9 day trip

Maharashtra : Mumbai’s lesser known nooks

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->MumbaiCapture

Continued from here

Mumbai – Day 3

Somewhere amidst the late night conversations, Punit and Neetu decided to join us for lunch the next day while we planned to stroll around the older areas of South Mumbai in the morning. Little did we know or dare to expect that they’d actually show us more of the city. Especially to people they’d just met the previous day. We were completely blown over by their sweetness.

We, however, decided to take it slow and only left lazily taking our own time in the morning. We took a taxi first to the Asiatic library which I’d been aching to visit with my love for libraries, but unfortunately, we couldn’t enter as it was a national holiday and therefore closed.

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Brilliant in white

Its pristine white exteriors however made for a bunch of pretty pictures. We had been asked to check out Horniman’s park (the name one just couldn’t say without an immature giggle). Just as we got there, Neetu called us to give the location for lunch that day. It was called “Status Veg Restaurant” and it had a large number of chairs outside as we had to wait to be called in a queue! The chatter quickly let us pass the time and we were soon called in for a delicious Gujarati thali, our only complaint with it being it was a LOT of food. There was no way we would have ever discovered the place ourselves as tourists and were glad yet again for our gracious hosts.

 

We huddled into a taxi,very full, and me barely able to move and next went to the Afghan Church, built by the British to commemorate the loss of lives in the First Afghan War. Neetu had apparently come to the place twice before and wasn’t able to enter in so we were just third time lucky when the caretaker looked at us suspiciously but still allowed us in. The church had stunning stained glass art all over its windows. It was a place of worship just the way I liked to visit one ie., when it’s empty. We spent quite some time walking around the church and Anand, of course, was in photo-clicking-heaven.

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The majestic Afghan church

Our next stop was Ban Ganga, yet another place we doubt we’d find on a tourist list. It was a stepped pond like in a lot of temples except for the legend stating that it was formed by an arrow Lakshman shot at the ground to get water for his brother Ram that led the Ganga river to spurt forth there, hence Ban-ganga-> Arrow-Ganga. The Walkeshwar temple also had the legend that Ram created a Shiv Ling in mud and therefore Valuka-Ishwar= Sand-Ishwar. It was a nice spot to be in the early evening. There were storks and plenty of swans. All around the temple people were living in tiny homes and going about their lives. We had kids jumping into the pond for instant fun and respite from the heat and us just blissfully staring into nothingness.img_2056

 

Some rest later we decided to end the day at the promising ‘Hanging Gardens‘ at Malabar Hill. The rains decided to please Anand and showered liberally. It was all the more a reason to sit down and relax in the ‘Senior’s corner’ with conversations ranging from school pranks to punishments. Once the rain abated we walked around the park and even got to the view of the Arabian Sea at sunset, which is quite the highlight of the place. What caught my childish fancy was the shoe house and for the life of me, I couldn’t then remember the rhyme that mentioned it. I had to look it up later.We had a nice walk around the place with intermittent drizzles that made the weather join in our fun.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.

She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do;

She gave them some broth without any bread;

Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.”

 

We next went to the unassumingly named place called “The Tea center” near Churchgate. I first thought it was closed seeing the closed shutters facing us, but turned out the entrance was still open via the front of the building beside the shutters.  Yet another of the numerous instances, having someone who knew the place helped! We had to wait for some time as the place was full. We all did like the ambience of the place that had slightly old world charm with some tongue-in-cheek posters helping retain a quirky feel to it. The waiters were running all over the place and we made our orders.

Anand, forever the weird-item-ordering person at a table, ordered the “Hot buttered apple tea”, Punit some ginger lime tea for his cold, one Kashmiri Kahwa, and I ordered the Rose tea. Anand’s order was a favourite with the guys. The Kahwa I found too overpowering with the spices, and the Rose tea that I finally drank was still too sweet for my liking but the only one among our orders I liked otherwise. Despite our likes or dislikes, it was fun to try the various options . Since we still had dinner plans, we only ordered the potato wedges that were not what we expected. Anand and I still promised to return to the place the next time we were in the city.

