Mumbai is becoming a more frequent stopover for international arrivals on trips to India, like our connection through Dubai on Emirate Air. Also when traveling between northern and southern India domestic flights often connect through Mumbai including our flights between Goa-Delhi-Varanasi.
But Mumbai is much more than an overnight connection. While Delhi is India’s political capital, Mumbai is its commercial and financial capital with more industry and export than any other city of India by far: With over 12 million registered residents (and there are always many more people living in Indian cities who are not officially registered), Mumbai is the largest city in India, the center of Bollywood, and contains one of the largest slums in the world.
If you’re flying through Mumbai you can simply stay overnight at the JW Marriott on the coast not far from the airport or at any number of comfortable brand hotels near the new world class international airport opening this month—it’s quite spectacular. If you opt to head into the city plan on a 45-60 minute commute into town. It’s worth spending at least two nights to see the sights and catch the vibe of this bustling modern city and its vibrant street scene full of fancy restaurants and cafes serving all kinds of Indian and international cuisines, shops and bazaars, art exhibits and local families and hip teens strolling the coastal boardwalk in the warm winter air. At night the flamboyant florescent lights on horse drawn carriages light up the darkness.
We stayed in the new tower of the historic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in a waterfront room on the 15th floor overlooking the harbor and Gateway to India, a huge basalt arch built to commemorate the 1911 royal visit of King George V, then 24 years later to parade off the last regiment of the British troops on the march to independence.
Why stay anywhere else if you want to see Mumbai in a few days? India Gate is lit up at night and any time we went down in the evening we were gleefully greeted by locals who wanted their picture with us and to know where we came from. Strolling around the waterfront here is great people watching and is the starting point to walk through the bustling street scene and bazaars of Colaba where we discovered our favorite eateries like The Table and Indigo serving fresh vegetarian Indian fusion cuisine, as well as bars and cafes like Leopold’s made famous among expats and travelers in the book Shantaram, a great travel book for India that I’m reading now about an Australian escaped con who fled here and immersed himself into life in the slums.
More from my trip to India: Kama Sutra Valentines