Sometimes travel allows you to escape reality, forget about your worries and unwind. Other times, it exposes you to new dimensions of reality that you didn’t even know existed, it opens your eyes to new adversities and alters your perspective on the world in the most profound and beautiful way. My trip to India was certainly the latter.
Having never been to a third world country or a city with anything close to a population of 20.7 million, I had no idea what to expect when stepping off the airplane in Mumbai.
Even with all Kush had done to prepare me for my time in the country he grew up in, I was not prepared for the sensory overload I experienced as I embarked on the trip that would forever change me for the better.
With just two nights in Mumbai, I quickly realized my time in India would be a rollercoaster of emotions. One moment I would feel deep sorrow as I recognized the unfair distribution of wealth and witnessed entire families suffering from extreme poverty as their neighbors lived lavishly in the lap of luxury just steps away. Another, I would feel immense joy as I experienced the locals’ love and hospitality as they generously offered to feed me, take pictures with me and welcomed me into their homes. Other times, I only felt pure exhaustion from the jet lag!
Through it all, I uncovered some really great finds that you really can’t miss if you have 24 hours in Mumbai. Do yourself a favor and hire a tour guide who knows how to manage the traffic dense streets and make sure he/she brings you to:
The Gateway of India – Be ready for hoards of people and some pushing and shoving but don’t miss this mammoth monument built during the British rule. Quite literally standing as an arched gateway into the city from the Arabian Sea, this stone structure begs for the obligatory tourist selfie.
Taj Mahal Palace – You won’t have to go far after stopping at the Gateway of India to find the historic Taj Mahal Palace. Right across the street from the Gateway stands the Indo-Saracenic style structure that is awe-inspiring in its own right but was also the site of the 2008 terror attack involving a 3-day hostage situation.
Dhobi Ghat – Like a scene from Slumdog Millionaire (yes I am a tourist so I had to use that reference), this open air laundromat is a well-oiled machine that unfolds almost like a work of art. It is truly an experience to see hundreds of dhobis (washers) meticulously clean thousands of articles of clothing from local hotels and hospitals.
Malabar Hills’ Hanging Gardens and Kamala Nehru Park – At this point you may need a break from the densely populated sidewalks of Mumbai. Why not wander into the picturesque Hanging Gardens in Malabar Hills and then explore the breathtaking lookout just across the street at Kamala Nehru Park? Side note: This is the first place the locals asked to take my picture. Jarring at first, it didn’t take long for me to start feeling like a celebrity!
Marine Drive – Also known as the Queen’s Necklace, this crescent motorway along the water is lined with a beautiful boardwalk that’s popular with tourists and locals alike. Like most areas in Mumbai, traffic can get unbearable along Marine Drive, so be sure to head here early.
Shopping – If you feel like you can’t take anymore site seeing, jet into one of the city’s many boutiques and enjoy your very own fashion show. Seriously, I could get use to shopping in India. You just sit down, tell them what you’re looking for and they do the rest. No weeding through the clearance rack for this fashion maven (ok “fashion maven” may be an exaggeration).
Finish the day off by eat some traditional Indian food and get a good night’s sleep because the trip won’t slow down from there…