After that, our hosts continued our culinary adventure and decided to take us for a perfect Marathi meal at “Aaswad“. Anand completely pigged out on the roti made of ragi and I enjoyed a little bit of everything especially the kokum drink. Our hosts clearly knew their food, and our tongues and tummies were both extremely happy while also letting us tick “delicious Maharashtrian food” off the list of things to do.

The newly formed group chatted on effortlessly and we even managed pics with the first statue I actually loved, at the Worli sea face promenade- that of the common man from RK Laxman’s cartoons who calmly overlooks the water. We were left extremely grateful for their brilliant company and all mushy at the feeling of having made good friends in record time 🙂

Last day :

We woke early to reach Navi Mumbai by cab but landed there in just 40 mins since it was a Saturday! We visited Bhavya’s and Lout’s beautiful house and met Lout’s oh-so-lovely mum. After a heavy breakfast of the yummiest cheese omelette I’ve ever had, thanks to Bhavya, and many other snacks Aunty had made, we headed off to cover the route from Mumbai back to Pune with people who had covered the route 100s of times in the past couple of years! They showed us around Navi Mumbai itself first, which was a lovely planned city without the crowd and traffic so inherent to Mumbai. Seeing a view of a waterfall as one goes on a highway is always pleasant too. After the picturesque road from Mumbai, we also passed by Lonavla where we picked some mandatory chikkis of various types.
Our first stop was the house of the pretty twins Pari and Piya who were beyond thrilled to see Bhavya and Lout after long. They used to live in the same apartment complex that has a beautiful view of the surrounding hills. After a short while there we headed to the Oxford Golf Resorts where it quickly became clear why it was their favourite place.img_2104 Beautiful views of the scenic surroundings, pleasant weather, greenery and no one around. I couldn’t imagine a more lovely place to spend with a loved one or just by oneself lost in one’s thoughts. A few pictures later, we were ravenous and headed to the ‘Blue Nile restaurant’ with the promise of lovely biriyani and it did hold up. Bhavya and I shared a biriyani while the boys managed to clean off one each on their own. Finally gratified we left to Kalpa’s house. Kalpa was Bhavya’s beautiful friend and could give anyone a complex with her stunning painting skills too. Just as we relaxed in her house, we met few more friends of theirs and then her sister’s fiance. Kalpa gushed about how she had a nice time trying the new Harley that morning and we shuffled along to see it. It belonged to her sister’s fiance’s friend and he was still generous enough to let all of us have a go at it! An unexpected high right at the end of the trip for all of us and I can’t forget the gleeful grin pasted on Anand’s face throughout! As we fussed over the bike and took turns, Lout- the perpetual pro, managed to make yummy chaat for us too.

With us being so close to the flight takeoff time we had to reluctantly leave the bike behind, plunk a couple of the yummy puris into our mouths and rush to the airport right in time, yet again thanks to Lout.

 

Bhavya and we had different flights a few minutes apart and we landed only to be warmly welcomed by 3 of her sisters who had come to pick us up. Our fun didn’t seem to end. We headed off to Empire near our house for a super late dinner at 12 30am filled with laughter and conversation and were then dropped off at our home all smiles at a lovely end to a lovely journey. 🙂

Up next : You didn’t think that was all Andhra Pradesh had to offer, did you?

9 day trip

Maharashtra : the very best of Mumbai

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->MumbaiCapture

Continued from here

We lazed around the room that morning, while they took the brunt of Mumbai traffic and a whole 2 hours to get to us from Navi Mumbai. But what delightful hosts they were. There truly is nothing better than being shown a city by someone who loves it. While riding through the city Lout dished out info about the innumerable landmarks and structures around

  • Bandra Fort: Our very first stop was the Bandra fort on Bandstand Promenade which had a gorgeous view of the sea link. PDA in India is probably reached its peak here.
  • We also passed by Carter road and Joggers’ Park made famous by the movie with the beautiful Perizad Zorabian.
  • We drove over the stunning Worli Sea Link that has is a testament to beauty combining the work of nature and man.img_1763
  • My first view of Haji Ali and I knew I wanted to visit,  I couldn’t on the trip, however, since it’d take quite some time and we had so much on our list.img_2095
  • We had a sumptuous lunch at a restaurant called ‘Jai Hind’ that was famous for seafood, but their dal khichdi that Anand ordered was simply off the charts and had the rest of us digging into his share.

