India: Go and explore
Our World | On 01, Feb 2011
Mumbai is an impressive city (still referred to by the locals as Bombay), with a population of 17 million people, it is the fastest moving, most affluent and most industrialised city in the country. Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra and the economic powerhouse of India. So the Manhattan skyline should come as no surprise. The city is quite cosmopolitan and has a very user-friendly atmosphere with shopping arcades, nightclubs, theatre and gourmet restaurants it is very welcoming for guests.
The city is actually an island connected by bridges to the mainland. Low, swampy areas indicate where it was once divided into several islands. The principal part of the city is concentrated at the southern end of the island. The city’s most famous landmarks are the Gateway of India (an Arc de Triomphe style structure) at one end of Chowpatty Beach on the water’s edge, and behind it the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel & Towers where I stayed.
Given its history and reputation I was a bit disappointed with it (however maybe I had hyped it up a little too much in my mind!). Built in 1903 it brings together Moorish, Oriental and Florentine styles. There is the old-world Heritage wing and a contemporary Tower wing offering 582 rooms. My concerns were with the fact that the world and his wife walks through the hotel all day, using its facilities and eating in its restaurants. For me this diluted the overall class and atmosphere of the property. Other than that there are several great restaurants in house, breakfast was one of the best in terms of food and service I have ever experienced. Also the variety of meeting rooms is excellent and its location is probably the best in the city.
Back to Mumbai itself, if you want a safe, vibrant and dynamic city to host a conference in then this is certainly a city I would consider. Mumbai offers good conference venues, shopping and provides great options for outside dining. If you’re looking for a nice restaurant, I would recommend The Khyber, Indigo and Souk.
Conferences are not the only type of event you could host in Mumbai, incentives work well also. From the transport to the sightseeing, Mumbai can certainly keep your group entertained. There are many different ‘modes’ of transport here which should be incorporated in to an incentive programme such as the rickshaw and the tuk-tuk, Mumbai has unique over-the-top ornate horse and carriages which would be a must to work into a programme and of course there are various watercraft.
The half day sightseeing is extremely interesting (it takes a lot for me to say that!). The British colonial history is really evident here, such as the Oval cricket ground in the centre, the Victoria Terminus rail station, Big Ben and many Members Only Clubs. Crawford food market is well worth a visit. You also get to see really authentic sights such as the masses of locals doing their laundry outdoors and the meeting point of the thousands of famous Dabbawallas (the guys who deliver lunches from home to office desks at the same time every day by bike), honestly it sounds basic but the sight of the sheer number of them is fascinating. One other excursion which we didn’t have time for would be the Elephanta caves (1 hr by boat), a UNESCO World Heritage site of caves with carvings, sculptures and a Hindu temple. By all accounts it is truly a beautiful sight.
So in summary what do you gain from visiting India, a safe, warm and great cultural experience from a relatively short flight. Stomach bugs are not as common as everyone would have you believe, as long as you stick to the health precautions. Bottled water is a given and must be considered for all journeys. In truth I think India believes there is nowhere like it in the world but frankly I would compare it to south East Asia in many ways. India is very used to tourism no doubt, but their efforts to sell themselves is quite low partly because they believe the product on its own is strong enough to attract your attention. My experience there has certainly left me wanting to explore more of this fascinating country and I would encourage everyone to do the same.
Susan Sexton, Events Team