06 January 2014

Kolkata

Kolkata is the biggest city in Eastern India, with a population of around 5 million. It is located on the banks of the river Hooghly.

INTRODUCTION
Kolkata is very famous for its Indian sweets. A particularly famous landmark is the Howrah bridge.

CITY MAPPING
Most tourist attractions are clustered around the Maidan and Esplanade area in central Kolkata. North of these areas is the Hooghly river, with the town of Howrah on the other bank. South of the centre are the posher districts, including Ballygunge, with the famous Birla Mandir. The airport (CCU) is 15 km north east from the city.

SIGHTS
Most attractions are in the city centre, consisting of Esplanade and Maidan districts. Through the centre runs Park St, one of the major thoroughfares of the centre, with many shops and restaurants. Among them is the popular Flurys, which is by large a bakery. It can be immensely crowded, and you may have to wait outside.

Park St on Christmas Eve

Park St

The western end of the street is at the large park called Maidan.

Nearby is the Victoria Memorial, a beautiful piece of colonial architecture. It was built between 1906 and 1921. Expect loads of crowds on holidays and weekends.

Victoria Memorial with the massive crowds on Christmas Day
Also in the area is the St Paul's Cathedral, built in 1847. Photography is not allowed in the interior. 

St Paul's Cathedral

Other attractions in the area are the Indian Museum and Eden Gardens. 

A lot of colonial architecture is around Dalhousie Sq (BBD Bagh).

Dalhousie Sq
Some of the interesting buildings include those of the General Post Office and the High Court.

High Court
On the northern bank of the Hooghly is the bustling town of Howrah, with the main railway station of Kolkata.
Old Howrah Bridge

Howrah Railway Station

In south Kolkata, the primary attraction is the Birla Temple. Photography is not permitted inside.

Birla Temple in Ballygunge

ACCOMMODATION
1) Park Plaza Kolkata Ballygunge---located in south Kolkata's Ballygunge area, Park Plaza offers pleasant rooms and has a good restaurant. While Birla Temple is walkable, you will need a taxi to travel to the centre. 
2) Swissotel Kolkata---handy to the airport (a 10 min drive). Rooms are plush and there is a mall next door- convenient for food.

FOOD
Kolkata is rightly famous for its Indian sweets. 
Balaram has a small outlet on Park St and a bigger one in Bhawanipur. Great sweets- many distinct ones as well.
Kwality, on Park St, serves good Indian cuisine but portions are very small.
Flurys is a famous bakery on Park St with smaller branches elsewhere.

TRANSPORT
Kolkata is served by the Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Airport (CCU), 15 km from the centre. There is a pre-paid taxi service- follow the signs upon arrival. 

Taxis can be hailed on the streets. If the meter starts from 10, the actual fare will be 2.4 times the meter reading plus Rs 1. If the meter starts from 25, the meter reading is the fare. A taxi from Ballygunge to Park St would cost about Rs 80. 

However, taxis can be very difficult to find around Park St at evenings. Some may be unwilling to go.

Kolkata also boasts a metro and India's only tram service. 

A tram runs past Birla Temple
Last visit: Dec 2013
No of visits: 1

21 April 2013

San Francisco

Pretty houses on a slope, a beautiful orange bridge and a climate which seems incompatible with California, San Francisco is a unique city. And while it may sound cliched, it's true nonetheless.

INTRODUCTION
San Francisco is famous for several things: be it the famous ex-prison Alcatraz, the Victoria-style houses (Victorians), its steep slopes, and several more. Whatever your main highlight, you'll leave satisfied.

CITY MAPPING
San Francisco's centre is pretty compact. The centre is surrounded by the bay on the north and east. Much of the northern part of the centre consists of upscale residential districts- such as the Marina, Nob Hill and Cow Hollow. Slightly south is North Beach as well as the true downtown with the famous Union Sq, and around are Chinatown, the Financial District and the Western Addition. Slightly west is the Golden Gate Park. South of Downtown is the SoMa (South of Market St) and South Beach.

San Francisco's airport (SFO) lies around 14 miles to the south of the centre.

SIGHTS
UNION SQ and around
Union Sq, bordered by Powell St (west), Geary St (south), Stockton St (east) and Post St (north), is a popular public place in this part of town. It is frequented by office folk during lunch time, as well as shoppers taking a break and tourists. Indeed, this area is now a popular shopping area, with department stores right next door. Saks Fifth Avenue is on the northern side, Macy's is on the southern, Neiman Marcus is closeby, and only slightly away are many individual stores and other shopping centres.

