Train travel in India for first time travelers

Trains can be the most awesome way to travel around India. The railway system connects the entire country and you can choose from a variety of options based on timing, speed and luxuries. Most trains are cheaper than airfare and for shorter journeys, it is common for people to opt for train travel. Of course people also choose trains over flights because of the charm of the journey.

As the train departs the station, you can watch the city fade into the distance and enjoy the serenity of open farm fields, quaint railway colonies and hills for miles. It can be very calming. Bring an engaging book, plug in your earphones and listen to your favorite songs as the train journey begins. Personally I find train journeys with family or friends more delightful than traveling alone but it’s quite safe if you do prefer to travel alone. 

Choose your destination and book tickets on IRCTC online or contact a travel agent to assist you for a small fee. Print your tickets and arrive at the station at least a few minutes earlier than your departure time. Railway stations can be quite overwhelming in terms of size and number of people so having that extra time to get to your train is important. Information boards at the station’s entrance should have information about any delays and the departure platform number.

If you’re at a major station and that’s the starting point of the train’s journey, locate the printed reservation chart glued next the train doors. It’s wise to double check that you’re boarding the right train on the right date. 

A few years ago, I was scheduled to take the train to a conference that I had been preparing for several months. I arrived at the railway station at 10 PM and was about to board the train when my colleague decided to check the reservation chart. But our names were not on the chart. It was then that we realized that our train had left …a month ago. The booking was wrong. During all those months of conference planning, I had forgotten to check the tickets. Needless to say, I was embarrassed and anxious at the same time. The conference was scheduled to start at 10 AM the next morning. We ended up taking the first flight out the next morning. So make sure that you check those dates and get on the right train.

If you’re not scheduled to depart from a major railway station, make sure that you know how long the train will halt there and be prepared to board swiftly. That’s one thing that makes me a little nervous – making sure that we get on the train with all the luggage, while also allowing people who are getting off at that station to get off along with their luggage, and competing with others who are also trying to board.

It’s not uncommon to board a train and find out that someone else is in your seat. Be prepared for requests to change seats but don’t hesitate to politely decline if someone offers terrible seats in exchange. Window seats on the train are my favorite. Tip: wait for the Traveling Ticket Examiner (TTE) to check your tickets after the train departs before any seat exchanges. It will save you the trouble of having to explain why you’re not in your assigned seat.

Whether you are a frequent traveler or a tourist, be prepared for some unwanted attention. There are people everywhere in the world who love to stare at other people. Staring back or starting a conversation with them usually gets them to look away. Some passengers love train conversations especially with solo travelers, so all I can say is all the best if you’re looking forward to a quiet journey and end up with some chatty people around you.

If you’re a tourist in India, you will be showered with extra attention. A few years ago I traveled with some of my friends from the US and the attention they received was hilarious. Co-passengers wanted to know everything about them and even exchanged phone numbers so that they could stay in touch beyond the journey. 

Comfortable clothes and shoes are essential. If your compartment is not air-conditioned, it will most likely be humid at night and hot during the day.

To make your long train ride more exciting, figure out how long the train is scheduled to halt at each station (observe your co-passengers or just ask them!). If the train is scheduled to stop at a station for a few minutes, use that time to get off and stretch or get some real cha and fresh cooked food. This is obvious but don’t get so distracted that you forget to board the train before it departs again and don’t leave valuables unattended on the train – they will most likely disappear. Packing valuables in a backpack that you can carry along with you around the train or station is advisable. Maybe even lock your suitcase so that everything is intact. It doesn’t hurt to be cautious.

Call me a picky eater but when it comes to ordering food on the train, I try not to get too adventurous with the fried stuff unless it’s part of a pre-ordered meal, which some trains offer. Since most of my train journeys have been with family, we have excelled at the art of packing food for train rides. 

The longest train journey I have been on was 36 hours long. Taking short naps during the day and light dozing during the night, in addition to a great book and great conversations, got me through the journey. 

An important part of preparing for long train journeys are preparing for train toilets. Most train toilets do not include toilet paper or hand sanitizer. Pack your supplies to make your train travel as comfortable as you need to be. I also prefer using bottled water for drinking and even washing my mouth and face.

