Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vengurla and Shirda - The last on Maharashtra Coast


Towards the far south of Maharashtra are Vengurla and Shiroda. Vengurla has Sagareshwar beach which is close to heart of the town. There are others like Mochemad and Sagarteerth close by. However the town is not really a tourist destination may be because it is too close to Goa. The language and cuisine here is also closer to Goa (not the Portuguese cuisine but south Goa cuisine). The town has crowded and chaotic roads. But once you cross it; you reach Sagareshwar beach. There is a light house on the hillock towards your right overlooking many small islands in the sea.

Sagareshwar Beach

Sagareshwar Beach

This is mainly a trading town where you would find numerous cashew factories on the way. The cashew here is of really good quality.

To the south of light house is the Beach stretching almost 2 km with white sand & clean blue water. Entire area is calm and quite so if you wish privacy Vengurla can offer it to you besides the fact that it has facilities of a town. Few beach side resorts are present along with MTDC tent resort.

Further down south is Shiroda; which has probably the most isolated beach with almost 3 km long straight stretch of sand and amazing tranquility. The area is so quiet that it makes you introspect. If you wish to sit at a place and think about life or meditate then this is the ideal place. There are few homes where; you can stay. Shiroda is ideal for painters, writers and honeymoon couples who want privacy.

Shiroda Beach

This was our last destination on the Maharashtra coast and we decided to move down to Karnataka. We did not intend to be at Goa as it is too well known, to be explored.

We tried to find out reason as to “why tourists do not come to Shiroda or Vengurla from Goa”; especially the foreigners. And we found that Maharashtra is too expensive as compared to Karnataka. This being a more developed state; labour costs are high and even property costs are also high. People normally believe that Goa is glamorous because of presence of foreigners. However, the foreigner who come to Goa are mainly budget travelers and backpackers. They stay for weeks or months and they have shoe string budgets. They spend much lesser than Indians.

There are many retired Europeans who come to Goa during the month of September and October. They anyway are struggling to make both ends meet with their meager pensions. So they come to Goa during winter; to avoid depressing Europe weather and enjoy pleasant India winter (which is as good as summer for them). They typically take a room on monthly rental of Rs 15000/- and equal amount they spend on food. Thus they end up spending not more than $800/- per month. They stay for 4 months or so and save money form their pension to go back to Europe for summer.

We then decided to go to Goa and find out whether this is true. We reached Goa by evening and stayed at Homestay called Villa Ludo Vici. It was a big nice Portuguese house with open area; located very close to Candolim beach and host lady was really nice and caring. Throughout the next day we met lot of Homestay owners; to find out whether they were interested in promoting their business. We got consistent reply that they do not want Indian tourists; they would rather prefer foreigners who stay for months together. The main reason is that they don’t want hassles of giving service; foreigners do not expect service as they are not used to same; on the other hand Indians demand service.

We were not much interested in spending time at Goa so we decided to move on to Gokarna in Karnataka.

This brings to end our journey of Maharashtra coast.

On the closing note I would like to mention interesting facts about Maharashtra;

From north to south every stretch is famous for certain agricultural product. Starting from north Bordi is famous for Chickoo, Kelwe for betel leaf, Palghar for Jamun(Jambhul), Dive Agar for Betel Nut, Ratnagiri for Mangoes and Vengurla for Cashew. Besides coconuts are there every where. So when you travel to these places please try these products.

Tourists typically go to places which are close by but they are not necessarily the best ones. Now Konkan railway is available so while making plan; make use of this new connectivity to the fullest and you can find really interesting places.

Tourism revenues are mainly come from Mumbai and Pune and thus locations, which are distant to these towns, are not really explored.

There are awesome beaches like Shiroda, Harnai Murud which not many people know. So if you plan to travel next time; try and visit them rather than the usual ones.

Homestay food is excellent especially fish curry; so even if you stay at resort try at least one meal there. There locations are excellent; however rooms are simple. On the whole however the experience is much better than resorts.

While talking to people I found that the less educated a persons listed to you as they do not a carry ego. They also trust you more. So talking to villagers is enlightening.

While we all know about beaches there are mountains of western ghats; which are equally beautiful but nobody has tried to promote them. Ghats of Amboli and Kashedi have tremendous potential for tourism.

The coastal roads are isolated and have nature around at its best so try them at least once. Most recommended is the Murud Janjira to Harnai Murud.

Thanks for reading …

Coming next Gokarna, Murudeshwar and the rocks of Yana…………

for interesting stay options visit, India's biggest portal of homestays..

