bucket list


Bucket list, (subheading) Tours, #1: Reality Tours and Travel — 1 Day Village Tour. Cross.

It’s my last three and an half months in Mumbai. I’m counting my last days, and pushing myself to explore, travel, photograph and write. Yesterday, I took the Chinchonea one-day village tour with Krishna, Assam, Christine and Matthew. This coincided with the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge, where the assignment is to share photos that mean down to us.

Special thanks to Krishna, our faithful guide who was very knowledgeable about Chinchoea because he has a close relationship with the community and is giving back to them. Krishna is also part owner of Reality Tours and Travels, which I highly recommend for travelers who want to get to know Mumbai and its outskirts.

Without further ado, this is my journey to Chinchoea from the down perspective.

Caught the 6:28 train from Goregaon East to Churchgate. My ratty Mizunos are still red from the Matheran soil.

Heading out of the Churchgate station.

Quick bathroom stop at the Taj Mahal Hotel. There are only squat loos in the village.

Waiting for Assam by the Gateway of India ferry ticket stalls.

Boarded the ferry.

Visited a public high school where many villagers send their children.

The rickshaw dropped us by the Chinchoea faucet, which the community relies on for water.

A lady fed us lunch in her home. It's an Indian custom to leave your shoes outside before entering a home.

Lunch was served on the floor made out of soil and dung.

The villagers sundry rice. Then they grind it into powder to make rice roti, which is called "bakri".

Papad, an Indian appetizer made from ground lentils, is being dried under the sun.

Chinchoea means "tamarind" in the villagers' native language. Tamarind trees abloom proliferate the land.

We walked through rice paddies. It's now the dry season in Maharashtra. The paddies will be water-filled again during the monsoon season, which starts in June.

Many of the rice fields are strategically burnt. The villagers believe that ash acts an organic fertilizer which can be mixed with the soil. Afterwards, other crops can be grown in the field.

View from the Chinchoea fields.

Krishna and Kulpi catch fish from a mini-pond.

Brickmakers from the Adivasi tribal community, travel down from their community to Chinchoea. They mold bricks from mud and water under the unforgiving rays of the sun.

We took a rickshaw up the hill to visit the Adivasi tribal community. We weren't sure if they would welcome us or not. But we walked around the village, smiled and tried to initiate play with the children. These are cashew nuts, a staple in their diet.

The children of the Adivasi tribal community.

This was a powerful trip for me. I’m struggling for time and energy, but I sincerely want to write a travel piece about this experience. For now, let it suffice to say that this trip has given me perspective. I have no right to complain about my petty little issues. I have everything I need and more.

Gratitude, forgiveness and peace is a choice I will make everyday.

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I’ve been craving for travel, I’ve been craving for beef, I’ve been craving for a little taste of home. Busaba, one of the restaurants in my bucket list.

Busaba serves memorable pan-Asian cuisine while retaining a hip vibe…Burmese khao suey, Korean bipimbap and bulgogi, Tibetan momos and Thai lime chilly fish are favorites, my Time Out guide informed me.

Busaba is located in one of the side streets of Colaba, in a building with an old facade. It was Sunday lunch time when I entered and I was surprised to see that no one was there–a luxury in Mumbai! The staff were very friendly and accommodating (well, if the ratio is five servers to one customer they should be!) and the interior is modern, in contrast to the facade, and beautiful. They have some purple walls, with lamps and orchids placed strategically on window ledges.

I sat by a window that had a pretty view of, ironically, a garage.

The interior reminded me of some restaurants in Manila. I know I talk a lot about Manila, but I can’t help it. It’s where I’m from and I admit to missing the variety of international food choices that I had back home. Forgive me for diverting a bit here. In Manila, you can walk into a shopping complex that offers Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian and American food. It’s something I’ve taken for granted. By now, I am used to the food choices in Mumbai and have picked my “comfort food” places which are mostly Indian food, specifically parathas, chicken shwarmas and chicken tandoori. Yum yum! But at this point in time, I’m glad that I’m forcing myself out of my comfort zone, and discovered Busaba, which brought brought back memories of another comfort zone–Manila! 🙂

“Bulgogi and steamed rice,” I told the waiter as I slammed the menu shut. Of course I’m going to have bulgogi. I haven’t had bulgogi in more than a year. My mom used to cook it at home and it was a common food choice in many Manila fast food restaurants.