When your train finally reaches your destination, have your luggage ready to disembark and be cautiously swift as you meet the crowd of people trying to get off and board the train at the same time. It’s usually not too bad but it’s best to be prepared for the challenge.

Made it! I hope you clicked photos during that journey so you can celebrate all those memories!


final-3Author: The Overseas Magazine Editor

I wish I could include some images for your reference but unfortunately I do not have any personal photos of train journeys yet and the images available online were not free-sharing. If you have images of train journeys that you would love included with this post, please email them to theoverseasmagazine@gmail.com. Thank you in advance!

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Driving basics: India and the US

It’s Friday morning and you are driving down the city. Traffic is light and you take a left turn into a fairly empty street.  Suddenly everything changes. Your car accelerates from 35 mph to 80 mph in a matter of seconds. You find yourself inside your favorite race car. The streets turn into race tracks.

You race to merge into the right lane. But the other speeding cars won’t let you. With every failed attempt, your urgency increases. You must merge before the road leads you to a different destination. You keep trying and make it just in time as the car ahead of you accelerates. You are still losing time. There are too many cars in this race. You have to get to the finish line without getting disqualified.

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Image credit: Pixabay

You step on the accelerator and inch closer to the car ahead of you. The car behind you changes lanes and tries to overtake you. You let him. You need to follow a different route and stay on track. And whatever happens, don’t get into an accident.

On the right side of the track, you see police cars and ambulances tending to the most recent crash. You shake your head – silly bad drivers, you think. Just then, the car in front of you slams their brakes with no warning. You find yourself dangerously close. Oh no! You frantically slam the brakes. You feel your heart skip a beat. You hear tires screeching and tense up for a collision. Just then the car ahead of you changes lanes allowing you to speed ahead. Everyone is still alive.

This is how I feel when we drive down US highways. It’s terrifying and the adrenaline rush is hard to ignore.

Driving in India is an entirely different game. Indian roads are considered to be so busy and chaotic that people say if you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere in the world. I kinda disagree. It definitely teaches you amazing tricks like honking your way forward, being fearless when there are no signs, parking in tiny spaces, driving through flooded streets – but it doesn’t prepare you for speeding cars following lanes.

When I started driving in the US, my biggest challenge was staying within lanes. Maybe it’s just me but lanes seemed more restrictive and narrower the faster I drove. I had a hard time avoiding curbs that, in my opinion, don’t need to jut into streets that much anyway. I was more stressed during those first few weeks of driving than I have been in my entire life. The effort that went into driving the vehicle seemed so pointless that I decided not to drive in the US at all. After about a year of struggles, I think driving in the US is actually quite easy and painless. As long as I stay clear of highways.

When I lived in Kolkata, as part of my job, I had the privilege of hosting visitors from different parts of the world. Whenever we would drive around the city, most visitors would pause all conversation, grab onto their seats and turn pale. After most car rides, the remarks would be the same – I was sure we were going to die or how is it possible to drive through those narrow lanes or I don’t have the courage to drive anything here. I wish I could tell them how I understand what they felt. No one really warns you about the terrors of driving when you move overseas. You learn to deal with it as time goes by. You learn to drive on the other side of the road.

Driving in the Atlanta (and a few other US cities) Driving in Kolkata (and a few other Indian cities)
You learn to read all the road signs without bumping into the car ahead of you or going off the road. You learn to drive intuitively without most road signs.
You learn to stop honking and get used to quiet speeding traffic. You learn to honk – to get your way, to vent frustration on that slow moving vehicle, to warn oncoming vehicles and people at minor intersections.
You learn to drive within restrictive lanes. You learn to squeeze in between cars without scratching your car.
You learn to appreciate and follow the big red STOP sign. You learn to drive alert and prepare for surprises.
You learn to appreciate parking spaces. You learn to park in tiny spaces.
You learn to drive within speed limits. Speed limits are higher than you can ever achieve. You learn to expect speed bumps and competing for space with 1000 other vehicles. 
You (hopefully never have to get into an accident and) learn how to deal with insurance. You learn to ignore accidents as long as the damage is within acceptable limits and no one is hurt. Insurance is not disturbed unless the local mechanic advises you to contact an authorized service center.
You learn to drive on the right side of the road with all the controls on the left side. You learn to drive on the left side of the road with all the controls on the right side.
You wait for pedestrians to cross the road safely, even when they are ridiculously slow. You learn to maneuver around pedestrians in situations similar to obstacle races.
You hate rush hour traffic! You hate rush hour traffic!

