Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Harne-Murud - what to do, see, eat and more.

Harne-Murud is a small fishing town. Most of the livelihood comes from fishing, hapoos/alphonso mangoes and offlate, tourism. There isn't much to do here.

My extended family hails from harne-murud as per the last recorded origin in our genealogy book. The temple of 'durga devi', our family deity brought us here. 

Durga Devi temple:

The temple was built way back in 18th century. This was my second visit here and in the span of 3 years I saw ample transformation in the tourist traffic that went from a trickle to a flow, and the change in the temple complex.
The priest here is friendly, just like me; after all we share the same surname: D He along with his wife try and keep the temple spic-and-span.  The temple itself is small and over the years has become more beautiful because of the constant maintenance, especially the paintings on the wall and pillars.

Like most temples, this one is run by its trustees. One story goes like the majority trustees overpowered the trustee belonging to the family who started this temple. The used the funds from donations to build a prayer/function area adjacent to the entrance of the temple. In this pursuit the beauty of the temple structure hides behind the new shoddy prayer hall. Needless to say when I looked at it, I felt sad. For our own selfish reasons like power and money, we spoil God's home.

However, after having said my prayers, sitting in silence in the temple courtyard and enjoying the peace, I was relieved to feel the energy back. Luckily, selfish reasons had not changed the sanctity and purity of this place and the belief my family and many others have in the Durga deity. 

A lot of the activities - both spiritual and cultural- happen around the temple, much like in most small towns in India. It is a landmark and a meeting place for the locals. The beach is a mere 5 minutes walk from here. That's where the real action lies - on the shore, in the air and underwater!

The Beach

The sun rises late on this western sojourn and sets later still. The beach here isn’t the prettiest, but it certainly is one of the less inhabited one’s. It is quite clean and fairly empty except in the mornings and evenings. The mornings are dominated by the hustle of the fishing boats, the occasional local, the interested tourist and the sporadically drawn calm. The evenings are livelier.

Mind you, this is a typical Indian beach where the tourists come prepared with a change of clothes after the morning swim, something the locals are hardly bothered about. Children are woken up before sun rise for the customary family time at beach, photography included! Post bath and breakfast is the apparent quality-family time: local sight-seeing, temple trot, food sampling etc. The evenings bring with them the usual session of playing catch, building sand castle, camel ride (perhaps they took the ship of the dessert to mean a ship!) and eating/drinking the street food. If you thought the beach seemed action-less, concentrate on the shore, the air and underwater!

Some locals have started para-gliding on the beach. Strategically located near the temple, it gives you some airy high for a decent Rs. 500. I had to forcibly give this a miss thanks to my weighty issues while my cousin enjoyed the whole experience. I do not know how safe their gear is, but if you’re ready to take on some risk, I recommend this activity! Be at the beach in the evening, spot the glider in the air, follow the cord tied from the glider to the jeep, approach the jeep-wala, strike the deal and go zooming!

Let me remind you that Murud is a small fishing town. But there are many ‘not so small’ fish in the sea here. Get into one of the many boats parked at the shore at the break of dawn and you can go Dolphin spotting. The temperature and the other geography of this area make the seas here a good breeding ground for grey and black dolphins. The typical boat seats about 10 people and is motor operated. They take the keen tourists around for 45 minutes for dolphin spotting.

I was first a little apprehensive seeing the big waves and the basic boat. Sea sick-ness was another concern. But as our boat zoomed into the sea and we got a glimpse of a dolphin’s snout, all apprehensions were forgotten. We could barely get a glimpse of the nose when we heard a shout from a guy on d other side of a boat ushering us to see the pair of dolphins jumping up and diving back into the water. There was flurry of excitement, shouts, pointing of fingers signaling a spotting. It was a fun experience and the dolphins seemed to have been trained at enthralling a keen audience, especially while we were video-taping it!

Another activity on the beach is bullock cart ride! For 50 bucks, the guy let's you ride the cart, pose on it and get some kicks out of it, like we did!

Traditional Food

If you happen to go to Murud, or any other konkan town, don’t forget to try the speciality food. The drinks like aan panha (drink made from boiled raw mangoes mixed with sugar/jaggery), kokan sherbet (a sweet-sour drink made from a fruit), sol kadi (made from buttermilk and kokam fruit) etc will tickle your taste buds and refresh you instantly. If you’re a non-vegetarrian, don’t forget to try the local fish and prawn dishes apart from a preparation called komdi vade (chicken curry with puri like vadas made from a mixed dough). Also, if you end up there in summers, feast on the Alphonso mangoes, right off the trees, but be careful not to get caught!!


