India is comparable to a drug- one that blows minds wide open, horrifying and enchanting at the same time, yet making the explorer crave it more intensely with each visit. Mumbai was my first port in India and my first introduction to the country’s ability to beguile with contrast - here you’ll find 5 star hotels jostling on the same street as some of Asia’s biggest slums, brand new Mercedes cars weathering traffic jams alongside cow pulled carts and 18.4 million people living side by side in an effervescent swirl of multicultural coexistence .
Yet Mumbai is also a place in which I felt happy and safe- I’d walk the streets alone at night in a gauzy dress and never feel threatened and people were overwhelmingly welcoming, not to mention hilarious (meanings for the Indian nod are endless ). Here are some tips from my journey…
I chose St Regis hotel for it’s handy position in Maximum City; a happy medium between various attractions. Opulent surroundings and incredible views of the city combine with numerous restaurant options, while your personal butler caters to your every whim. Pretty hard to leave, really
Wake up every morning with the best breakfast buffet ever – the St Regis’ Seven Kitchens venue has cuisine options from around the globe. When travelling I like to immerse myself into the country’s culture, so I stuck to Indian food -I started each day with a variety of curries and chutneys, mango lassi, tropical fruits and aromatic cutting tea (above). I found Indian food in India to differ from it’s representation on our shores; it was fresh, aromatic, light and bursting at the seams with flavor. If you are looking for a 2 hatted chef’s take on it, try Ziya at Oberoi hotel- it’s matched wines courses are delicious.
Mumbai is a port city so don’t miss the chance to sample seafood- head to Konkan Café or Trishna for the best. For a little colonial charm sample afternoon tea in the leafy courtyards of the old Taj Mahal Palace Hotel then stay behind for the evening crooners whilst you watch the boats pass by. For something more urban, head to Aer, Four Season’s rooftop hotel with amazing sunset views and yummy cocktails.
Visit the Zaveri Bazar or Hughes Road to marvel at India's obsession with gold in it's many beautiful incarnations – from being sold in kilos to delicate anklets. The city also has a rich history with textile markets – head to the narrow passageways of the Mangaldas market to view incredible fabrics and wears such as the one I am wearing below. Beware of uninspected purchases however- always take each garment out of the packaging as often they are unfinished.Make sure to bargain, it's half the fun!
I absolutely adored visiting Dhobi Ghat; the world’s largest outdoor laundry. People live and work here in a bustling hive of activity – a representative guide will meet you spontaneously as you enter any of the passageways into the huge space asking for a small donation to the community in exchange for a tour. Do wear enclosed shoes you are not precious about- it is wet and in places dirty. Haji Ali Dargah mosque is a lovely example of Indo-Islamic architecture and is visited by everybody, regardless of religion- it’s only accessible on low tide as it’s connected to the mainlaind by a long, thin causeway. If you’re looking for a day trip, don’t miss Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO world heritage site. Dating from approximately the 5th century, they hold Hindu and Buddhist caves and statues carved out of stone by hand.
This story originally appeared on vogue.com.au here!