We spent just shy of a month in Mumbai and had it not been so insanely hot, we could easily have spent longer. We both adore this city and each of the three times we have had to leave it, we have instantly had an urge to go back. Around every corner there seems to lie something new to gawp at, something glorious to eat or an utterly confusing scene to ponder over.
Mumbai is a city full of history, culture and juxtapositions. I’ve yet to visit a place that evokes such a range of emotions over such a short space of time. One minute you feel elated watching a beautiful sunset from the picturesque Marine Drive, the next you’re kicking yourself for being such an asshole and not giving money to a begging child. In a matter of seconds, your eyes can become a little wider and your heart a little more open.
Our first visit to India was arranged by India Someday, an independent travel company helping people to plan their perfect adventures around India. This team of wonderful people literally changed our lives when they helped us to organise our first trip to India.
We wanted to travel independently and in our own way, but since we only had three weeks, we didn’t want to waste any time. Taking things as they come and not having a plan is a great way to travel, but it is a luxury and at a time when we were fitting our trip around work commitments, we knew we had to have a plan. This can be a daunting prospect when visiting India. In a country so huge and so diverse, it can be impossible to know where to start. Even if you’ve been before, just visiting a new state is like visiting a new country. With it comes a whole new set of wonders as well as a whole new set of challenges.
Planning routes can be incredibly time consuming and booking transport can be confusing. Unlike backpacking in other parts of the world, it’s not always possible to rely on transport being available when you need it and so it’s easy to get stuck, say if there are no spaces on a train for days or even weeks. When you’re traveling with time restraints, wasting a couple of days here or there can take a pretty big chunk out of your trip. Initially though, I had intended to join the dots myself. I’d trotted around South America without a plan (for three and a half months) and we’d bumbled around Croatia loads, so surely India would be the same kind of deal. WELL. Let me tell you, it was not. I exhausted all the travel forums I could find about traveling around India and read the lonely planet from back to front, front to back and upside down. Monsoons were getting my head in a spin and other people’s opinions of what to visit were so contradicting that I was just jumping all over the place. I had 21 days and it was just impossible to decide how best to spend them.
With all this in mind I decided it would be a good idea to ask for some help. To bite the bullet and look at organised tours. Nothing wrong with these things but it really wasn’t a style of travel that appealed and the restrictive nature of being with a group 24/7 didn’t seem to suit us. Nonetheless I trawled through the usual sites. The thing they all seemed to have in common was that, WOAH, they were so expensive!
The next thing I searched for was Independent travel agents india. Not exactly profound googling, but I hoped to find a company that might be doing things a little differently. Perhaps someone based in India that could at least offer some advice.
That’s when I stumbled upon our future travel gurus. I fired across an email from Barnet to Bombay and the rest is history…
Over a period of several months, Abbas and Harsh and their team of travel wizzes helped us plan a route around South India that actually worked and were able to suggest amazing accommodation that they had personally stayed in, as well as the most cost-effective way of getting around. Being from Mumbai themselves meant they had a true insight into how things worked. There was lots of back and forth and they never seemed to get irritated with all my questions! Once we had a plan in the bag, they booked the whole lot. From internal flights and first-class train tickets (which need to be booked well in advance) to accommodation. These guys took a huge amount of stress out of everything and meant we got the absolute best possible price for everything. India Someday charge a very reasonable flat fee for their consultancy. In other words, they don’t take commission or add anything onto the cost of anything. The price you pay them for accommodation will be the cheapest available on the net (we checked). Incredibly, they were also on hand throughout the duration of our trip to offer advice or help when we needed it, which we did. Several times.
We had such a great experience with India Someday that we booked another trip with them the following year, this time to explore the North. Once again we were able to backpack around, exploring by ourselves, but without having to depend on India’s often unreliable internet to make bookings and without losing any time waiting for trains.
This year however, our travels are far more open ended and with a fairly good understanding of India, we were able to venture out with a few less plans…We’ve been here for 2 and a half months so far…
The team at India Someday have become dear friends and spending time with our buddies Abbas and Harsh, the co-founders of the company has been one of the absolute highlights of our entire trip. We both feel so passionately about this wonderful company and so grateful for everything they have done for us that we decided to spend much of our time in Mumbai in their office, helping to make videos and blogs, not to mention a bit of painting and decorating!
It was so interesting for us to be in an office environment in India. For Tom who has spent several years commuting to an office in central London, it was remarkable to see how differently things worked Although my line of work hasn’t really taken me to many office environments (except when I did work experience at school and accidentally took a 2 hour lunch break because I went shopping) it was heartwarming to see such a cohesive team of people really working together on something they are all so passionate about. At lunchtime, everyone brought in delicious homemade food which we all sat around and shared. There was no need for tables and chairs and certainly no need for ten quid’s worth of Pret a Manger. Good food and good friends. Lush.
Abbas, Harsh, Sneha, Jhalak, Kadija, Orjus, Rohit, Rahul and Aaliya, WE MISS YOU!!
We have loads more to say about Mumbai…more blogs coming soon!