The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is situated 34 kilometers north of South Mumbai, within city limits, and is an oasis of green in a concrete jungle. There is boating available on the lake within and also a miniature train that goes around the park and is suitable for adults, too. Within the 103 square kilometers of wilderness there are about 220 species of birds, 30 species of mammals and a mind-boggling 1,300 species of plants. It is not uncommon to spots leopards within the park. The Kanheri Caves that are ancient meditation alcoves built by Buddhist monks are also within the park.
The Elephanta Caves, which were given UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1987 are on Elephanta Island, 10 kilometers to the east of Mumbai. It is a one-hour boat ride to get there from the Gateway of India harbor. On the island, the caves and rock cut sculptures dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva have been dated to between the fifth and ninth centuries. The many elephant sculptures here caused the Portuguese to call it Elefante, but the large monolithic 20-foot tall three-faced Shiva statue is the star attraction.
The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum at Byculla was established in 1872 as the Victoria and Albert Museum. Rejuvenated in 2003, it houses some very interesting collections that give an insight into the communities that existed within Bombay when it was first being developed as a commercial hub. Besides that there are ancient books on display that document the history of the city from its origin in the seventeenth century to the mid-twentieth century. A bonus is that the architecture of the museum is also an exhibit in itself.
Best Day Trip
Sula Vineyards, 186 kilometers north of Mumbai, are one of many vineyards in the region thanks to the climate and the soil. This vineyard has a charming cellar door where wine can be tasted and sampled overlooking the vineyards. There are also tours of the winery. And, if it is too hectic for a day trip, Beyond Resort is just eight minutes away offering a place to spend the night.
Off the Beaten Path
The Bassein Fort in Vasai, about 80 kilometeres north of South Mumbai, is a good place for a picnic, not to mention some history and ruins. The fort itself was built in the 12 th century and then ceded to the Portuguese in the 16 th century as per the terms in the Treaty of Bassien. Interestingly, this treaty also ceded the islands of Mumbai to the Portuguese that were then given to the British as dowry. The fort then fell into the hands of the Marathas and finally the British in the 19 th century. Presently, the ramparts of the fort are almost complete with several watch towers still standing, though the buildings inside are in ruins.
Nightclubs and bars usually stay open until 1 a.m. and the hotspots are Bandra and Lower Parel. However, for the peckish, midnight kabobs are the answer. What started off as a place to go to after a hard night of partying when nightclubs used to stay open until the wee hours of the morning, today has become an institution in itself. Bade Miyan (meaning big brother) Kebabs is a roadside kebab stand behind the Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba and serves delicious minced chicken and lamb kebabs as well as curries and rotis. It stays open until about 3 a.m. in the morning.
The "cutting chai" is a much-loved Mumbai quirk. It literally means half a cup of tea. All over Mumbai street side tea stalls can be found. They have a huge copper saucepan into which water, spices (cardamom, ginger and sometimes saffron), tea leaves and milk are boiled together over a high pressure stove to make a rich flavourful brew very typical to Mumbai. This is poured into glasses just above the halfway mark and there you have it—the "cutting chai." It's hot, flavourful, refreshing and often very sweet.
Neighborhood to Explore
Bandra in the suburbs, 15 kilometers north of South Mumbai, started off as a small fishing village in the middle of the seventeenth century. Today part of it resembles a quaint fishing village but old colonial-style bungalows are slowly being replaced with high-rises. It is a neighbourhood known for its great street shopping, fancy boutiques and plenty of superb restaurants and bars. When expats come to live in Mumbai for an extended amount of time, they always look in Bandra for housing.
The promenade at Carter Road in Bandra is a good spot to watch people during the evenings, especially on the weekends. One gets to see a good sample of the Mumbai demographic from fitness addicts to the well-heeled to the burkha clad.
Mahatma Jyotibai Phule Mandai or the erstwhile Crawford Market (the more popular name) is the place for everything from fresh produce to clothes and jewelry. It is also the place where you can buy things in wholesale and bargaining hard is fair game. The market is a 20-minute walk from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or a five-minute taxi ride away.