 

  • I  do not like paan and think I last tried it at least 5 years ago and almost spat it out despite its sweetness. Anand, however, has an occasional fondness for it and Lout drove us to try the famed ice paan. Bhavya and I sat comfortably in the car, while Anand, took his camera to ensure no photo opportunity was missed. To my dismay, I saw them coming along with a total of 4 paans insisting I try them. It looked like too much to put into one’s mouth at one go but it was also threatening to spill out from the paan cover. I could see crushed ice too which was already weird. I had no option so in it went and what a brain freeze it caused! It is an experience, that’s for certain. It had the most confusing ingredients one would never associate with paan– chocolate and ice! I was glad I tried it just to have a story to narrate, though.

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    The famed ice-paan : Try it!
  • We next headed to the most iconic landmark in Mumbai, the Gateway of India. We parked a few streets behind it and what a delightfully charming area it was. After some time admiring buildings that took our fancy, we headed off to the place. It was way more impressive than it looked in the pictures.  I was completely taken with 3 men dressed handsomely in huge bright turbans and spotless white outfits who were lovely enough to even wait for our pic to be taken while they were walking across the place crawling with tourists. It was quite a spot for people- watching too. The Taj Mahal Palace hotel makes quite a backdrop for some pretty pictures we managed to get.img_1849

University Clocktower behind the grounds was yet another photo opportunity in a lovely city we’d come to appreciate. Bhavya and Anand bonded over camera skills while I was yearning to stop at the grounds that had dog owners taking their cuddly canines out for their evening stroll. But well,that had to wait for another day.

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Photography lessons

 

As the sun set over the day, a view of the Cuffe Parade skyline was a good place to be.

I absolutely had to shop in a city known for it, and managed in the little time we had to bag some lovely deals purely thanks to Bhavya’s insanely good bargaining skills. We couldn’t miss the Leopold cafe between shopping and had a delectable cheesecake and another dessert by the street itself, and were glad the kind guy at the store didn’t mind obliging us for the 8 glasses of water we sorely needed.

We were to meet Neetu and her friend Punit at Kala Ghoda café and as whimsically lovely as it looked, it was, however, full.

We instead headed to a café simply called ‘The Pantry‘ and it was an absolute delight. Mumbai also decided to give us some respite from the humidity with some welcome drizzles. The food was flawless and the company jelled together so wonderfully that it was easily up there with one of the best meals we’ve ever head. We were laughing uncontrollably throughout and so hard that the endlessly patient staff had to actually ask us to try and tone it down and we didn’t blame them one bit.

The unbeatable company was only comparable to the completely unexpected part of the restaurant that gripped our attention- the restroom. We decided it was world class and we could live in it. A beautiful bunch of flowers, white interiors that continued off the theme of the rest of the restaurant, a beautiful table of drawers by the mirror. We unanimously decided that it would be the new standard for washrooms everywhere and were afraid it’d be hard to beat. It also lead to insisting everyone on our table made a visit to the unisex restroom, to validate the impression of the first few of us who did. Hilarity, of course, ensued with even the waiters struggling to keep their giggling in.

Like we hadn’t already had a perfect evening, our hosts took us next to the iconic  place ‘K.Rustom’s ice cream‘ where we had to try their most famous item on the menu, their ice-cream sandwich. We caught them just before they were downing their shutters at 11 pm. Though I myself had no appetite for dessert, I did nibble at all the 3 flavours we bought – custard apple, guava and walnut and could certify they were all yummy.

We walked down with the ice-creams to Marine drive and yet again I realised Mumbai was going to surprise me with the number of people out and about at such places even late in the evening.

img_2100We had to head back to the hotel, and while I had cringed at trying the Mumbai local train during the day, the suggestion to take it for our way back (thanks to Neetu and Punit’s insane kindness saying they’d come along to escort us despite then needing to go back and forth to their own homes!), greatly appealed to me. It was, of course, part of the Mumbai experience. We did take the train and while there were fewer people, we continued our conversations on the journey too. We ended the day with me surprised at myself that I wasn’t in the least sleepy or tired though it was almost 1 AM.

