Monday, March 23, 2015

Munsiyari Travel Chronicle – Panchuli Aura & My Solo Camping

panchuli range from munsiyari

(I couldn't reach Khalia Top because of excessive snowfall, so I am not able to describe how beautiful Panchuli range of Himalayas would be watched from the top, though I could understand the feeling of Panchuli magic where I spent my days in the mountain.)

“Don't you scare of living off the land alone?”

“What you do alone the forest?”

There are some questions randomly shoot at me ( I say randomly because most of the people do not think while asking) whenever I return from my camping trips. When I show my pictures of camping or tell them my (brief) stories about my experiences, there is an air of disbelief, a sort of mixed feeling of amazement and disgust. If I remember correctly, I never felt any type of trepidation so far. It is also a fact that I do not feel any extraordinary feeling in those places as people may imagine seeing my pictures.

Winding roads in Kumaon
A peculiar sense of emptiness grasps my whole being, a power that is inconceivable by reasons and logical gymnastics. Every place has its own energy and when you place yourself with a little quietness, the place reveals itself slowly the secrets. Perhaps, that is the outcome of my travel or living off-the-land for sometimes. It cuts down from my usual self, usual thoughts, but attached with something that heightens my perception, can feel things from a different level of life.

I like Himalayas, more than anything else, because the energy is so wholesome, too complete. If I have to strictly tell what part of the Indian Himalayas I prefer, I would say Garhwal. This is the land where great souls buried, not essentially in a sense of last rite or incinerate, but the energy buried here for hundreds of thousands of years. After so many years have been passed, even today you can sense the subtle energy if you are sensitive enough to feel to that. The silence is exquisite, but many people can't contain it because they aren't accustomed to it. The tranquility of the region may bring a familiar sense of sadness and remorse. Nevertheless, within this peculiar sense of sadness, one can find a direction.

Travel journey to Munsiyari

Munsiyari in March
I noted down most of things during my journey, lest things I can't recall. Sometimes, small things can turn out be a crucial part of the journey. For example, my night bus journey was unmentionable but became a part of my note because of an incident.

A girl was sitting beside me. She was quite noticeable for two things – her continuous hard efforts to sleep in the bus, and her strong scent and hard-bitten good looks. The more she moved position, more she created disturbance, not essentially irritation but a peculiar attractive disturbance. At one point of time, she literally rolled down to my shoulders with her hair slightly touched my body. I had this experience before when I was coming back from Dharamsala and a Tibetan girl fell asleep over my shoulder with her hair all over my face.

Anyway, this miniature love story ended soon when she dropped at Rudrapur and my ordeal thankfully concluded with a sweet sleep for 40 minutes. When I reached Haldwani, I was utterly disappointed with the fact that I came at the wrong time. Because of Holi, a few buses and shared taxis (with double fare) were only plying to distant places. I had been warned by a fellow in the bus about this possibility. This bright young fellow, working with Indian Oil Corporation was patiently listening to me while we were waiting at Dominoes. We had a long or rather one-way conversation about travel where I was speaking about travelling and he was patiently listening to me.

I was standing at the bus stand, thinking what to do. I wanted to go to a new place but there was not a single vehicle going to Munsiyari or any elevated mountain range. Once again absence of cohesive thoughts had fallen for a gentle yet forceful invitation from a taxi driver who was supposed to go to Pithoragarh.

I and two soldiers

From Munsiyari
I was travelling in a small hatchback with five people, two were soldiers returning to their homes in Didihat. It was again a long journey and quite painfully sandwiched between big sized soldiers. I was reading and sometimes talking to one of the soldiers who was quite friendly. They were returning from Siachen and looked like totally jaded. I was contemplating why for a small piece of land two governments spending lots of money. The average temperature of Siachen is 2 degree and in the winter months, temperatures can dip to -50 degree.

We reached Pithoragarh around 4pm. I already realized that it was nearly impossible to find any commutation to Munsiyari because the market was desolated and only one jeep was there to Dharchula. At one time I though I must take a ride to Dharachula and then decide what could be done. However, after taking suggestions from the soldiers, I had decided to stay in Pithoragarh for the night.