Union Sq

To view a history of the square, check out the granite on the south-western side.

There are often exhibitions in the square. There are 2 cafes, and some good seating. Sit and watch the world go by!
Union Sq at night

Powell St is one road where the famous cable cars drive by. Sitting on the square, watching the cable cars go by, while listening to the cables running steadily below, is a typical San Francisco experience. The cable car is generally very crowded when going north- as it gets full from its southerly end at Powell and Market... so waiting at the cable car stop opposite Union Sq is probably going to be fruitless in the mornings and evenings- better to line up and wait at Powell and Market.

Cable car on Powell St
Powell St, well till its southern end at Market St, remains an important shopping street, with plenty of stores.

The junction of Powell St with Market St is perpetually busy, as here the iconic turning around of the cable car for the return journey takes place.


MARKET STREET
Market Street is one long road, and a major thoroughfare, which runs from the southern part of the city all the way to the Ferry Building on the seaside (the seaside road from Fisherman's Wharf in the north to South Beach is called the Embarcadero; the Ferry Building is roughly somewhere in between). This section will concentrate on the stretch of Market Street mainly in the Downtown district. Along the road run the vintage streetcars (line F) and buses. There are also stations for the streetcars from underground for lines J, K, L, M, N and T.

The Ferry Building is a landmark, from where some ferries depart (for example, to the town of Sausalito). It also is home to several restaurants. From this area, you can enjoy a nice view of the Bay Bridge and nearby skyscrapers.

Ferry Building with its clock tower,
note the streetcar  along the
Embarcadero
Bay Bridge

Going south-west on Market St, you will enter the Financial District with its myriad skyscrapers. Some nice buildings here include the Hobart Building (582 Market St). On the junction of Market, Geary and Kearney is the Lotta's Fountain. Nearby is the Phelan Building, the largest flat-iron structure in the city.

Phelan Building

Continuing south-west, the road becomes increasingly lined with shops- fashion as well as stores such as CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens, which are convenient for supermarket supplies. The road, however, becomes less interesting, as you enter the Tenderloin area.

FINANCIAL DISTRICT
If you like modern architecture and skyscrapers, you'll enjoy walking through this area. One of San Francisco's landmarks, the Transamerica Pyramid is located here. To see it closely, get to it at the southern end of Columbus Avenue. However, as this post continues on, you'll see various places from where you can get good views of it from afar.

Transamerica Pyramid
Other interesting buildings include the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange.

On Sundays, however, the area is pretty quiet and even the restaurants are closed (except for, say, Subway). It is recommended to visit it on a weekday afternoon. Then, it could be nice to just see the bustling activity and the traffic flowing past, especially while sitting somewhere in the Financial District on Market Street.

CHINATOWN
Immediately west of the Financial District is Chinatown. Come here, say, after 10-11 am when the area really starts to become bustling. Just start walking and checking out the various merchandise in the shops- it is an interesting area.

The Chinatown gate is located at the junction of Grant and Bush. 

Chinatown Gate

Chinatown
At the edge of Chinatown, bounded by California, Grant and Pine is the Old St Mary's Cathedral.

Old St Mary's Cathedral

NOB HILL
West of Chinatown, Nob Hill is a peaceful, posh residential district. With a greater than fair share of San Francisco's steep slopes (duh, where did the word "hill" come from?), walking will be slow, but the cable car (the Powell-Hyde one) runs through the district. 

Residences of Nob Hill

On California St, reachable by the cable car, is the Grace Cathedral.



Walk north 5 blocks on Taylor St, till you reach Broadway. On Broadway, between Taylor and Jones, there is a perch from which you can enjoy amazing views of the area. Beware of the slope (there are steps on the last stretch if you have difficulty on the slope). A small cartoon celebrates your arrival to the perch.


Do not forget the views!


RUSSIAN HILL
North of Nob Hill is another residential area called Russian Hill. These areas share similar attributes; vantage points and slopes. The Powell-Hyde cable car line runs through the area.

This area is famous for its crooked section of Lombard Street, and that area also offers good views.


NORTH BEACH and around
North Beach is San Francisco's very own Little Italy. Filled with Italian restaurants with outdoor seating, this area is also home to Washington Square. It is located east of Russian Hill.

