May 15 2012

Bassein Fort, Vasai, Maharashtra

Roochster

Bassein Fort, also known as Vasai Fort has existed since donkey’s years and it’s so sad that most of us living in Mumbai haven’t even heard about it; or thought of going and seeing it but never really made the effort to venture out. I discovered the fort only 2 yrs ago with Fash but unfortunately had to come back after half seeing it because of a stupid problem I had with my stomach that day! Luckily, I had a chance to go there again with a group of friends that too cause one of them stays at Vasai.

Historical Importance– Bahadur Shah, a Mughal Emperor had built the Bassein Fort in the 1530s. The Portuguese came, conquered and destroyed most of it a year after it was built and started a town which was also used as a trade center for various materials. After that, in the 1700s, the Marathas took over. In the 1800s the British came and conquered it for a hundred years more until in 1917 it was finally declared by the government of Bombay as its own ancient monument that must be preserved. Let’s just say we’re lucky enough to see atleast whatever little exists of it which is a big deal in itself, especially because you wont find tight security like you do at any other popular tourist place.

How to get there? The simplest, fastest and most economical way to get to Vasai Fort would be to get to Churchgate Station, take a train that goes to Virar and get off at Vasai which would be about an hour in a fast train. The train ticket would cost you less than Rs. 10 I think. From there you can take a bus which would cost around Rs. 7 or a rickshaw which would cost more than 60 bucks for sure. If you have your own vehicle, I’ll just say it’s very far from town, around 50 kms. If you’re coming from Pune or some other place, please Google your way there! 😛

What can you expect to see there? The moment you’ll enter the fort area you’ll be surrounded by the beauty of the massive stone structures made thousands of years ago! It’s in a state of ruins but that’s because the government hasn’t really looked after preserving it and when you go there, you’ll find barely any people there, no security or any kind of touristy feel because as I said, not many people know about it. The fort has broken-down churches and huge stone walls with beautiful Portuguese carvings. If you walk down further, you’ll be led to a jetty and a lovely view of the sea! If you’re into doing adventurous things, do try climbing the fort walls. It’s definitely not my thing cause I am a fattu when it comes to doing these things but I’m sure you’ll love it!

Food/Accommodation– There’ll be a nimbu pani/cold drinks guy from whom you can buy something to quench your thirst. If you’re hungry I’ll suggest you carry your own food or go after you’ve finished eating a heavy meal. There might be restaurants within a 2 kms radius which can be easily found otherwise. If you’re coming from far, I suggest you go there in the morning, leave by afternoon and stay somewhere in proper Mumbai.

So yes, Bassein Fort should definitely be on your awesome getaway list because it is a beautiful getaway you must visit as a Mumbaikar!

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May 7 2012

Elephanta Caves (Gharapuri), Maharashtra

Roochster

I’m a typical Arien who needs something or the other to keep me going all the time and so I get pretty random and crazy ideas when I’m bored. I had made up my mind on Friday night that I have to do something exciting to get out of my daily school routine. Basically, I needed to do something different and so; I decided to go to Elephanta Caves! After making some last minute calls on Friday night, Fash agreed to come and I was super excited to finally get out and do something ‘different’ from the usual. Saturday was one such impulsive day and I honestly don’t regret it.

How to get to Elephanta Caves? Simple. Go to Gateway of India (Mumbai), buy tickets for the ferry to go to Elephanta. They’ll be available at the entrance and priced at Rs. 130 for a return journey to Elephanta and back. If you want to go on the upper deck, its Rs. 10 extra. Mondays closed. It takes a little more than an hour to reach so make sure you carry some sweet or something in case you’re the type who gets sea sick. Once you reach the island, there’s a mini train ride that costs Rs. 10 to drop you to the entrance of the Elephanta market leading to the caves.

The Journey– Before the market, you have to pay Rs. 5 as tax to enter the island properly. The market goes uphill towards the main entrance for the caves. You’ll find everything from Indian accessories to bags to tshirts to show pieces to leaf paintings to pretty wind chimes to what not! Oh yes, you’ll also find lots of monkeys so DO NOT buy corn on your way up because you wont be able to eat even 3 bites before a monkey comes and intimidates you and snatches your corn away! That happened to both me and Fash! These monkeys are big bullies! They even snatch bottles of water! To reach the top, it took us about 20 mins or so because there were so many steps!

The entry fee is Rs. 10 for adults and Rs. 250 for foreigners. Really sad! I wish the government wouldn’t be so shameless! Anyway, so then you walk ahead and you’ll find the first cave which is the main and the best cave. There are beautifully carved stone sculptures of Shiva and other Gods. They’re all works of art and it’s amazing how people had so much time thousands of years ago that they created such beautiful things for us to see. You’ll find 3-4 other caves ahead but they’re all incomplete and not as lovely. You might get a little bored after seeing the first 2 caves but make sure you see all of them since you don’t get to go to Elephanta Caves very often!

Food– After seeing all the caves, we decided to have some nimbu pani made by a local lady which was quite nice, especially in the garmi. And then Fash had some ‘Chicken Freiad rice’ (as it said at the small restaurant in the market where we ate) and we both had Fresh Lime Soda which was quite bad! I chose not to eat cause I was having a major Mc Donald’s craving so decided to go there once we reached Gateway. I bought corn on the way back though, once we crossed the marketplace (where the stupid monkeys were). So we had left at 10am from Gateway of India and were back by 3 in the afternoon.

Overall, it was a good trip. Not a ‘wow’ place but definitely worth visiting especially if you’re a Mumbaikar or if you haven’t seen the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad which are way better than the Elephanta caves for sure!

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