Final journey to Munsiyari and failed Khalia Top trek

Next day early morning and my travel mate who I met in Pithoragarh started the journey. He is 16-18-year old guy with unbending intent to go to Munsiyari to find a job. He was carrying 300 rupees, out of which I lent him 150 rupees of his bus journey. I also paid tea and breakfast without any problem because I liked the attitude and nerve of that teenager. He already talked to some hotel in Munsiyari and told twice that he would pay me when he reached the destination. So, I had to pay the taxi fare from Thal. I already knew that and had no issue in paying.

We had reached Munsiyari in the afternoon, and he dropped in some hotel. I didn’t have to pay the fare as he borrowed it from the hotel manager. I took a picture of him and he left. I spent the whole evening, night and half of the day with this guy, and probably will never meet him again, but this small incident, selfless friendship remains very valuable to me.

pithoragarh town
Desolate Pithoragarh town
I had my lunch in a small restaurant and with some guidance from locals took the journey to Khalia Top. Well, I took the shortcut and soon I realized that I did a mistake. At one point of time, I simply lost in the forest, thinking to camp and next day started again. However, it was quite dense and there was a source of water very nearby. I don’t camp near the source of water because animals generally come in the night to drink water.

Finally after a long and tiring hike, I ultimately came to the main road. At that point of time I couldn't walk anymore, so I preferred to wait for any transportation. Fortunately, I didn't wait too long and got a shared car, which dropped me to my destination. 

Evening looming large and I had to climb at least 2 hours to reach the top. It seemed impossible because of snowfall, so I decided to climb till I got sufficient sunlight. Finally, I found a nice place to pitch my tent, which was in a good height and mountains were nicely captured on my camera.

My journey stopped there. I didn't feel anything more, no tiredness, no hurry to reach the destination, not a single thought came to my mind, except to stay in that special moment for at least some hours.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Journey to the center of heart

I have wandered quite a length and breadth in India, especially in the mountain ranges, but I feel it’s pretty much infinitesimal to expand the horizons of my experiences. I have this burning desire to roam around, at least in India, as nothing is more fulfilling than experiencing your own country, an amalgamation of diverse culture, and more importantly, to feel the sublime pulse of spiritual energy that flows throughout the nation, irrespective of changing trends.

In my small, but deeper spiritual pilgrimages throughout the country, I have met some extraordinary people. Some have forsaken their old lives in the West to gain something more meaningful in India. Some people came with a temporary objective and found a permanent one. Some people don’t abandon their identities but make great efforts to arrange their finance to come back again and again here, to find something new every time. There are not only western people but Indians who were from affluent families, left their opulence behind and began searching of their purpose.

What is the most important thing in life? Some people say love. Some say freedom. But I believe its purpose through which we all earn our freedom. Whenever I met people who left a so called secured life, I felt a certain peculiar aspect in them; you can say a certain type of irony where they were searching but with a happiness and focused approach. It is not that they were not facing difficulty sustaining their lives, climatically, psychologically and financially, but the approach towards life was so simple yet profound in their own ways.

Yann Vagneux

I was sitting on the ghats in Varanasi, and suddenly I felt my confusion, discomfort, doubt, everything went away. Ganges in Varanasi what people feel so dirty, I felt so pure in midst of filth and constant cacophony. Then I met this guy in pajama and kurta with a shawl nicely wrapped around his body. Our eyes met, perhaps for 10-20 seconds or so and he came to me with a smiling gesture. I liked him instantly and we went for our morning tea. Next seven days we used to meet every day at ghats, spending time with lots of talk and roaming around Varanasi.

Yann is older than me, a Catholic priest and a student at Banaras Hindu University. He has been staying in Varanasi for 4 years or so and never said anything against that city. Although he is a priest, still has a strong inclination towards Hinduism, and I was quite surprised to know his knowledge about India. At certain times I felt he knew Indians lots better than me, at least in Varanasi. After Varanasi, I met him again in Haridwar, from where we both began our journey towards Gaumukh, and Tapovan. He has inspired me to live a simple life, seeing things more clearly through religion and compassion.