Washington Sq has a nice park and a church. 

Washington Sq with the Peter and Paul Parish church
Another of San Francisco's landmarks is the Coit Tower, on top of Telegraph Hill. Bus 39 passes by Washington Sq and will drop you right at the top of the hill, at the base of Coit Tower- the walk is supposedly steep. The entry costs $7 per adult and the observation deck affords 360 degree views of the city.

Coit Tower

As said, the views are legendary.

View of the Financial District from Coit
Tower. The Transamerica Pyramid
looms large.
And for great views of the bay from up there...



Alcatraz is at the left. Boats are moored at around Fisherman's Wharf.

FISHERMAN'S WHARF and around
Fisherman's Wharf is located north of Russian Hill. To get here, take the Powell-Hyde cable car which will end at Beach and Hyde. Alternatively, streetcar F from Market will end around, at the Embarcadero. 

It is home to Ghiradelli Square- where you can savour its famous ice-creams and take back home a multitude of chocolates. 

Around the cable car stop at Beach St, there is a very good viewpoint with the Golden Gate bridge in the distance.


THE EMBARCADERO
The Embarcadero is the seaside road which links Fisherman's Wharf with South Beach. It is used to access the many piers along the way from which ferries to various destinations are taken. 

The F streetcar passes along the road from Market St to Fisherman's Wharf.

A theme-park like atmosphere surrounds Pier 39 with its surfeit of shops and restaurants. If you're in the area and don't know where to eat, have a look here.

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE & around
When a tourist thinks of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is probably among what comes to mind first. This magnificent bridge links the city to Marin County and is about 2 miles in length. Pedestrians are allowed to walk across on the East side.



And on the bridge...




The views are stunning too (unfortunately I don't have a good photo).

Nearby, the district of Marina is another posh residential area. It is home to the Palace of Fine Arts.

Palace of Fine Arts

WESTERN ADDITION 
This area is south of Pacific Heights (which is south of Marina).

San Francisco is home to many Victorians, but many tourists prefer to see the Painted Ladies here, east of the viewpoint of Alamo Square.

Alamo Square itself is a nice garden, offering good views not only of these 'Painted Ladies' but also of other parts of the city. To get here from around Union Sq, take Bus 5 from the junction of Market and Powell. Get down at McAllister and Pierce and walk one block south.

The Victorians with the Financial District

Painted Ladies

CITY HALL and around
Very close to Union Sq, just west of the Tenderloin, lies the impressive structure of the City Hall.

City Hall

Also around are the Symphony Hall and the Opera House.


While it is close to Union Sq, if you're starting from there, you may not like to walk here as you will have to cross the Tenderloin- so take the streetcar J, K, L, M, N or T to Civic Center and walk 2 blocks on Grove St/McAllister St (till you reach Van Ness Av) to reach City Hall.

TENDERLOIN
Walk only 1 or 2 blocks from Market St into, say, Golden Gate Av or Turk St, and the atmosphere changes completely. You are now in the Tenderloin. This area is an unfortunate part of town, blocks away from the wealthy areas, where streets are full of the homeless and the mentally ill. While it isn't very unsafe during daytime, it is not a nice area to walk through and you should exercise caution. But don't worry- displaying a camera and similar really isn't a problem.

Located on Golden Gate Av, 2 blocks from Market St, is the St Boniface Catholic Church



SoMa (SOUTH OF MARKET STREET)
As the name says, this is the area south of Market St, until South Beach. If you like seeing fast flowing traffic, come here for its broad roads.

Located on 3rd street is the famous SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). Very close by, accessible from both 3rd St and Howard St is the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Its garden has a beautiful setting, with a church right in front, with a good view of the surrounding skyscrapers.


TOUR TO ALCATRAZ
This famous ex-prison can only be visited on a tour, that too, only by one company. Look here for details. 
The tour is very good, and the audio-guide has interviews with actual prisoners and officers. Cost is $30 for an adult and remember to book around a week in advance- although you can book even sooner.

Cellhouse
The ferry is also excellent and offers great views. The ride will last about 20 min one way. 

Perfect views from the ferry
Built as a military facility, it was turned into a high-security prison in 1930s (known as "The Rock" by inmates). It was then closed in the 60s and now is a tourist attraction. On a visit, you will discover the cellhouse, the administration quarters and viewpoints from the island.

