Mumbai, the bustling city on the western coast of India, is acclaimed for its cultural diversity, stunning architecture, and street food. One of the most historic parts of the city is the Fort area, which is home to many colonial-era buildings and monuments.
The area gets its name from the old British fort that was built here in the 18th century. Today, the fort is gone, but many of the buildings from the colonial era still stand.
We would be staying at the Hotel Residency, Fort, Mumbai.
At €59 per night (excluding breakfast), this hotel was considerably more expensive than anywhere else we stayed in India. However, it was centrally located and of a reasonably good standard compared to many of the alternatives we’d checked out online.
To avoid any stressful haggling with taxi drivers, we had arranged a transfer from the airport to the hotel for Rs. 1100 (€16). Our pickup was waiting for us when we exited the airport terminal at Mumbai (… a good start).
So, our first impressions of Mumbai would be gleaned through the windows of a very comfortable air-conditioned minivan during a 40-minute journey through the chaotic heart of the city.
Mumbai City – First Impressions
Massive, dirty and congested were the first adjectives that came to mind. Added to the mix is the juxtaposition of the desperately poor living alongside the insanely rich (Mumbai is number 6 in the list of world cities to host the highest number of billionaires).
Clearly, very little is spent on maintaining the city’s buildings, or refurbishing the fabulous but faded remains of a Victorian heritage.
Unlike Delhi, we could see little sign of colourful, vibrant markets and appetizing streetfood vendors. By the time we reached our hotel, we were already quite depressed.
The Hotel Residency Fort
The Hotel Residency was located near a busy intersection in the Fort area.
When we checked in, we learned we would actually be staying in an annex close by. The room they gave us was actually quite good. Clean and modern, with a tv, fridge and well-equipped bathroom.
Our room had no window, but this is not uncommon for budget hotels in Mumbai.
There was a restaurant attached to the hotel, but they never seemed to have any customers during our stay – possibly due to the prices.
As could be expected in a city like Mumbai, the Hotel Residency, Fort, Mumbai was heavily over-staffed, with staff members a little over-keen to offer their services – especially to foreigners.
Eating in Mumbai City Fort Area
Finding somewhere decent to eat in the Fort area was much more difficult than we anticipated. There were a few up-market restaurants dotted around, but prices weren’t cheap.
We checked out a few of these restaurants, but were put off by the pretentious and arrogant attitude of the managers. These places also seemed to employ armies of flunkies who constantly hovered around us in an irritating manner.
In fact, we found no moderately priced restaurants. We ended up eating a joyless snack in a relatively clean Indian fast-food joint.
In the evening, for want of better (or cheaper) options, we ate our first proper meal in the restaurant that was attached to our hotel.
We were the only guests.
This meal was expensive compared to our other experiences in India, but still a lot cheaper than eating in any of the restaurants nearby.
The food was OK, but nowhere near the standards of the beach restaurants we had enjoyed in Goa.
Our solution to the frustrating lack of eating options was to buy food from a few shops that we could consume back in our hotel room. Even this solution wasn’t easy: We searched everywhere, but couldn’t find even one supermarket.
We bought fruit from a street vendor, and samosas & nuts from a small shop. After much searching, we also found a dilapidated liquer store where we bought some wine and beer.
Back in the (by now) sanctuary of our hotel, we stored our goods in the fridge.
Later that evening – after spending a day on foot sightseeing – we assembled our purchases into a passable meal while watching The Shankshaw Redemption on the box.
We tried to make the most of our short visit to Mumbai’s Fort area, including visits to Marine Drive, the Gateway of India, Victoria Terminus, Crawford Market and more (see Mumbai & The Thousand-Yard Stare).
Despite this, our apprehensions about the city were not unfounded, and we were happy we had limited our stay here to just the 2 nights.
Mumbai may be a must-visit destination for those interested in history, architecture, or culture. It may also be a perfect blend of old-world charm and modern-day excitement. It is certainly a place that will leave a lasting impression on anyone who visits (see India – I’ll Never Do It Again).
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