Colorful building in Mumbai We arrived in Mumbai last night to be welcomed by the panoramic night time skyline of the city and the sparkling lights of Marine Drive, or the ‘Queen’s Necklace,’ so called because of its horseshoe shape looking on to the Arabian Sea encasing Back Bay from World in the south to Bandra in the north.

Today Abhi will be our guide as we explore some of the landmarks of India’s commercial capital. What is today, the City of Mumbai was once a cluster of seven islands that formed part of the kingdom of Ashoka, the famed Buddhist emperor of India. The islands were subsequently colonised by a number of different rulers including the Portuguese in 1543 and the British from 1661 until Indian Independence in 1947. Through a number of land reclamation projects and bridge building, the islands are now all interconnected to form the state of Maharashtra.

Clay pots and earthenware in MumbaiMumbai is a city of contrasts and is home to many majestic buildings from colonial times alongside modern skyscrapers, sprawling slums and some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Some fine examples of colonial buildings can be seen at the University of Mumbai and some of its many colleges, the Rajabai Clock Tower which is almost a replica of Big Ben in London, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Rail Terminus (Victoria Station) and the Bombay High Court.

Many very old traditions survive today in Mumbai one of these being the work of the Washermen at Dhobi Ghat where clothes are washed in huge tubs of water and bashed against rocks to remove dirt, stains and soap. The washers, known as Dhobis are all men and most of their work nowadays comes from Mumbai’s hotels and hospitals. The traditional way of washing is still used although some modern additions have been incorporated in the Ghat including electric dryers and irons.

CoconutsAnother serving tradition is the wholesale market or Crawford Market which sells all manner of fruits, veg and household goods. Once the only place one could buy imported goods, it still provides a lot of imported produce at wholesale to be resold by local businesses in Mumbai or further afield; personal shoppers are also welcome.

Driving along Marine Drive southwards we head up a steep hill to reach the Hanging Gardens first built in 1880 and renovated in 1921. The gardens are built over a reservoir that provides drinking water to Mumbai and affords magnificent views of the Mumbai Skyline and the Arabian Sea.

Close-by to the Hanging Gardens is Malabar Hill, one of the most expensive areas of Mumbai and home to many Bollywood stars. The area also contains the most expensive private residence in the world, built by local businessman Mukesh Ambani at a cost of upwards of 1 billion US dollars.

Read all about Mumbai Day 2 here.

Steve with Serene JourneysSteve O’Donnell is Director (UK & Ireland) with Serene Journeys and a freelance travel writer and photographer.