Philip Zudi

First time in life I received a Christmas gift. Philip presented me a book written by Sri Aurobindo, and two music CDs that he brought it from Rajasthan. I met Philip in Dharamkot, a nice, and offbeat place, 2 km from Mcleodganj where human psychology plays in a different role. One side of Dharamkot is infested by hippies and dope smokers, and another one is longed by aspired meditation students and alike. One side you can find people party hard till the morning, and another side you will find Buddhist meditation centers like Tushita and Vipassana. I generally used to go to a restaurant every day, had my breakfast cum lunch and sat there for whole day, watching distant Dhauladhar range. In the evening, I walked in the woods, sometimes went to Mcleodganj to savor excellent momos. I met lots of people there but Philip was different. We had instantly grown a bond of friendship between us. We used to dine every day together, and then chatted for an hour or so in the same restaurant. (Picture below).

restaurant in dharamkot, mcleodganj

He was practicing Iyenger Yoga there, and the common thread between us the same yoga he used to practice every day. One day, we had decided to trek to Triund together. I think he was a bit hesitant to trek together at first, but ultimately he asked me to join him.

I met him two years back in Delhi when he briefly stayed in my place. At that time we shared certain personal thoughts and I was quite surprised with the wisdom he had. He taught me Spanish for two days, played guitar and inspired me to travel, even without money.

A Sadhu in Chopta

sadhus in himalayas

He said he was an engineer in his previous life (before sanyasa). He wasn’t concerned about his food, but he got his food unexpectedly from a villager that night. He smoked hell lot of smoke, and coughed like a TB patient. He walked inhumanly, covered almost 100 km in mountain terrain. And he was almost 70 years old. I met him during my trip to Chopta. He was not powerful as it seemed, but there was a certain honestly in his eyes that drew me close towards his talks. We spent the night together, talking and discussing about life. He was more interested in making chillum and smoke, and in between talked about him a little.


He was not Omprakash by any means. He was white, tall and extremely creepy in attire. I was sitting at German Café in Rishikesh when I saw him, dressed like a tantric, full black with at least 10 rings on 10 fingers, 3-4 stone necklaces with long hair. He told me he was 50 but looked like 70. He was extremely fond of girls, always commented of any girl he saw and told me lots of tale about his sexual adventure during his stay in Thailand. He married thrice, had one son, no occupation as such, and took money from his mother. On the top of that, he had experienced Kundalini with his queer description. He had his guru who initiated him in Tantra, he stayed in Varanasi and capable of spending lots of money in whisker (that I saw while roaming with him for 4 days.)

german cafe rishikesh

One thing for sure, he liked me very much. He even sent me a letter after one year, with typical American lingo and style. He was American, left his country and lived a life that I was confused that he really wanted to. However, he really gave a damn about things and did lots of things that I only imagine as a conservative Indian.

There are lots of people I met during my travel, but I think that will take a book to complete and I am no mood to write anything but to write a little more than 1000 words.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

A day well spent in Digha beaches

I wish to speak about some sauntering, in fact some sort of Bohemian spirit, albeit for a brief moment, imprinted a long-lasting memory. The first time when I heard about roaring waves of sea, I felt a bit strange because in that roar I found a peace. I am a mountain man. I love mountains for various reasons but the principle reason is of course a peculiar sense of calmness and a feeling of freedom, to clear some rust that I acquire during my tedious duty of work and daily living. Nevertheless, rolling sea waves created such feeling inside that I confessed I was astonished at the power of endurance – said nothing but to awkwardly look at the waves for couple of hours.

It was a day trip from the village, escapade in rural Bengal. It was couple of hours journey to Digha – the quintessential beach destination of Bengalis. Earlier I never found such places very exciting, simply because of rush and atmosphere that typically smells commercial. Perhaps I was fortunate or  I went at the wrong time of season. Digha was totally empty, not literally of course, but the amount of rush I was expecting, not quite visible.

Digha is divided into parts – old and new Digha. New Digha is relatively calm and beaches are not too crowded. It is also near the railway station and for fun loving people it has lots to offer like adventure sports, eating joints, souvenir shops etc. Old Digha on the other hand has that rustic charm, with hordes of food joints, cheap hotels, some cheap bars and people of course.

Beaches in Digha

Talsari Beach

It is nice and pristine beach, 9km from New Digha situated in Odissa border. Talsari Beach is a sea hinterland where fishermen bring fish to sell. There are small boats taking tourists from beach to a nearby island, it’s a nice experience during low tide when many people reach the island by mere walking through the sea. If you have time then walking is the best way to explore things, otherwise there are hired bikes that take you inside of the sea.

