Travel in a swaying rickety boat, eat the traditional bhelpuri, drink the conventional coconut water and chill.
It was a place which we had only heard in the 90s movies. Being from Delhi and having not lived in Mumbai for that long, Alibaug was never a place where we intended to go to. Places like Khandala, Lonavla were more famous and tourist-inclined destinations. We heard about them whenever asked for a place to spend the weekend and it was probably easier for us to reach those places as well. Probably that is the reason that we were not super inclined towards them; we prefer exploring more off beat locations that are not super crowded. That way Alibaug turned out to be quite an eventful outing.
Alibaug is around 96 kilometers from suburban Mumbai, India. That would be around a 3-hour drive. However, we decided to go by the more common and adventurous method: take a ferry from Gateway of India to Mandwa – a small rustic town about 20 kilometers away from Alibaug. The travel time for this mode is about an hour less than the road drive. We didn’t bother to time ourselves since we were having loads of fun using this means of transportation.
Hailing from an Indian Navy background, being around water bodies has become second nature to me. It’s calm, it’s composed, it’s home. Being on a ferry wasn’t a new experience for me, but it still was really fun to be on. The rickety boat swaying from side to side on the tranquilly turbulent ocean makes one realize the true importance of Mother Nature and how strong her powers really are.
How to reach?
We took the ferry from Gateway at around 10 am and while on board decided to book a hotel for our stay there. Yes, our trip was that spontaneous that we didn’t even bother to book a hotel before leaving from home. I guess that’s the power the ocean has on one; it lured us in using its fascinating fangs. We used Booking.com to book a hotel – U Tropicana – and it took us around 1.5 hours to reach Mandwa. The ferry ticket that we purchased at Gateway also paid for our bus ride from Mandwa to Alibaug and therefore we didn’t need to worry about the same.
Mandwa in itself is a beautiful place to be. Its greatest flaw is probably its biggest asset as well. It’s less commercialized. It’s one of most serene places to spend a cold winter day at. We wouldn’t suggest spending a day during summers there as there are no shacks/resting places. (Hence, the less commercialized part).
The bus ride towards Alibaug was an adventure in itself. If you’ve been to Delhi and have travelled in a public transport bus during the infamous “whiteline” and “blueline” days, siting right next to the driver and facing him is not a big deal. In fact, the conductor in some way forces you to sit there while he enjoys the ride standing on the door with the winds teasing his hair. Just one of those conductor things.
Anyway, our hotel was midway from Mandwa to Alibaug. Our very helpful conductor told us where we would have to get down. The hotel was near a beach called Kihim. After getting down we looked around for possible ways to get to the hotel and found plenty of autos at our disposal.
The hotel was 5-6 kms from there and we could have walked our way as well considering we didn’t have much luggage with us. However, one of the autowallas – Santosh – offered us a fair price and we gave in to the pressure of enjoying yet another fun-filled, joyous public transport ride. Also, Santosh seemed to be wearing those Tom Cruise aviator goggles and somehow they hypnotized us into agreeing to give him the price he asked for. “He got the need. The need for speed.”
Where to stay?
Upon reaching U Tropicana, we were treated with awe and shock as the property was huge (spread across 12 acres) and quite sufficient within itself considering the size of the town. It had brick paths inside, where we could cycle (provided by the hotel), a gaming room with a pool table, a proper rectangular swimming pool, spa and massage center, library and to top it all of a gym that was a separate building in itself. After checking in and resting for a while in a colossal room we headed out to have some fun. The hotel can arrange a taxi/auto for you; however, we preferred to walk as that is the best way to get to know a new place.
September is the last month of monsoons and thus there were hardly any people on beach. Even though the sand and water was crazy hot, we decided to make the best of the situation. Wandering into the water to be a part of the waves, the crabs, and the quicksand – we even almost lost a slipper while trying to negotiate our way past the sloppy bugger. Anyway, we returned to the hotel after staying at the beach for close to two hours and eating the traditional bhelpuri and drinking the conventional coconut water.
Considering that we had planned this trip at the last minute as a means of relaxation, we decided to spend the rest of the trip at the hotel. Afterall there was loads to do there with limited time to spare. We swam in the pool, visited the gym, played some snooker, ate at the restaurant, and almost ran over a squirrel while riding the cycles (yes, there were small, friendly squirrels as the hotel is situated amidst a healthy jungle). The stay was good overall. The property is wonderful with lots of greenery and acers. It’s a healthy place to spend a relaxing weekend. Radisson Blu is another good property to stay in in Alibaug.
If you drive down there in your own car, then you can easily visit all the nearby beaches and sightseeing spots. On the flip side, you get to miss all the adventure one sees while on the ferry from Gateway to Mandwa and back. Alibaug is a place definitely worth visiting if you’re in Mumbai. Whether an extended weekend or a day-trip to enjoy the beaches, the place is just an impromptu adventure waiting to refresh your daily, monotonous routine.