5 reasons to set off from the Gateway of India now
Every day a press of Indian tourists drown out the foreign ones, in a push to get on the various harbor ferries at South Mumbai's most visited tourist attraction -- Colaba's seafront portal where the Gateway of India monument stands, completed in 1924 to commemorate the visit of British monarch King George V.
Yes, ferries are lame, we know. But for a ticket price of Rs 50, which gets you a perspective of Mumbai you won't see anywhere else -- it's value.
According to a local, here are five reasons that make it worth the push and shove and sweat.
1. View of south Mumbai
Filled with young lovers and tourists the harbor cruise ferries have seen better days, and getting on and off these boats from badly maintained pier steps is a trifle scary for the uninitiated.
This is no Star Ferry Hong Kong ride, yet hop on for some of the best views of the relatively intact colonial sea front.
Also, as a Mumbaiker, it's the only time I actually get the feel of Mumbai as an island.
The Gateway of India monument, perched at Apollo Bunder, heralds the city beyond and the Indo-Gothic frontage of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel forms a magnificent backdrop. This is the view the last British troops had when they finally quit India in 1948.
I prefer the early morning ferries as they beat the heat and the waters are less choppy than in the evening, though views of the sun setting behind the lip of land can be equally rewarding.
2. Elephanta Island
This island, 10 kilometers from the southeast coast, is home to sixth century rock cut caves and takes its name from a massive stone elephant that has since been shifted to the Bhau Daji Lad Museum at Byculla.
This was after the statue had been repaired in the late Victorian era from shattered bits -- an outcome of the Portuguese using it, and other statues, as target practice while the island was in their possession. How nice.
George Michell’s excellent book on Elephanta describes the journey there:
"Several journeys have to be undertaken to reach the caves: water must be crossed, a mountain climbed and a cave entered ... For many people, this passage across, upward and inward is more than a mere excursion; it is a progression towards the world of the god, a pilgrimage to Shiva's temple."
One word of caution, stunned as you may be seeing the superlative Shiva sculptures within the cave, once out beware the
aggressive monkeys that infest the island. All food or water will be snatched,
so wait till you are back on the boat before you open the biscuits.
3. Sailing in the harbor
You wouldn't guess it but there's an active sailing scene here, dating back to colonial times when in 1846 the Royal Bombay Yacht Club was founded. Their building is next door to Indigo Deli, a stone's throw away, and the place we like to get breakfast.
In recent times the Bombay Sailing Club has been the most popular sailing school with a club house across the harbor at Mandwa, which has residential cottages for its members.
They initiate the young early with training programs for kids.
Or you could join one of the programs Aquasail has to offer, the newest sailing club on the scene, started in 2004 by Shakeel Kudrolli.
That brisk breeze, such a contrast from Mumbai's usual balminess, may just get you hooked onto sailing
4. A day trip to Alibaug
Land of the second home for many Mumbaikars, Alibaug still lies sleepy and palm ridden.
Catch one of the regular ferries to Mandwa beach and explore the many forts along the coast, a mixture of Portuguese (Revdanda and Korlai) and the island Maratha fort at Murud-Janjira.
There's the Dashrath Patel Museum at Chondi for a quick art and culture fix in homage to Mumbai's "design dada" who passed away on December 1.
Kashid beach is one that's still relatively unspoiled by this year's oil spills and has hotels for an overnight stay. Closer at Alibaug is the Radisson Resort & Spa. They even offer mobile beauty services. So if your nail’s chipped their home service mani/pedicure squad can fix it.
Read more in CNNGo's 24-hour Alibaug recharge.
5. Marine Museum on Nhava island
Nhava island is where the main port terminal of Mumbai was shifted to a decade or so ago from Ballard Pier. But almost a century ago was another shift -- Sir Mohammed Yusuf moved his Marine School and Museum from Worli to Nhava.
This is the oldest marine museum in India. Opened in 1912, it is housed in an old mansion that once belonged to the shipbuilding family of the Wadias.
Why are we telling you to go here? The museum has been recently renovated "alongside a project to conserve the fragile marine ecology around Nhava especially the preservation of the mangroves," says captain Najib Peshimam, head of the institute.
Exhibits include models of ships like cutters and sailing boats and maps and other artefacts that showcase the country's rich maritime history, thousands of years old.
A boat to Mora from the Gateway, then overland gets you to Nhava. There is a proposed 24-kilometer, eight-lane trans-harbour sea link from Sewri to Nhava, connecting the island city to the mainland, but that will take a while to complete.