The joke for many people living in the south of Mumbai is that you need a passport to visit Bandra, a suburb in the city’s northwest. It is about an hour away from tourist-packed Colaba, home to the famous Taj Hotel and the Gateway of India.
for those seeking something away from the usual tourist trail, distance should
not be a deterrent. The
Catholic suburb is a mix of old and new, where Portuguese architecture and old churches
sit alongside large, trendy Bollywood residences. With its
collection of boutiques, restaurants and street markets, Bandra is a great
place to shop, eat or simply wander around.
India’s film heartthrob Shah Rukh
one of Bollywood's biggest and best paid actors, lives in the
Bandra bandstand area, a stretch along the coast that is lined in the evenings
with young Indian couples on secret trysts. There are a few, albeit worn out,
pieces of street art lining the promenade, and the seafront path is usually
clean, offering a spot in Mumbai where you can stroll without having to look at
what you are stepping on.
Start near St Andrew’s church on Hill Road and walk about 15 minutes toward
Lands End, the southernmost point of Bandra, at
the end of Byramji Jeejeebhoy Road. The route will take you past the sea-facing
residences of some of Bollywood's most famous actors,
like Salman Khan, Rekha and
Shah Rukh Khan. Close by is the Taj Lands End, a branch of the famous Taj
hotel chain -- its lobby is great for people watching. Bandra resident and international cricketer Sachin
Tendulkar has been spotted
in the past, and several film launches and events take place here too.
While most of Bollywood's studios
are situated in the Andheri neighbourhood, a walk farther north along Mt Carmel
Road gives you the chance to stroll past
Mehboob Studios (100 Hill Road),
which in its heyday in the 1950s and ‘60s was the film set for Bollywood
classics such as Mother India.
From there, head to Chapel Road; its winding alleys and pathways have a
laid-back, European feel. Unlike many parts of the city, these few streets are
not congested, and their architecture is a reminder of the area's former
Portuguese inhabitants. Many of the surrounding walls, which are brightly
decorated with graffiti art, are the product of locally-organised painting
sessions known as the Wall Project, which get people together with spray cans
and paintbrushes to beautify their surroundings.
Bandra has a few different shopping areas
a mix of boutique stores and street markets, all of which are reachable by a short rickshaw journey.
Head down to Linking Road or Hill Road, two of India’s busiest shopping
streets, to haggle with the locals for a great deal on a traditional outfit or a
pair of the hundred different handmade, sparkly
sandals and shoes that are on sale here. Both roads get very crowded in the early
evening, when the streets are packed with the peak number of shoppers, so if
save the street markets, which are open until later in the evening, until after
something a little more upmarket, head to Pali Hill, a neighbourhood that has some of Bandra’s most
expensive houses and gated residences (Bollywood star Amir Khan
lives here). At the bottom of
the hill, on Pali Mala Road, is Pali Market, where locals go to buy
good quality, inexpensive fruit and vegetables. Pick up an entire box of
mangoes here for a fraction of what you would pay back home, get some clothes
stitched by a resident tailor or just marvel at the bustle.
Thanks in part to the high density of expats living in the area, Bandra has a
range of restaurants offering good international cuisine, as well as good
Indian food. Head to Elco, a
local favourite, where you can eat authentic street food that has been cooked
in a proper kitchen. The chaat and pani puri -- traditional savoury street snacks usually served on the roadside
in India -- are especially popular, as are the fresh juices, all
served in a lively location on the busy Hill Road. Moti Mahal (116 Turner Road; 022-26-40-8577) and
Caravan Serai (155 Waterfield Road; 022- 26-43-2570) are two of the
area’s Indian restaurants that offer a more formal dining experience.
restaurants such as Saltwater café, Basilico and Yellow tree cafe (33 Ambedkar Road Junction; 022- 65-28-7800) are
populated with a mix of expats and well-heeled locals, and are recommended if
you are craving an eggs benedict after days of eating curry. For a swanky
dining experience, Hakkasan is
the place to brush shoulders with Bollywood stars, but you will need a wallet
If you are staying in the south of Mumbai, a taxi costs between 250 and 300
rupees, and takes, on average, an hour. Be sure to tell your driver you want to
travel via the toll road, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Not only is the journey
fast, it also gives you a dramatic view of Mumbai's skyline.
For the more adventurous, a train to Bandra station can be quicker and cheaper,