One nice way to explore a city and get a feel for it, is to visit the local markets. Doesn’t matter whether it’s for food, clothes or sometimes even small stores that offer tacky tourist souvenirs. When I lived in France, I loved shopping on weekend for cheese and olives on the local market and London markets… well there are a lot and I will share a few of my favourite ones later.
So after two weeks in Mumbai, we thought it would be nice to explore a local market I had heard of called “Chor Bazaar. The name was already very promising, actually translating as “thieves’ market” so on a Sunday morning, Indiadam and I decided to go and have a look around. Chor Bazaar is famous for lots of things, some less interesting (for example car motors) but some more appealing (antiques and other stuff that might be nice to kit our new Mumbai home with).
It’s not the most straightforward place to find but if you head to Mutton Street, you’re in the right spot. Mutton street is the “nice” part of Chor Baaar where you can find the antique shops. When you arrive it doesn’t look too inviting and definitely not touristy – Indiadam even asked whether I was REALLY sure that we were in the right spot. But after walking a few meters down the road, you start seeing some of the small stores and the “stolen goods” they have of offer.
Going into the various stores, you can find stock of antique or not-so-antique furniture piled up to the ceiling. Every bit of space will be filled with a chair, chest or some colourfull lamps. However, don’t expect to find a perfectly done up antique piece as you might expect to find it in an old colonial house. Everything is dusty at best and often not in the best shape. If you happen to buy anything though I am sure you can trust them to give it an amazing polish that make them look like new (we saw some guys outside the shops turning some old wooden pieces into something that looked like new (ish).
It was great fun browsing around, Indiadam checking out chess boards disguised as a coffee table while I was admiring a super comfy Indian chair, they have super long arm rests that you can put your legs on. Sounds and looks weird but we had some at the place we stayed in Kerela a few years ago and I loved them. It felt a bit difficult to get a feeling for prices – you will obviously get quoted something that includes both, the foreigner and the bargaining tax. We weren’t really planning on buying anything but casually asked for a few prices which seemed expensive but with a bit or negotiation can probably become quite a good deal.
Popping into the various shops, we kept bumping into two ladies who clearly knew their way around. At some point we started chatting to them and turns out they run an antique shop and come to Chor Bazaar for getting new pieces so there must be some good stuff (even for someone who actually knows something about antiques – i.e not me).
Mutton street itself isn’t that long so after a while we decided to venture to the side streets. Well that was when we hit the proper thieves market. Car pieces, whole cars (barely recognizable), fans and a lot of other rubbish. Definitely nothing that was on my shopping list… That included a small family of rats that was happily having their lunch on the road side. Fun to have a look around though. Mutton street is actually a Muslim area so there is a mosque right in the middle of the hustling and bustling streets which is pretty cool and made for a nice picture with a typical colourful Indian truck in front of it.
Before the long drive back, we wanted to grab a little bite and right opposite the entrance to Mutton Street is a place called “Café Paradise”. The name might be a bit exaggerated but we had some very yummy Samosas, daal and roti for less than the cost of a Starbucks. Indiadam dared to order a local Cola variant which I thought was very brave and turned out to be the wrong choice. I was much happier with my Sprite J I was probably also the first ever woman to venture into the café which was pretty busy with men who had just come from the mosque. Everyone was very smiley and friendly though (as in most places I have been to in India) so we quite enjoyed the experience and you will be pleased to hear that no Delhi belly incidents were reported afterwards.
So overall Chor Bazaar is probably not your typical tourist stop and not necessarily for the light hearted but it’s very interesting to visit and once we actually find a flat, I am sure we will be back and who knows, we might actually buy something. Will keep you posted….