Best Of The BEST: Try These Scenic Routes Of The City With BEST

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Sudarshan Shetty's Installation, The Flying Bus Image: CNN
Sudarshan Shetty's Installation, The Flying Bus Image: CNN
Sudarshan Shetty’s Installation, The Flying Bus Image: CNN

The iconic red buses of the BEST that ply on the streets of Mumbai have become synonymous with the city’s image and also form an integral part of our lives. A favourite of the working man and also of the artist. Numerous art works dedicated to the city’s bus service exist. I always prefer the bus for longer journeys, especially when I need to go to a place where our robust railways cannot reach.

Over the years, the frequency on all bus routes has increased significantly and with the new range of buses added to it’s fleet, BEST promises a comfortable ride all throughout. “Sutte Dya” will soon be a thing of the past as Smart cards issued by the BEST make a foray into daily travel. The clicking sound of the ticket puncher has already been written away but the familiar ‘ting-ting’ of the bell and “Pudhe Chala’’ continue, thankfully. But taking the BEST bus is not all about travelling to one place and another but it’s also about seeing the city, taking in the sights and becoming a tourist in your own city! Here are some of the routes that we recommend!

108 CST to Kamla Nehru Park:This bus can easily qualify as the unofficial Mumbai Darshan bus. The journey begins at CST,

Asiatic Library
Asiatic Library

as the bus rolls out across Ballad Pier and moves past the RBI building, the Mint, Asiatic Library (Town Hall) Horniman Circle Gardens, Gateway of India, the Museum, Mantralaya, NCPA and turns right on the beautiful Netaji Subash Chandra Marg or Marine Drive as we know it. It zips past the Arabian sea on the left, while the Aquarium, the numerous gymkhanas and beautiful Art Deco buildings that overlook the drive stand on the right.

It slows down at Chowpatty where you may go for a walk or stuff yourself with Pani Puris. It then climbs up the slope of Walkeshwar, making its way past Raj Bhavan, turning at Teen Batti (Alight here to visit Banganga Tank) and finally ascends to reach Kamla Nehru Park, enter the park to catch a splendid view of the Queen’s Necklace and the Arabian Sea. Walk around the slopes of Malabar Hill or climb down towards the other side on Nepean Sea road and take a walk in the beautiful sea facing Priyadarshini Park. Each major stop on this route leads you to a popular tourist attraction with a great historical value.

Mumbai Skyline Image: Aditya Kulkarni
Mumbai Skyline Image: Aditya Kulkarni

138 Backbay Depot to CST: One of the few double decker buses of the BEST ply on this route. Starting from Backbay Depot it covers Cuffe Parade, World Trade Centre, Machimaar Nagar (the Koli Stronghold) and moves onto Marine Drive, turning right on Nariman Marg to cross Churchgate Station, passing Flora Fountain, Hutatma Chowk and turning left on DN Road or the Heritage Street. A ride on this route is recommended if you would like to admire the architecture of these gothic buildings from a height, which even walks around this area cannot provide. Spot the hidden motifs of animals, birds and other intricate carvings on the buildings that line DN Road and share your photos with us!

460 Ltd Mulund Station to Gorai Depot: This bus begins its journey from Mulund Station and takes the LBS road until Bhandup and turns right across IIT Powai and then drives past the beautiful Powai lake which teems with crocodiles. A walk across the periphery of the lake is highly recommended during the evenings. The bus then turns right after L&T to enter the lush green Aarey Milk Colony after Filter Pada and thereby beginning a journey into one of the most scenic routes of the BEST. The temperature drops a few degrees as the bus enters the green environs of Aarey.

View Of Pagoda Image: Rushikesh Kulkarni
View Of Pagoda Image: Rushikesh Kulkarni

Aarey milk colony is not just famous for its milk production facilities but also for being the home of city’s unofficial favourite cat – the Leopard. With its green cover stretching for acres together, it is also home to a lot of birds including the rare Hornbill and last remaining Vultures. One may spot Black Drongos, Crow Pheasants, Coppersmith Barbets, Cormorants, Sunbirds, Bee eaters, Pond Heron, Kingfishers and Egrets too. Although to view more than 150 species of birds that live here, one must walk around the huge colony but be wary of other reptiles such as snakes.

