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   Mumbai Places of Interest

Gateway of India

Mumbai's most famous monument, this is the starting point for most tourists who want to explore the city. It was built as a triumphal arch to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary, complete with four turrets and intricate latticework carved into the yellow basalt stone. Ironically, when the Raj ended in 1947, this colonial symbol also became a sort of epitaph: the last of the British ships that set sail for England left from the Gateway. Today this symbol of colonialism has got Indianised, drawing droves of local tourists and citizens. Behind the arch, there are steps leading down to the water. Here, you can get onto one of the bobbing little motor launches, for a short cruise through Mumbai's splendid natural harbour.

Bhuleshwar

In the crowded little shops of Bhuleshwar, you'll find a bewildering array of colourful glass bangles, embroidered saris, vivid pink-and-green sweetmeats. The famous Mumbadevi Temple, from which the city of Mumbai derives its name is situated here. The lanes are narrow and extremely crowded during the day, but you'll find a variety of interesting people doing odd professions. Bhuleshwar also houses the famous Zaveri Bazaar (Jeweller's Market) where gold and silver jewellery is sold.

Bombay University

Next to the High Court on Bhaurao Patil Road, the Venetian Gothic Bombay University has a Gothic clock tower 260 feet high, that is curiously adorned with oriental figures. In the old days it used to play Rule Britannia, God Save the king, Auld Lang Syne and a Handel symphony among 16 tunes that changed four times a day; now the repertoire is restricted to wafting chimes of the big Ben on the quarter hour.

Visit the University web-site at http://www.mu.ac.in

Chowpatty Beach

Apart from Juhu in the suburbs, Chowpatty is Mumbai's most famous beach. During the day, it is the hangout of the happily unemployed who snooze under the shade of its stunted trees. But in the evening the atmosphere is more like a carnival: kids screaming on Ferris wheels or taking pony rides, wayside astrologers making a quick buck, monkey shows, and even the odd self -styled gymnast who will demonstrate amazing yogic postures for a small fee. At one end is a row of bhelpuri shops hawking Mumbai's most popular snack: crisp puffed rice and semolina doused in pungent chutneys, all scooped up with a flat, fried puri. You might even catch a film shoot or a street play. In short, for most tourists Chowpatty is where the action is.

Fashion Street

Readymade garments are one of Mumbai's chief exports - and the surplus lands up at Fashion Street, a huddle of little shops on Mahatma Gandhi Road. They cost only a fraction of the price in foreign stores however, and are grabbed by fashion conscious collegians fresh off the rack. Haggling, of course is half the fun of buying. Begin at half the quoted price and work your way gradually upwards, then follow though with a thorough appraisal of the goods: much of the stuff here is rejected by quality conscious importers and likely to have a missing button or crooked collar. But by and large the clothes are of good quality, trendy, and probably the cheapest anywhere in the world.

Nehru Planetarium

Right next to Mahalaxmi Race Course, the This is a large domed building, popular with the city's amateur astronomers. Inside, various cubicles estimate your weight on each of the nine planets of the Solar System while in the domed interior, daily shows uncover the timeless mysteries of the cosmos. The place is usually packed with school children so make sure you buy your ticket in advance. Adjacent to the Nehru Centre, venue of numerous international trade fairs and local exhibitions. In the basement, the Nehru Auditorium usually boasts classical music and dance recitals, concerts and plays.

Flora Fountain

This is the very heart of Mumbai, circumscribed by stately colonial buildings that stand like proud old sentinels of a bygone era. Flora is the Roman Goddess of Flowers, her pretty alabaster face continually assaulted by grime and pollution. Next to her are a pair of torch bearing stone patriots that rise from the Martyrs Memorial nearby. Flora Fountain is now called Hutatma Chowk or Martyr's Square to honour those who died in the tumultuous birth of Maharashtra State. All around the square sit Mumbai's infamous vendors selling just about everything under the blazing tropical sun -- from cheap nylon saris and ballpoint pens to herbal remedies and sexshop gewgaws. Tooting horns and traffic complete the chaotic picture, but through it all Flora manages to retain her serene composure.

Hanging Gardens

Perched at the top of Malabar Hill, on its western side, just opposite the Kamala Nehru Park, these terraced gardens, also known as Ferozeshah Mehta Gardens, provide lovely sunset views over the Arabian Sea. The park was laid out in the early 1880s over Bombay's main reservoir, some say to cover the water from the potentially contaminating activity of the nearby Towers of Silence.

