Here we go with my first real post! Last April my friend and I set off just before Easter to our trip to India, more specifically Mumbai and Goa. India is a huge country, but in the 10 days we had I feel like sticking to Mumbai and Goa was a great decision, we saw and experienced a lot, but still also got to explore at a more leisurely pace and enjoy just being away in the sun.
If you are thinking of going to similar area’s you might see that April is just before the rainy season and after the tourist season, however if you don’t mind the heat it will save you a lot of money going after the season, as well as get a really authentic experience. One of two places could be closed, but the places the local go shopping and eating will most definitely still be open.
So here we go these were my Top 10 favourite things about my trip to India
1. Zaveri Bazaar
It’s safe to say I have never in my life experienced anything like the markets in Mumbai. The energy, the amount of people, it’s such an incredibly overwhelming experience, and turned out to be one of my favourite memories of the trip. The buzz is incredible as thousands of people are walking around the market, going about their daily business. It’s also a great place to pick up some souvenirs, but be ready to barter! We picked up some lovely silk scarves here, that came in handy for the rest of our trip.
2. Riding a moped up and down the coastline in Goa
We had done some research beforehand and were really interested in visiting some of the old Portuguese Forts on the Goan coastline, however we hadn’t found an easy and cheap way to get round (in Mumbai we were using taxi’s/rickshaws and even the train – which I highly recommend as a super cheap and quick way to get across the city) until on one of our trips down the Agonda high street. We saw a couple of places that were renting out scooters, and it was in my opinion the best way to get around. We rented the scooter for an entire day so we could decide exactly where we wanted to go, how long we wanted to stay there and to be honest I absolutely love driving them! The coastal road is a stunning windy road, with jungle on one side and then the occasional cliff and ocean view on the other side (disclaimer make sure you put on sunscreen, you won’t feel the heat as much while you’re driving, and wear your helmet. Other drivers won’t know you’re not used to driving there and equally the animals rule the road). We visited all the forts, as well as stopped off at a few beaches on the way to pick up some lunch and swim in the sea. It was such a relaxing day, even though we managed to cover quite a bit of ground.
3. The horses on the beach in Agonda (and Agonda itself)
How could anyone not love this? We chose to stay at Agonda beach, in the South of Goa. The north of the province is renowned for its partying during the season and the south is all about rest and relaxation (we had 3 girls in the beach hut opposite us that hadn’t realised – so turned up to our tranquil little heaven expecting the complete opposite). There is a slightly bigger beach nearby called Palolem, which has some really fun shops, loads of beach bars and you can rent kayaks, paddleboards and canoes. We deliberately chose a slightly smaller beach with a cute high street and less people. This gave us the chance to go out and explore, but always return to our little idyllic beach.
4. Gemstone jewellery shopping
This is something I loved doing, and I will cherish the items I bought for as long as I have them, however you have to be very careful you aren’t getting ripped off. Try and find a place that looks authentic, someone that is knowledgeable about the stones (use Google here so you know you aren’t being fooled) and find someone you feel you get along with. In the end you will end up paying a premium for being a tourist, but I had a great experience and feel like I got some really high value items, I would not have been able to afford over here. The pieces also never fail to get compliments as they look unique and give me a great backstory to tell.
5. Taj Mahal Palace (The hotel)
On our last evening we decided to treat ourselves (and make it being the last evening a bit more bearable) and booked a room at the Taj Mahal Palace (Not to be confused with the actual Taj Mahal – they’re in completely different part of the country). The Taj Mahal Palace is a hotel that is right next to the Gateway of India, it consists of the old part and the “new” tower. We arrived, looking slightly worse for wear perhaps with our huge backpacks and having just travelled across the entire city, and had the best surprise as the hotel upgraded us! We read up on the hotel before our stay and had requested to stay in the old part (not the tower) and ended up getting a top floor room, with butler, spa access, high tea and view over the Gateway of India! I honestly cannot recommend this place enough and hope to one day go back. If you do end up staying in the tower, make sure to go and explore the other side as well as it is absolutely stunning, a perfect oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Mumbai.