The bus then exists the toll naka and hits the madness of the Western Express highway, cruising through the traffic, and then crosses the Malad Subway to take the SV road. It passes through the locales of Kandivali and Charkop only to ends it journey at Gorai depot. A short walk from here will lead you to the Gorai Jetty from where one can take a boat to the quaint island of Gorai where the beach, Global Vipassana Pagoda and Esselworld await you.

700 Borivali Station E to Thane Station E: A couple of years ago if you were living on the western line and wanted to visit Thane, it would mean just one thing. Taking the train up to Dadar and changing over onto the Central railway line to take another train headed to Thane. The ST bus service via the Ghodbunder Road was not reliable. But all that changed when the BEST introduced the new route 700 (A/C and non A/C). The bus begins its journey from Borivali Station east, it passes the Sanjay Gandhi National Park – the green lungs of the city and then takes the newly built flyovers to make a swift exit out of city limits. After Kashimira, the scene changes dramatically as green hills start rolling in. Boards warning about the Leopard are put up on either side of the road.

Soon, the bus is at Versova, the junction of the Ahmedabad highway and Ghodbunder Road. The Thane creek stretches wide to your left and Ghodbunder road lies nestled somewhere behind the woods. A couple of hotels lie at this junction and patrons of the Express Inn swear by it’s filling Kathiawadi thali. The bus then turns right and moves over the ghat like section and a deep valley with a running stream appear to your left. I always hope to see a leopard here, quenching its thirst. The hills, unfortunately are dotted with eateries and hotels and the increasing human habitation aggravates the man-leopard conflict.

Signs of erosion are prominent. The roads are well maintained and often one may spot a raptor circling the hill tops. Just after the creek, the road flattens out and the newly developed Ghodbunder Road with its ugly malls begins. However, at Owale, there lies the Ovalekar Wadi Butterfly Garden which teems with a variety of butterflies in the season! After Ghodbunder road, the bus lumbers on until it reaches Thane station.

69 SP Mukherjee Chowk – Prabodhan Thackeray Udyan: Buses on this route begin their journey from SP Mukherjee Chowk (near Regal Cinema) and cruise through DN Road to reach Dhobi Talao. It surges northwards and slows down a little as it passes through the Thakurdwar, a neighbourhood in Girgaum famous for its temple and also for shops that have been around for over a century. This entire area has a great mix of Gujarati and Maharashtrian households, thus shops selling Farsan and Piyush, Dhokla and Kotambirichi Vadi are found next to each other, a reminder of how things were in the erstwhile state of Bombay which comprised modern day states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Not much has changed though.

It also passes through Prarthana Samaj, named after the religious movement started by Atmaram Pandurang during the freedom struggle. It then passes Tardeo Junction and enters the red light area of Mumbai – Shuklaji Street, made famous in the Booker nominated Narcopolis. From the bus, one spots the prostitutes lined up on the street in the evenings and one may get a peek into their lives as the bus proceeds languidly through this congested area. The bus then turns left and arrives at Byculla, passing the Jijamata Udyan (Zoo) and Bhau Daji Lad Museum. It also passes through Lalbaugh and the mill compounds with their chimneys standing somberly in the dark.

Sewri Christian Cemetery Image: Khyati Dhodia
Sewri Christian Cemetery Image: Khyati Dhodia

The bus then turns into what I call the Public Health district housing hospitals such as KEM, Wadia, Tata Research Hospital and also the D. Petit Veterinary Hospital. It passes the Haffkine Institute which used to be the residence of the Governor of Bombay until it was shifted to its current location at Malabar hill. The bus journey ends at Sewree where one may visit the forlorn yet serene Christian Cemetery, the largest in the city. Or during the winters, cross over the railway bridge to make your way to the Sewri Fort to view the Flamingoes that migrate to mud flats that dot the shore.

123 RC Church – Vasantrao Naik Chowk: This route begins at Tardeo and passes through Nana Chowk named after the generous Jagannath Sunkerseth a philanthropist whose contributions to the welfare of the city are noteworthy. After passing Gamdevi chowk, one may alight here and walk down Mani Bhavan. This was the place from where Gandhiji launched the Non Cooperation Movement in 1920 and was later arrested in the year 1932. This mansion, has now been converted into a museum houses pictures and memorabilia of Gandhiji and also a library. As the bus moves further, you take in the sights of Chowpatty and it zips past the sea towards Churchgate, turning left at Khilachand Chowk. It passes the Flora Fountain and the SP Mukherjee chowk to begins its journey towards Colaba.