“Where are you from, Madame?” the head waiter asked me.

“I’m from the Philippines.” But I have an Indian passport and my Mom is very mixed, a mutt!, is the usual tagline I follow with, almost apologizing for the fact that I don’t seem to represent the country where I’m from.

“You don’t look like you’re from the Philippines,” he commented.

“Yes, I know.” I smiled back. I was relieved from having to further explain myself as my bulgogi arrived.

My yummy bulgogi!

The waiter served me the rice and poured some sauce over it. Then he served me the beef and red concoction in a small sauce bowl.

“Korean chili paste, Madame.”

I am usually averse to spice, but these days I want to try new things, so I spread some of the chili paste on the beef and sampled the recipe, which reminded me of home, the recipe which I haven’t eaten in so long!

I chewed and savored the juices of the beef, and the softness of the rice. At first, it reminded me of the pre-made marinated beef bulgogi that you buy in frozen packs. Oh my!, I laughed to myself. I just spent 600 bucks on a TV dinner!

But the chili paste added another dimension to the dish. It was spicy but not the type that makes you cry. Instead, it just prickled my tongue, and the memory of paste combined with the doused rice and beef, is now making me crave for it more and more.

The Korean chili paste was unbelievable!

The serving was big so I had it packed thinking I could finish it off the next day. But I had it for an early dinner, and I had it again for a late dinner. I couldn’t stop thinking about and eating the yummy bulgogi!

Busama is more expensive than most restaurants in Mumbai, and I’m suspecting that this is the reason why it was empty on a Sunday afternoon. For the bulgogi, rice, iced tea and tip, I spent 1000 rupees.

Was it worth it? Yes yes yes! Will I go back? Definitely, this time to try a Japanese or Thai dish.

If you’re interested in visiting Busaba the address is–
4 Mandlik Road, Colaba , Mumbai

Contact number: 22043769, 22043779, 22043772

Sometimes I have moments when I see the city through a painter’s eye. That night, that Friday night, was one of those moments, moments torn out of a novel’s pages, hazy, foggy, dreamy. Romantic painterly Mumbai.

Days ago, I signed up for Reality Tour‘s one day village tour. Didn’t get it.

“Sorry, it’s only Krishna who does the tour and he’s busy this Saturday,” Evelyn, the efficient coordinator of Reality Tours explained.

Sigh. What will I do this weekend? Twiddle twiddle thumbs. Of course! The bucket list the bucket list! The bucket list that’s keeping me sane these last months as I wrestle with holding on to the days, the bits of Mumbai seconds that are left, and look forward to being with B again, honey, love of my life.

“Evelyn, is your Mumbai by night tour available on Friday?”

“Yes, it’s available everyday.”

Which brings me to Bade Miya, then the brisk walk to the Regal Theatre as I waited for Dinesh, our tour guide.

Dinesh explaining the entertainment available at Chowpatty Beach

I was there at 6:37. My legs always rushing, always ahead of time. Of course, Dinesh wasn’t there, so I strolled the Colaba Causeway, entered my favorite bookstore, mindlessly scanning books I would never buy. I’m in transition which translates into intolerance for baggage.

Word Search, Colaba Causeway

So follows the brisk walk back to the Regal Theatre, where a European couple asks the ice-cream vendor for the bathroom’s location. I directed them to Cafe Coffee Day. “The bathrooms are clean there. Mumbai standards.”

Dinesh arrived, the couple returned, and little did I know that they would be my tour mates. I should’ve written their names down but sometimes I’m hard of hearing and too embarrassed to ask people to keep repeating themselves. I think his name was Glance, and hers something like Aulala. He was Danish, she Polish. She moved to Denmark for him.

Our first stop was Chowpatty Beach, home to beach fairs and family picnics. Beautiful. Quiet. Breezy. Empty–Mumbai standards. Men in packs with scooters donning bright neon lights. Street side toys, fans spinning, glow lights.

