Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sightseeing in Mumbai - part 2

As I wrote in the previous post, hubby and I did sightseeing in Mumbai on 30th December 2013. We hired a taxi for about 8 hours and visited the must-see sightseeing places in Mumbai. In the morning we visited many interesting places about which we can read in the post here. In this post, I will write about the afternoon time sightseeing.

After lunch, our taxi driver took us to Marine Drive. Marine Drive is a 4.3-kilometer-long C-shaped six-lane concrete road in southern Mumbai stretching north along the coast, which is a natural bay. This road links Nariman Point to Babulnath, and is situated at the foot of Malabar Hill. The official name for this road is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road. The highlight of Marine Drive is a beautiful seaside promenade along the road. Large crowds of people visit the promenade to walk and take in the fresh air, and view the setting sun. The promenade is lined with palm trees which offer visitors an enthralling experience. The real estate prices along Marine Drive are very high. Many hotels dot the drive, most prominent among them being the five-star hotel named Oberoi. Hubby and I walked along the seaside promenade and loved seeing the endless horizon. The sight of sparkling water of the Arabian Sea was amazing and scenic. We stopped for a moment and looked across the bay to appreciate the awe-inspiring skyline of Mumbai. We also saw a Banyan tree next to the promenade which looked so tempting with its cool shade on such a bright sunny day.
Seaside promenade along Marine Drive road

I am walking along the promenade. Marine Drive road is partly seen on the right side of the photo.

Hubby standing at the promenade

Skyline of Mumbai as viewed from the promenade

A Banyan tree next to the promenade

Hotel Oberoi

Next, our taxi driver took us to Chowpatty Beach. The formal name of the beach is Girgaon Chaupati and is one of the most famous public beaches located towards the northern end of Marine Drive. Chowpatty Beach is located in the heart of Mumbai City and local people visit this beach to relax after a long tiring day. Watching the sunset from this beach is a glorious sight worth seeing. The beach is famous for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations when people from all over Mumbai come to immerse the idols of Lord Ganesha in the Arabian Sea. The festival falls sometime during Mid-August to Mid-September, and it is interesting to visit the beach during that time. The beach is also very popular for its local delicacies which people enjoy whenever they visit the beach. There are several Bhelpuri, Panipuri, Ragda patties, and Pav Bhaji vendors on the beach. Hubby and I walked along the beach and enjoyed the scenic beauty offered by the beach. The sea, adorned by its long stretch of white sand in addition to the magnificent sky above was so heavenly. There were not so many visitors as it was afternoon time. Although the shops were open, most of them were just starting their business for the day and so we could not get a taste of the local delicacies.
Hubby standing near the food stalls

I am standing at Chowpatty Beach with Malabar Hill in the background

The beach with Malabar Hill in the background

Hubby, the beach, Arabian Sea, and Malabar Hill in the background

The beach with Nariman Point skyline in the background

Hubby, the beach, the sea, and Nariman Point skyline in the background

I am standing at the beach

Next, we visited a garden named Kamala Nehru Park. The park is located at the top of Malabar Hill, and is named after Kamala Nehru, the wife of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The park extends over an area of about 370 square meters, has well maintained green lawns, and provides a panoramic view of Mumbai City. The park is very popular with children because it has a unique structure called the Old Women’s Shoe or the Boot House. The design of this structure is derived from an old nursery rhyme ‘There was an old woman who lived in a shoe’. Inside the park, we also saw a stone pillar of the national emblem of India. From the park, we got a spectacular view of Chowpatty Beach and Marine Drive. Marine Drive when viewed from this spot at night resembles a twinkling jeweled necklace due to the street lights and is therefore also named as Queen’s Necklace.
Old Women’s Shoe at Kamala Nehru Park