Drive safe today! And be extra alert on that highway!


Share your overseas driving experiences by writing to editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

 

I ran in the clouds

When was the last time you ran outside in the open? I mean really ran, with your heart and soul and with no worries. Just taking it all in – the run, the effort, the tracks, the wind, the sights, with no smoke and no pollution around – the serenity of it all! And rain. Rain all through the route. At times crazier and teamed up with clouds coming right at you. You think this is unreal. Believe me, it’s not. I am not describing an imaginary scenario. I experienced it all when I participated in the Sohra Cherra Marathon – a one of its kind marathon which fits the above description and made a memory of a lifetime.

I have been into active running for the last 22 months and a big thank you to my friends, Kamal and Sunil, who got me interested in this sport. In the past, I was not interested in participating in such local events, leave alone outstation ones! But then, you know how friends are. They have a way of convincing you.

The first running event that I ever participated in was in December 2014. It was  a 10km run organised by Tata Steel/Procam in Kolkata. It literally left me out of breath. And no, it was not at all pleasant. I was huffing and puffing and almost gave up before the finish line. But I was glad when I somehow managed to complete it. Considering that, I would have never, even in my wildest dreams, think of running a half marathon! But the truth is that once you start running, you get hooked. And as Gaurav, a running buddy at Kolkata Ultra, says, after a distance, the mind gets controlled by the body rather than the other way around. 

After that first run in Dec 2014, I participated in several other events including my first half marathon event in Delhi in November 2015, followed closely by a 25km run in Kolkata (the tsk25) in December 2015. You’re right, it was the same event which had left me almost faint in 2014.

So there I was, basking in self satisfaction at having completed and participated in these runs when the time came for registering for the Sohra Cherra, a marathon on an uphill route at Cherrapunji. I was not too keen about it but there my friends were again!  And of course, learning about the run on the internet did help and pushed me to go for it. The pictures on the event website were just so captivating that I could not resist. Registration done and sealed, I kept wondering how much time I would need to complete this uphill battle. The Delhi half marathon had taken me 2 hrs 15 mins (which incidentally is my personal best) and the tsk25 had stretched me ruthlessly to just under 3 hrs. So, I targeted about 3 hours here too since I was not aware of the terrain at all. And running uphill and downhill is a totally different ball game compared to running on flat roads. You need to control your pace while coming downhill since it does hit your knees very hard. And while going uphill, you need to ensure that your breathing is regular and completely in control. Never overdo it.

The big day came and the five of us, all school friends, left on the 16th July 2016 by flight to Guwahati and from there travelled by road to Shillong and once inside the town, we headed straightaway for the Collection Centre to collect our Bibs and running tees. My running group members had already reached a day earlier by train and we met up there at the Centre. After collecting our goodies and stuff, the five of us headed off to a quaint little building housing our guest rooms just off Police Bazaar. We had to book this guest house independent of the running group owing to space constraints. Police Bazaar is the central point in Shillong for eating, shopping and hanging out.

It had started raining when we left the Centre and by the time we checked into the Guest House, it was pouring rain. We were famished and after dropping our stuff, we went out in the rain with only a couple of umbrellas and wind-cheaters to get food. There is this place called ‘City Dhaba’, which was close by and famous for its food. We had an enjoyable meal and headed back to the Guest House, with the rain still pouring hard. Once in, we laid out our running gear for the next day and retired for the night.

I found it a little difficult to fall asleep with the excitement building up, and coupled with a little dread considering the rain outside. How would I run in such heavy rain! When we woke up the next day at around 3.45 in the morning, the rain had stopped. Whew, what a relief! We got ready and left by car to the starting point, which was around an hour’s drive from our Guest House. And guess what? The rain started pouring again and by the time we reached the place, the rain was pelting down. I thought it was crazy of us to get out of the car in that downpour. Crazy me, I thought. The assuring thing was that the place was full of of other crazies.