Udaipur Beach

This is another solitary beach, 3km from New Digha along Odissa border. There are small tea joints where you can enjoy the sea waves along with tea. There is no such rush like Old Digha and if you wish, you can visit the nearby Kaju Forest.


River mohana ( Subarna rekha river with Bay of Bengal ) is a place of fishermen, walking distance from New Digha. Summers when fishing activity is stopped, so if you go at the time, there is no point going there.

Shankarpur Beach

The beach is out of town, around 15km from main Digha town, so you need to hire a cab or own a car to drive to that place. If you are coming from Kanthi, Shankarpur Beach comes first near Choudamiles area along the Digha Kanthi Road. The morning time is generally high tide time, so you can watch some ferocious waves of Bay of Bengal. The place is quite serene with one or two hotels. It is better if you pack you lunch and spend some time near the beach.

What to do in Digha

  • Enjoy Bengali customized seafood in different food joints spread across Old Digha. The food is cheap and prepared well. You can also enjoy good Continental food in expensive restaurants. Try Bengali fish cuisines like Pomfret, Bhetki, Tiger Prawns and crabs.
  • Enjoy evening walks along with gusting sea winds. Don't forget to capture incredible pictures of Digha sunset.
  • Shop shell jewellery, local hand-woven mat in vibrant colors, cottage crafts and conch shells, favorably from near Chandreshwar Temple.
  • Pay some money to a local fisherman and venture into sea for fishing. These fishermen most of the time go deep inside the sea for fishing, so you can enjoy the thrill of fishing and depth of sea.
  • New Digha Beach is the best place for swimming. The beach is flat and water is not so turbulent.
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Friday, January 2, 2015

A few personal favorite films for your travel inspiration

I am a movie buff, though most of us called ourselves so, there is difference however.  Movies, books and music, these three elements greatly inspire me to do lots of things. I remember once I was determined to leave my home, possessions everything and ready for itinerant traveling. Things didn't work the way I wanted but the ignition came from a movie called ‘Into The Wild’. I had watched that movie 36 times, and every time I was watching with a different dimension, different philosophy albeit with the same mood. Well, I guess I am not alone who get inspired from a movie; that is the reason motion pictures have such as incredible impression in our mind for years. Here I am citing top six movies that are my personal favorite, not just because these films are based on traveling, but some great lines carrying life’s wisdom, with fascinating cinematography in some films, and even background music creates a sense of exploration in the mind of travelers.

Into The Wild

into the wild photo lonely

“It’s not always necessary to be strong, but to feel strong.”

A true story about a young and smart guy, Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp, moved me and lots of people like me. I showed this film to everybody who came to home and wished to watch a film. The movie accentuated with excellent music score, dialogues and some wonderful cinematography.

The guy Christopher was a philosopher who indulged himself in reading books and questioning his identity. After his tedious duty of graduation from Emory University (ranked well to get scholarship for Harvard) he donated his college fund ($26000) and cut his credit card and social security and hitchhiked through various parts of the US. His ultimate quest for human freedom and his spiritual liberation led him to Alaska wilderness where he spent his last days.

Read more about Christopher McCandless

One More to the Bus 142

The movie is visually fascinating and the narration leaves audience a big question. Was Christopher right in his approach or was it just a romantic folly of 24 year old young rebellion. The emotional impact of this film is even greater than the philosophy behind the life of Supertramp. Needless to say, Emily Hirsch in the protagonist role put everything to reflect real life Christopher McCandless on reel life.

Motorcycle Diaries

motorcycle diaries

“What we had in common - our restlessness, our impassioned spirits, and a love for the open road.”

Two apparently looking blokes started their journey of 5000 miles in South America and with their trip, a transformation occurred within these two. This film is not just a road journey but a story of revolution and staunch idealism with an outstanding direction. The film forces people to think about real issues, to see world around themselves apart from their tiny “worlds”.

The story centers around two young doctors from Buenos Aires who took motorcycle ride a bit seriously, to explore the continent and gradually exploring themselves within. With their journey, they eventually realized the futility of human existence and dived deep into different societal and humanitarian issues.