A stone pillar of the national emblem of India located inside the park

Chowpatty Beach and C-shaped Marine Drive as viewed from the hilltop park

Next we went to the Hanging Gardens located just opposite to Kamala Nehru Park. Hanging Gardens is formally known as Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens. It is a terraced garden located at the top of Malabar Hill, on its western side. The garden was built in 1880 and renovated in 1921. The garden is built on a water reservoir and covers a vast area. It has splendid green vegetation and numerous hedges carved into the shapes of animals. We walked leisurely in the garden and enjoyed the views. From this garden, visitors can get a spectacular view of the sun setting over the Arabian Sea. But sunset was still a few hours away, so we left the garden after about fifteen minutes of strolling.
I am standing inside the Hanging Gardens

Another view of the garden

Afterwards our taxi driver took us to Mani Bhavan. Mani Bhavan is a simple old-style three-storied building located in Laburnum Road in a quite and shady lane. The building is a memoir of Mahatma Gandhi. It is a Gujarati style residence where Gandhi lived for about 17 years from 1917 to 1934. Gandhi's association with the Charkha spinning wheel began here in 1917. This historical building was the focal point of Gandhi’s political activities like Non-Cooperation, Satyagraha, Swadeshi, Khadi, and Khilafat movement. Outside the building there is a beautiful plaque with a description about the building inscribed on it. On entering the building, we saw a library located at the first floor which consists of 40000 books and periodicals on and by Gandhi, Gandhian thoughts, and freedom movements. Just next to the library there is a statue of Gandhi where people offer their tributes. Then we climbed up a staircase dotted with Gandhi's pictures depicting his life. At the second floor, we saw a big photo gallery where photographs from Gandhi’s childhood till his assassination are displayed along with press clippings. Next, we climbed up to the third floor where we saw the living room that Gandhi used during his stay here. There is a glass partition and we could see several of his spinning wheels and floor bed still preserved in the same way. Right opposite the living room we saw an exhibition hall where photographs, posters, paintings, and a few replicas of Gandhi's belongings are on display. Adjacent to the living room, we saw yet another room that exhibits Gandhi's political life and the freedom struggle of India through mini figures in about 28 tableaux, made and arranged by Sushila Gokhale-Patel. We loved viewing these detailed mini figures.
I am standing near a plaque located outside the building

I am standing at the entrance area of the building

A bust of Gandhi located at the first floor

Library located at the first floor

Hubby standing next to a bust of Gandhi located adjacent to the library

A poster describing the history of Indian flag located on the staircase

I am standing next to the cutout of Gandhi located on the corridor

Photo gallery depicting Gandhi’s life located at the second floor

Living room that Gandhi used located at the third floor

Exhibition hall giving glimpses of Gandhi located at the third floor

Display of a few replicas of Gandhi's belongings

A room exhibiting Gandhi's political life located at the third floor. This tableau depicts the Dandi March of 1930.

Tableau depicting the Salt Satyagraha of 1930

Tableau depicting Gandhi meeting the King in London in 1931

Tableau depicting Quit India movement of 1942

Tableau depicting Gandhi’s martyrdom in 1948

Finally, our taxi driver took us near Haji Ali Dargah. Haji Ali Dargah is a historical mosque and tomb built on a tiny islet located 500 meters off the coast of Worli in Southern Mumbai. The Dargah is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Mumbai. The Dargah was constructed in 1431 in memory of a wealthy Muslim merchant who later became a saint named Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. The building is a brilliant and exquisite example of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. It is a whitewashed structure spread over an area of 4500 square meters and is flanked by crisp marble pillars. The accessibility to the Dargah is dependent on the tides because the narrow causeway leading to the Dargah gets submerged during high tide. When we reached near the Dargah it was low tide and we could have gone inside the Dargah but it was getting dark so we just appreciated the beautiful architecture of the building from afar.
Haji Ali Dargah Mosque as viewed from afar