Finally the anticipated announcement – runners get ready at the start line. This is it, I thought to myself, all second thoughts get behind me now and just run! The trumpet sounded and we were off. Us friends started off together and stayed close during the initial part of the run. Slowly, the crowd of runners started spreading out, some falling behind and some racing up ahead. By and by, I started covering the distance, km by km. But the rain was indeed making it difficult, especially with the wind blowing hard and at times, almost pushing me off my running track. But the sights – simply magical! You have got to be there to believe it because no matter how hard I try to describe it, you will have to experience it in person to really understandRunning in the clouds was the tagline for the Sohra Marathon. And how true that was!

At times visibility was down to 50 metres and all around us were just clouds. Nothing to disturb our tryst with nature at that point. Just wow!

After almost 13-14 kms, I took off and started running ahead of my friends. Now running alone, my finishing points got multiplied into the various runners in front of me. By and by, I started touching one finishing point after the other. 15km. 17km. 19km. Just 2 more kms to go. Thankfully, my body was controlling the show while my mind was busy taking in the sights. Just as I was clear about the finish and decided to sprint the last lap, the track suddenly rose up to a 40-50 degree incline! How unexpected! I slowed down to a walk and just walked up that incline, which was around 50-75 metres steep uphill. I knew that running up that sharp incline would not have done me any good. Finally I caught sight of the finish line and couldn’t help but race up and burst through it, all in one breath.

Suddenly, it was over. The last several months of training, the excitement, the sights and the trip. I almost felt an emptiness inside and wanted to do it again so it wouldn’t end so soon. The rain continued to fall and at that point, I was enjoying it so much that I did not want it to stop. The dread of the previous night had vanished and all I felt was happiness at having completed my first run uphill.

For all you runners out there, give it a try. Love your body and take good care of it and bear the pain of training when you’re preparing to run. There is an inexpressible sense of freedom in it. Running can help you get a different perspective on life, unbridled by the challenges, fears and disappointments of everyday life. And for the ones who are still contemplating if you should start running, just take the first step and do it.

By the way, I got my timing for the Sohra. It was 2 hrs 19 mins!


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Guest author Rohit Elisha Pandey is a husband, super-dad and runner. He is also a successful Chartered Accountant and passionate about writing.

Feeling hot? Eat some spicy food!

Do you know why people who live in warm climates eat spicy food even during sweltering summers? Simple – heat beats heat. But how?  Apparently spicy food helps regulate body temperatures by making us sweat profusely. Typically spicy food triggers off sweat glands on our faces and then the rest of the body. This results in making extremely hot summers somewhat bearable. You would think that all that sweating would cause serious dehydration issues but that’s taken care of as well. Spicy food make us extremely thirsty, thus forcing us to stay hydrated.

Food habits in different parts of the world were established in a way to help humans survive. Although enjoying local cuisine can be a lifesaver, it also makes sense to choose your diet based on your body type and location because not every food has the same effect on everyone. Oily food may be good for some seasons and salads are better for others. A protein rich diet might do wonders for some, while others thrive on higher fiber.

I was in India for the last two weeks and needless to say, I was stuffed all day everyday with home made delicacies. Those two curries you see in the featured photo are homemade spicy fish and prawns. We also managed to try out three new restaurants during our short visit and all three of them were amazing.

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A mini cupcake at Mrs. Magpie’s Bistro.

We went to The Steak Factory near Southern Avenue for dinner one night. We ordered the beef steak, which was served with a side of potatoes and caramelized onions cooked to perfection. For lunch on another day we went to Mrs. Magpie’s Bistro at The Chambers Mall at Kasba. We loved both the ambiance and the food. I tried Mutton Goulash for the first time and loved every bit of it! Sadly I forgot to click photos of most of the food at these restaurants so if you live in Kolkata, you should try them out.