Homestay in Murud is a very economical option. You can get accommodation for as low as Rs. 300 (excl food). But beware the facilities are too basic at times as we discovered in our first and last homestay there. There was no cooler or A/C’s, the bathroom was okay, water had to be drawn from the well, there were too many ants and mosquitoes and the food they offered was dismal. The very next day we found ourselves in a Hotel by the beach, much to everyone’s relief. So if you want to try homestay, be prepared for certain discomforts, and who knows, yours may actually turn out to be fun!

Read about the drive from Mumbai to Harne Murud here

Read more about Silver Sands Beach Resort here

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A review: Lonely Planet Magazine, India Edition

Really a LONELY PLANET??!!

Some pour over it in coffee houses, others have their nose between its pages even while crossing a road in India! This almost-accessory and  firangs go hand in hand, quite literally! It is none other than the ever Loved and informative Lonely Planet Guide to India.

From having unraveled many a clandestine destinations, to being the best trusted guide, lonely planet is not just a book, it is a traveler’s necessity, a fashion statement, a TV channel and now an India specific magazine!

They claim the Planet to be Lonely. I suppose through this venture they’re out to make it little less lonely!

I always thought reading magazines was passé, not anymore!

I set my eyes on this magazine on a hoarding, while waiting at the bus stop. Its launch and promotion was grand. The response I’m assuming was grander still, for every possible magazine-wala I contacted had the same answer, “Out of stock!” Having missed out on the First India Edition, I was desperately waiting for March month to lay my hands on the magazines second edition! Finally, I bought the LP magazine from a humble street vendor outside of Churchgate Station. The minute I saw the stunning cover and the contents, I knew it’d be worth my Rs. 100. LP certainly did not disappoint!

The launch price of the magazine-Rs. 100- is easy on the Indian pocket. My concern is their ability to maintain such a nominal price for a 200 page magazine of this stature. The popularity of LP may depend upon the price, but if the quality and interesting content is maintained the same will not deter most travel-crazy readers.

The editors have maintained an informal tone. This lends a certain friendliness and homely feel to the destination diaries. The mix of local and foreign destinations is skewed slightly towards the latter as the foreign destinations are covered in much more detail as compared their domestic counterparts. The broad theme of the second issue revolves around wildlife travel, with special emphasis on going beyond spotting the big cat and the usual game parks and sanctuaries.

Apart from the usual suspects like write to the editor, ask a travel related query, LP offers the reader a chance to get their memorable travel photos published. A bonus treat is the four stunning bookmarks sporting a spectacular photo and a delectable travel quote along with 6-tear out mini guides which they claim would be free with every forthcoming issue also.

To judge the content, one should have traveled to that particular destination. I leave the judgement to you, the reader because in each one of us there is a traveler!

The magazine is a visual treat. The photos are an appreciators prize and every photographer’s envy! The king size photos are for the keeps though in parts the quality of photos has been compromised for the sheer beauty of the object being covered. Overall the photos are stunning, intriguing and inspiring.
Reading LP may not affect your travel plans. But as their tag-line says, and I quote “Don’t just travel, travel well!” Who knows, you may just end up traveling better than before!

AND if you thought this planet was lonely, think again! Maybe you will find the answer in the 200-odd pages of LP magazine, or better still re-frame the question!

The Verdict: Highly recommended for every traveler, photographer, travel writer or those aspiring to be either of the three! 
Image from here

Harne- Murud - our stay at "Silver Sand, beach resort"

Silver Sand Beach Resort is the second most popular staying option in Murud after Kamath residency which has a tie-up with MTDC. Having stayed once at Kamath, my cousins booked a four-seater room at Silver sand Beach Resort which was closer to our kul-devat apart from having a nice beach access!!The choice was win-win as we discovered later.

The rooms at Silver Sand are built around in a circular shape, a good distance away from each other for maximum privacy and different views.

 There is an open-restaurant and the lounging area viz. reclining chairs, beach umbrellas, hammocks, lounge chairs over-looking the beach!

The thicket of coconut trees shades the resort beautifully hence easing souls like us of the already-blazing March sun! 
All the rooms at Silver Sand were named after flowers. Ours was called Jaswand and it was Pink on the outside and inside! The room was tidy and not necessarily clean. The room was huge and had four full-size beds and a decent bathroom. The ventilation was a problem apart from the mosquitoes. But over-all for Rs. 1000-1200/day, it was a nice bargain.

