A Mumbai Heritage Architecture Walk with dabbawallahs and great eats along the way!

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High Court

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It’s very easy and lovely to take a brief (1.5 hour/2.5 km) walk around the very best of Mumbai’s heritage architecture. A wonderful mix of colonial-era and art deco buildings are closely grouped together in the neighbouring Colaba and Fort districts. The Lonely Planet Guides have a good map with directions.

On a work day, you can also see dabba-wallahs at work outside Churchgate station and the walk takes you near some great eating spots like Samrat Restaurant (for thalis from noon) (near Eros Cinema), Trishna (for seafood from noon) (between Sasson Library and St Thomas’ Cathedral), Bademiya (behind Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, from about 7pm) and  Olympia Coffee House (Chilla Muslim cuisine, Colaba) (near Regal Cinema and the Majestic Hotel).

Start at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, and on your way you will pass the Gateway of India, Royal Bombay Yacht Club, Dhunraj Mahal, Regal Cinema, Sailors Home (now Maharashtra Police Headquarters), Regal Cinema, Majestic Hotel, National Gallery of Modern Art, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum (formerly ‘Prince of Wales Museum’), Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library, New India Assurance Building, Flora Fountain, St Thomas’ Cathedral, Horniman Circle, Town Hall, High Court (well worth going inside to see hundreds of gowned advocates and dozens of court rooms in action), University of Mumbai, Rajabi Clock Tower, Oval Maidan and Eros Cinema.

Go India offers some good ideas and background to key sights too.

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University of Mumbai

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Majestic Hotel                                                     Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

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Elphinstone College, Sassoon Library                       St Thomas’ Cathedral

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CST Terminus (not on this walk)                   Gateway to India

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Taj Mahal Palace Hotel                                    Dhunraj Mahal

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Sailor’s Home                                  National Gallery of Modern Art,

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum (formerly ‘Prince of Wales Museum’) & Elphinstone College

 

 

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David Sassoon Library                  Rajabi Clock Tower

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New India Assurance Building                       Flora Fountain

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Oval Maidan                                                       High Court

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Rajabi Clock Tower                        Eros Cinema

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Regal Cinema                                   Samrat Restaurant on J Tata Rd (near Eros Cinema)

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Bademiya kebab stall (two streets behind the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel), loved by locals!

 

 

 

 

 

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai – a unique experience

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A night at the Taj Mahal Palace heritage hotel, is more like a themed experience than just a night’s nice accommodation.  From the hope of a possible upgrade, to the showmanship of Viren, on the heritage tour of the hotel’s history, to just enjoying the ambiance of  a hotel with such an iconic place in Mumbai’s identity, it’s all great fun.

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Also, the longer spent there, the more you find a genuine commitment to the personal needs of guests, which is truly lovely.

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The downsides are the significant cost and also a reluctance to leave the hotel and miss out on anything. It deserves full attention, so best timed after major sightseeing.

Rooms start at about $AUS 254 (Sat/Sun) for a city view in the newer Tower Wing.

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While this might miss out on some of the atmosphere of the older historic Palace Wing (Luxury Grande Rooms start at $AUS 396 (Sat/Sun)for a city view), the older rooms are limited by the era in which they were built and are quite small.

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Club Room

Paying more for a sea view of the Gateway to India ($436 (Sat/Sun)for a Luxury Grande Sea View Room in the Palace Wing), might sound good, but there is no balcony or floor length window to really enjoy it.

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The best parts of the hotel i.e. delicious breakfast by the pool, heritage tour, colonial architecture, history, sense of style, pool and luxurious atmosphere can just as easily be enjoyed when staying in the cheaper rooms. The Taj is very well located for Colaba Eateries (Olympia Coffee House, Bademiya as well as Leopold’s Cafe and Indigo Deli if you’re looking for Western foods) and enjoying the surrounding heritage architecture close by, like the Gateway of India, Royal Bombay Yacht Club, Dhunraj Mahal, Regal Cinema, Sailors Home (now Maharashtra Police Headquarters), Regal Cinema, Majestic Hotel, National Gallery of Modern Art, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum (formerly ‘Prince of Wales Museum’).

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If you do decide to lash out for a Palace Wing Room, consider paying a little more ($AUS475 Sat/Sun) for a city view Club Room (includes airport pickup) on a high floor, with not only Palace Lounge Privileges (all day tea/coffee and biscuits, but also Club Room privileges of  high tea 3:30-5:30pm, cocktails and hor d’oevres (6:30-8:00pm), cognac/Bailey’s/Kalua and chocolates (9:30-10:30pm), butler service, early check in (9:00am) and late check out (6:00pm – can just squeeze in one more high tea!). (See what I mean about, needing your full attention!).

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Make the most of the weekend (Sat/Sun) rate.

But a much cheaper alternative, to still get a sense of what all the fuss is about is to visit for a full, elaborate high tea (3:30-7pm) in the Sea Lounge  that includes Mumbai street food delicacies like bhel puri, sev puri, and pani puri (for about $AUS 27 per person).

