See My India

“My mum is very upset. I forgot to send her a message last night to say I was fine. Despite the fact I left home 8 years ago and lived in 3 different cities in two different countries since, she is currently very worried. When I was living in London, we would chat once a week or less, but since I’ve touched Indian soil, she has been extremely worried. Do you know why? Because there is this pre-concept/rumour/urban legend in the Western world of India being extremely dangerous for female travellers, the impossibility to walk on the streets without being sexually harassed (there is harassment, but of another type which I will discuss on my blog later this week….), of men touching you without permission or various other risks for women. So, my mum, for the first time in 8 years, requests me to keep her constantly updated of my movements: morning, afternoon and evening.. That’s why, even being the least tech mom I know, she is on Snapchat now 😅 My mum, and many, many other people around the world think of #India as a scary country – thanks to the media btw – but I’m here to try and destroy this idea forever. I’ve been asked by a few local people here to help spreading the word so, here I am to do so as I desperately want the world to know that – if you are smart enough and respect the local culture – India IS safe. It’s been only two weeks, so maybe too early for such a statement, but let’s see if I will have to change my mind or not. I’m willing to take this challenge on. #letschangewhattheworldthinksofIndia

This is something I wrote on my Instagram 45 weeks ago while I was travelling around Rajasthan and the rest of India. Back then, I was still at the very beginning of my three-month Indian tour that would later take me to eleven states of that beautiful country. Fast forward to today and I still stand for what I wrote back then. My trip and adventure around India was just filled with the most incredible memories and experiences and despite whatever the media says, I’ve always felt safe and secure.

My mission to change what the world thinks of India hasn’t stopped when I left the country back in December. In fact, I’ve started a solitary campaign to address the questions and the doubts of all my friends, relatives and whomever was asking my opinion. I have kept this cause close to my heart – as I’ve always hated prejudice, racism and stereotypes – with the hope that more and more people interested in the Indian culture would finally leave their fears behind and just go.

https://www.instagram.com/p/91eSUnsQ1d/?tagged=thestoryteller_inindia


It was with immense humbleness and excitement that I have accepted the role of brand ambassador and testimonial for F5 Escapes,
an alternative travel company, based in Bangalore, India with a vision to redefine the way women travel India. Their goal – like mine – is to make India a preferred destination for women travellers from across the globe.

Their next tour leaves in November and in 18 days you will have the unique opportunity to explore some of the most amazing places in India all in the safety and comfort of trusty hands. I couldn’t  recommend F5 Escapes or this specific tour strongly enough. What you have to do is to drop me a comment below letting me know you are interested and I will send you all the info and put you in touch directly with one of the amazing F5 Escapes girls. For a very convenient price you can witness and experience the best that India has to offer and I am sure will be amazed by this incredible country.

5 FACTS ABOUT F5 ESCAPES: 

  • 3 years in operation
  • Incorporated in India as Zingara Solutions Pvt. Ltd
  • 250+ trusted vendor network across India for end to end logistics support
  • 600+ customers – Indians and expats
  • 100+ tours – groups and customized itineraries

See My India #3

A photo posted by See My India © (@see_my_india) on

THE F5 ADVANTAGES:

  • Experience with flights ticketing
  • Experience handling international women travellers
  • Good industry connects for seamless end to end logistics
  • Local tour leads from different parts of India know their land like the back of their hand
  • Well-researched, destinations already executed with current set of women customers

THE TOUR

The Itinerary

  • 17nights/18days (departing in November / January / February and March)
  • Delhi – Agra – Amritsar – Dhramshala – Rajasthan – Kerala – Delhi
  • A glimpse of desert, Himalayas, beaches and backwaters at a moderate pace

If you wish to know more about the tour or F5 Escapes, please feel free to drop me an email to sabrina.andrea.sachs@gmail.com or leave me a comment below.
You can also check more of my Indian shot here and you are still in time to pre-order a copy of your “See My India”, a photo memoir of my travels there here.