 At Silver Sand hospitality is priority. Despite of being low on staff due to the long holi-weekend, our welcome drink was served in record time and every meal was made to order to pamperour taste buds. Thee food was typically konkani, yet delicious! We hogged on kanda(onion) and batata(potatao) bhajis, prwans fry, fish curries, sol kadi and lots of kokan sherbet!! We truly stuck by "When in Konkan, eat as the lonkani's do!!" The only small hitch was that we did not get to taste "Komdi wade", the quinteesntial non-vegetarian delicay due to lack of kitchen staff!

Overall, Silver Sands is a chilled out place to be. The food is good, the prices are decent. The staff is accomodating and helpful when it comes to local sight-seeing.

The set-up reminded me of a small beach village where life floats bliss. There isn't much to do here, and that is the beauty of this place! (Coming from someone(me) who loves to jam-pack her itinerary, be assured that this place is truly a lazy-bums bliss!)

(5 being highest and 1 being lowest)
Room: 3.5/5
Tariffs: 4/5
Food: 4/5
Hospitality: 4/5

Read about the drive from Mumbai to Harne Murud here

Harne-Murud - the drive.....

11 March 2009

A dry fruit packs all the goodness in the-sometimes misleading-pint size, just like a good trip that packs all the adventures in 2 days! Our brush with religions, spirituality, tranquility, adventure and discovery was the perfect break from the crazy Mumbai pace!

We originally belong to the Konkan (west coast stretching from Mumbai all the way up to Goa!). Our family is not staunch about religion, but we do believe in prayers and little bit of devotion. Our family deity is in a town callked Harne-Murud and we do go there once in two years to reconnect with our roots and to indulge in bhakti. Hence the trip to Harne-Murud, home to unexplored beaches, dolphin sightings, mango trees, simple way of life and Durga Devi's (our family deity) temple, i.e. our 'Kul Devat' as we locally call it.

On the day of Eid when the prayers could be heard from the mosques, we chanted the name of 'ganesha' and embarked upon the 6-hour drive in our Santro, at sharp 6:30m AM. The sun rays were finding their way through the moon-kissed skies. The traffic was thin, weather refreshing and in no time we were at Pune Expressway, but not without some previews of the adventures to come ahead!

We played radio at full-blast!! Music never sounded this good! We sped at full-speed, captured random buildings and telecom towers in our lens, kept a close watch and cheered on the bunch of professional cyclists who were apparently driving to Pune and stopped at the 'panch mukhi (five headed) maruti mandir'.

Instead of taking the express highway, we took the Karnala ghat route towards Dapoli. The route is mainly ghat/hills. The road winds after every few turn of wheels and the traffic is quite a bit. The road flatens considerably before Mahad and that is where we discovered ancient buddhist caves perched on a hill. WE saw them by sheer accident when we spotted two guys, one in bright yellow and other in red climbing the mountain with sheer ease. That's when we realized that they were climbing stairs and their destination were a cluster of strange looking caves.

The caves were well maintained, with newly laid steps to climb up. The caves are a protected monument, yet there was no sign board of their name, or history. The caves had ancient carvings, writings and partial remains of stairs and figure carvings. The view from the caves was brilliant, with the green and yellow fields ahead, the road cutting through them and mountains on the other three sides! The caves cost us about 30 minutes, and enjoying a cup of tea, on our descent, we drove ahead.

We stopped for a breakfast of idli, dosa, pohe and bata vada at 'Amantran restraunt' at Pen-Wadkhal naka. The food here is simple and the service is quick. In fact, this place is always crowded and that just proves the trust people have in their food. Though, if you ignore the stained mugs and tea overflowing into the saucer, also a chipped edge or two, you may develop a liking for this place! Not me though! After a sumptuous meal and a leak in the smelly toilet, we set off again towrads the final 3 hour journey to Harne-Murud.

By the time we reached dapoli, we were extremely hungry and our legs were eager to stretch. We drove through the narrow lanes and market places of Dapoli looking for saree shop. It is a custom that when we go to the family deity, we take along a saree/blouse piece(cloth), coconut, flowers and rice for the offering. We call this custom as "Ooti" i.e "offering" in english or "Chadhava" in hindi. Sadly, we missed a turn and ended up on the highway again hoping that we'd find a saree shop in Murud.

By 1:00 PM we were at Murud. We checked into our resort - Silver Sand, beach resort and settled into our wooden cottage called "Jaswand". It was great to whiff the salty . It played with our senses and brought with it glimpses of the discovery ahead.

Read about Silver Sand Beach Resort here


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