Why Central Mumbai:
I was previously in Pune for work and sightseeing, but Pune´s airport does not have any international flights. Therefore, I had to travel elsewhere to fly back to New York. Mumbai, which is only a bus or train ride away, was my best bet. I had already been to Mumbai and did not really like it. However, this time I had MBA classmates from the city. So, I decided to spend a day in the areas where they live, which are pretty far from what I saw on my first trip in 2014.
June 10, 2022: Arrival
My bus from Pune took 4 hours and dropped me off in the Sion neighborhood. This was north of Dharavi, the northernmost neighborhood I had visited on my last trip. Sion was busy and full of high rises. I walked to a famous snacks restaurant called Gurukripa. The place was packed, and the locals were surprised to see a foreigner here.
I wolfed down my chole (chickpeas) and caught an Uber to the hotel near the airport. I was not feeling great after drinking tap water in Pune the night before. So, I laid low.
June 11, 2022: Bandra and Beyond
The next day, I woke up extremely well rested but still not 100%. While the COVID entry requirement to the US had just been scrapped, I was worried about the exact timing of enforcement. So, I got a test. The test was the cheapest one I´ve ever paid for: 90 rupees or about $1.40. Negative.
I then took a rickshaw into Bandra, the neighborhood where Arisht, the groom from the wildest wedding I have and ever will attend, lives. Arisht had to travel to his wife´s house in Chennai, South India for another wedding event (do these Indian weddings ever end?) but luckily gave me some recommendations.
Bandra is leafy with large trees hanging over the quiet streets. By Indian standards, this neighborhood is very peaceful.
My first stop was the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount (known colloquially as Mount St. Mary). This 16thcentury catholic church is the landmark of Bandra. The interior of the church is brightly painted and has a famous statue of Mary.
From the church, I walked down to the coast stopping at the Ultra Deluxe AC bathroom. The AC blast alone was worth the admission price.
Smushed between the coastal road and the beach were slums. People really find ways to live everywhere in India!
At the end of the coastal road lies the Bandra Fort, a historic Portuguese fort. While the fort is cool and the views of the Sealink bridge are impressive, the main reason people go here is to make out! I saw dozens of conservatively dressed Hindu and Muslim couples aggressively making out on benches in the serene garden. It was so difficult to not laugh.
I then took a rickshaw to lunch. Based on the recommendation of someone at the wedding, I went to the Farmer´s Café in the Linking Road area of Khar, the neighborhood next to Bandra. Farmer’s Café started a trend of the keto diet in India. The trend caught on with Bollywood actors and actresses and now is a bona fide food trend among wealthy Indians. The menu was quite large, but I ordered the standard “farmer´s meal” which has curry tofu, salad, and brown rice. It was delicious and super healthy, but undoubtedly not as tasty as the other food I have had on this trip.
Despite being perhaps the trendiest restaurant in all of Mumbai catering to the wealthy crowd, I was amazed to see two cows laying down across the street.
Next, I walked over to the Linking Road Market where street vendors sell clothing. The scene was quite hectic.
I walked over to meet up with Ravi, who I met at the wedding. Ravi is on the sales team for Theory 9, a brand of furnished apartment buildings run by Arisht and his family. Ravi showed me a few of the units and gave me a glimpse of what it is like to live in Mumbai. I was amazed by both the quality of the units as well as and the staggering cost of real estate in Mumbai. I learned that families (in India families commonly live together in multi-generational households) will own multiple units and even floors of high rises and will connect the units together.
Some of the units in the building are rented out short term on AirBNB. We met an Irish couple staying in Mumbai for a month. Very cool!
Next Ravi drove me over to the Bandra coastline on Carter Road. There is no beach here – the coast is rocky – but the vibes feel beachy and luxe.
For dinner, I met up with my friend Kapil. He currently lives in Germany but was back in town to see family. We first hung out in his family´s apartment, located high up in a high rise.
Then, Kapil drove us (truly incredible) to get dinner in the Dadar neighborhood at an old school upscale North Indian restaurant. The food was awesome.
I then took an Uber back to my hotel to rest up for my 03:00 flight back
Mumbai is a big city and is impossible to see in a single trip. I did not fully appreciate just how enormous the city is. Seeing how my business school friends live was truly a treat. While during my first trip, I considered Mumbai to be my least favorite city in India, I now feel differently. The energy that was lacking in the historic parts of the city is very much there in the central neighborhood