“Over there they sell the popular Mumbai street food. But I wouldn’t recommend it for you guys because you might get a bad stomach,” Dinesh explained.

I rushed to the street food, taking photos, trying balance not being too invasive and making sure I consider Glance’s and Aulala’s time.

Pav Bhaji, a mixture of tomato puree, green bell pepper, potatoes, cauliflower, butter, masala and other spices. It's usually eaten with bread. I admit to being whimp at eating street food because I've gotten a bad stomach from the stuff.

Syrups used for ice gola, which is basically shaved ice with syrup.

We walked near the water but didn’t touch it. Dinesh explained that the beach fairs would be in full blast on Saturdays and Sundays, and I plotted my return to the beach some time next month. We waited for our four wheel drive on the Chowpatty Road and I admired the art deco buildings sprawled in front of us.

Mumbai by night was illuminated by yellow lights, and this somehow covered the ruins and lack of restoration of the century old buildings. It somehow looked prettier at night, buildings glowing, twinkling underneath a star filled sky.

We mounted the jeep and Dinesh announced that we were on our way to Banganga Tank.

More on my Mumbai Night tour tomorrow! Thanks for reading!

Bade miya, here I go again, my my, how can I resist you? The song hummed in my head as I rushed from work to home to catch my Meru. 5:15, my Nokia phone informed me, as we crossed the Sea Link on my way to South Mumbai. I was on my way to the Regal theater for the Mumbai by Night Tour. But that was still at seven. Maybe, just maybe I could catch a bite at the iconic Bade Miya, a street side stall in Colaba, known for its kebabs. A South Mumbai institution.

“Do you know where Bade Miya is?” I asked the cabbie.

“Behind the Taj,” he replied as he pressed on the accelerator and the robotic woman voice in his cab chanted, “You are going over the speed limit. Slow down.”

Please please please, I hope we make it. We were now stuck in front of the Haji Ali Shrine, inching our way to the beautiful Breach Candy, with its neoclassic architecture. 5:45, my phone clock tells me. Yes, we’ll make it! We’ll scrape through this Mumbai traffic!

I squealed as the cabbie dropped me off and sucked in the charcoal-smoke air. Bade Miya, here I go again, my my, how can I resist you?

An English-speaking vendor tapped me on the shoulder. “What would you like to eat?”

My eyes ogled the full chicken breasts with bones on the skewers. “What’s that one? Which is your bestseller?” I asked in the same breath.

“Chicken tangdi kebab. One hundred thirty rupees.”

“I’m in!” Oh the charcoal smell, the smog, Mumbai I love you! And yes, of course I was starving. I usually eat at five pm.

Chicken seekh kebab

“Take out?”

“No, I’ll eat here.”

He led me to a corner where there were two British tourists, who looked Indian, but it was there first time in India. And sitting in front of me were a young UK couple who were also tourists. We ended up chatting about the local train and places to visit in Mumbai, when my order arrived.

“Waiter, do you have a fork?” He ignored my high maintenance request and handed me a spoon. I took the chicken breasts in my hands. Bite. Chew. Juice. Bade Miya. My my, how can I resist you? I don’t like spice, but all of sudden I fell in love with spice, as I chewed and my nose dripped. Spicy, tangy, juicy, charcoaly. Bade Miya’s tangdi is one of the best kebabs I’ve tasted!

The waiter also slapped this concoction on my table–

I don’t like eating raw onions because it gives me bad breath but I couldn’t resist trying this mix of onions, lemon, chutney and something else. And again, I think I fell in love with spice. This salad of sorts complimented the saltiness of the chicken, and it was spicy, tangy, oniony, savory. It was absolutely delish and worth the bad breath!

The only hitch to my meal was the chicken had blood on its bones so to avoid bacteria, I stayed away from the meat near those bones.

I looked at my phone watch. 6:30 Perhaps I still have time to find a clean bathroom and take photos in Colaba.

Bade Miya just how much I’ve missed you. Yes, I’ve been broken-hearted, blued since the day we parted, why why did I ever let you go? Bade Miya, now I really know, I could never let you go.

