If Mumbai is your introduction to India, prepare yourself. The city isn’t a threatening place but its furious energy, limited (but improving) public transport and punishing pollution make it challenging for visitors. The heart of the city contains some of the grandest colonial-era architecture on the planet, but explore a little more and you’ll uncover unique bazaars, hidden temples, hipster enclaves and India’s premier restaurants and nightlife.
Top experiences in (Mumbai)
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus
Imposing, exuberant and overflowing with people, this monumental train station is the city’s most extravagant Gothic building and an aphorism of colonial-era India. It’s a meringue of Victorian, Hindu and Islamic styles whipped into an imposing Dalí-esque structure of buttresses, domes, turrets, spires and stained glass. It’s also known as CSMT.
Some of the architectural detail is incredible, with dog-faced gargoyles adorning the magnificent central tower and peacock-filled windows above the central courtyard. Designed by Frederick Stevens, it was completed in 1887, 34 years after the first train in India left this site.
Despite being renamed again in 2017, after being changed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) in 1998, it’s still better known locally as VT.
No sense is left unaffected at Mumbai’s incredibly atmospheric fishing docks, dating to 1875, the oldest and largest wholesale fish market in Mumbai. A scene of intense and pungent activity begins around 5am, when colourfully clad Koli fisherfolk sort the catch unloaded from fishing trawlers at the quay, and carries on throughout the morning.
Gaggles of sari-sheathed women peel pink prawns as theft-determined crows swoop in and out. Fishmongers barrel though discarded piles of shells, drying bombil (fish used for Bombay duck) and discarded fish bits with massive carts of catch, all against a cinematic backdrop of wooden fishing boats. Piles of pomfret, blue crabs, rawas (white salmon), tambusa (Indian red snapper), tuna, cuttlefish and sting rays are hawked – 20 tonnes per day – often in heated exchanges of commerce and camaraderie. Some say photography is prohibited, others disagree (we had no issues shooting away and the whole thing is a photographer’s dream).
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