Coming up next : Mumbai’s lesser known treasures

9 day trip

Maharashtra : Mumbai- the first glance

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->Mumbai

Capture

Continued from here

After a well-deserved rest at our hotel, we headed confidently to the bus stand to take our bus to Mumbai, only to realise we had made a booking gaffe. Thankfully, some quick action later, we were on the right bus and on our way while not losing too much money on our incorrect booking for the next day! I spent the night being thrown across the sleeper berth from one end to another and an unhappy spine in the morning. We, therefore, after reaching Mumbai, took some time off the morning to rest.

 

In our hunt for breakfast (our hotel was very snarky about the whole early-check-in thing), we passed by a doughnut place but decided we didn’t want something so sweet early that morning. A long walk ahead and we reached a tiny Udupi restaurant. I ordered misal again and yet again was disappointed. Sinhgad had really raised my expectations of the dish. I nibbled at my food, and just managed to have one of the 2 pavs which led to an unanticipated, overwhelming and embarrassing amount of concern from the staff at the hotel who were so worried I didn’t like the food and offered to get me another dish! It was an excellent example of the fact that sometimes places that we pay a ton of money for are not necessarily the most welcoming in a city. We thanked them and finally did get back to the friendly staff at the doughnut place because what I’d eaten was too less for a meal.

Satiated, we headed to Sanjay Gandhi National park to ensure we have a relaxed day after all the walking at Aurangabad.

As luck would have it, we took a cab to the place and the had to pay an entrance fee for the cab too. Just as I wondered why we needed the cab ‘inside’ the park, I realised the park also housed the Kanheri caves that were 6kms from the entrance! He took us all the way to the caves but there was a lot of climbing involved and I’ve to admit I had cave-fatigue by now and had really been looking forward to a lazy day. So I plonked myself at cave number 72 (not numbered in order) just a little ahead of the start while Anand, , the brave explorer went ahead in the blazing sun to see if there was anything interesting for his camera amongst the 100 more caves that made up this group.

 

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Kanheri caves

 

He came back soon enough and we walked down only to realise there were only 2-way vehicles! Ie., one had to take a vehicle at the entrance that would wait till people were done and would take them back. We picked up some refreshments that were hearteningly provided only in paper bags to avoid littering of plastics inside the national park. Note : the monkeys have learned how to look oh-so-cute and ask for your food, and well, we succumbed too. Since it was a tree lined road inside the national park we decided we were the type who would actually walk it out, yes, the whole 6 km!

My strong will did not mean I was chirpy about the whole thing! Anand proved to be quite a champ narrating the stories of 2 whole horror movies in detail the whole while to keep my spirits (no pun intended) up. It’s not every day we get to walk amidst trees on a pretty path, so I trudged on despite the chance of asking the passing cabs to take us too.  We took frequent breaks as needed, and at the last one almost towards the entrance, we sat down and he nudged me to look behind. We were rewarded with a view of 4 spotted deer calmly going about their grazing and resting just a few feet away from us. Walking through loveliness sure has its rewards. We spent a while with them and then got back to the exit.

For lunch, we went to a nice place, Café Moshe’s near our hotel and then headed to the famed Prithvi theatre to get our tickets for the play that night. The play in Hindi was called ‘Peela scooter wala aadmi and was performed in a nice cosy space in a semi-circular setting around the stage itself. The play was about a writer trying to write amidst questions from his childhood haunting him. One of those deep intense tales elevated by the right performers. We decided to lighten up the mood by heading out to the Juhu beach just behind the theatre, though the beautifully lit café at the theatre was also tempting.

Of course, we absolutely had to have the pani puri and it didn’t disappoint! We hadn’t seen the menu of course, because who sees the menu for pani puri.  However, if we had, we would have been saved from an unexpected brain freeze because it was called ‘Ice cold pani puri‘. Nevertheless, it was brilliant and all that we wanted it to be, and I picked a cola flavoured gola and Anand, picked some more filling pav bhaji with dollops of butter to call dinner. It was interesting to see families and people from all backgrounds out at the beach that late at night. The next day promised to be an interesting one with Bhavya and Lout taking us around the city.

Up next: We make up for not photographing Mumbai enough on Day 1