Hubby and the Dargah

Enlarged view of the Dargah

We could see many visitors and worshipers entering the Dargah

At this point, our taxi driver informed us that the sightseeing tour of Mumbai was over. We loved visiting the must-see sightseeing places of Mumbai. The next day we visited Elephanta Caves located on an island in Mumbai Harbor. I will write about Elephanta Caves in the next post.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sightseeing in Mumbai - part 1

I have not been able to update my blog for a long time as hubby and I moved to a new apartment in Yurihonjo City and had been quite busy. Now things are more or less settled and I am back to blogging. As I wrote in two posts (check here and here) in March, hubby and I had been to India during New Year Holidays. We visited my parents in India and also did some sightseeing in Mumbai and Pune. In this post I will write about the sightseeing places in Mumbai that hubby and I visited on 30th December 2013. More specifically, I will write about the morning time sightseeing in this post, and about the afternoon sightseeing in the next post.

On the morning of 30th December, hubby and I hired a taxi for about 8 hours and visited the must-see sightseeing places in Mumbai. The taxi driver was very helpful and he recommended the places we should visit. First we went to Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat. Dhobi Ghat is a well known massive open-air Laundromat which was formed in 1890. The Dhobis (washer-men) work in open and hand-wash the dirty laundry brought from all over Mumbai. There are rows and rows of open-air concrete wash troughs fitted with flogging stones. It is possible for the visitors to take the stairs and go right down to observe the working of about 500 Dhobis simultaneously hand-washing clothes at a single location. However, hubby was extremely uncomfortable to see the poverty all around and so we decided to skip going down.
Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat as seen from an adjacent road

Another view of Dhobi Ghat

We can see rows of concrete troughs as well as rows of washed clothes hanging from the clotheslines

Next, we stopped our taxi to see the Bombay Municipal Corporation Building. It is a Grade II A heritage building. The building houses the civic body that governs the city of Mumbai, which is now named as the Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Palika. The building has a Gothic revival architectural style, and is V-shaped when viewed from the top. Its construction started in 1884 and was completed in 1893. The building has golden-beige basalt rock exterior structural system, and is well known for its tower that is 77.7 meters tall. We got a picturesque view of the building and the roads in front of it, and took a few photos of the building.
Bombay Municipal Corporation Building and the roads in front of it

The building and I

Opposite to Bombay Municipal Corporation Building, we saw the famous building of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). CST is an historic railway station in Mumbai and serves as the headquarters of the Central Railway. CST was formerly known as Victoria Terminus (VT), and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architectural style of the building is Indo-Saracenic and is an outstanding example of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture blended with traditional Indian Mughal architecture and Hindu architecture. The construction of the building started in 1878 and was completed in 1888. The building was constructed to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s accession to throne. We walked right up to the entrance gate of the building and loved viewing the unique architecture of the building with its remarkable stone dome, turrets, and pointed arches. We took several photos of the building up close from various positions and angles. Next we crossed a road and took a few photos of the building from afar. Afterwards we went inside the station building and were impressed by the huge ornate pillars and the exquisite ceiling of the building. Presently CST is the busiest railway station in India that serves as a terminal for both long-distance trains and commuter trains of Mumbai Suburban Railway. CST has 18 platforms, of which 7 are for locals trains and 11 are for long distance.
Portion of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus building to our left side as viewed from up close

Portion of the building right in front of us

Hubby standing at the entrance area of the building

The building is the headquarters of the Central Railway

I am standing in front of the entrance area of the building

A portion of the building as viewed from afar after crossing a road

Hubby and the building

Front view of the building as viewed from afar

We and the CST building

Ornate pillars inside the building

Exquisite ceiling of the building

Crowd at the platform area

A train at one of the platforms

Next, we stopped our taxi for a moment to take a look at a fountain named Flora Fountain. The fountain is located at Hutatma Chowk, and is an ornate exquisitely sculpted monument. The fountain is a fusion of water, architecture and sculpture, and depicts the Roman goddess Flora. It was built is 1864 and has an architectural style of Neo Classical and Gothic Revival. It was sculpted in imported Portland stone and coated with white oil paint. The fountain looked so wonderful.
Flora Fountain