It passes the shopping district of Colaba Causeway and the headquarters of BEST, the Electric House. It reaches Sassoon Dock where one finds fresh catch in the mornings but only after waiting in serpentine queues which is completely worth the effort. The dock is colourful with heady scents of fish wafting through the air. At a distance, one also sees the abandoned Mukesh mills, used frequently for shooting fight scenes in the movies. The tree growing at the top of the chimney is a wonderful sight. From here, the bus makes its way to The Church of St John the Evangelist popularly known as Afghan Church, a beautiful structure built in the memory of British Soldiers who laid down their lives in the Anglo Afghan wars. It further makes its way to INHS Ashwini, the defence hospital and then finally endings its journey at the RC Church. The spire of this church can be spotted from a distance, especially while sailing in the Arabian Sea.

Special Mentions

1. 137 Navy Nagar Ferry: This bus takes more or less the same route as the 123 from SP Mukherjee chowk, however it takes a detour and heads to the other Dhobi Ghat located at Colaba and enters the cantonment area of Navy Nagar. A lush green complex, a great spot to view birds.

2. A – 76 AC Exp Colaba – Gorai Depot: It connects two extreme corners of the city. The route runs from Colaba to Gorai depot. A special reason to travel on this extremely efficient route is the fact that it takes the Bandra Worli Sea Link. The Worli Fort and a beautiful skyline can be seen from the sea link.

3. 310 Bandra Terminus – Kurla Station W: The lifeline of BKC. It connects Bandra Terminus to Kurla. The best part is the smooth ride on the well maintained roads of BKC in a double decker bus!

4. 203 Dahisar Bridge – Juhu Beach: Double decker buses used to ply this route until recently. However, this bus ride has pure nostalgia attached to it. For, a ride on this bus meant a trip to the Juhu Beach and all the fun that used to follow.

5. 166 Mumbai Central Depot – Antop Hill: Major attractions on this route are Matunga and all the eateries in this area, Mahim Nature Park near Dharavi and of course a drive by the Worli Sea Face.

6. Fort Ferry 1 and 2 – These low floored buses with interesting art work on them zip across from Nariman Point to CST all throughout the day. The best part is the fare is a flat Rs. 5 for the entire journey and the wide windows that offer great views of the surroundings. It passes through some of the best sights of Mumbai including Marine Drive.

7. A- 13 Exp Backbay Depot Hiranandani Estate, Ghodbunder – Yet another long distance route, connecting two extreme points of the city and your best bet in comparison to the Central railways and the ridiculously long rickshaw ride that follows from Thane station to Ghodbunder road.

8. AS 503 Wadala Depot – Kalamboli – This route is your best bet to visit most of the places in Navi Mumbai. A major attraction on this route is the ride across the vast Vashi bridge! AS 505 from Santacruz that connects CBD Belapur is also recommended.

Mobile BEST Restaurant Image: Aditya Kulkarni
Mobile BEST Restaurant Image: Aditya Kulkarni

9. Mobile Restaurant of the BEST – Firte Upahar Gruha: Ever fancied eating in a BEST bus? If you haven’t, then straightaway head to Oval Maidan where this mobile restaurant dishing off South Indian and Maharashtrian Lunch and snacks is parked in the afternoons. Seats are arranged around tables, food here is inexpensive and tasty, an interesting way to grab something on the go!

Extra Special Mention!
Bus No 11:
No, we are not talking about the BEST bus route number 11 Ltd that connects Navy Nagar to Bandra Govt Colony but the humble bus that we all have access too. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I am referring to walking. Walking around your own neighbourhood will acquaint you with so many new things that you may take for granted while travelling in a vehicle, similarly, a walk around the various parts of the city is the best way to get around, explore and become a part of the surroundings. Arm yourself with this post and create your own walk through this beautiful maze that we call home.

 

Post By Rushikesh Kulkarni (22 Posts)

Runs Breakfree Journeys, a cult tourism outfit interested in outdoor travel and backpacking. On days that he is not wandering around the Western Ghats, he is spotted roaming in the bylanes of Bombay scouting for heritage history and good food.

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Rushikesh Kulkarni

Rushikesh Kulkarni
Runs Breakfree Journeys, a cult tourism outfit interested in outdoor travel and backpacking. On days that he is not wandering around the Western Ghats, he is spotted roaming in the bylanes of Bombay scouting for heritage history and good food.