The third restaurant we ate at was at The Fort at Raichak on the Ganges, which is about 55kms south of the Howrah Bridge. The thali and breakfast spreads were amazingly delicious and the quantity of food impossible to conquer. The funny part was that we asked the server if we could get seconds if we needed. He smiled and asked us to enjoy the meal. None of us at the table managed to finish even the first serving.

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Thali at The Fort

Summers are also known for cooler delicacies and summer fruits which bring the heat down but sweating through meal times makes the experience more satisfying.


Are you traveling this summer? Share your experiences with theleadjournal@gmail.com. Submission guidelines.

Ordering food in the US and how it’s done in India

A question that foreigners get asked everywhere is: what are some things that are different here? As an Indian living in the US, I have answered this question quite a few times. It is not an easy question to answer because really the differences are many but several of those are simply based on our personal perceptions. So let’s start with a simple difference.

Restaurant mannerisms between the two countries are quite different. Firstly, it is more common to find waitresses in the US and waiters in India. I’m not sure why that is but waitresses are rare in India, at least at the restaurants that I have been to.

Ordering food is remarkably different in these two countries too. Generally customers need to answer several more questions in the US than they need to in India. In fact sometimes you would wish they’d asked a few questions in India about some dishes. But most of the time the fewer the questions, the better it is.

Here’s an example:

Scenario: You want to order a bowl of soup but you have a few questions about it.

In India:

What kind of soup is this?

It’s soup with a creamy base with freshly cut vegetables.

Is it good? (Silly question but customers ask this frequently as though the answer will ever be in the negative)

Absolutely! 

In the US:

It’s soup with a creamy base, or you could order it with less cream or with milk, and it takes about a 30 minutes or so to prepare but it comes with a choice of fresh vegetables and meat if you would prefer. The chef told us this morning that a rare kind of potato was available in the market this morning, which is so exciting, so you’ll might get that in your soup. So would how creamy would you like it? 

Thick sounds great.

Okay. Which vegetables would you prefer – blah blah blah or blah (names some vegetables)? Would you like it spicy hot or spicy medium?  Would you like to add any meat to it? We have …(names five different options)! 

And if it’s the South, you will be called “honey” for the duration of your meal – no, not by your companions but by the restaurant staff.

Ordering food comes with a complimentary decision-making session in the US. Ordering food in India comes with a complimentary trust-the-chef session.

The other big difference is the joy of free drink refills in the US, which is not a concept in India yet. Also, below are glass sizes in India compared to sizes in the US.

Glass sizes

 

When two or more people go out to eat in India, it’s not unusual for them to order family style. That way you get to enjoy more variety of food as if it was your own. In the US, we order individual plates even though the quantity of food is more than enough for people to share. Again this might just be true for the circles and restaurants I’ve been to.

Tips to waiters in India usually depends on the generosity of the customer instead of the length of the conversation with the customer. In fact, a waiter would get a higher tip for the amount of complimentary food served and the lesser amount of ‘interruptions’ caused during the meal. Whereas in the US, the ‘interruptions’ could potentially lead to more tips.

It is common belief that people in the US prefer privacy and value their personal space while people in India (and the East in general) thrive on community and are ridiculed for their lack of any sense of personal space. I wonder what causes this switch in behavior at restaurants.

The first time I ordered a burrito in the US, I was bombarded with fifteen questions much to my dislike. I was not ready for that decision-making lesson and for some reason even though it was simply food, the choices seemed overwhelming. Funny, right? On the other hand, a friend of mine from the US was visiting India for the first time and was frustrated at a coffee shop in India because she received a default drink listed on the menu without having any opportunity to choose the flavors, size and strength of her coffee.

Different perceptions are based on where we live. ‘Normal’ differs everywhere and that’s the beauty of diversity.

Tips for Overseas Living – What about the orphans?

I can still picture her clearly in my mind. She looked about eight years old, and was lying asleep on the broken sidewalk. A begging bowl was by her hands, and her tattered dress was wrinkled and wadded up around her waist. Her panties were visible to anybody walking by. I glanced around, and didn’t see one person who seemed responsible for her. I felt so helpless. I couldn’t take her home with me (kidnapping, anyone?). If I gave her money, it would be taken by whoever was using her to beg. I simply prayed for her as I passed. But I have never forgotten her.

