For hassle-free Siddhivinayak darshan, do the Mumbai darshan
We tried out MTDC's newly-launched Mumbai Darshan bus tour. Here's how it measured up
We're out early on a Sunday. At the bus depot outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, to be precise, waiting for a big purple bus to appear. At 9 am, it rolls in, with banners on its sides promising to show us "Amchi Mumbai the BEST way."
The phone cameras came out several times, especially in Bandra
If you're wondering what we're on about, here's the deal — we did the Mumbai Darshan guided bus tour, launched on August 11 by Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) in association with Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST). Of course, we're no tourists, but we wanted to see how this tour stacks up against our own experience of Mumbai.
We only had 20 minutes to explore the fascinating Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum
On the bus
We booked the tour online, on the MTDC portal. But when we received our tickets, we found that it listed only 'CST'
as a pick-up point. Being a Mumbaikar, it was easy to assume that they meant the CST bus depot, but we wonder whether tourists would be able to figure that out for themselves.
Our guide was enthusiastic, but his lack of experience was obvious
The tour was to begin at 9 am, but we only started moving at 9.35 am because of late arrivals. We spent these 35 minutes staring at the TV screen on the bus, which kept looping the names of destinations we would visit that day — Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Siddhivinayak Temple, Bandstand, Nehru Science Centre, Mani Bhavan, Taraporevala Aquarium, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, and the Gateway of India.
When all 28 passengers had tumbled into the bus, a young man broke our trance by picking up the mic and addressing us in Hindi. Sporting a T-shirt in an eye-searing shade of yellow, he didn't look a day older than 21 (we learned later that he is, in fact, still a student in his final year of graduation. Whatever happened to experienced professionals?). He wasn't doing too shoddy a job, though, beginning by telling us the bus won't wait for latecomers at any stop, and warning us not to litter because "Clean Mumbai is green Mumbai."
There were several drive-by spots along the route, like the magnificent Gloria Church, the expansive Mahalaxmi Racecourse, and even High Street Phoenix (why, we ask?). Our guide seemed to have read up three sentences about each of these, because he didn't dive too deep. Some spots, like the Makhdoom Ali Shah Mahimi Dargah, he merely pointed at, and named.
As with any other tour that packs in way too much into its itinerary, we found this one too rushed, with only about 20 minutes to spend at every spot. We also could have lived without the traffic-laden trip around noon to Bandra, which was an absolute waste of time, as we were only taken there to see the houses in which Bollywood's royalty resides. While we weren't impressed, some of my fellow passengers seemed positively star-struck. Ah, well.
Stepping in and out of Siddhivinayak Temple was a breeze; it took barley 15 seconds!
This tour scores above all others when it comes to visiting Siddhivinayak Temple. While you would otherwise have to join a long, winding line for your two-second visual of Lord Ganesha's idol, here, barricades were pushed aside and we were ushered inside in under 15 seconds!
Of course, we still only caught a quick glimpse of the pot-bellied God after which we were ushered right out, but we were glad to not have spent any time waiting. However, we did up twiddling our thumbs, outside, until our guide had located a few of our lost companions, who were strangely asked to use a different exit.
We spoke to a passenger who was on his first visit to Mumbai. He said the tour, although hurried, gave him a visual map of the city, thus helping him chart out an itinerary for the rest of his trip.
In that respect, we think the Mumbai Darshan is a good option if you want a touch-and-go tour of the city. Since it is still in its teething phase, we're hoping the few things we didn't like will soon change.
>> The guide’s canary yellow T-shirt actually made him easier to spot in crowded places.
>> We loved how quickly we were able to get into the crowded Siddhivinayak Temple.
>> The driver of the bus was knowledgeable, and familiar with routes especially in traffic.
What we didn't
>> No brochure with information about stops.
>> We assumed we would have to buy our own food, but it turned out that snacks and lunch were part of the plan. MTDC should mention this on its website.
>> 20 minutes is insufficient for a stop at the museum, and there are two on this itinerary.
>> While we give our young guide marks for effort, we would have preferred someone more experienced.
About the Mumbai Darshan tour
>> Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum
>> Siddhivinayak Temple
>> Nehru Science Centre
>> Mani Bhavan
>> Taraporevala Aquarium
>> Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
>> Gateway of India