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Mumbai Magic.

er...Belfast
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Mumbai Magic.

Been meaning to post a review since I got back from India a few weeks ago -

Contrary to all reports (from 3 Guidebooks and a few friends), Mumbai was our favourite out of the three places we visited in India, beating Goa and Jaipur to the title!

The highlight of our 4 day stay in Mumbai was the Bazaar Walk that we did with 'Mumbai Magic'. As promised, it took us right to the heart of the city.

Mumbai can be an intimidating place to visit: not in terms of security (we always felt safe; well, safer than most UK cities), but in terms of its frantic, crazy energy and as many visitors first encounter with India it can be quite a culture shock. Our guide, Freni, took us into the deep, dark alleyways of the city's ancient Bazaars and helped us discover sights, smells, tastes and experience of the real Mumbai, that we wouldn't have had the confidence to find ourselves. It was also clear that, being in the company of an Indian Lady, we didn't receive anywhere as near as much of the 'hard sell' which characterised much of our trip. When we wanted to look at anything, Freni was on hand to keep us right.

A big aspect to the walk was an introduction to some of the diverse communities that make up Mumbai. We visited Muslim, Jain and Hindu enclaves, my favourite being Buleshwar. We also visited the Mumbai Panjra Pole, an animal sanctuary deep within the city's lanes.

Our tour lasted about 2.5 hrs and we didn't rush, nor spend too much time shopping. There was so much to see and take in, my only regret is that I didn't buy a Camcorder in duty free on the way out: a stills camera doesn't really capture the energy and essence of a city like Mumbai.

It was a privilege to get an insight into the everyday lives of Mumbaiker's. For me travel is about interacting with the people and the culture of the place you are visiting: Mumbai Magic facilitated that process for us. Hiring a guide may seem like you are putting a barrier between yourself and a destination, but for us it helped to strip down barriers. I would highly recommend it and wish that we had done so in Jaipur (which in contrast to Mumbai was hard work).

If we ever make it back to Mumbai (which I hope we do) I'll definitely use them again.

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1. Re: Mumbai Magic.

Hey Deepa -- first-hand certification! Mumbai Magic's obviously doing a great job!

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Mumbai
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2. Re: Mumbai Magic.

la-la-la-la-laaaaaaaaa (doing a little twirl!)

Oh I'm so pleased!

Washington DC...
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3. Re: Mumbai Magic.

We will have two days (a Friday and Saturday) in Mumbai in November, and are very interested in the offerings of Mumbai Magic. I'm a real fan of walking tours, but not a big shopper. So I am a little concerned about the emphasis on bazaars in the descriptions. While I'd love to see them to get a feel for the city, I don't want that to occupy most of the time we have. So I'm intrigued that you said you didn't spend too much time shopping. So the walking tours give you some of the sights beyond the bazaars?

With so little time, the car tour looks interesting, but what I want out of Mumbai is really to get a sense of the place rather than to see anything in particular (other than Elephanta Island and the dobi ghats, which I'm told are both fascinating). I'm afraid that I'll miss the sense of place by going by car. The offering of public transit, guided by local teenagers, is particularly intriguing, but I wonder how much you can do in a short time in that situation? And are we better off with a seasoned pro to show us around, rather than kids? On the other hand, I'd love to get the perspectives of young people.

As you can tell, I'm having trouble narrowing the choices. I have a feeling we can't go wrong, no matter which option(s) we take, but I want to get the best experience of this.

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er...Belfast
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4. Re: Mumbai Magic.

Hi Caffeinated Lady,

We did spend a considerable amount of time walking through the Bazaar areas, however, whilst we could have spent time browsing, this was much more about seeing Mumbaikers going about their daily business. There are also dozens of temples and Mosques, and other places of interest, interspersed within these streets. We really felt immersed in Mumbai on our tour; we only encountered 1 other western face in the 2.5 hrs, who was obviously on a guided tour himself.

My Fiancee and I don't do much shopping either: we only spent 1-2 hrs in our 3 weeks in India shopping - there is just so much else to see and do. Why not speak to Mumbai Magic about putting together a programme which mixes driving and walking - you could probably do Elephanta on your own, but I think some bits of Mumbai definitely benefit from a guide.

BTW, you live in a lovely part of the World. I spent two weeks in Alexandria at the end of 2004 with work. Great memories of the Seafood and wandering about the Torpedo Factory Gallery. We were going to the US for our Honeymoon, and swing through Washington/VA but its the wrong time of year for the weather.... We're going back to India!! Kerala this time.

Enjoy Mumbai.

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5. Re: Mumbai Magic.

caff_lady,

The bazaar walks are not about shopping. The bazaar areas are home to Mumbai's diverse communities - Hindus, Muslims, Jains. They are filled with street food, temples, mosques, legends and myths. The walks offer a chance to see where the real heart of Mumbai lies - not in its monuments, but in its tiny lanes.

Apart from owning Mumbai Magic, I am a writer. Among other things, I write a Bazaar Walk column (a series actually) for a South Asian website, about the things I've discovered in the bazaars.