6. Visiting different religious sites
During our visit we made time to visit places of worship of most major religions, and see how faith was practices in India. Mumbai’s biggest religions are Hinduism and Islam, with 10% of the population being Buddhist of Jain (ancient Indian religion that encourages people to live a life of harmlessness and renunciation). Goa’s second biggest religion is Christianity, which is due to the Portuguese colonisation of Goa. Having this many religions in one place was very interesting to see, especially as we had been told the large religious groups live in relative harmony with each other.
In Goa we visited Goa Velha (Old Goa), which had the Churches and Convents of Goa. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 7 churches, chapels, cathedrals or ruins located in close vicinity to each other. Goa Velha used to be the Portuguese capital of India and to this day is an important part of Christianity in the area.
In Mumbai we visited so many mosques and temples, I won’t mention them all but a few that stood out for me were; Haji Ali Dargah (a mausoleum for a Muslim saint situated on a tiny island off the coast of Mumbai), Babulnath Temple (here we witnessed a traditional Hindu ritual, thanks to our local tour guide), Sri Sri Radha Gopinath temple (a Hare Krishna temple where we received a meal cooked using only ingredients produced by their farm) and many more. If you are visiting Mumbai I highly recommend you do some reading on religion in the area as it’s truly fascinating.
7. Spice farm
During the Goa leg of our trip we went about an hour inland to visit a traditional spice farm. Once again it was amazing to see how an hours drive could transport you from seaside tranquil to fully fledged jungle! The spice farm we went to was informative about the plants, how they farm the plants, how they cure the spices and how the spices are used in traditional remedies and foods. The people were very knowledgeable and I loved learning about some of the spices we use everyday, as well as some I had never heard of. The people spiked my interest in learning about the different use cases for many spices, finding natural remedies for everyday symptoms and preventative medicine.
The tour itself was a walking tour that took us along all the types of crops they grow on that farm, followed by a traditional home cooked meal at the end. This is where we ended up getting our spices and essential oils to take home.
8. Sunset drinks at the 4 Seasons Hotel in Mumbai
At the end of one of our busy days in Mumbai, we decided to indulge and have cocktails on the rooftop of the Four Seasons. We spent the entire day walking round Mumbai, eating street food and soaking up as much culture as we could (FYI I would recommend getting a driver to take you on a tour, they will usually know quick ways to get around, are able to tell you personal stories, as well as local stories and our local tour guide took us to places that weren’t mentioned in any of the guide books we had read). The top of the roof gives you an incredible view of the city, and shows you how big it really is, followed by seeing the sun set in the ocean. Once the sun is completely set the city lights up and you’ll get a completely new, but equally breath taking view of Mumbai.
9. Sari Shopping
Unfortunately, we didn’t end up buying a sari as they are still pretty expensive and we had come with backpacks, but I loved trying them on, looking at the different styles and the shop where we tried them was very accommodating! The colours and materials are so vibrant and just look incredible – pictures do not do it justice! If we had some more money to spend and room in our bags I think I would have bought one, although I think the jewellery I got there and the decorative items for my house are more versatile as opportunities to wear full sari don’t come around that often.
10. And of course there is no way I could leave the food off this list!
One of the main highlights for me was the food throughout the trip. The Indian food we had on our trip is very different to the “Indian food” we have over here in the west, as well as being very different by region. In Goa we had the best seafood, farmed fresh every day, compared to a lot of street food and curry in Mumbai. The best places we ate tended to be the side of the road places, and the tiny restaurants just off the main roads away from big attractions. Our little high street in Agonda had one place that was so good we went back twice, despite a cow walking into the restaurant the first evening! If I could give any food advice it would be to eat where you see locals – try avoid chains and hotels and ask your waiter to recommend something, they will know their menu best and know what is popular and local to the region you are in. We also chose to eat vegetarian as we were worried about getting ill, this is a personal choice you have to make but I can say even without meat, the food I had there is some of the best food I have ever had in my life.
So they are my top picks from my trip to India last year, it was very hard to decide what to include, and what not to include as I have so many more memories and recommendations, from beach hopping down Goa by boat, the traditional Hindu meal we had in one of the temples, visiting Elephant Island, seeing Dolphins and monkeys and so much more! Either way I hope you enjoyed reading a bit about my trip and keep an eye out for my next top 10.
Speak soon xo