What I did in the three famous beach cities of India
Words: Ambica Gulati
What if I told you there’s a lot more to a beach than just sun ‘n’ sand. Three cities where I found this more are the sizzling dreamland Mumbai, hot and wild Goa and the tame and mild Chennai. It’s in these three cities of India I realised that beaches are not just about watersports and sun baths, but about bliss and relaxation, flying balloons and taking horse cart rides, eating lots of beach food such as coconut water, bhelpuri, paani puri, fish pakora and letting the world go by.
Mumbai has always been a dream city where stars live and the financial wizards rush around. It has an interesting mix of flavours—European architecture mingled with tall buildings, heritage hotels, ships and boats. It’s a city with Parsi culture, art, movies, corporate houses and where women are not scared to walk out alone at night. I was staying at the Churchgate area, just two minutes walk from the famous Marine Drive or Queen’s necklace where the city ends. The evenings are a welcome sight, as people sit by the ocean wall, eat chanas and small samosas with a cup of tea. The glitter of Mumbai’s night lights is quite a sight–the sea so stark and black and the city so bright. I walked from the end of Nariman Point where the famous Air India building is to Chowpatty. The traffic whizzes past, as you cross couples busy romancing, friends chatting, someone alone, someone waiting and someone jogging. At Chowpatty, there are stalls to have chuski and bhelpuri which is what I had. I sat around for some time watching families enjoy their evening snack, children playing ball or running near the water and the mothers screaming after them. It is a compelling and blissful experience as the cool seabreeze washes away the tiredness.
Churchgate also has of the oldest churches in Mumbai—St Thomas church and it’s a quite peaceful place with walls covered with names of British officers, sailors who lost their lives, there is even a ship carved out in the wall. The High court is also in the same area; there’s also a famous tea house which has been around for almost 100 years. Then you can walk down to the Kalaghoda centre for arts, shop at Colaba and eat there and enjoy sitting out at Gateway of India. The humdrum of people watching the boats in the sea, the children running around, couples eating paani puri and the iconic Taj Hotel in the background, the Gateway is truly a place replete with history. There are the horse carriages too which can take you for a trip around the area.
From Mumbai to Goa, that is another world. Gone are the tall buildings where you neck hurts by looking high up into the sky; here the sky shines bright blue, birds chirp and the fresh breeze and happy people draw you. Watersports, casinos, churches and boat rides– that’s Goa for you. I loved walking around the pier in Goa and took a boat ride which has music, masti, drinks and lots of view. We went around the Mandawa river, experiencing the Portugese style homes and listening to some loud Goan music. The joy ride over, I walked around the market in Panaji, had some yum coconut biscuits at the bakery there, went up the Church and fell in love with the paved side streets. I even bought some ‘I Love Goa’ tees. But the drive in South Goa through the rustling leaves, Goan homes without boundaries, chickens running around, small stores on the road, the lazy life—nothing opens in the day there—was an unforgettable experience.
After the west coast, Chennai was a different world. The language is different, the ocean is a little darker and the air more humid. Though Marina beach is the longest beach there, I liked the Eliot’s beach better. It has less people and the beach restaurants serve awesome fish. There are policemen in the area, so no one misbehaves. There is the famous Velankani church there where The Lady is worshipped with candles, divas, sindoor and like Hindu temples, you need to take off your shoes before entering. A little ahead on the same beach road is the Ashtalaxmi temple. This stretch is lovely in the evening–the breeze whips through your hair; the coconut and vada and idli sellers by the roadside will compel you to stop and take a bite. Every evening, I would watch the fishermen bring in their boats with the catch of the day. The sails come down and the boats are left covered on the shore, as they head home. Some even sit around for a drink with friends.
There’s more to a beach than bikini, sun and sand—it’s called meeting of the elements, where water and land connect to treat you to another realm.
How to reach
http://www.mumbai.org.uk/how-to-reach-mumbai.html gives you a good glimpse of the city. It is easily accessible by air, road and rail.
Check https://www.makemytrip.com/travel-guide/goa/how-to-reach.html to reach Goa which has an airport, good highways and railway station too.
Click to make your choice for getting to Chennai https://www.makemytrip.com/travel-guide/chennai/how-to-reach.html