Next we visited the most famous monument of Mumbai, the Gateway of India, which is a major tourist destination. It is located on the waterfront in the Apollo Bunder port area in South Mumbai and overlooks the Arabian Sea. The foundation stone for the gateway was laid in March 1911. The gateway was erected to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai, when they visited India in December 1911. However, they only saw the cardboard model of the structure because the actual construction started only in 1915 and was completed in 1924. It was built in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style, which combined the elements of the Roman triumphal arch and the 16th century architecture of Gujarat. Its design is a combination of Hindu and Muslim architectural styles; the arch is of Muslim style while the decorations are of Hindu style. The gateway was built from yellow basalt and reinforced concrete. The central dome is the main part of the gateway, which is 15 meters in diameter and 26 meters high. The gateway faces out to Mumbai Harbor from the tip of Apollo Bunder. In fact behind the arch, there are steps leading down to the water where visitors can get onto the motor launches for a short cruise through Mumbai's natural harbor or go up to Elephanta Caves. We loved viewing the gateway and took several photos from various positions and angles. Opposite to the gateway we saw the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who was a 17th century king and is a symbol of ‘Maratha pride and courage’. The statue was unveiled on 26 January 1961.
I am standing in front of the Gateway of India

Hubby standing in front of the gateway

Side view of the gateway

The gateway as viewed from up close

The opposite side of the gateway facing the Arabian Sea as viewed from up close

Hubby standing near the gateway facing the Arabian Sea

Many motorized launches in Mumbai Harbor

Statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj located opposite to the gateway

From the Gateway of India, we got a beautiful view of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. It is a five star hotel located next to the gateway, and has 560 rooms and 44 suites. The hotel has two distinct buildings named the Taj Mahal Palace and the Taj Mahal Tower. The two buildings were built at different times and have different architectural designs. The Taj Mahal Palace building has Indo-Saracenic architectural style, has seven floors, and was opened in December 1903. On 26 November 2008, in a series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai, this building was attacked and some material damage occurred, but it has now been rebuilt. The Taj Mahal Tower building was constructed in 1973 and has 22 floors. Standing at the Gateway of India, we took a few photos of the hotel buildings.
The Taj Mahal Palace (left), the Taj Mahal Tower (right), and I (foreground)

Hubby along with the hotel buildings in the background

Hubby and the Taj Mahal Palace Building

The taxi driver had parked the taxi about 1.5 kilometers away from the Gateway of India as all the nearby parking areas were full. While walking back towards the taxi, we saw several magnificent historical buildings around us. In fact, Victorian era buildings are common features in the streets of Mumbai, forming a somber contrast against the vibrant landscape. To our left side, we saw a building named Hotel Majestic. The building has Indo-Saracenic architectural style and features domed minarets. It was constructed in 1909 with 96 bedrooms and two electric elevators. It is a Grade II A heritage building. It now houses the state owned cooperative general store named Sahakari Bhandar and also functions as an MLA hostel. To our right side, we saw another building named Indian Mercantile Chambers which houses the offices of the State Excise Department, a cafe, and a book house. It was originally known as the Waterloo Mansions and was built exclusively for residential purposes. Its architectural style is Gothic with turrets (which have gone missing), pointed arches and black stone facades. These two buildings were the most photographed pieces of architecture in the city during the early 20th century. On our way, we also saw a statue of Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Two Victorian era buildings

Hotel Majestic located to our left side

Indian Mercantile Chambers building located to our right side

Statue of Lal Bahadur Shastri

Afterwards, our taxi driver took us to a restaurant where we had a simple lunch of chicken Biryani, chicken curry, Dal, Roti, omelet, and salad.
Our lunch

Hubby having lunch

We had fun visiting various historical places and structures in Mumbai. In the afternoon, we saw several more sightseeing places about which I will write in the next post.