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Kailash Parbat Restaurant Colaba, Mumbai

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Kailash Prabat Restaurant is recommended in a number of foodie travel guides. It’s easy to find, prices are very affordable and its a good opportunity to try a number of different local dishes.

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My favourite was the Dal Pakwan (chick pea dal with crispy fried chapatis, pickle and onion). The mango lassi was very good too.

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We also tried the Ragda Pattice ( Pattice of white beans and potato served with spiced chick pea stew and tamarind chutney), samosas,  Special Royal Falooda, and Falooda Kulfi.

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Special Royal Falooda                    Falooda Kulfi.

Corner of First Pasta Lane and Colaba Causeway, Colaba.

Ph: 022 22841972

Open: 8:30am-11pm (7days)

 

 

 

Ascot Hotel, Colaba, a top pick for sleeping in Mumbai

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The Ascot Hotel  is in a great central location in a leafy street in atmospheric Colada. The deluxe  rooms are very large, and at least some have a sunny balcony overlooking the daily life in the street below. Accommodation is expensive in Mumbai, so at around $AUS 152 including breakfast, the deluxe room is good value. (Superior room is about $AUS 138).

There are plenty of good eating spots nearby like, Kailash Parbat, Paradise Restaurant, Olympia Coffee House, Bademiya, as well as Theobroma for coffee, light snacks and cakes, and the Colaba Sweet Mart. The Ascost is also within walking distance of major sights like the Gateway to India, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and the Prince of Wales Museum. Other ‘must sees’ like Victoria Terminus, Marine Drive, Chowpatty Beach, Sassoon Dock and  Mumbai High Court are only a short taxi ride away.

Staff are very helpful, friendly and personal. They do everything they can to help. Breakfast is ordered from a small menu but is nicely presented, tasty and more than you can eat.

The only downside to be aware of is that is can be noisy. But nevertheless, it’s a perfect base to go to and from, between sampling Mumbai’s many dining opportunities, enjoying the fine architecture  and exploring life in Mumbai.

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Deluxe Room 102

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Mumbai’s morning street scenes and markets by bike

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It is a very special and peaceful feeling to cruise Mumbai’s early morning street scenes and markets, by bike on a Reality Tours and Travel’s bike tour. Sadly Sassoon Dock is closed in monsoon season, but a few fish sellers still conduct business outside the gate. For about $Aus 22 per person, it includes a delicious breakfast at Kailash Prabat Restaurant at the end of the tour. The dal pakwan is fantastic !!(Chick pea dal with crispy chapatis).

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Mumbai Public Transport Tour – Dabbawallahs, local food markets, and more

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Reality Tours and Travel’s Public Transport Tour offers a range of unique and interesting experiences including the dabbawalla lunch delivery system, Victorian Station (the last scene of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’) at rush hour, the Dadar flower market, Null Bazaar fresh food market and the Dohbi Ghat (vast laundry service). Highly recommended at just $16 per person, for 3.5 hours.

Mumbai Street Food Tour – Reality Tours and Travel

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Sev Puri

Sev Puri has an interesting balance of sweet, salty, tart and spicy flavors, and different textures as well, including crispy and crunchy from the fried sev thin noodles. It also s includes tomatoes, onions, chillis as well as tamarind.

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Pani Puri has similar sweet, tart, salty and spicy flavours but in a liquid form in a crisp shell.

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Pao Bahji at Chowpatty Beach (mashed vegetables, red chilli and spices cooked with plenty of butter, scooped up and eaten with the fresh Pao bread bun)

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Kulfi at Chowpatty Beach (an ‘ice cream’ made with condensed milk, delicious!)

IMG_0009_2IMG_0021_2            Bendi Bazaar

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IMG_0017_2 IMG_0018_2  Jalebi sweets on Mohamed Ali Road (made by deep frying wheat flour batter shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup.)

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Taj Icc Cream on Mohamed Ali Road ( fantastic Alphonso Mango Ice cream)

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CST Terminus at night (Mumbai’s largest train station) (The scene of the finale in the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’)

Mumbai is famous for its street food and a great way to be guided through some of the best  is to join one of Reality Tours and Travel’s Street Food Tours for around $AUS 24 per person. (This of course covers you for the cost of a very generous dinner, so you really only need a snack for lunch as well.)

The three hour tour starts at 5:30pm and first takes visitors to Chowpatty Beach to enjoy snacks with local families out for a treat. Don’t miss the ‘Famous Rabdi Kulfi’ stall for delicious layers of cream, pistachio, mango, orange and strawberry kulfi. Chowpatty Beach is also a great chance to try Mumbai’s signature street foods Pao Bhaji and Pani Puri.

The tour continues to Bendi Bazaar, a wonderful for street food in the Muslim area of Mumbai. Mohammed Ali Road was really buzzing during Ramadan as people broke their fast and enjoyed their favourite foods from busy stalls. This stop included the popular Taj Ice Cream shop – in business for over 120 years.

Second and third serves were generously offered and our guide Nilesh was terrific – thoughtful, friendly, engaging and knowledgable. As it was low (rainy) season, we had the tour all to ourselves, a special privilege.