Chowpatty Beach and the rest of long, elegantly curved Marine Drive are the essence of the mammoth, cheeky, beautiful seaside beast that is Mumbai. Chowpatty gives a taste of the bazaar and mela (festival) rolled into one. By day—weekday, that is—it's a quiet, uncluttered stretch of sand, but by night it transforms into a carnival of food and hawkers and touts and amusements of every kind, all lit up like Christmas Eve. In a rapidly changing city, it retains some of the simple pleasures in which Mumbaikars indulged before the economy skyrocketed—and it remains an equalizer of sorts, with parents of every class and caste bringing their families here for an evening of fun. For the casual traveler, it offers a window into the many colors—and smells and tastes and sounds—of Mumbai.
A hundred species of salesmen throng the beach in the evening, and especially on Sunday, selling everything from glow-in-the-dark yo-yos and animal-shaped balloons to rat poison. Men stand
by with bathroom scales, offering complacent strollers a chance to check their heft. Hand-operated Ferris wheels and carousels are packed with children. A few stalls nearby distribute Mumbai's famously satisfying fast food—crunchy bhel puri (puffed-rice snacks), ragda pattices (spicy potato cakes), and pav bhaji (fried vegetable mash eaten with bread). From the beach, walk southeast down Marine Drive toward Nariman Point and you'll bump into flotillas of evening strollers, cooing couples wandering past the waves in a daze, and dogs and kids being walked by their respective minders. Just about the only thing the area lacks is water that's safe for swimming.
Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400034, India