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Salaam Mumbai: The city at a glance via Mumbai Darshan

Posted by Shashank Shekhar on March 4, 2013

The Bandra-Worli Sea Link, Mumbai’s most recent showpiece

Mumbai Darshan is a daily day bus tour of the city that starts early in the morning with a visit to the city’s most revered Siddhivinayak temple and ends at just about time to catch the setting sun at the famous Juhu beach. Mumbai Darshan tours are carried out by a host of private bus operators and a seat on one of these non-air-conditioned buses costs Rs. 250 for the day. For my ‘darshan’ of the city, I chose Neeta travels who run about four buses every day and pick up passengers from all over the city whether you are put up in the western, central or eastern Mumbai suburbs.

The Darshan

Mumbai is a mega city. A city always on the go and with a culture which is distinctively its own. So is it possible to absorb the city and its major attractions in a single day? The answer, of course, is a big ‘No’. And this was the foremost disclaimer our guide, Naushad, made as soon as we started our tour of Mumbai.

My tour started at about 7:30 am where Neeta’s Mumbai Darshan bus picked me up from Goregaon (a western suburb). Let me outline for you a rough itinerary of all the places that Mumbai darshan bus covers during the course of the day.

About 9:30 Am: The tour starts here with a visit to the 200-years-old Siddhivinayak temple that is home to Mumbai’s favourite God, Lord Ganesh or Siddhi Vinayak a.k.a Ganesh who grants your wish. The Siddhivinayak temple trust is the richest temple in Mumbai and is a frequent haunt of the country’s leading film stars and politicians alike. Photography is strictly prohibited within the temple’s compounds and the rush at the temple depends on the day of your visit. Tuesdays along with Sundays and Saturdays are days when the temple experiences heavy rush.

The bus left the temple in about an hour’s time and the next stop on our list was the Nehru Science Centre in Worli. But along the way Naushad kept on talking to us about famous landmarks as we passed them. Like headquarters of some of India’s most valued companies that are scattered all around South Mumbai.

Lord Ganesh at the Siddhivinayak Temple

The bus that we travelled in

About 11 Am: If you’re travelling with your little one, then The Nehru Science Centre at Worli comes across as an ideal destination. The only adults I spotted at the centre were us and the group of teachers accompanying school children who had come on a school visit. But don’t miss out on the special screenings of 35-40 minutes documentaries at the newly opened planetarium called ‘Science Odyssey’. The one I saw was called, “The Amazing Caves” and was a real good one. However, the question I’d wanted the tour guys was whether it was a good idea to subject a bunch of people to a documentary show in a planetarium when all one wants is to get to know the city better and that too in a day!!

We left the science centre by 12:30 and headed for the Tarapore Aquarium on Marine Drive.

About 1 Pm: Skeletal remains of a giant whale welcome you to the Tarapore Aquarium. The aquarium is a small one with different varieties of fish at display, a few rare turtles and if I recall correctly a deadly sea snake. My personal favourite were the turtles. Such lovely creatures but trapped within glass walls.

We got done with the aquarium pretty quickly and headed for the monument whose photographs adorn most postcards meant for Mumbai, The Gateway of India. The bus stopped near the Regal cinema square where we had lunch at a nearby restaurant that the tour guide recommended us. The food here was just about average and nothing to write about.

About 1:45 Pm: The Gateway of India was built in 1911 to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at 1911. In the days when global transport depended only on shipping, Bombay was India’s most famous port of entry, hence the given name. It’s a grand structure and one can stare at it for hours. The boats and ferries floating on the sea behind add immensely to the picture postcard beauty of this great monument. Along with the majestic Taj Mahal hotel that sits diagonally opposite the Gateway, this was perhaps the highlight of the day tour.

About 2:30 Pm: The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya or the CST Museum is a stone throw distance from the Gateway of India. Formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum, it is among the finest museums of India and offers facilities such as the guided walking tour in Hindi, Marathi and English. But the time allotted for the visit is just about 40-45 minutes within which one can only be expected to quickly steal a glance at the thousand of exhibits on display. I’m pretty sure here that the really interested ones will go back for a second outing.

The Gateway of India

The Taj Mahal Hotel

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

About 3:30 Pm: This is where once gets to see Mumbai form the sea. It’s a short boat ride into the sea for you to glance at the sea facing façade of this great city.

After the boat ride, the Mumbai Darshan bus took us through the localities of Walkeshwar, Napean Sea Road and Breach Candy with Naushad giving us tit-bits of information  like showing us Vinod Khanna’s residence or the hospital where former PM Vajpayee got his knee operated upon (Breach Candy).

And following a hurried stopover at the Mahalaxmi temple, it was time to head for the tour’s final destination – the Juhu Beach (Naushad badly wanted us to be at Juhu beach to catch the sunset).

About 6:30 PM: After negotiating through Mumbai’s heavy traffic we reached the Juhu Beach via Mumbai’s newly built showpiece, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

6:30 Pm (Just in time for the sunset at Juhu Beach): Watching the sun set over a clear horizon is definitely amongst the most romantic things in the world. But what is unique about this beach is the sight of aeroplanes that have just taken off from the Santa Cruz airport nearby. The aircraft juxtaposed against the setting sun – now that’s what we call a happy ending!

Also, Adjoining the Juhu beach is the famous chowpatty. This place is known to dish out some of the meanest Pav Bhajis and Barf ka Golas. Dive in!

The Mumbai Coastline as seen from the boat ride

The Giant Shoe at Hanging Gardens on Napean Sea Road

Sunset at Juhu Beach

Book your seats on the daily Mumbai Darshan here.

What I like about the Mumbai Darshan?

• Although not a comprehensive tour of the city, it gives you a feel of what the city is all about.

• If you’re really short on time and have just a day, then this is where you should come.

What I don’t like?

• The Darshan actually skips the revered Haji Ali Dargah and takes us to the Nehru Science Centre instead. That is a mistake in my opinion.

• Our Bollywood obsessed guide, Naushad, tried very hard to amuse us with anecdotes that he thought were funny. That certainly didn’t work and neither did stuff like, “This is the building where Amitabh ji and Rishi Kapoor fought in a movie called Naseeb in 1980.” What?

Important travel tips:

• The weather in Mumbai is hot and humid especially between the months of March and October. The bus is not air-conditioned so wear loose and comfortable clothes.

• The cost of the darshan excludes the cost of tickets to various places like the CST Museum, Tarapore Aquarium, the boat ride etc. It adds up to another Rs. 270 (Rs. 20 being the guide’s tip). Hence total cost = 250+270= Rs. 520.

Finally…friends that I made during the course ofthe Mumbai darshan and our guide Naushad

Harsh (from Gurgaon) & Monu (from Ramnagar, Uttarakhand) at the Gateway

Naushad with his mike in the bus

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