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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 tug of war for the city's soul 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.
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.
440 sq km (170 sq mi)
Mumbai is located on India's central-western coast along the Arabian Sea. The city developed for 150 years in isolation from its hinterland and still seems to belong in a different world to the huge, predominantly Hindu state of Maharashtra which encompasses a 500km (310mi) coastal strip, a portion of the Western Ghats and a significant part of the Deccan plateau. The Western Ghats (literally, steps) start to rise just north of Mumbai and run parallel to the coast. They have an average elevation of 915m (3001ft) and are covered with tropical and temperate evergreen forests and mixed deciduous forest and harbour a rich array of plant and animal life, including 27% of India's flowering plants.
Mumbai itself is an island connected by bridges to the mainland. The principal part of the city is concentrated at the southern claw-shaped end of the island. The southernmost peninsula is known as Colaba and this is where most travellers gravitate since it has a decent range of hotels and restaurants and two of the city's best landmarks, the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Hotel. Directly north of Colaba is the area known as the Fort, since this is where the old British fort once stood. Further west is Marine Drive, which sweeps around Back Bay, connecting the high-rise modern business centre with Chowpatty Beach. To the north are the suburbs of Greater Mumbai. Here you'll find the two airports, Sahar International and the domestic Santa Cruz.
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