Picture Gallery of Alcatraz



Before entering the main cellhouse, you'll come across a small building with old photos of Alcatraz when it was a prison.

Photo of prisoners at work


ACCOMMODATION
We stayed at the Westin St Francis bang opposite Union Sq. It has maintained some historic charm and rooms are very spacious, considering its city location.

HOTEL REVIEW: WESTIN ST FRANCIS
Rooms: 8/10 Very spacious given the downtown location and they come with the usual amenities.
Staff: 8/10 Most of the staff are pretty helpful and friendly.
Location: 10/10 Bang opposite Union Sq and close to many restaurants and transportation, you really can't ask for more.
Breakfast: 8/10 It is pricey and the spread is rather limited but quality is excellent.
Total: 34/40 Recommended.                      

FOOD
San Francisco is famous for its dining scene- you have loads of choices.

UNION SQ, TENDERLOIN & MARKET ST
Being a prime tourist area, there are infinite possibilities here.
- The basement food court in the Westfield Shopping Centre has many choices. It is located on Market St, right opposite the junction with Powell St. There are also other restaurants located on the upper stories of the mall. The food court gets crowded on weekday afternoons due to the office crowd. 
- Cafe Bellini on Powell St (between Geary and O'Farell) is a nice restaurant, and also has breakfast options. Open from 7am. Great macaroons, too.
- Little Delhi serves Indian food on Eddy St (between Mason and Cyril Magnin).
Besides, this area has the usual chains- such as Chipotle (amazing Mexcian food; we went to the outlet on O'Farell St, between Cyril Magnin and Powell), Starbucks, Subway etc.
- Peets Coffee has several branches on Market St. Good for a drink and watching the world go by.

SoMa
This area also offers good eating possibilities.
- Check out the cafes on Mint Plaza, off Jessie St. 
- Sunrise Deli, located on 2nd St between Stevenson and Jessie, also has other branches across town. Serves good Lebanese cuisine.

PIER 39
- Mangoes serves very good Mexican food. Sit out, if the weather permits. Views are good.

TRANSPORTATION
San Francisco is served by San Francisco International Airport, lying around 14 miles south of the centre. A taxi will cost around $40 + tip to around Union Sq. 

The city's main transport network is run by MUNI, which runs buses, streetcars and the cable cars. If you're staying for more than 4-5 days, get a MUNI 7-day passport ($28) which can be used on any MUNI transport without any extra surcharge. MUNI also issues 1-day and 3-day Passports.
An individual cable car ride is $6.
Taxi flagfall is $3.10.

BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) connects San Francisco with the airport, East Bay, Daly City and Colma. MUNI passes aren't valid on BART, even for inter-city rides.

Another commuter train, called CalTrain, connects San Francisco with Gilroy, stopping at places such as Palo Alto.

Cable Car
MUNI runs three cable car lines. One runs on California St, from Van Ness to Market. Then there are two lines, with one end at the Powell-Market junction. The Powell-Mason line ends at Bay and Taylor, while the Powell-Hyde line ends at Beach and Hyde. The latter is better to appreciate the city's steep inclines but both are good experiences.

SAFETY
San Francisco is by large a safe city, but be careful of pickpockets in crowded public transport. The city has a large number of homeless people but they are unlikely to create much hassle. But you should be careful in the Tenderloin area.

ITINERARIES
One day
Walk down Market St all the way to the Ferry Building. From there take the streetcar to the Embarcadero and take in the views of the Golden Gate bridge at Beach St, at the end of the Powell-Hyde cable car. Then take the cable car till Union Sq, appreciating San Francisco's steep inclines and end at Union Sq, and sit and relax, and watch the world (and the cable cars) go by. In the evening, go to the Golden Gate bridge.

Two Days
Do Day 1 as above, getting a brief overview of the city. On the second day, visit Chinatown in the morning, followed by Washington Sq and roam around North Beach. Visit the Coit Tower and then in the afternoon, get to the Financial District- check out the Transamerica Pyramid from close. In the evening, take a stroll through Nob Hill and visit Grace Cathedral.

Three Days
Do the Day 2 Itinerary as above. On the third day, visit Alcatraz (book in advance!). Depending on the time of the tour, adjust in a stroll through Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiradelli Sq.