Jehangir Art Gallery

Bombay's main art gallery, just next to the Prince of Wales Museum, displays changing exhibits by well-known Indian artists. There's plenty of art to be seen outside as well, as the plaza in front of the building is full of artists offering their works for sale and their talents for commission assignments.

Mahalakshmi Race Course

It's not exactly Ascot, but Mumbai's Mahalaxmi Racecourse is probably as close as you can get to rubbing shoulders with high society fillies and cocktail party stallions. During the racing season between November and February, few events are as well attended as the Mumbai Derby, an annual affair with all the traditional English trimmings: hats, gloves, cucumber sandwiches, scones. And of course magnificent thoroughbreds, belonging mostly to Indian booze barons and local industrialists. But save for hardcore punters, these are merely the sideshow.

Marine Drive

If you're feeling energetic, a stroll down Marine Drive is possibly the best way to discover Mumbai. This is a windswept promenade, flanked by the sea and a row of art deco buildings. Looped between the concrete jungle of Nariman Point, Mumbai's Manhattan, and the leafy green slopes of Malabar hill, Marine Drive was once called the queen's Necklace, strung with glittering street lights like an enormous strand of imperious jewels. It is also one of Mumbai's busiest roads, an important artery for the heavy suburban traffic heading downtown. Cars whiz continually past the two mile stretch, past huddled lovers, children and babies in perambulators. Like other seafronts, this is where most of south Mumbai comes to breathe in some fresh air.

Juhu Beach

Like Chowpatty, its downtown counterpart, uptown Juhu Beach is also a bourgeois paradise, filled to the gills with screaming children, courting couples and rowdy adolescents. If you want a more fancy excursion, however, retreat behind Juhu's many five star hotels, for a steaming cup of coffee and a splendid view of the coast. The most popular of these beachfront hotels are the Sun and Sand and Holiday Inn. The government run Juhu Centaur also has a 24 hour coffee shop with a view of the sea.

Town Hall - Asiatic Library

With its old parquet floors, spiral staircases, wrought iron loggias, and exquisite marble statues of forgotten city fathers, the colonnaded Town Hall is perhaps the most regal and elegant of Mumbai's heritage buildings. It houses the Asiatic Society, a library with a collection of 800,000 antique volumes. One of them is a priceless first edition copy of Dante's "Inferno." There is also an impressive numismatic collection of over 1,000 ancient coins and a rare gold mohur belonging to the Mughal Emperor Akbar. You need permission to look at these treasures, but the public library is open to all and usually draws a large number of senior citizens who pore over the local newspapers in the fading grandeur of its reading room.

Esselworld

This is Mumbai's only international-style theme park and amusement centre situated close to Gorai Beach. Special ferries get you across to the park and the entrance fee normally takes care of a fixed number of rides. These include the standard roller coaster and adventure themes, plus a water world section where kids can literally run amok. Summer is usually crowded, but the place also offers low budget monsoon packages and special deals on weekends. Check these out before you go.


For more information, visit their web-site at http://www.esselworld.com

Film City

Mockingly called Bollywood by locals and cynics, Film City clings to the outskirts of the National Park, and is practically overrun by assorted stars and starlets -- the demi gods and goddesses of Modern India. Don't snigger. Bollywood churns out over 900 films every year, all packed with those mandatory elements of song, dance, melodrama, violence and erotica that Indian audiences love. Which is probably why Film City sets are heavily booked around the year. They are closed to visitors, but special permissions can always be "obtained" to check out the action.

Powai Lake

Within easy reach of Bombay by car are several picturesque lakes. Powai Lake, 28 miles from Bombay, is a quiet stretch of water by the side of a motor road. It can be approached via King's Circle, Sion, and Kurla. or through Santa Cruz and Andheri. Lake Powai is smaller lake of the two, and is situated a little west of the campus of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), one of the premier institutions of science and technology in India.

National Park

Originally planned as a wildlife retreat outside Mumbai, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is now virtually engulfed by the growing city. Most of it is wild and unsafe, but breathtakingly beautiful, filled with dense forests and dotted with sylvan lakes. There are wild animals here, of course, but the only way you can see them is to take the Lion Safari at the entrance. Don't expect displays of predatory power though: most of the animals here are so used to tourists that they merely yawn at the passing buses.

 

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