There is nothing like organising a spur of the moment getaway and we decided that Mumbai would be the perfect spot for just that. We booked our flights, a very manageable 3 hours from Dubai, booked our hotel – the InterContinental Marine Parade and got on our way.
I had heard great things about the hotel and this rang true from the minute we arrived. Welcomed in, our early check-in was available, we settled into our room quite quickly, grabbed a coffee and headed out to explore.
The room itself is spacious, with fabulous views across Back Bay. What I really liked was the timber floors and panelling – it gave richness to an intentionally simple room. The bathroom was white/grey marble with a window into the bedroom to provide a feeling of openness an connection.
Being walking distance to most key tourist spots was also a huge advantage as we spent two days wandering the streets – visiting India Gate, catching a ferry across to see the Elephanta Caves on the island of Gharapuri and having a cup of tea at the infamous Taj Hotel to name just a few things we did.
But this is where our trip moved away from a traditional Mumbai visit and there are three “must-does” that really have stuck in my mind, and I would highly recommend setting time aside to do. They are a night at the InterContinental’s rooftop bar people watching (make sure you have read the latest Masala magazine before you go), a day trip to the Ellora and Ajanta Caves and a tour of the Dharavi Slum.
Whilst Mumbai is quite compact and you could easily spend four days exploring it and shopping in fantastic stores such as Fabindia and Anokhi we decided to pack in more activity and take a day trip, by plane, up to Aurangabad from where we could explore both the Ajanta and Ellora Caves.
The Ellora Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes representations from Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism all within the same area. A highlight was visiting the Kailasanatha Temple which is one of the largest rock-cut Hindu temples in India and was carved from a single rock. To think back to the 8th century when the majority of it was built and to think about the people who would have led this construction I am in awe. Whilst it is breathtaking due to its scale, the detail is amazing.
Unlike the Ellora Caves, the Ajanta Caves are carved out of a cliff face and go back into the hillside which makes quite an impact as you walk up to the caves.
The day was exhausting and I wish I had had a pedometer on to measure how many steps we covered but it was well worth it and our hotel bed was a sweet treat to rest our weary bodies.
The “slum tour” was enlightening – a fascinating city within a city made famous by the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”. The tour was arranged by a company, Be The Local, that only employs university students living within Dharavi as a way of giving them access to an income to support their studies. We started by meeting our guide on the outside of Dharavi and crossed the overbridge which gave us the most amazing perspective across this city. We were asked not to take photos of people, which really did resonate because this is where they live and work and would we really want tourists coming in to ur neighbourhoods and photographing us? What blew me away was the level of industry – the different factories and recycling plants are thought to contribute over USD 650 million into Mumbai’s economy every year. The guides partner with local families to allow us access to their roofs to get a different perspective and also showed us around a typical home. The most interesting thing for me was the stories that our guide shared from his childhood and his thoughts on how the city had developed beyond the traditional idea of a slum.
So there are my “must-does” for Mumbai – stay, and enjoy the evenings under the stars, in the InterContinental Marine Parade, , check out Be The Local for any Mumbai based tours and catch a flight up to Aurangabad.