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sindhudurg - Malvan & Tarkarli

While we started from Ratnagiri to Malvan, we saw these three men walking on the road; they were foreigners so we stopped out of curiosity. I was amazed to find that they were walking from Mumbai to Goa. I asked them what made them walk such long distance in a climate; which they are not used to. And one of them replied “We are not walking for Charity; but we are walking for Clarity”. We were amazed to hear that; but it is true. Almost 10 years back; I had walked in the mountains of Himalayas visiting Vaishnodevi-Yamunotri- Gangotri-Kedarnath-Badrinath; with my colleague and friend Nitin Joshi in just 9 days(109 kms). We had walked during the worst period i.e. August. There were heavy rains and we completed our journey facing landslides; often getting drenched in very low temperatures. Our biggest discovery was that; travel in tough terrains and long exhausting walks are a spiritual experience. We wished them good luck; if you are interested, visit their website

cool dudes of
We took the coastal route and first went to Kashedi. There is a temple of Kanakaditya here. It is very old sun temple and is famous for is interiors. The pillars made of wood so strong that hundreds of years of saline weather could not damaged them. Roof is of interlocked wooden beams, in the ceiling are statues of gods carved in wood (see picture). It is amazingly intricate work and don’t miss to visit this temple.

Wooden statues of gods in the ceiling

Wooden pillars- painted, hence dont look like wood

Roof interlocked wooden beams

We also went to Purangadh, it’s a nice spot but the sea is rocky and if you wish privacy go there else nothing much to see.


We reached Malvan; towards late in the evening and I tried to locate my friend of school days, Rahul Pantwalawalkar. Going against the popular trend; Rahul had learnt Ayurvedic Medicine and settled in Malvan; leaving behind is big home at Dadar- Hindu Colony; one of the most prime and popular localities of Mumbai(people who are from Mumbai can appreciate magnitude of this change). I had no clue as to where he stays and I decided to speak to Chemists as they would most likely know a Doctor. I found first chemist and he told me that his clinic is at the other end of the town; but also told me not to worry and keep asking direction for Dr Pantwalawalkar’s clinic; which everybody would know. I was skeptical, but to my surprise everybody knew it. I amazed by his popularity.
I reached clinic and filled the slip; which is given to every patient and waited in the queue. I entered his room and he asked “yes, what is the problem?” I looked at him and smiled and he stared back at my face for few moments; and screamed “arey, you Kishor!” after so long time. We hugged each other spoke for few minutes and then again I waited again outside for him to complete his work.

We then chatted for till late in the night, he is one of the most popular doctors in the town. Meeting him is a pleasure as he radiates tremendous energy(he even speaks too fast).
I had visited Malvan before and stayed at Tarkarli, one of the most popular beaches of Malvan. However, Rahul told me that I should try Chivala Beach this time. We went to Chivala beach and stayed with Prof. Prasanna Mayekar. By the time we reached it was dark, I could see the waves hitting the beach in front of his home and could hear roar of the sea.

We went out for dinner and came back and slept. The next day morning we got up at 5.30 a.m. and decided to go on the beach for a stroll, as soon as I stepped out; what I saw was one of the most beautiful scenes in front of my eyes.

The beach was not more than 50 mtrs from our room, it was a 2 km long stretch of the sand, in form of an arch; with not more than 10 fishermen. I had stayed at Tarkarli before; but this was something very different. We were staying at 15 minutes walk from heart of Malvan town and still the beach was so secluded and private. Only seasoned travelers know about this beach; the rest go to Tarkarli.

Chivala Beach

If you are a family and wish to avoid crowd, especially if women of the family want privacy while going in the sea; then this is the most recommended beach. If you are a honeymoon couple; then lso this is the most recommended place. Entire stretch of 2 km is at your disposal with white sand and clear water and absolutely no human beings making it as good as your private beach. Do stay at Mr Mayekar’s or Mr Ram Patil’s place they are right on the beach(visit to locate and book these places).
We moved to Sindhudurg fort after breakfast. It is an amazing fort in the middle of the sea. Rocky surroundings make it difficult for enemy boats to reach giving added protection to the fort.
This is among the last of the big forts in the chain almost 65 forts (small and big- ranging from North to South) that Chhatrapati Shivaji built along the coast of Maharashtra. The fort sprawling over 45 acres was built in record time of 3 years (1664 to 1667).