When living in the cities of this world, we are faced with the awful question, “What about the orphans?” So many kids who need to be cared for and loved. So many kids who are ripe for being trafficked. Maybe they are not officially orphans, but emotional and/or physical ones. What are we supposed to do?

Some Americans first realizing the widespread needs assume it’s fairly simple to adopt a child, or take a child into their home when they live overseas. Sadly, it is very complicated.  Countries have their specific adoption laws that vary from those of other countries. Some countries do not allow adoption at all. You might be able to legally adopt a child by the laws of the country you reside in, but not be able to ever take that child back to your home country due to the home country adoption laws. We know people who have done that, and it often takes years to get U.S. Immigration to grant the proper authorization for the child to be allowed admittance to the U.S., if ever. This article is NOT a criticism of those people at all. Most of the ones we know personally chose to do it with full understanding of what they were doing. We love and respect them and their decisions. However, it is that understanding of the situation that I want to build.

If you must leave due to an emergency evacuation, or a health issue, or lack of funding, or any number of scenarios, what happens to the child then? You cannot make promises to that child that you will take them with you, or that they can always count on you, or anything like that. I am not saying not to do anything. Nor am I saying that we are to throw up our hands and say, “Well, we can’t see the future, so we should just wall off our hearts from the people we want to help and not do anything.” But sometimes our attempts to help a situation can bring even more harm and hurt to a child. So think through carefully the possible outcomes of your good intentions.

Are there local organizations you can trust? (You don’t want to give to a place that has no accountability for the helps you might offer. Research carefully before you commit yourself or your finances, especially if you are new to a culture.) Are there ways you can help improve a child’s situation without jeopardizing their emotional health or creating even greater problems down the road? Can you support organizations like IJM? I know what it is like for arms to ache to take a child, feed her, get her clean, comb the rats out of her hair, hold her close and read her a story. How can you do what is best for that child? Can you help provide clinics for street children and impoverished mothers to teach childcare and basic sanitation? Can you humanize a child by looking into his eyes, yet still help him to flourish in his home environment?

I don’t have the answers, so I am not writing this as someone who can give three steps to a better life for orphans. But I have heard people express heart-felt thoughts that were not consistent with what might really be helpful for the children. Sometimes their passion of the moment prevents them from carrying that passion into a long-term life-giving plan. Don’t let your fervor become more about you and satisfying that desire to do something, than about what is best for the child. YES, something should be done. But control the impulses and make sure your actions will have positive effects for the long run, and not just the immediate future.

If you want to adopt a child, do your homework first. (There is parental preparation to do too, but that’s beyond what I’m trying to do here.) Find out what your home country’s immigration and adoption laws are. Find out what your resident country’s adoption laws are. Find out if there are steps you can take ahead of time to speed up the paperwork so that once you adopt, the process will go more smoothly. Many countries are now part of the Hague Convention. Study the implications of that. Make sure you are not contributing inadvertently to a system that exploits children by using an unethical agency. Don’t make promises to a child that you may not be able to keep.

You may not be able to adopt a specific child who has stolen your heart. But you may be able to adopt a child who is just as needy or even more so. Many of the adoption laws, while cumbersome and even seemingly wrong in how they provide care for children (or not), have the intention of protecting the children from those who would exploit them. Unfortunately, they may also “protect” them from gaining a loving home. Yeah, it’s complicated.


Joan Perkins

Guest author: Joan Perkins lives in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, with her husband, Bill, and two youngest sons. She spent 25 years living overseas, in Costa Rica, Argentina, Bangladesh, India, and Thailand. Joan graduated with a M.Div. degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and enjoys teaching women. She and Bill have six children, and the first grandbaby is due soon!

Mumbai in Three Days

Population: Approx 20 million. Land mass: 603 sq kms. Climate: Tropical.