Take a dip into the Maximum City

mumbai_taj

A weekend in Mumbai is not going to be enough to take a true dip into the maximum city, probably a week or a month won’t work either. But maybe this could just be enough time to get your head around why this metropolis is still so cool and why Bombay (as it was called till 1947) keeps attracting million visitors from every corner of the world every year. Hopefully my final Indian CREED* is going to show you why, give you a hint or hopefully make you book your flight there.
If you missed my previous guides, you can easily access them on my past posts. Make the most of it! 🙂

The thing about Mumbai is you go five yards and all of human existence is revealed. It’s an incredible cavalcade of life, and I love that.
Julian Sands

Mumbai is huge, filled with dreamers of all age, colour, race and religion. It is also full of real movie stars and starlets, mafia bosses and soldiers, millionaires and the poorest people in the world.

Mumbai is a city of contrast and nonsense, where a superficial look would be dangerous as well as useless. If you start your Indian trip from here, please be ready, the pollution and noise can be unbearable, the harassment by street vendors unsustainable, the amount and insistence of beggars totally out of control. But. Hold on and take the jump anyway. Mumbai is also a treasure of Portuguese-influenced architecture, secret temples, a crazy nightlife and an exploding food culture.
Mumbai is life. And you only if you are truly alive you can grasp its essence.

Here’s your:

Mumbai’s Creed

COFFEE

Birdsong Organic Cafe
A lovely cafe in Bandra, serving delicious Jacket potato. Apparently their hot chocolate is also delicious, I didn’t try as it was above 30 degrees when I was there 🙂

The Pantry
Perfect place for a generous breakfast made of granola and yoghurt for me and creamy waffle for my travel companion. Cappuccino is pretty good by Indian standards.

Kala Ghoda Cafe
I found this tiny, little coffee shop by chance while trying to get lost in the Colaba / Fort / Churchgate triangle. Espresso was very good and we had a nice little bite there too, however the staff needs to step their game up. Big time. On top of being quite rude (I wanted to sit upstairs, but I was forced to stay downstairs as one customer  was already up?) and the general attitude was very far from welcoming. When asked the wi-fi password we were abruptly told it was only available for about half hour as lunch time was about to start. I get it when cafes do that as they are open to make money, no to serve coffees to freelance workers who are bored to work from home but, firstly, they could have told us in a nicer way, secondly as we were consuming both food and drinks for about an hour and needed the internet for our on-the-road jobs, would have been quite good if we could use our laptops while eating right?
I was quite uncomfortable as they disconnected the line while I was in the middle of sending an important email.So, you might be wondering why on earth I’ve added Kala Rhoda in my coffee list, right? Well, the truth is that it is very hard to find good coffee in India so if you are looking for your daily caffeine dose, then head here, but only for a brief stop or even better, for a take away. Don’t go there to hang out with your friends or family as they will make you feel rushed or forced to make an order.[Photo Credits: Bobby Joshi]

Colaba Social
I’ve been raving about Social in Delhi and Bangalore, so I had to try the Mumbai venue too, right? Well expect for the temperature which probably was below zero due to the centralised A/C (and my double request to switch if off), it was another delicious breakfast with a elvis toast and nicely done cappuccino.[Photo Credits: Bobby Joshi]

READ

Mumbai is like heaven for bookworms like me. My five days there were like a torture as I couldn’t buy or carry any book in my backpack and I had to fight the temptations constantly.