There are 42 bastions to the fort along the boundary wall. The wall is built with Mixture of jaggery, lime, udad dal(lentils) and molten lead. It is so strong that after facing strong waves for centuries they are still intact. There are three sweet water wellss namely Dhudhbaon, Dahibaon and Sakharbaon (baon means “well” in Konkani the native lanugage). Besides there are temples of Bhawani, Mahadev(Shiva), Mahapurush and Shivarajeshwar. Shivarajeshwar, is temple of Shivaji, built by his son Rajaram. This is also the only fort where palm and foot print of Shivaji, taken in lime mortar are preserved. These were taken when he came to visit the fort after its completion.
In front of the Mahadev temple is a small well and apparently there is a secret tunnel from inside the well(local legent). This tunnel goes few Kilometers under the sea and comes out on land. It was used as escape route, in times of trouble. You can see the opening in the picture; but where exactly it leads; is not known as excavation is yet to be done.
This fort again shows foresight of Shivaji; who had predicted that enemy will not only come from land but also from sea and hence building forts is necessary. Given the fact that, later British used the same route speaks of this wisdom.
Our guide told us very interesting story about construction of the fort. While this fort was being constructed, Shivaji had to go Agra to meet Aurangzeb who put him under house arrest. The reins of kingdom were with his mother in his absence. But obvious in such situation; money was falling short and his mother Jijabai gave token currency to workers with a promise that once Shivaji is back, everybody would be paid. Later the money was paid. But the saying came that “ye killa(fort) Kavadiyon ke Mole mein bana hai”

View of the fort from Boat

Well in front of Mahadeve Temple - opening of the tunnel can be seen

We came back and had lunch. We then moved on to see the surrounding area. We went northwards on coastal road to Aachare and then to Kunakeshwar.

There are some very interesting places on the way; which not many tourists know about. Once you leave Malvan at approx 5 km is Ozar. Don’t miss to spend time at Brahmanand Swami Samadhi here. It’s a small valley with a fresh water pond, a cave where swami stayed and some very old trees. The environment is blessed with absolute tranquility and is prefect for meditation.

Caves where Swami stayed

Old trees

We spend some time over there and then moved on to Aachare to see Rameshwar Temple. It’s more than 600 year old temple of Shiva with wooden pillars and ceiling. The pillars are big and carving is delicate. The pillars are painted and hence at first glance you don’t really understand that they appear to be cement or stone ones. We spent some time in the temple; speaking to the priest. He was delighted to know that we are travelers and not tourists. Even, he was fond of travelling and just few months back he had come back from Kashmir. The beach at Aachare is nice and secluded so if you are want to read/write a book or generally ponder on life then this is a recommended place.

Wooden pillates with carvings

Wooden ceiling

We then moved on to Kunakeshwar. The temple here is famous and was undergoing renovation. The town is like any other temple town; with crowded roads, lot of noise and dirt. I personally did not like this place much. It was already dark and we did not spend much time there. We started journey back to Malvan.

The next day we got up and went on a stroll on the beach. We then met people from the town who are running homestays. Ghar Mithbawakaranche is the oldest operator here and is famous for food. They chatted with us for some time. We then went on to meet Balu Padwal of Visava. Later we met Mr Khanvilakar of Ya-hoo hometel and many others. Their stories are worth reading (most of which are not told by them; but it is our research). They are mentioned here and I urge you to read on; as it not only the beach and sea that make a place interesting but tourism is about people and knowing their stories; is to know real India.
MTDC started effort of marketing Tarkarli with setting up a resort. At that time there was nothing in that town. Mr Mithbavkar, a locale from the village started as canteen contractor (I don’t think MTDC would have been able to get any outsider that time as business was not great). MTDC resort became famous for two reasons one its location and second its food. Mithbavkar operated the canteen till 2007 but in 2008 the property was privatized and his contract was discontinued; it is also suspected that there was political interference in the deal. Thus, the man who helped develop tourism and is a local lost his job and somebody outsider got it courtesy government body which was supposed to protect them. He is now operating his homestay and the food is still a big hit.
Balu, is absolutely forthcoming and blunt; which is why I liked him. If you go to Malvan make it a point to meet him. He started his life with selling Jambhul(Jamun) in a crate in front of MTDC resort gate. He started interacting with tourists and came to know that they need somebody as guide. He then started working as guide to them. This made him understand tourist psyche and preferences. From little money he had; he then started a homestay. He has now bought a boat and he plans to start backwater cruise(what a dream for guy who is not trained by anybody).
Mr. Khanvilkar was working working at Mumbai. There was lock-out in his company; he went back to Malvan to start a homestay as means of livelihood. He knew benefit of getting organized and hence formed association of homestay operators. They regularly meet and learn from each other.
Homestays are thus symbols of grit, survival instinct, innovation and commitment. It is better to support their dream of the future; than to throw money at some resort and buy luxury; raw material to which is cheap labour of locals, exploitation by people in power and dirty capital.
We spent evening on Tarkarli beach with plans to start for Vengurla in the morning…..

Coming up next Vengurla; then Gokarna and Murudeshwar ………………keep reading and keep giving feedback…

friend while you read this blog; two my fellow friends(jasleen and amit) are participating in mitsubishi driving challenge. they are the most lovely couple one can find on earth... vote for them by clicking link below....