Here's a link to my bazaar stories:

desicritics.org/features/bazaar_walks.php

The first one is called "An Offering to the Goddess" and it is about the Mumbadevi temple. There's another one called "I Learn An Old Cooking Technique", and several others. This is the sort of thing you'll find in the bazaar walks. I hope you will find them interesting.

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6. Re: Mumbai Magic.

Also, if I were you, I'd do the Mumbai Local tour one morning (because that tour covers a lot of the "must-see' spots in Mumbai), and then combine that with a bazaar walk in the afternoon. And then on a separate day, you can go to Elephanta.

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Washington DC...
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7. Re: Mumbai Magic.

Oh, that sounds ideal. Deepa, my traveling companion has already been in touch with you, so we'll be pinning this down. But the combination you recommend sounds like the best way to make the most of our limited time there, and get a little understanding of Mumbai life. Thank you.

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8. Re: Mumbai Magic.

We have learned about "Mumbai Magic" and its unique tours here, on TripAdvisor, while looking for an action-packed guided tour of Mumbai.

We had a stop in Mumbai on our way from Hong Kong to Athens, a cruise of our life – 35 days, 10 countries, 6 seas, 2 oceans. With the itinerary like that one easily may become sort of accustomed to everyday wonders. However, we were anxious to see what Mumbai may offer, because we were here a while ago, so it was like a long overdue visit to an old friend...

I wrote to Mrs.Deepa Krishnan, the owner of Mumbai Magic, an introductory e-mail with request, and after several quick e-mail exchanges we created a tailored version of Deepa’s "Mumbai by Day" car tour. We excluded from our itinerary places we did visit before, and she suggested adding some new ones.

...One very hot morning at the end of April we walked out of Mumbai Docks Green Gate and hesitantly stopped in the shade of a huge mango tree. Deepa suggested that we meet the guide outside the Gate, but there were about two dozens of very pushy cabbies, begging us to take a ride in their infamous yellow-black "Diplomat" taxis. Thankfully, a young man holding a sign with my name slashed through the crowd and took us into the comfort of his air-conditioned "Toyota" van. We were pleasantly surprised – a woman inside the car was Deepa herself. Normally, as she explained, any of her 14 guides (all women, all speak several languages!) can provide guidance, but it was Sunday, so she stepped up...

The driver was very professional; during the day Deepa communicated with him via cell phone, so if we had to walk (e.g., across a square, park or market) he was always waiting for us at designated spot - we did not waste a single minute.

Our tour started from the City Hall and Horniman Circle and continued to the Kala Ghoda, where we had time to marvel at unique architectural blend of Mumbai’s most prominent buildings - High Court, Mumbai University, David Sassoon Library... Deepa’s knowledge of Mumbai history, culture, ethnography is truly outstanding; we realized this from very beginning. While telling us about general facts, she was constantly interacting with people around us and translating for us the essence - this was absolutely incredible, we lived this day, as we were part of the community... Any street scene we wanted to learn about, she immediately introduced us into it, would it be an argument between a street vendor and a buyer, or a cobra-in-the-basket show, or a wedding ritual, or countless types of street wear we saw on locals... She was extremely informative; there was no single case when she didn't answer our question.

One of the top impressions during that day was a visit to Shri Siddhivinayak (Lord Ganesha’s) Temple – I wish I had a chance to take a couple of pictures there... This is a very popular temple, and probably the only one in Mumbai where foreigners may enter and experience firsthand the uniqueness of Hindu traditions and rituals. We offered to Ganesha (and then consecutively tasted – holy prasad!) traditional doodh pedhas, sweet treats made of milk and sugar.

During our tour Deepa encouraged us to try many typical Mumbai foods, from refreshing drinks to exotic (well, for us...) fruits, etc. – it was totally safe and sanitary. Usually I am quite conservative in this respect, but how could you live the magic of the place without tastes, odors, and sounds of it? So we did try... and enjoyed all of it thoroughly.

We stopped at several other temples and mosques, where Deepa deciphered for us many beliefs and stories of multifaceted Mumbai religious world. This was absolutely fascinating.

Deepa speaks about 8 local dialects and languages, which was especially helpful during our immersion into market part of Bhuleshwar. This was the final walk of the day, across several street bazaars – gold, flower, spices are sold there - adjacent to the Crawford market, and there we received yet another portion of in-depth understanding of daily life in Mumbai. The stories Deepa told us there, the street scenery, the people, the atmosphere – everything was absolutely fantastic.

The most important and quite comforting feeling during the whole tour was that we always felt very safe with Deepa next to us; she exuded confidence and protection...

Deepa took us back to the docks on time as promised.

The whole experience was incredible, both from the cultural enrichment, historical value, and most importantly, feel of one the most unique cities on the Earth. We had visited Mumbai 20 years ago, and did not regret to see it again under such a different angle, which Deepa provided for us.

Overall, it was indeed a magical tour. We have to admit that it was an absolute highlight of the whole cruise, and we saw a lot during our 35 days...

Cheers,

Marylander.

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9. Re: Mumbai Magic.

Take a bow Mumbai Magic!

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10. Re: Mumbai Magic.

eh Deepa we are proud of you. :)

MM also got a mention in the Times, since Deepa didn't post the link, allow me -

…indiatimes.com/Cities/…3115500.cms