Strand Book Stall

The city is filled with bookstalls everywhere, it’s almost impossible to walk for more than half a mile without bumping into yet another guy selling new and old books on the street. Especially near parks and stations. I loved it, even if it tortured me! LOL! On top of street vendors, there are also famous and less-known libraries and bookstores you should check out. Strand Book Stall was one of my favourites
Address: 15-C, Dhannur Building, Sir P.M. Road, Borabazar Precinct, Fort, Mumbai

David Sassoon Library
I found this beautiful library completely by chance as I was randomly walking on the Esplanade. Unfortunately, it is only open to members and you know me, I love everything that has to do with books, so I was desperately curious to enter and I offered a coffee bribe to the guardian to let me in, but he politely refused and offered me the option to buy a membership instead. Despite my strong, strong curiosity, I could not afford to spend 55,000 rupies for a couple of hours in a library, however I would suggest you to do so if you are planning to stay in Mumbai longer. I only managed to take the sneaky shot below, but I would have loved to run upstairs and see the rest of that book collection (possibly with the guardian shouting at me, that would be an experience worth doing!!).

Central Library
I had the Central Library on my list for almost two months as I had seen pictures of it and I was excited to finally be in the city to photograph it myself. Well, I did, but from the outside only. The building was under restoration and all the books were transferred in a miserable tent next to it. My heart broke, I have to admit, and I was quite pissed as there were no notice on their website or Facebook page. Anyway, would you do me a favour and go when it re-opens and show me how it looks like from the inside? Thanks! 🙂

Books

EXPLORE

Jehangir Art Gallery
This is a strange gallery, or at least it was when I went there. The floor was scattered with cardboard boxes and pieces of tapes, the first floor was closed to the public, despite the timetable said the opposite. Regardless, there was a very fascinating drawing and painting exhibition in the main room on the ground floor. I don’t know much about it as there were no information or leaflets.

Go to see a Bollywood movie
There are dozen of old and new cinemas in Bombay and you will have to pick the challenge to select one for your Bollywood vibe. Remember that most movies are in Hindi, but having experienced first hand, I can tell you that the dance, the expressions and the music are worth the ticket, even if you won’t understand a word!

Or…Be an extra in a Bollywood movie!
If you follow my Facebook page  you should already know that when I was in Mumbai, I was approached by a scout to take part as an extra in Bollywood movie. Unfortunately, I had plans that day and I had to refuse, but I will certainly accept next time I’ll go to Bombay. I’ve done some research for you and in fact it wasn’t something unusual or unique.. you can do it too! You can read the amazing story of a backpacker turned “actor” here. If you want 10 minutes of  Bollywood fame, my tip is to wander around Colaba where scouts are fishing  for Westerns to feature in local movies almost every day. Can’t wait to see you all in one! 🙂

Dhobi Ghats
This is also known as one of the largest open-air laundry in Asia and in fact, looking at it from the bridge that takes you there, it can easily be the largest in the world. The Dhobis, or washers, work in the open to wash clothes from hotels, hospitals and some privates.
It’s a maze of concrete wash pools, each fitted with its own flogging stone where men of all age are at work from morning to evening. Why, are you wondering they wash things this way? Well, that was also my question and it seems they use chemical products that are hard to find or dangerous to obtain such sparkling results.

The Other Mumbai: Dharavi Slum
Since before reading Shantaram and other books about India, I knew I was going to visit the largest slum in Asia one day. I didn’t know I would visit it in the vest of an ambassador for the best not-for-profit organisation around, Reality Gives. With the guys of RG I managed to learn about the live in the slum, its economy, culture and community sense. I was expecting to hear horror stories and to fall into pieces, but in fact the story is different and I highly suggest you to book a tour too via the link above. Please note that photography is not normally permitted to respect the privacy of the people who live there.

Sir JJ College of Architecture
One of the things I love the most, as mentioned already many times, it’s to go with the flow and get lost in a new city. So, when walking down Dadabhai Naoroji Road, I saw the gates of the Sir JJ College of Architecture opened, I could not stop myself to go inside for a quick peak. And hey, wasn’t one of the best things in Mumbai? There was a college cerebration going on, but other sculpture artists were busy with their creations in the garden, while the painting class were drawing two old men lying on the floor. Students and teachers made us feel most welcome and explained to us many things I did not know about the art and the Indian university system. If you get a change, try and get inside too.

