Mumbai is the glamour of Bollywood cinema, cricket on the maidans on weekends, bhelpuri on the beach at Chowpatty and red double-decker buses. It is also the infamous cages of the red-light district, Asia's largest slums, communalist politics and powerful mafia dons.
This pungent drama is played out against a Victorian townscape more reminiscent of a prosperous 19th-century English industrial city than anything you'd expect to find on the edge of the Arabian Sea. It has vital streetlife, India's best nightlife, and more bazaars than you could ever explore.
An island connected by bridges to the mainland, Mumbai is the industrial hub of everything from textiles to petrochemicals, and responsible for half of India's foreign trade. But while it aspires to be another Singapore, it's also a magnet for the rural poor. It's these new migrants who are continually re-shaping the city, making sure Mumbai keeps one foot in its hinterland and the other in the global marketplace.
Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track