Mumbai is the bubblegum glamour of Bollywood cinema, shopping malls full of designer labels, cricket on the Oval Maidan, promenading families eating bhelpuri on the beach at Chowpatty, red double-decker buses queuing in grinding traffic jams and the infamous cages of the red-light district.
This pungent drama is played out against a Victorian townscape more reminiscent of a prosperous 19th-century English industrial city than anything you’d expect to find on the edge of the Arabian Sea. It’s a city with vibrant streetlife, India’s best nightlife, and a wealth of bazaars.
When To Go
The best time to explore Mumbai is between the months of September and April, when the weather is relatively dry and cool. From June to September the skies open, sometimes with catastrophic results – the floods of 2005 killed nearly a thousand and left thousands more homeless. During the monsoon season, ferries to Elephanta Island and beyond stop, and trips to Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the forts and cave temples around Mumbai are often impossible. YOu might also want to avoid the months just before the monsoon breaks, when temperatures can top 40ºC (140ºF).
Without doubt, the biggest spectacle in the Mumbai calendar is Ganesh Chaturthi, an 11-day Hindu festival that rocks the city every August/September. This colourful event reaches a climax when huge images of the elephant-headed god are immersed in the sea, most notably off Chowpatty Beach. The largest effigies are hauled into the river by crane and all are painted in surreal, fluorescent colours.