A friend and I have been on a long weekend trip the last several days. We had been in the state of Maharashtra previously to see the caves; we made our return but not for the caves this time. This time, we are here for Mumbai, India’s largest city and capital of Maharashtra. Later, we decided to make our way over to Lonavla, a nearby hill station.
Upon first arriving in Mumbai, Lexy and I walked to find a cafe for lunch. A quick rain greeted us along the way, but the sun had dried our clothes by the time we sat down. We made our way to our hostel, Basti, finding it clean and the people friendly. Coincidentally, our Norwegian friends had stayed at the same hostel when they came almost a month ago to send in absentee votes for Norway’s election. That was right after the flooding in the city, which was around the same time as the flooding in the U.S. caused by Hurricane Harvey.
Though it is such a big city, we spent only 3 days in Mumbai. Following guidebooks’ suggestions, we went to many of the famous sites and areas, mostly in South Mumbai. The city is on the coast of the Arabian Sea, so there are a couple of famous beaches. We were warned that the water there is not very clean, but I guess we wanted to see the beaches more than swim in their waters, anyway. On the first night, we went to Juhu Beach. Drizzles of rain accompanied us the whole night, but it had a relaxing effect as we walked barefoot in the sand. Plenty of restaurant stalls sit just above the beach, and families came to them pretty late into the night. Another day, we walked all the way along Marine Drive, which follows the coast for several kilometers. On one side is the coast and on the other are high buildings, from apartments to an aquarium. Going north, we reached Chowpatty Beach in time for the sunset again. Other nights, we browsed through bookstores and sat talking with pretty awesome hostelmates.
In those 3 days, it was kind of our strategy to see as much of the city as possible by walking between points. I think that played out well, as we got to the major tourist points and along the way got to see less frequented neighborhoods. Some of the quieter streets have architecture clearly evident of the Portuguese colonial era, and in parts of the Vile Parle neighborhood the airport takeoffs are deafening. We came across numerous markets (for clothes, jewelry, food, etc.) by chance walking semi-aimlessly, as well as ones we came to on purpose. The Crawford Market is a rather famous one in the Fort area, which had vendors selling produce, foods, spices, fabrics, toys, and more. Having been recently renamed Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai, we almost missed finding it.
The Fort area is popular with tourists. We reached it at a Victorian-style rail station, called CST for Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The railways run through much of Mumbai and are used to get to different points in the city. There are a few trains going longer distances, too, and stations are extra crowded at certain times. The trains are highly convenient and affordable, though Lexy navigated much better than I did. Also near Fort are the Bombay High Court, Rajabhai Clock Tower, Cafe Mondegar, and Gateway of India. Kala Ghoda is an artsy neighborhood there with several galleries, cafes, and street art. Chapel Road and surrounding streets in the Bandra area have impressive street art, as well.
Our reservation at the hostel was for a day shorter than originally intended, so we got bus tickets to Lonavla for a couple of days instead of extending it. Lonavla is southeast of Mumbai, on the way to city of Pune. We walked around often here, too, but definitely felt the need to have a rickshaw to go up steeper mountains. My favorite place was near Lion Point overlooking Tiger’s Leap, where there are views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Water in one of the rivers below literally looked as if it were sparkling when the sun was out. It was so gorgeous, we spent a while there feeling like we were in the clouds and sitting with chili-lime-salted corn from one of the many food stalls. We had apparently missed the distinctly pretty monsoon season to see the waterfalls at their best, but I still found Lonavla a pretty town. It was nice that we ended up catching a group from the hostel at Bushi Dam, and even nicer to have sat for dinner with a local couple one night. The walk to the little restaurant was worth it because the spicy mutton fried rice was… so delicious.
We are waiting for the bus back to Mumbai. Our director living in Mumbai might meet us for dinner. Then, we will be on our way to Hyderabad. It has been a refreshing break, but I think I will be relieved to be back.