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Honeymoon in Mumbai

Mumbai! It forms a shout of joy, expressing reverbating life, pounding excitement. A new life could have a flying start here. A mere fishing village a few hundred years ago, the city today is sprawling expanse of reclaimed land, literally costing the earth. A colourful place with quacks and touts out to dupe gullible tourists and weary travellers. Many a train passenger has been given an unwitting tour of the city, by unscrupulous taxi drivers.

For all its unsavoury reputation and terrible slums, Mumbai has a magnetic charm, spangled with Bollywood starts(who may sometimes be spotted at traffic lights). Marine Drive, that magical stretch resembling tjhe Queen's Necklace is a place every visitor wants to traverser. And there's no better way to do it than to catch a horse carriage(or victoria) at the fag end of its daily rides at about 8:30p.m. for a mere fraction of what it costs at peak evening hours, and have a breezy (and romantic!) ride down to Brabourne Stadium,. Ideally, one should get off at Rustom's, the legendary Parsi ice cream outlet specialising in fresh home-made ice creams served in slabs between two crisp wafers.

The sea plays such a big part in Mumbai life that the halidaymaker too is drawn by it. One can sit on the promenade gazing at the sunset, listening to the crashing waves, whiling away the entire evening. A paper cone of hot Mumbai peanuts, with their unique flavour, makes it all the more pleasurable. Actually, wining and dining one's sweetheart in Mumbai can be so simple and happily basic! One could also go for hourly launch rides, from the Gateway of India, but the sea is usually choppy and somewhat unsetting to those who have no sea legs at all.

The Chowpatty and jahu beaches, of courses, are not to be missed. Pony and buggy rides, bhelpuri, long walks, all in a crush of humanity seem to be pleasures endlessly enjoyed. Long boat trips to Elephants Caves make a daylong picnic, but honeymooners would again be caught in a throng, all crowding to see the artistic talent of ancient Hindu and Buddhist monks. Blessing are sought be newly weds at the Mahalakshmi temple, or the Haj Ali Mosque, both on the sea,m with the mosque cut off from the mainland at high tide. An imported goods market flourishes around Haji Ali. ideal for gifts for your loved one.

Malabar Hills has long beren the refuge of romantics and the retired who relive their youth buy gazing with interest at young lovers. Everybody is happy! The park is well kept with the bhelpuri in town. And the 'ganna ras'-fresh sugarcane juice-is nectar indeed. The twinkling lights of a nocturnal city beckon the reluctant home.

Mubai without shopping would like a sari without its 'pallu', so clearly are the two interwoven. Everyone makes a beeline for Fashion street, reputedly seeling designer togs at bargain prices. In actuality, there are heaps of average-to-good clothes, nothing extraordinary.

Swanky outlets are Benzer, Kala Nikethan and Charagh Din where exclusivity reigns. Gandhi and Mangaldas Market are loaded with textiles, proving that Mumbai was once the centre of the cotton trade, now expanded to include nylons. Bandra's Linking Bazaar sells factory seconds in heaps, as well as cheap footwear. But Kemp's Corner-now there's class, in stylish clothes and shoes. And Rinaldi in Colaba sells shoes or sandals, pairs often costing a cool five figures. Crawford Market is not to be missed, for the sheer volume of trading in fresh produce. Nearby, Chor Bazaar, no longer a bargain hunting ground, is still a good morning's walk for re-created furniture. A complete Mughlai feast can be had on these roads.

A must for honeymooners is Zaveri Bazaar-a place where crores are exchanged daily. Diamonds,rubies,gold-all these would only and stars to young bride's eyes-and sad, deep dents in the young husband's pocket.

Mumbai to Lonavala is a must for and self-respecting honeymoon couple. The beauty of the two Williomtowns cannot be denied, the air certainly helping along cordiality. Borivili National Park can provide protected rides into the forests, for sighting wild cats. Nearby are the Karl Caves-redolent of religious sentiments. Perhaps not so suitable for sunny temperaments.

An overnight trip to pune by train can take one away from the bustle, into a quieter environ. Pune is like a garden city, instanty uplifting to the spirit, especially after polluted Mumbai. Even with Rajneesh's days over, the Osho Combine flourishes, its inmates in red robes wandering around, enjoying the city's delighted, while leading peculiar lives.

Pune's highlight must be the Kelkar Museum. a single man's stupendous collection of art and objects of daily life. Pune's bakeries are also justly famous. and sweet nothings may be accompanied by sweet meats, washed down with fresh juices. Mumbai can be experienced luxuriously by staying at the Taj, Leela Kempinski of Oberoi Towers-or economically at the Chateau Windsor guest house, a clinically clean place with a fabulous breakfast. Taxis, except at the station, are obliging, but the double decker bus is a must, giving a lovely view as well as a little privacy. The suburban trains can be nightmarish, with Victoria Terminal itself daunting a timid visitor.

A trip to Mumbai remains fresh in one's memory- from the fresh flower stalls everywhere, the intermittent spells of rain, the South Indian aura of Matunga, the Parsi and Gujarati heritage and cuisine to the lovely but vanishing Irani cafes with their great teas. Saying'Salaam Bomaby' should definely be on the cards....