ended up having lunch there in a restaurant called Shahi Dawat. They specialize in Farsi food and seafood. We ordered a kebab platter, fish curry and butter chicken. The food was good but I particularly enjoyed the butter chicken. The service was also good. They gave the kids complementary ice cream when they overheard us mention that it was my youngest son birthday the following day.
After lunch we walked some more around Colaba and then headed to Fashion street in Mahatma Ghandi road. Fashion street is a street full of small shops that sell mostly Western clothing and accessories. They sell China made clothes (fake brands) and sometimes name brands like in this shop where I found Topshop dresses and shirts for nothing. But I was not allowed to shop so I let it go. I should have taken the name of the owner because I may need him in the future for my business.
At night we barely had dinner, and ate only sandwiches from Cafe Coffee day across the street from the hotel.
The last day in Mumbai we just took a stroll at Chowpatty beach. It was nice but dirty with everything from small offerings to food and such washing up the shore. It was still nice to see the sea and walk on the sand. We headed back to Pune and as expected it took us 2 hours to get out of Mumbai. On the same old highway there was no traffic and it was smooth sailing all the way to Lonavala where we stopped for lunch. We found a Gujarati Thali restaurant in a place called Sancheti Lawn. They were actually closing but we asked them to stay open just for us. I had my doubts about the food as the place was not that great looking but I was wronged by the flavors. We had Daal, another lentil curry, Paneer tika, freshly made Roti, Gulab Jamum (or what I call diabetes in a ball) and sweet yogurt. I ate way more than I intended to. After lunch the hubby wanted to buy clay pots and plants for our balcony so we stopped again. We got 6 clay pots for 300 rupees and 6 plants (at Om farms Nursery) for 200, a fraction of what we would have payed in Pune for way less plants. Even in India, living in the countryside is way cheaper.
The trip ended for us and I could not be happier. Mumbai was something that I wanted to see for a long time. But this trip left me tired and feeling cheated, like the city had much more to offer but I could not find it. I am not saying that I am done but maybe next time I go, I must find an Indian friend to show me all that I was missing...