One of the items in my bucket list was Reality Tour’s Mumbai by Night. Here’s a photo I took near the Banganga Tank. I’ll share more details about the tour in a future entry.

Matheran, first stop on my bucket list, hill station of horses and rust dust.

It’s funny how when you travel, some places begin to look the same-images, terrains interspersed in my memory. Maharashtra and the Philippines have stark similarities, and Matheran reminded me of Baguio and Sagada–two hill stations and tourist attractions in Luzon, the main northern island of the archipelago which I grew up in.

Matheran was originally a summer getaway for British expatriates because of its cool weather. Baguio was declared the summer capital of the Philippines by American government officials who wanted to escape Manila’s summer heat. Matheran is now an eco-sensitive zone, which means that no cars are allowed so inhabitants and visitors can breathe fresh mountain air while hiking. For years, Sagada preserved its ecology by ensuring that visitors respected the place by keeping it clean and imposing a curfew.

There are many more parallels between India and the Philippines, mainly that we are two young countries, trying to find its identity and place in a global world. But I don’t want to bore you with my observations right now. Instead I’ll share photos from our hikes and explorations. Happy viewing!

We took a three kilometer train track hike to our hotel. I loved skipping from one metal track to another!

The famous toy train, which brings passengers from the bottom of the hill to Matheran's market place.

On our way to the hotel.

Nisha! She was like a mom during the trip, always looking out for our safety. She reminds me of my Tita Dolly. She was such a darling and I can't wait to see her again 🙂

Teams of horses galloped beside us.

Mukesh, the hotel owner! He is C's friend and he completely took care of us! He got me a birthday cake and set up a bonfire during the evening. I love Indian hospitality!

Ruins on the way to Sunset Point

Sunset Point

Breakfast was the yummiest parathas I've ever tasted! It was soft, not oily, fresh and flavorful.

A friend, J, recommended we stay in this hotel. We didn't get to stay overnight but from the brief visit, it looked very pretty.

Forest in the Verandah hotel

Echo Point!

A rickshaw driver taking a much deserved break.

Guavas for sale!

K bought souvenirs from the market. Methinks the Hindi word is "chikki". The Filipino word is "pasalubong". I ate one pasalubong that tasted exactly like a Filipino peanut pastry sweet. Bye, Matheran! I'm happy I was able to visit and savor your beauty for a weekend!

Matheran, first stop on my bucket list, hill station of horses and rust dust.

It was my birthday last Saturday. To celebrate the day, as well as my last five months in Mumbai, K, N, C and I drove up to Matheran. On our way, C our navigator and guide (and what a knowledgeable guide he was!), recommended that our fist pit stop be at Lucky’s Korner, an outdoor restaurant near Karjat.

The food and service were heavenly! Here are some of our mouthwatering orders–

Reshmi kebab. Soft, juicy, tangy. It was a perfect kebab!

The garlic naan went very well with the kebabs. They reminded me of yummy thin crust garlic pizzas!

My two signature drinks--lemon juice and chai with cardamom, ginger and milk. I'll definitely miss the Indian lemons and chai, which I somehow can't replicate, when I leave India.

The food was very reasonably priced, around 150 to 250 rupees per main course, and the restaurant was clean, a must for me.

The service unexpectedly rivaled fine dine restaurants! The waiters were very attentive. They changed our plates as needed, and they were enthusiastic. They genuinely seemed to enjoy serving their customers. Our head waiter, gave us excellent recommendations for dishes and was excited to show off Lucky’s renowned tandoor oven.

This is a tandoor oven. It's a hole dug into a counter and it's where many breads and chicken are baked. It's what gives chicken tandoori, kebabs and rotis a distinct smokey taste that is difficult to replicate in other ovens.

All in all, it was a very memorable meal. Not just because of the food and service, but also because of good company! Nothing beats traveling with easy going people who know their way around and are excited to share and explore!

C, our navigator and K, our first time long distance driver! Good job, K!

I’ll share more about the hikes in Matheran in future posts.

Do you have any travel stories that you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

In the meantime, if you would like to visit Lucky’s Korner, you can call them at–
9921841414
9881764964
9273127314

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