before you go … MUMBAI

The World Rebooted®
Mumbia, India

Mumbai, India, is the fifth largest city in the world. Now approaching twenty million and growing steadily, Mumbai (until 1996 known as Bombay) is built on seven islands that, over time, have been so thoroughly connected it is no longer easy to tell where one began and the other ended.

This is not a always a safe place: Mumbai’s Taj Hotel was the site of a terrorist take-over in November 2008, a bloody confrontation that lasted days. There are neighborhoods, mere steps away from popular tourist areas, where it is unsafe to venture and where bling or flashing money will get you into trouble quickly. Dress down, blend in, and heed the advice of the “Tourist Police” who hover everywhere.

That said, there is much to see in Mumbai.

The Taj, which in spite of its recent bloody history, is a colonial architectural masterpiece. The Taj was built after another hotel refused to admit a wealthy Indian. He built The Taj, an even grander hotel. Today The Taj is an icon, and the other hotel is long gone. Walk through it and have tea.

Across the street from The Taj is the Gateway to India Arch built to honor the visit of the King of England in the early 20th century. This arch was originally built of cardboard because it could not be finished in time for the King’s arrival. With pressure lacking, it took an additional ten years before it was actually completed early in the 1920s. But it’s there now.

Gandhi lived here in the 1920s and 1930s.Visit his house and the bedroom where he worked. Don’t miss the remarkably interesting Prince of Wales Museum or that huge outdoor laundry where an astounding amount of Mumbai’s laundry is done by hand, a labor intensive effort incomprehensible in the west.

Hint: Bring chocolate. Chocolate is more valuable than money because Indian chocolate is so awful and western chocolate so good. In India you can trade chocolate for anything. You may also be told that Indians will not barter, but that is nonsense. Everyone in the world barters, from shopkeepers in Mumbai to front hotel clerks in New York City. Start the haggling by knocking 40-percent off the first offered price and go from there. If you walk away, they’ll chase you down and reduce prices even further – if you have chocolate.

PHOTO: The Taj Hotel, site of the deadly November terrorist attacks. © 2008, Juniapetur® Photography Collection

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