Personally I like the movie not because it shows the young life of legendary Che Guevara, but because of it shows how a young man can transform with gradual stages of life, and how traveling plays a pivotal part of this whole transformation.  The best part of the entire movie is the gradual building up the drama and changing theme of traveling to budding revolutionary ideas.

Straight Story

straight story photos

“Well, the worst part of being old is rememberin' when you was young.”

Directed by legendary David Lynch, this is somehow a different travel story, not essentially a man to travel after seeing this film, but certainly inspires a lot how old age can be defied with a strong sense of self-belief. The lyrical portrait of Alvin Straight who traveled 260 miles on a lawn mower to meet his brother sounds crazy for 74 year-old man, but the true story tells some life’s earned wisdom and sense of love of life.

The film’s cinematography earns lots of accolades. The background score what I feel is the best part of the film that gives a fantastic acceleration.  An unusually straightforward film from Mr. Lynch, a director known for his bizarre and surrealism, the film demands a bit patience but rewarding in the end with a peacefulness.

Easy Rider

easy rider photos

“They'll talk to ya and talk to ya and talk to ya about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em.”

The film reflects late 60s and early 70s hippy movement with psychedelic trips and lots of talking about individual freedom. A personal favorite, this film obviously inspires to travel, more importantly travel with a sense of freedom. The movie goes with two misfit individuals in the society who do illegal job to travel to Mardi gras in New Orleon. They are wild, they are free, they are smoker and they ride kickass bikes; what else you need from a film. There is more than bikes, smoking and travel, a deep message to society to accept the unconventional people out of them.

Easy Rider is not a travel movie; it’s a hippy movie with an element of travel. The acid trip in the movie is the best part of the film; in fact it is best representation of acid trip so far in the movies. Along with Dennis Hooper and Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson quirky humor gives a hippy state of mind and experience.

Hideous Kinky

“Hello darling, where did you spring from?”

Not so popular movie in the travel genre, the movie captures my imagination with some beautiful shots and fantastic acting. The film is about a mother and two daughters who travel from London to Morocco. A typical storyline of 70s British free thinkers who used to travel without much in their pocket. The small adventure, new experiences and cultural diversification along with their travel make this movie a worthwhile.

Kate Winslet gives a solid performance along with Carrie Mullan. The story begins with a young English hippie woman who along with her two young daughters embarks to a journey to Morocco. The movie is simplistic without any convolution but deep inside it asks the fundamental question of human freedom, in search of spirituality, to break the shackles of conventional life.

Before Sunrise

“I like to feel his eyes on me when I look away.”

Two people met on a train in Austria. They started talking. They dropped midway in Vienna. They liked each other. They spent a whole night together exploring various parts of Vienna. And they separated. Before Sunrise is not exactly a travel movie; it is part travel, part romantic, part philosophical, part drama. If you are a solo traveler and feel to meet someone (opposite sex) with whom you can share something, meeting of the minds, lots of talking, this is the right movie.

Like many other Richard Linklater movies, this film is devoid of convoluted plot, no drama but lots of dialogue and sublime romanticism. Julia Delphy is lovable in this movie and perfectly suited to her role, while Ethan Hawke, a rather confused guy gives his one of the best performances.  The sexual attraction obviously present but it doesn’t destroy the depth of the movie. The timing of certain scenes, for example when both were listening booth of a music store, where each on looks at the other and then look away, was so neatly done.

The film as for me, is not an essentially a travel movie that inspires you to travel, but it is a wonderful movie to understand the relationships, traveling companionship and freedom.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Modern yoga retreat, new dimension, new way of living

My friend Yann, a French Catholic priest and a Hindi student from Banaras Hindu University, every year spends 10-15 days of silent retreat in Himalayas. He surrenders everything including his laptop and phone and usually spends time in remote locations of Uttarakhand. I met him last in 2012, as we were trekking together to Gaumukh and Tapovan. Later, on the same trip he spent his silent retreat in Munshiyari (Kumaon).

