Mesmerised by Mumbai sunsets

WALKING along Juhu Beach, even at 6.30am, feet sinking in the soft sand, I could not escape the humidity of Mumbai.

Sounds of the Arabian Sea were soothing as the waves rushed to shore.

Louder than that was the collective shrill noises made by young boys playing cricket. Every spare spot had a cricket pitch - on sand.

It was fascinating to watch their eager faces as they hit the balls and scored high.

Running fast appeared effortless for these eager youngsters.

No doubt they were aspiring to become 'great' cricketers in the future, emulating the success of India's cricketing maestro Sachin Tendulkar.

Maybe one of them will beat the record set by the 'master blaster' who is the highest scorer in the history of test cricket with 15,470 runs and the first player to score a double century in the history of one-day international cricket.

It was prime time for reflection, watching families bonding during their morning walks, dogs running around with their handlers or making the acquaintance of stray canines - some roamed aimlessly while others slept oblivious to the activity around them.

Elsewhere along the beach, small shops were slowly opening their doors for trading that is at its most brisk in the evening.

A coconut vendor stood by his cart, piled high with thirst-quenching coconuts, keeping a keen eye out for early morning customers. He didn't have to wait for long.

Eager to get an early start, a lone beadmaker was busy putting out his wares on display in anticipation of quick sales.

He also took the time to make new bracelets.

There was an assortment of colourful and dainty beads to suit all tastes, styles and ages.

It was getting hot and sticky, time was marching on and my feet felt heavy as I ploughed through the sand.

The steadily rising temperatures did not appear to bother anyone else around, but beads of perspiration were becoming evident on my forehead.

It was 8.30am - and time to take refuge indoors - at the Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach.

This is the flagship property of Novotel in India, having opened its doors in July 2009.

The prime beachfront property, sprawled over 1ha offers 203 rooms and suites with breathtaking views overlooking the Arabian Sea.

Epitomising luxury, this was a comfortable home-away-from-home where I savoured not only the service in the lounge on the Premier floor, but also the wide-sweeping views of the beach and the city in the distance.

Designed for Natural Living, the focus for Novotel is on discreet, personalised service.

Located in the financial capital of India and the home of Bollywood, the hotel is just 20km from downtown Mumbai.

One of the most famous suburbs of Mumbai, Juhu is well-known for its affluence and the beach.

Juhu is the address for wealthy business identities and some of the most famous stars of the Indian film industry including Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgan, Amrish Puri and Dharmendra.

West of Juhu is flanked by the mighty Arabian Sea and Santa Cruz and Vile Parle are in the east. Both are an easy commute by train to Juhu.

While in Juhu, pay homage at the Shiv Mandir or visit the ISKCON Temple which is just opposite.

Every day about 5000 pilgrims visit the temple and on Sundays the number swells to more than 10,000.

There is so much to do at Juhu Beach. Horse riding is popular.

You can also go for beach walking tours, get mehndi designs drawn on your hands or buy gifts from the local vendors on the beach.

Several fairs and festivals are held on the beach.

Paani puri, pav bhaji and aloo tikki are some of the popular local culinary delights.

Set aside some sightseeing time in Mumbai.

Get a sense of the city's colonial history in Colaba and Fort, home to the iconic Gateway of India and ornate High Court, and see ancient sculptures and miniature paintings in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum in Kala Ghoda.

This dynamic city is overpowering.

Get spiritual and visit one of Mumbai's oldest temples, Mahalaxmi Temple in Bhulabhai Desai Road.

It is dedicated to the three shaktis - Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswathi and Goddess Kali.

One of its most fascinating features is its grain-strewn courtyard where you can see flocks of pecking grey pigeons, going about their business oblivious to the hordes of worshippers.

You must not leave without seeing the spectacular sunset.

Watch the horizon light up against the vast seemingly endless expanse of the Arabian Sea as the deep red, orange and yellow hues of the setting sun continue to mesmerise.

Nature was truly resplendent.

IF YOU GO

Getting there

Get a tailor-made tour package from Flight Centre in Australia. Call 133 133 or visit Flight Centre. In a new venture, the Indian arm of the business is growing fast. Locally known as Flight Shop, five stores have already opened in Delhi with more to follow.

How to fly

Qantas Holidays have packages, call 13 14 15. Thai Airways flies to 14 cities in the Indian subcontinent, including Mumbai. Visit Thai Airways.

Where to stay

Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach, Balraj Sahani Marg, Juhu Beach, Mumbai, India. Phone: (+91) 22-6693-4444. Email: h6926-re@accor.com. Australians can make bookings on the Accor reservations number in Australia on 1300 65 65 65.

You must not leave without seeing the spectacular sunset.

Watch the horizon light up against the vast, seemingly endless expanse of the Arabian Sea as the deep red, orange and yellow hues of the setting sun continue to mesmerise.

>> Read more travel stories.



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