If there was someone who knew every iota of Mumbai city, she was the late author and historian Sharada Dwivedi. In one of her conversations she spoke about the city with passion but also pessimism as there is so much to see and explore, both hidden and obvious in Mumbai, which is going by unseen and unnoticed. Mumbai is undoubtedly the gateway to the country for most international travellers and apart from the typical tourism highlights the city has a rich history and heritage which both the local as well as the international traveller will find interesting enough to explore.
1) Nature walks and trails in Sanjay Gandhi National park, Kanheri Caves and the Sewri Mudflats are special trails which are worth exploring. According to Hector D’souza, president, L’orient Travels, “The city has so much to offer but there are hurdles and issues. But on a positive note the chief warden of the park is a proactive officer hence visits to the parks are easier than earlier. We have been successful in conducting trails with both national and international clientele. The Kanheri Caves are worth exploring especially the unique ceiling painting of Buddha.”
2) Creative handicrafts in Andheri, a northern suburb of Mumbai is founded by Sr Isabel Martin Creative Handicrafts is a charitable organisation. It is a social enterprise based on the principles of fair trade. In its centres, self-help groups of women of all ages and religious backgrounds work together. They manufacture a variety of articles, embroidered or stitched, bags, tablecloth, napkins, bedcovers, plush articles, decorative objects such as letter holders, wall hangings, collections of dolls and of packed lunch pouches for sale at offices.
3) Fort walks: Pick up the book written by Dwivedi and Rahul Mehrotra named ‘Fort Walks’ and get going to explore the quaint, curious and fascinating areas of the Fort in South Mumbai. The walks can be done in segments exploring the hidden jewels of the city. The walks can be structured as follows,
- Town Hall walk
- Dockyard Road walk
- Gateway Precinct walk
- Kala Ghoda-walking in the art district
- Ballard Estate office district walk
- Walk around the civic hub
- Walk through Bazaar Gate
- Walk to Crawford Market
- Walking along Dadabhai Naoroji Road
- The Gothic and the Deco walk
4) Chor Bazaar: This is probably one of the most chaotic areas of an already chaotic city. But if there is fun in the madness then it is also at Chor Bazaar. From a pin to a piano that Chor Bazaar is home to all and more. Go there with a free mind and with not too much baggage as you may be surprised with what you may land up buying. The areas around Chor Bazaar are also interesting for its local life and flavour. Deepa Krishnan of Magic Tours of India conducts tours around the area.
5) Maharashtra Nisarg Udyan (Maharashtra Nature Park) is spread over an area of approximately 37 acres of land. This is situated near Mahim and is a treat for those who enjoy nature photography or have an interest in botany.
Here one can find a variety of plants, butterflies, etc.
6) Khotachiwadi: A heritage village in Girgaon Khotachi wadi is arguably the city’s oldest settlement that is preserved but under threat of being taken over by the new age Mumbai. Khotachiwdi has its own charm which cannot be replicated or redesigned. One has to walk through the village to see and experience what Mumbai would have been many years ago. Wasim Shaikh, director, Active Holidays has designed interesting tours around the place which can be explored at leisure.
7) Masala Trails: If you wish to explore a unique food in Mumbai then you can do so with Masala Trails. Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal, offers tours that help explore Indian home cooking tours in Mumbai. Market tours with cooking experience and market tours with restaurant experiences are what she offers. There are thematic tours, for example a Gujarati cooking experience will begin in a Gujarati dominated market and end at a Gujarati restaurant. Similarly, one can explore south Indian cooking and modern Indian cooking experiences.
There is more to this city of seven islands than what meets the eye. Walk around and savour the sights, sounds, sense and spirit of Mumbai.