He is not alone, at least amongst my acquaintances; there are lots of people who undergo this type of withdrawal process, cutting back usual life and giving up all habits including cigarettes and coffee. Another friend of mine, Philip, an Austrian yogi, who undergoes Vipassana meditation whenever he comes to India. He also suggested me lots of time to go for it, but somehow for many reasons, I couldn't. It is a conscious effort not to undergo this type of seclusion, perhaps because of my books and diary that I can't leave without. However, it is no uncommon these days when aspirants go to Yoga retreat, but totally cut off from the usual world, without communication. This type of queer withdrawal process invites curiosity.

So, why people want to to withdraw from the usual life? What is the motive or is there any motive at all? For bourgeois, usual people, who spend their time engaging themselves in tangible life struggles; this type of withdrawal seems strange, rather peculiar. They think it is only for hermits, but the question is, is it necessary to be a hermit to reach a peaceful state of mind.

Ancient Tibetan Yogis retreat and its modern consequences

Ancient Tibetan yogis performed silent retreats for years when they lived in small caves without minimum food. Even in today Tibetan yogis who wish to perform silent retreat take permission from their masters and go for retreat. For them it is extremely important part of their monk-hood as it gives awareness about duality of existence. Meditation in silent retreat for long time helps them to understand body and mind as a single entity. There are examples when Lamas underwent years of silent retreat without touch of human contacts.

chopta trek camp
Retreat at Chopta
Originally this type of solo retreat is known as 'Lerung', a part of Tibetan Buddhism that is believed to create awareness of the existence and stop the mind rushing about in an aimless (even a purposeful) stream of thoughts.

Urban silent retreats and yoga schools

Following the path of ancient Tibetan yogis, silent and solo retreats are becoming popular these days, especially amongst Westerners. The heavy life and daily frictions of professional and personal life create a self-hypnosis construction when a person sees things that appears, and life small and big judgments are based on those appearances.

Retreat center at Tara Mandala
In a solo retreat, a person looks down closely how the mind works. It is actually the breaking down this false construction of “me” within and see what is real inside. It is of course not an easy course of action because the years of impressions created on the mind lead the individual in according the resultant force of all those impressions. So, many people take frequent solo retreat and continue the meditation techniques in their daily life to break the “construction”.

The idea of detach from everyone, without any sort of electronic device is unfathomable to many, but things work in a different way in silent retreats where a person face to face with himself or herself.

Indian Silent Retreat centers

Vipassana Meditation Center in Dharamkot

Vipassana Meditation centers spread throughout India but I liked Dharamkot center because of its natural peaceful surroundings, dense wood and Dhauladhar Mountain on the back. The center is as usual like others where you are given a room with a mattress, and blanket. You are not allowed to talk to anybody, even not to look directly at women in the center. Minimum of vegetarian food, 10 -12 hours of meditation practice every day and sleep. You can talk to the master though once if you have any question. Many people don't prefer to talk and keep silent for 12 days. You can't take your electronic gadgets, books, notebook anything with you.

Tushita Meditation Center, Dharamkot

Aspirants, who sometimes feel too tough to lead Vipassana, can register themselves in Tushita Meditation Center, adjacent to Vipassana in Dharamkot. The center stresses on silence but there is no strict rule. So, you can carry your notepad, books but not mobile phone or laptop. There is even a small place where aspirant can smoke cigarettes if he or she wishes.

Yogoda Satsanga Society, Dwarahat

Paramahansa Yogananda founded this society in 1917 in the lap of pristine Uttarakhand valley. The center is probably the best place for Kriya Yoga and understanding the philosophy of life. The atmosphere is fascinating with surrounding green valleys and silence.

Mayavati Ashram, Lohaghat

advaitya ashram mayawati lohaghat
Advaitya Ashram, Lohaghat
Best known as Advaita Ashram, situated at an altitude of 1940 m, 9km from the town of Lohaghat (Uttarakhand), this Ashram and surrounding area is simply spectacular. This small monastery is a branch of Ramkrishna Mission, which governs by the principle of monism (advaitya) where no idol is worshiped. The guest house is neat and clean with plenty of silence.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Jostled, hurried, exuberant joyride – 24 hours in Mumbai

There are some cities, which infuse certain energy, oscillating between high and low, but always imbibe a peculiar sense of exuberance that hardly one can overlook. It was August 15, Independence Day of India, I and my friend luckily got a local train in Mumbai that was relatively roomy. That was the first day in Mumbai, I already sensed a striking similarity between Kolkata (my hometown) and Mumbai.