For more about the city, check out this report (also by me).
Last visit- Apr 2013
No of visits- 1

02 January 2013

Mumbai

Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is the "land of opportunities" for Indians. It is the city home to the Indian film industry (Bollywood). Mumbai is India's financial capital- with the primary stock exchange BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange). All these come together and give a massive city with nearly 20 million inhabitants- and with lots to see.

City mapping
Mumbai is a sprawling city but the traditional heart of Mumbai- South Mumbai- is relatively small and contains districts such as Colaba, Fort, Malabar Hill as well as the famous Marine Dr you would have seen in pictures. Slightly north is Central Mumbai with districts such as Byculla. Further north are the suburbs- of Bandra, Andheri and the city further stretches north to Goregaon, Malad and Gorai. Check out this map.

An (E) or a (W) on an address indicated the side of the railway line the shop/house etc lies. For example, Bandra (W) means the business is in Bandra, west of the railway line.

How to get there
Mumbai has a major airport, located around Andheri. It can take upto an hour to reach South Mumbai. The airport has flights from throughout the world and India.

Old Names or New Names
Many people still say Bombay and most taxi drivers will understand you when you want to go to VT (Victoria Terminus is the old name for Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus, CST). However, I've never heard Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Road; everyone uses Marine Dr.

Sights
SOUTH MUMBAI
South Mumbai is the traditional business district of the city.

COLABA
The Gateway of India (right) next to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
Colaba forms the southernmost part of Mumbai. Around the east coast is the iconic Gateway of India next to the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which was one of the victims in the 2008 terrorist attack (called 26/11). Gatway of India is now a port, from where you can catch ferries to Elephanta Island and Alibagh. There are some pay-and-use toilets not far from the entrance. There is no fee to enter the area but you will be subject to a routine security check.

SP Mukherjee Chowk is a beautiful square which forms the borderline between Fort (north) and Colaba (south). On it are the Regal Cinema and the Prince of Wales Museum (now known as the Chhatrapati Sivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya).

SP Mukherjee Chowk
  Starting from this junction going south is the Colaba Causeway- a    touristy road with many shops, restaurants and the BEST Bhavan. The          famous Cafe Leopold is on this road as well, fairly  close from  SP     Mukherjee Chowk, on the left side when coming south. On the road is a                                            lot of street touristy shopping as well.



Further south in Colaba is the Afghan Church. It wasn't open when we visited (a Friday) but the caretaker opened it for us.

Afghan Church

Interior of Afghan Church

In the western part of Colaba is Cuffe Parade. The shopping arcade is not of
much interest but the area around is relatively quaint and worth a walk.

CHURCHGATE, FORT, KALA GHODA
This part of town is choc-a-block with colonial architecture and lots of street activity. Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus (CST) is located here and is always busy when the trains are operational. It is a lovely building though, as is the one opposite it which is the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation)

CST
BMC


CST is located on Nagar Chowk. The main road- Dr 
Dadabhai Naoroji Rd- is
littered with colonial architecture-
and is worth a stroll in the evening. 

Dr Dadabhai Naoroji Rd
Veer Nariman Road is also a pleasure to walk through. Beginning
at Marine Dr, it passes through the iconic Pizza by the Bay restaurant
and the Ambassador Hotel, then passes Churchgate station and Oval 
Maidan. Finally it crosses Flora Fountain, St Thomas Cathedral
and ends at Horniman Circle.

If you turn right from Veer Nariman Rd on to Karmaveer Bhaurao
Patil Marg (basically, the east boundary of Oval Maidan, one block west of Flora Fountain), you can check out some more great colonial architecture including the High Court, the Rajabai Clock Tower and the Old Secretariat- on the junction of  
Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil Marg and Madame Cama Rd.

High Court (left), behind Rajabai Clock Tower
is the BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange)
Oval Maidan itself it a nice place to stroll and offers good views of the landmarks on the road. It is a popular ground for playing cricket and football.

If you continue east on Madame Cama road, you then hit SP
Mukherjee Chowk. Left (north) is Kala Ghoda while right (south) is Colaba.

If you turn left on MG Rd (Mahatma Gandhi Road),
 you can see the Prince of Wales Museum followed by the Jehangir Art Galllery on the right.
Flora Fountain

The Prince of Wales Museum is an interesting museum with varied exhibits in a nice setting. 

MG Rd is also known as Fashion Street- lots of clothes on sale on the pavement.

Continue straight, you hit Veer Nariman Road again and the Flora Fountain. Turn right on Veer Nariman Rd and continue straight till you reach St Thomas Cathedral.