This is Mumbai, the commercial capital of India: the ultimate destination for thousands of people who travel daily to Mumbai with hopes and dreams of making it big in their life. The glamorous and extravagant Bollywood finds itself nestled comfortably between the skyscrapers of multinationals and the bustling slums of Dharavi. So when my wife, Sangeeta and I were given the opportunity to visit this city “that never sleeps”, we must have had a thousand ideas of what we could do to make our visit to Mumbai a memorable one. Our only challenge was that we would spend only 3 days in Mumbai. So here we are writing about our whirlwind trip to Aamchi Mumbai.

Finding accommodation

In order to make the most of our limited time and budget, Sangeeta and I wanted to find a place to stay that would be inexpensive, comfortable and well connected to the rest of the city. After a series of phone calls and recommendations I found myself talking to the manager of The Methodist Home (in Mumbai Central). Rooms booked and now I was relaxed!

P1070562We had an early morning flight on Saturday, 23 April 2016 and had to leave home at 6 am Getting an Ola cab was a blessing! After the routine check-in and security checks at the airport, we were all set to board the flight and conquer the boisterous and humongous city of Mumbai.  We landed in Mumbai at 10:45 am and booked an Ola cab right away. The driver drove us through the impressive Sea Link and it was a visual treat to see the Mumbai skyline from the Sea Link.

We got to The Methodist Home by noon. The Methodist Home is a small and humble guest house (compared to the YMCA International Hotel which is just across the road from it). But TMH was clean and the staff were very polite. We liked the place immediately.

Food options

A little after 12:30 pm we found ourselves searching for some nearby restaurant to eat at Food is also served at TMH but we decided to explore other options. If you want to enjoy local delicacies, we suggest that you visit the smaller restaurants and not the fancy expensive ones. So that’s what we did for our entire stay in Mumbai. The food was delicious!

Getting around

The local train in Mumbai is very well connected. So we made the most of it during our visit. Mumbai is a big city and traffic can be a nightmare. However, the local trains are convenient, inexpensive and efficient. Since it was a weekend, the trains were also empty Mumbai local trains on weekdays can be severely traumatic.

Day One being tourists

On our first day, we walked to the Mumbai Central train station, hopped onto a train and went straight to Andheri. Most major stations are only 10-15 minutes away from the Mumbai Central station. The locals were very helpful when we asked for directions. From the Andheri station we took an auto rickshaw to Juhu beach. (Tip: Avoid taking auto rickshaws parked right outside the stations. You will get a better travel deal if you can walk a few meters away from the station and find auto richshaws.) Juhu beach was like one big beach party. Enjoy the ice gollas (kala khatta flavor is highly recommended), vada pav, missal pav and pani puri.

After Juhu beach we went back to the Andheri station and hopped onto a train to Churchgate. The Gateway of India and the Taj Palace Hotel is only a 5 minute drive from the Churchgate railway station. The taxi drivers were very helpful with directions. Both these structures are impressive.

Since Mumbai is a city “that never sleeps”, it feels safe even if you are touring late at night. There are a lot of people and traffic on the streets all day and night. If you enjoy shopping, you should check out street shopping options at Dadar and Bandra.

Day two visiting churches

Our second day there was a Sunday so we took the train to Churchgate and then hopped into a taxi to attend service at the Bombay Baptist Church. The church building has been renovated to retain its century old heritage and yet give a touch of modern progression with a central air conditioning system and state of the art sound equipment. After service we walked to the Colaba Causeway for some street shopping.

We then took a train and headed to Vasai. We had to visit a church in Vasai. It took us an hour to get there. The church service was awesome and energetic. After a great time of worship we were also privileged to enjoy the hospitality of the church Pastor and his family.

Final day being tourists 

On Monday morning we took an auto rickshaw to Marine Drive. You cannot miss this if you visit Mumbai. It was beautiful in the morning even though the evening lights add a finer charm to the place. We needed to shop so we took a taxi to the Mangal Das wholesale market and then headed to the Phoenix mall. After lunch it was time for us to head back to the airport.

On our way to the airport we were satisfied with our trip! We had managed to enjoy and experience Mumbai in three days.

 


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Guest author: Nilav Kolay and his wife, Sangeeta live in Kolkata, India. They have enjoyed being tourists in different parts of the world but their favourite travel destinations are all over India.