Well, I am here to write about a day in Mumbai, extracting the best of the city, though I know 24 hours isn't enough to explore this intoxicating city. I am citing here my favorite places, restaurants, memorable nightlife that you can also enjoy. If you are not in a budget, you can hire a car and zoom between exhilarating experiences.

Breathe in on Hill Road

g graffiti at Chapel Street mumbai ranwar
Graffiti at Ranwar
Sharukh Khan's fans never forget to visit Bandstand at the very first day, but personally I feel it is better to soak in fresh aroma of baked bread at A One Bakery on Hill Road rather than ogling blankly at Khan's bungalow. Stroll around the narrow lanes of Ranwar behind the bakery and see some amazing graffiti at Chapel Street.

Early morning is the best time to experience this city sleeping madness. There are more than 200 years old buildings hanging well all around as you slowly passing through Hill Road. For a relaxing tea, you can try 'Yoga House'. Also, you can just reach Salt Water Cafe near Lilavati Hospital Junction where you can break your fast with bacon, omelet, pancakes and more.

Delve into Asia's biggest slum

Leather market in Dharavi
Well, Dharavi is not a place that you can include in your travel itinerary but trust me, if you miss this huge slum, you will miss a chunk of Mumbai's true pulse. Dharavi is famous for its workshops and tanneries, so you can explore some of the best workshops in the world. Drop at the Sion Bandra Link road, and explore variety of leather items including bags, jackets, belts and others.

If you feel your appetite tells you give some attention, you can try quintessential vada pao at Dadar.

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Move from Washermen's Colony (Dhobi ghaat) to Haji Ali

mumbai washermen colony
Mumbai Dhoobi Ghaat
Mahalakshmi Rail station is nearby, so just drop at Washermen's Colony. This is probably the biggest washermen's colony in India, which is shrouded with white sheets, harsh smell of detergent and incessantly swattering on the washing stones. Those clothes are then dried, packed and chartered off to different hotels, hostels, other places.

South Mumbai
Next is the famous Haji Ali, a white marbled shrine located on an islet off the coast of Worli. Personally I felt there was nothing to see except lots of people queuing at the shrine. However, you can sit and watch the high tide.

Next go to Chor Bazaar (Thief's market) and Mutton Bazzar. You might find some extraordinary item in a throw away price, but remember to bargain unapologetically. Stolen goods are thought to circulate early on Friday mornings from 4.30am, but the usual market opens from 10.30am and 7.30pm every day.

Lunch at Britannia, coffee at Kala Ghoda

If anything fascinated me most in Mumbai, it was Cafe Britannia (Sprott Road), a century old Parsi restaurant adorned in a natural rustic décor. Food is exceptionally good, though there is less option for vegetarian. Don't forget to gulp a refreshing fizzy pallonjis raspberry drink.

Mumbai Municipal Corporation building
Mumbai Municipal Corporation building
If you walk a little, you will reach Fort area, which is an area full of colonial-style buildings, now converted into office complex. There is a big book shop Kitab Khana where you can browse through books. Walk further along the Flora Fountain to reach Kala Ghoda (Black Horse) to savor home-brewed organic coffee.

Beer and chicken cheese burger in Café Mondegar

Cafe Mondegar
So, you have spent enough in hopping Mumbai, now you want to rest a bit and have some beer. Colaba in my opinion is the best place to chill. I feel Leopold Café is bit overrated because of Shantaram novel and bullet marks from a 2008 terrorist attack. If you really want some cool music with good beer, Café Mondegar (Mondy’s) is the best bet. If you are 3-4 people, just take a beer tower and chilli cheese toast or chicken cheese burger. The walls are adorned by cartoons by famous cartoonist Mario Miranda. It is very near to Gateway of India, so you can just sit beside sea and soak in beer plus Mumbai intoxication.

Marine Drive and Bade Miya

Plenty of people every day sit on the Marine Drive and shrug their Mumbai fatigue. The entire stretch looks like necklace. The breezy boardwalk is for everyone. You see people do jogging or fast walking, gossiping friends, tea vendors and masseurs.

You can end the day with Marine Drive, but if you still have energy and appetite, go to Bade Miya in Colaba and savor the taste of some extraordinary kebabs and mutton.

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