St Thomas Cathedral
Inside St Thomas Cathedral




On Dalal St, a few streets south of Veer Nariman Rd and east of MG Rd, is the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). Around Dalal St are a few stalls for the famous street food vada pav.

MARINE DR

Marine Dr

Marine Drive, or called Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Marg, is Mumbai's premier seaside boulevard. It starts from around Malabar Hill and then ends at Nariman Point (west-east). With a broad and well-kept pavement, it is a popular place for jogging. The curve of the road is known as the Queen's Necklace because of illumination at night (all streetlights work!).

Queen's Necklace
The Girgaum area's beach on Marine Dr is known as Girgaum Chowpatty (chowpatty is Marathi for beach). It's a popular place in the evening to get some good street food and the views are fine too.

Girgaum Chowpatty; behind is
Worli skyline


On Sardar Vallabhai Patel
Road (Sandhurst Rd) is the
Opera House.

CRAWFORD MARKET
Not far from CST is the Crawford Market, a great place to feel the chaos around. Be careful with your pockets, this is a prime spot for pickpocketing!

Crawford Market

MALABAR HILL
If you're in the mood for some greenery, go to the Hanging Gardens
in the posh district of Malabar Hill. They are indeed quite beautiful
and provide good views of Mumbai (if it isn't too smoggy). Opposite the Hanging Gardens is the Kamala Nehru Park. This park has a
giant shoe and the viewpoint offers nice views over Marine Dr.

Hanging Gardens
View over Marine Dr from Kamala Nehru Park

CENTRAL MUMBAI
BYCULLA
Byculla has the imposing Gloria Church. Besides, you can visit the famous Chor Bazaar. With a completely different atmosphere from any other market in South Mumbai, Chor Bazaar is a great place to shop for antiques such as old telephones, clocks and even coin replicas. Even if you don't want to shop, Chor Bazaar's lanes are a nice place to stroll through and take in the special atmosphere.

The lanes of Chor Bazaar...

THE SUBURBS
After some days in South Mumbai, some areas in the suburbs may feel slightly disappointing. And don't be fooled by the word "suburbs"- these are just expansions of the city. Yes, some areas do contain bungalows but much of the area is packed residential and commercial areas with not much character. Despite this, there are some areas which warrant exploration.

BANDRA
Parts of this western suburb, posh in many parts, feel like a hill station due to the elevation and the overall character. Although the Carter Rd promenade may feel underwhelming after Marine Dr, it still is a good place to get your sea fix while in the north.

Carter Rd promenade
A bit uphill, east, is the shopping street of Linking Rd. Now known as Vithalbhai Patel Rd (VP Rd), this road has some shopping, including stalls selling clothes and shoes.

South of Carter Rd is St Andrews Church.

St Andrews Church

Inside St Andrews Church

South of St Andrews church is Bandstand, a posh area of apartments and bungalows (including houses of celebrities), with a hill station feel. Nearby is Mount Mary's Basilica and the shrine opposite it provides good views of the basilica.

Mount Mary's Basilica

ELEPHANTA ISLAND
Elephanta Island is located around 10 km from the Gateway of India. To get there, get to the ticket counters at Gateway of India and buy tickets for Elephanta Island (INR 150 per person return). You can buy the tickets just before departure, ferries run every 30 min from 9 am to 2 pm. To get on the upper deck you need to pay INR 10 to the person on the ferry. Once on Elephanta Island, the first ferry leaves at 12 pm- ferries arriving from Mumbai before leave empty (it is, however, possible to request a ferry to take you back). Ferries take around 50 min one way.

Once on the island, you can take a short train ride (INR 10 per person return) or walk (it's less than 1 km) to an area with shops. There are steps- after getting off the train- and around 5-7 min later you're at the entrance of the caves.

The caves are indeed beautiful- and are carved out of rock. The scenery around is good too.



Accommodation
We stayed in 2 hotels:
Hotel Ambassador
Rooms- 7/10 The rooms are generally good but, as the hotel is old, the rooms may have some problems. Ours had problems with the shower. Otherwise they're relatively spacious considering the prime location.
Staff- 8/10 Staff is fine, no special comment here.
Location- 10/10 Amazing location, on Veer Nariman Rd, meters from Marine Dr.
Breakfast- 7/10 The breakfast is fine.
Total- 32/40 Recommended. While the hotel looks pretty characterless from the outside and the revolving restaurant isn't operational, rooms are fine and location is unbeatable.

Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport
Rooms- 8/10 Rooms are very good with the usual mod-cons.
Staff- 8/10 Staff is fine, no special comment here.
Location- 7/10 Nothing much is walkable but handy for the airport.
Breakfast- 8/10 Breakfast is pretty good with a good variety.
Total- 31/40 Very nice hotel with a pretty big gym. Recommended, but for the average tourist, commutes to attractions will be long. (around 45 min to Bandra, Malad, 1 hr to South Mumbai)

Food
COLABA
Busaba- Expect slow service but the result is good Pan-Asian food. Off Colaba Causeway, on Mandlik Rd.

Cafe Leopold- Located on Colaba Causeway, not very far south from SP Mukherjee Chowk. Amazing desserts.

Indigo- Pricey but good food. The dish "vegetables cooked different ways" is well-made. Next to Busaba.

Kailash Parbat- An iconic restaurant on Colaba Causeway/1st Pasta Lane dishing Sindhi and North Indian cuisine.

Starbuck's- Newly arrived in India, expect lots of crowds. The food is also decent. Entrance is from behind the Taj Mahal Palace.

There is also a Barista outlet (Cecil Court, Colaba Causeway); strategically located if you're tired of walking around in the heat.

FORT
Starbuck's- The biggest Starbuck's outlet in Mumbai, this is located on Horniman Circle. Food is similar to the one in Colaba with some more variety.

MARINE DR
Pizza by the Bay- Famous restaurant on the junction of Marine Dr and Veer Nariman Road. Get a window table and see the world passing by while enjoying pizzas with Indian twists. Their tomato sauce is amazing. However, expect relatively slow service; it's quite a laid-back place.

GIRGAUM
Soam's Veg- Good Gujarati cuisine available here.

CRAWFORD MARKET
Badshah- An iconic eatery dishing up good Indian desserts etc. Get a window table to witness the outside chaos.

LOWER PAREL
Moshe's- In High Street Phoenix/Palladium. Good Med food.

BANDRA
Bonobo- Located above KFC on Linking Rd/33rd Rd. Good crostini, humus and other Med food.

Shopping
See the Sights section for Crawford Market, Chor Bazaar and Fashion St.

MALLS
High Street Phoenix/Palladium- A typical, modern mall in Lower Parel. Lots of food options and typical shops.

Inorbit Mall- Located in Malad. A bit older and lacks the atmosphere that is present in High Street Phoenix. Still, it's a fine place and has a food court.

Transport
Taxis operate throughout the city and can be hailed. Autos (3-wheelers) only operate in the suburbs. City cabs are cheap by Western standards and drivers are generally eager for a conversation. There are also radio taxis and other companies.
Meru
Ola Cabs
Easycabs
Carzonrent
Carrentalmumbai.net
Radio cabs will use their meters. With normal city cabs you may need to agree on a fare if the driver doesn't use the meter.

There is a hellishly crowded (on weekdays at least) suburban train.

Safety
When it comes to violent crime, Mumbai is generally safe. Be in well-peopled areas. Many areas, eg Marine Dr, are well frequented even late at night. Petty crime can be a problem in crowded areas. Exercise usual precautions and don't leave belongings unattended.

Itineraries
One Day
With just one day in Mumbai, stay in South Mumbai and visit Colaba in the morning. After lunch around, in the evening, get to CST to get a feeling of the evening rush and walk around for a while- Dr Dadabhai Naoroji Rd and MG Rd for instance, and end your stay with a stroll down Marine Dr at night.

Two Days
On your Day 1 morning, walk around Colaba, visiting Colaba Causeway, Afghan Church and Cuffe Parade. In the early evening, visit Crawford Market for some kulfi at Badshah and then stroll then Marine Dr later, visiting Girgaum Chowpatty for some views and street food.
On the second day, spend your morning around Churchgate and Fort, taking in the colonial architecture. Visit the Prince of Wales Museum during the afternoon and spend the evening around CST- feeling the chaos.

Three Days
Spend the first two days as above. On the third day, go to Elephanta Island in the morning. Spend your evening in Bandra.

Four Days
If you have another day, spend the morning in Malabar Hill and later get to Byculla for some antique-shopping in Chor Bazaar.

No of visits- 2
Last visit- Dec 2012/Jan 2013
First visit- Feb 2009