Mumbai (India)

December 2011

I went to Mumbai with a group of friends during the Christmas vacation in 2011. Two of my close friends living in Mumbai were getting married next month and the idea of this vacation was to catch up with them and have fun in and around Mumbai. Our loosely-planned itinerary looked like this:

Fri: Fly to Mumbai in evening, go out for dining/clubbing
Sat: Trip to Alibaug and Kashid beaches – popular weekend getaways near Mumbai
Sun: Local Mumbai fun
Mon: Take the afternoon Rajdhani train back to Delhi from Mumbai

We had booked a Friday evening flight from Delhi to Mumbai, but the flight got delayed by a few hours. By the time we landed, it was already a bit late to go out, so we had a joyful house party instead at our friends’ place. We fought the hangover next morning and headed out to our planned weekend getaway, but not before relishing the delicious and super-spicy street food (comprising bhelpudi, paanipudi, vada paav, paav bhaji, Bombay sandwich and the like) at the popular Chowpatty beach.

The best way to go from Mumbai to Alibaug or Kashid is the following: Take a ferry (catamaran) from the Gateway of India to Mandwa jetty. 2-3 companies run this ferry service and their ticket counters are located right on the jetties. From Mandwa you can get a bus or an auto-rickshaw to Alibaug (20 km from Mandwa) or Kashid (30 km further from Alibaug). After the 1.5-hour ferry ride to Mandwa, we took a big auto-rickshaw (seating 8-10 people) to Kashid. We decided to skip Alibaug because we did not have so much time at hand and we had heard that Kashid has a better beach than Alibaug.

The auto-rickshaw journey was slow and painful and on the way itself we decided that we are not doing the return trip on an auto-rickshaw. I was also disappointed with the Kashid beach, it is more hype than substance. The beach isn’t very clean and you would not want to lie down on the sand. A handful of people conduct water-sports such as water-scooter rides and banana rides. There are few odd rocks on the beach in shallow water which are a nuisance. I tripped on one and skinned my knee. Several small tea shops line the beach, which also offer dingy changing areas and buckets of fresh water for bathing clean after frolicking in the sea. There’s no electricity, so it’s a bad idea to use these services after sundown. We were caught on the wrong side here too.

Since it was Christmas weekend, it was tough finding accommodation for the night in Kashid for a big group as ours. After bumping into half a dozen ‘no vacancy’ signboards, just as we were contemplating taking the painful auto-rickshaw ride back to the relatively bigger town of Alibaug in hopes of finding accommodation there, we managed to get two large rooms in a hotel in Kashid. We requested extra bedding so that the ten of us could sleep peacefully after the tiring day. More than anything we were happy at finally getting our hands on the tidy washrooms with running water where we could freshen up. We were starving, but unfortunately the dinner was awful. We tried every single dish from the menu, but it didn’t help. But since all of us friends had gotten together after a long time, the mood was upbeat and the chit-chats ran well into the night.

Next morning we managed to get a taxi to drop us off at Mandwa. From there we took a ferry and reached Mumbai around lunch time. We ate at the famous Leopold Café in Colaba (which is the upscale Mumbai market close to the Gateway of India). The café is always bustling with tourists, mostly foreigners. We were lucky to get a table for ten at that hour, that too on Christmas Day. The beer was refreshing and the food was yummy. The waiters, however, did not seem very excited at the prospect of serving our table.

We took a pit-stop at our friends’ place in the evening where we dressed up and headed out to Aer, the famous rooftop lounge on the 34th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Worli. A couple of us went a bit early to reserve a table, and it turned out to be a good move. Aer offers an amazing view of the city from the top, and is very breezy. We had a few drinks there but since the place is not really famous for its food, we left in a couple of hours and headed for dinner at Veda restaurant in Lower Parel. The restaurant is designed by Indian fashion designer Rohit Bal. The food was delicious – something I was not counting on because of my not-so-good experience at Veda in Delhi from a year back. We all came with an appetite and were well satisfied with the food. Most notable was their dal makhani (lentils), which is the closest I’ve seen anyone come to the legendary Dal Bukhara, the trademark dal makhani served at the Bukhara restaurant at the ITC Maurya hotel in Delhi.

Exhausted as we were, there was more fun to be had before calling it a day. We finished dinner and headed out to Nariman Point and Marine Drive. After hanging out there for a bit, we went to experience the newly-constructed Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge. We also stopped by and got ourselves clicked next to the Indian film superstar Shahrukh Khan’s bungalow, Mannat, in Bandra.

After a peaceful night’s sleep at our friends’ place, we packed the next day and prepared to head back to Delhi. We had a few hours at hand before our train departed, so we checked into Theobroma, a popular bakery located on Colaba Causeway. We bought some cakes from there and finally headed out to Mumbai Central train station to catch our train. Rajdhani is one of the fastest and finest trains in India – it departs from Mumbai in afternoon and arrives at Delhi early next morning. They serve good food and snacks all through the journey. The train was on time and the journey was peaceful.

This was a memorable trip for me because it was perhaps our gang’s last trip together before everyone heads out in a different direction as they begin a new chapter in their lives. The pictures from this trip bring a smile to my face every time I flip through them.


Expenses (per person):

Delhi to Mumbai flight: Rs. 4000
Ferry between Gateway of India and Mandwa: Rs. 100 each side
Auto-rickshaw from Mandwa to Kashid: Rs. 1000 for the group of ten
Taxi from Kashid to Mandwa: Rs. 1500 for the group of ten
Hotel in Kashid: Rs. 1000 per person
Food at Leopold Café: Rs. 500 per person
Food at Veda: Rs. 600 per person
Mumbai to Delhi train: Rs. 1500