Exploring India Through the Eyes of a South African: Places I Visited
India – the enigma of the east. The traveller’s Pandora’s box. India leaves her visitor’s in awe. Every corner you round is full of life, culture, and colour. I have visited India 5 times. On my most recent trip – I stayed for 4 months. Each time I leave I have more appreciation and respect for this country and its inhabitants.
Bumper-to-bumper traffic, Bollywood aspirations, and food galore! Affectionately called Bombay – a name given to the capital by the British settlers. Mumbai Meri Jaan – indeed, she has captivated millions of hearts. Indians voyage to the city of dreams from far away villages, and foreigners strive to tick her off their bucket lists.
A few of Mumbai’s gems:
A boulevard in South Mumbai, ‘C’-shaped road alongside the coast. Marine Drive is also known as the Queen’s Necklace because, at night when viewed from a higher point, the street lights appear to be a string of pearls in a necklace.
Recommendation: Pizza by the Bay – a restaurant overlooking the bay with a great selection of International wine and traditional oven pizza.
Found in Old Mumbai, another popular coastline promenade that starts at the Gateway of India. It passes aristocratic fashion boutiques and the supreme Taj Mahal Palace hotel, notorious for its sophisticated sea-facing tea lounge. Nearby the infamous Causeway is lined with long standing cafes, contemporary restaurants and outdoor stalls selling handcrafted mementos.
Gateway of India:
Known as the Taj Mahal of Mumbai, the Gateway of India is Mumbai’s top tourist attraction. An arch monument built in the 20th century, in South Mumbai, overlooking the Arabian Sea and constructed to commemorate the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary on their visit to India, in 1911.
With touches of refined Indo-Saracenic architecture, the Gateway of India is 26 metres high, and was later used as a symbolic ceremonial entrance to India for special guests. Today, people flock to the enormous structure to take pictures and experience the large historical shadow the Gateway casts on its admirers.
If you only visit once: Don’t miss out on Café Leopold – a typical English Café with a pub-like ambiance.
Haji Ali Dargah:
The Haji Ali Dargah is a mosque and tomb (dargah) situated on an islet off the coast of Worli in South Mumbai. Near the heart of the city, the dargah is one of the most distinguishable landmarks of Mumbai.
An impeccable example of Indo-Islamic architecture, the mosque is open to all people regardless of their faith. The dargah contains the tomb of Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari and is only accessible via a narrow path that vanishes underwater at high tide.
Bandra West owes its trendy ambiance to chic craft-beer bars and upmarket global restaurants, as well as stylish cafes that serve green juices by day and artistic cocktails by night. The area’s old residences lie alongside chic fashion boutiques, contemporary street art and roadside stalls. A popular meeting point is the waterfront Bandstand Promenade, where locals exercise, play chess, and chat to friends.
Don’t miss out on: Elco Market – by far my favorite shopping experience.
The state for free spirits and seafood lovers. With coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea and a flea market on almost every beach. Its extensive past as a Portuguese colony is apparent in its unspoiled 17th-century churches and the tropical estates. Goa is infamous for its beaches, ranging from popular stretches at Baga and Palolem, to those in laid-back fishing villages such as Agonda. Oh, and if you’re looking to get inked – I have a theory that Goa has the most tattoo parlors in the whole of India! Something about this tropical place makes people want to get a tattoo. I got one myself!
My favorite places include:
Settled on the shores of the Arabian Sea, it’s notorious for sandy Baga Beach – a popular spot for water sports. Every Saturday night, Baga Beach Market features stalls with crafts and textiles. Baga boasts the most active nightlife, and its coastline extends south to lively Calangute Beach, lined with restaurants and bars, and north to Anjuna Beach.
Don’t miss out on: Brittos Restaurant – a popular seafood restaurant with tables practically on the beach!
Hot Tip: Feel like bar-hopping? Baga is the place to do it!
Fort Aguada and its lighthouse is a well-preserved seventeenth-century Portuguese fort situated on Sinquerim Beach, overlooking the Arabian Sea. Settled on the crumbly ramparts of what was once the most formidable of the Portuguese forts in India, with a panoramic ocean vista view, which the fort has guarded for over four hundred years.
An easy-going seaside village in North Goa. Anjuna Beach, a sandy bay sprinkled with palms and black rocks, was a well-known resting-place among hippies in the 1960s. Today, it’s notorious for its trance parties and music festivals. Each Wednesday, a flea market sells handicrafts, jewellery and food.
Don’t miss out on: Curlies – a psychedelic beach shack with trance vibes and great bar food.
A traditional fisherman village. The beach entices many international tourists, and is the perfect beach for Sundowners – with most restaurants setting tables up on the beach front. Arambol’s market is a flea-marketers dream. I haven’t visited once without snagging up a keepsake.
They say, the best view comes after the hardest climb. This walk definitely isn’t for the faint hearted. It is a pleasant place to wander that offers fantastic views across the north from Chapora river to Pernem, and south over Vagator beach and also far out to the Arabian Sea in the west.
Hot tip: Get some fresh coconut water before you start the journey up the fort.
India has rich cultures, a multifaceted history, and deep-rooted philosophies, and all have influenced the present-day lifestyle we experience. My love affair with India is complex – just like the people in this country – and I know in my soul it will never end. Many people have only just touched the surface of this captivating country – and I wonder if one will ever be capable of fully experiencing the entirety of India and her people.
This article is first part in series Exploring India Through the Eyes of a South African.
Part 2 :