Sunday, April 10 2022

Dive In

But that's the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don't want to know what people are talking about. I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.

This quote by Bill Bryson from his book ‘Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe’ is apt for our first weekend splainer newsletter. For one, it’s Bill Bryson; and second, here in India, we have the good fortune of being ignorant of so many places that exist right here in our own country! We mean this in an entirely positive way. Name another country where you can travel a few kilometres across a state border, and find yourself trying to read store names in an entirely different language and script? There are very few countries in the world where you can be in the depths of winter—surrounded by snow-clad mountains—but escape to tropical warmth just a short flight away—without having to cross national borders. We are truly so many ‘countries’ in one—that the discovery is endless.


Editor’s note: There is so much travel content everywhere—websites, blogs, reviews… and yet it is almost impossible to find trustworthy recommendations except from friends or fam. We partnered with Urbanaut—founded and run by the amazing Samyukta Ranganathan—precisely to help you rediscover India. You’ll get their travel recommendation once a month. We love the integrity and passion that Samyukta and her team bring to everything they do. And no, we’re not making a dime out of this. As with all our weekend newsletters, this is about supporting the work of talented, committed founders and journalists. That’s the splainer way:)


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Experiences we love

Discover India: A must-do list of wonderful experiences 

The TLDR: As much as India frustrates, it fascinates. And at Urbanaut, it is our mission to stop pegging wondrous places and experiences in India to something abroad—“Himachal is the Switzerland of India”—by making incredible, world-class experiences a norm right here in our own country. Here’s what we’ve chosen for you this month.


So here’s a short list of some of these places that we hope you discover on your travels (with Urbanaut, we hope!). Many of these are bookable experiences, and some are just hidden gems worth checking out on your own time.


Flamingo Watching in Mumbai: Most people have no idea that Bombay is home to two Flamingo species—the Greater and Lesser Flamingo. There are only six species globally, so this is pretty rad, if you ask us. What’s more, these pink beauties hang out practically all year (although the early part of the year is the best time to witness them) in the Thane Creek and in and around Navi Mumbai. Do yourself a favour and take your friends and family (especially your kids) along for a Flamingo watching experience.


Riverside Picnic near Dharamshala: A village walk and a picnic in a cool mountain stream overlooking the majestic Dhauladhars. Mingle with locals, meander through picturesque villages, and then reward yourself with a traditional Himachali picnic-style lunch. 


Tribal Museum in Bhopal: We’re usually underwhelmed by public museums—not so with the Tribal Museum in Bhopal. A brilliant homage to the rich cultural tapestry of MP’s tribal communities, a visit to the museum is well-advised, even if Bhopal is just a short stop en route to the jungle. It’s a beautiful museum with incredible displays that truly do justice to the subject matter. 


A Garden Feast in Goa: If you’re tired of the word “xacuti” when you visit Goa, you absolutely must try this garden feast. The good folks here work tremendously hard to preserve traditional Goan-Portuguese recipes and serve you a literal feast. Skip breakfast and dinner and make the most of this lunch experience in beautiful Loutolim under the shade of a Mango Tree. Local, made by women, freshly prepared and oh-so-damn-good.


Murray and Co. auction house in Chennai: Did you know that Chennai is home to the biggest and oldest auction house in South India? Murray’s holds auctions every Sunday (and has been doing so for decades) and is known for showcasing quality artefacts and furniture. Our Chennai insider recommends visiting on a Saturday morning to see what goes under the hammer on Sunday, so you’re well-prepared to make your bids.


From Fruit to Feni in Goa: It’s cashew season! Which means niro (delectable cashew juice), uracca (fruity, fresh and Goa’s favourite summer alcohol) and the opportunity to stomp cashews at a feni distillery and partake in this age-old tradition. We’ve said it a hundred times before, Feni should be celebrated and honoured in our country. But first, it must be understood. There is no better season than this one (the window between March and May) to try this experience—so we recommend you get booking, stat. 


Heritage Transport Museum in Delhi: Our Delhi contributor Ganeev (who curated the fantastic Partition Museum in Amritsar, incidentally) recommends a stop at this museum on your way to Jaipur from Delhi, if you happen to travel by road. 


Vinyl Listening and Cocktail Session in Goa: India’s first (and currently only) vinyl record bar is in the achingly charming Fontainhas in Panjim, Goa. Head over for a groovy evening with a curated listening session with the very interesting and eclectic owner of the bar and be a happy guinea pig to his cocktail concoctions. Here’s a YouTube vid of this great experience:


We’ll be back with more exciting recommendations next month—from a very unique walking holiday in the Binsar Sanctuary (epic!) to surreal experiences in Manali and Dharamshala just when the mercury becomes unbearable everywhere else but the mountains. Thanks for reading!

What's up urbanaut

Ok, it’s time for introductions—so you know who we are. Urbanaut curates authentic recommendations from those who know best—creative, discerning locals in different cities. We often joke that even if no one else ever uses Urbanaut, we have a treasure trove of places that we would have never heard of without this job. So win-win for us!


We’re an early-stage travel tech startup (fancy lingo for the win!), female-founded, and with dreams of being in cities and countries around the world. The discerning traveller is having her/his moment, and we’re here for it—and we’re sure as hell plan to be a part of it!


Use our app to find great places in 25+ cities! Book some incredibly unique experiences through us. Save recommendations, share them with friends and basically be the coolest person in your group with minimal effort. Just fire up our app and get browsing.


Download Urbanaut on the App Store or Play Store and get started. 

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