Dhabba Walla
These are Six Sigma foodies. While I was in Mumbai, thanks to Shanti travel, I got to experience first hand another magic of the city that never sleeps: the Dabbawallas in action. It all started about 125 years back when a Parasi banker wanted to have home cooked food regularly in his office and gave this responsibility to the first ever Dabbawala. Other people also liked the idea and the demand for Dabba delivery soared and it still remain alive today. Even Richard Branson was so impressed that he came all the way to India to witness these guys’ delivery system in action and I couldn’t miss my chance either! They have been shifting dabba (lunch boxes) from Mumbai suburbs into the city’s office with less than one mistake in every six million deliveries, for this reason they have been awarded the Six Sigma  certificate and yes, that is without any computer or software in place! To watch them live too, get in touch with Shanti Travels and arrange your visit too.

Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sandhralaya
There are very few museums or memorial places in the world where my heart sunk and I felt as I was touching a piece of history with my own eyes. One was Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam and the second the WWII memorial in Berlin. Now, in Mumbai, Mahatma Gandhi’s house gave me the same feeling for its powerful photographic and video journey as well as his intact room on the first floor. If you don’t believe in soul, maybe a place like this will change your mind, because there, I felt as Bapu was still alive.

Mumbai CST
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly  known as Victoria Terminus (VT), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which serves also serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. From the inside and the outside, the Gothic influence mixed with the Mughal architecture is clearly visible and this improbable juxtaposition makes it a grand building overall. Built in 1887, it is one of the busiest railway stations in India: take care!!

EAT

Leopold Cafe
Does this place really need a introduction? Everybody knows about Leopold Cafe, right? If you don’t, read this
Leopold, as it is popularly referred to be one of the city’s oldest restaurants in Mumbai, India. It has created its own heritage and legacy into the food business since ages… To call it a restaurant, it would be demeaning as an institution since it has become a landmark in Mumbai as it is the preferred place both for local Indians and foreign tourists. Founded in 1871, Leopold is open from morning 7:30am till midnight. It boasts of a varied and eclectic clientele. The interiors are very much like a european cafe and the food is so scrumptious and delicious, you’ll want for more and more and more!!!! Whether it’s lunch, Sunday brunch or an evening spent with friends drinking.

Salt Water Cafe
This lovely restaurant came highly recommended to me by my local friends and once I got there I understood why. The menu is filled with delicious local and international dishes and the wood-filled venue itself is also very lovely. The only issue was that once inside it was freezing. Everybody in fact looked like their were having their meal in a refrigerator and despite having asked them twice they couldn’t turn off the A/C. Remember to bring a jumper and a scarf, there is nothing worst than feeling cold while eating.

JamJar
A super cool restaurant in an up-and-coming area of Mumbai that reminds me of Dalston in London. The food was good and coffee was not bad either.Staff is super friendly, but what is the key factor here is the beautifully Gaudi-inspired terrace and the quirky indoor design.
A must-visit, especially for those foodie instagramers on the hunt for cool restaurant to add to their gallery.

Elco Pani Puri Center
A very popular stop for Indian families for Pani Puri on every day of the week. It was a Wednesday lunch time and there was a 45-minutes wait when we went, but it was totally worth it! If you go, make sure to ask advice about the most amazing dishes to your neighbours tables: we did so and soon enough with a table covered by the most delicious local food ever.

DREAM

I’ve been one of the earlier fan of Airbnb for a long time, so whenever I feel tired of hotels and resorts,  I try to find a nice little accommodation where I can pretend to have a house for a couple of days. Even in Mumbai, Airbnb didn’t fail to meet my standards. If you also want to start airbnb-ing, why don’t you sign us using this link? It will give £14 credit to you and £14 to me when you travel.
So, it’s a win-win strategy for both of us, right?

Gallery