Sunday, June 12 2022

Dive In

To know India and her people, one has to know the monsoon. It is not enough to read about it in books, or see it on the cinema screen, or hear someone talk about it. It has to be a personal experience because nothing short of living through it can fully convey all it means to a people for whom it is not only the source of life, but also their most exciting impact with nature.

That’s Khushwant Singh in ‘I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale.’ No prizes for guessing that this edition is about the wonderful experiences that come to life in the monsoon. The beaches of Goa become inaccessible but the hinterland hides magic, getaways from Bombay take on a green hue that only the rains bring and the mountains beckon with equal parts rain and clear, dry days. What are you waiting for?


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

Rain, Rain, come again

The TLDR: If you can tolerate a little drizzle, and the occasional downpour, then we’ve got some very special experiences only for the intrepid few i.e. you. Read on and get booking. 


A reminder from Urbanaut: We know downloading an app is a pain—but you will not regret getting the Urbanaut app (and if we’re wrong, it’s an easy delete!). We’ve got tons of curated recommendations that you can save and plan with, and fantastic experiences that you can book with your kids, folks, pets and friends. What you see in this newsletter is but a tiny slice of all the options that await on the app. 


As we jostle for Schengen visa appointments, hear of packed flights and airports, and contend with obscene flight prices, it’s worth remembering that there are delightful options everywhere, if you know where to look. Goa has now become an all-season destination, with the added perks of ‘off-season’ pricing. Places like Ladakh and Kashmir (coming soon to the app) offer dry days, sunshine and inexplicable beauty. And the rains bring a carpet of green to easy weekend getaway locations closer to our cities. Invest in some practical rain gear (waterproof shoes/rubber boots and a poncho) and you’re all set!


Forest Lagoons in Goa: Venture into your own private bathtub with our Forest Lagoons experience. Deep in the jungle, a long but unbearably scenic drive from most parts of North Goa, a paradise of small pools awaits. According to the New York Times, Cobalt Blue is the colour of the summer—and you will be oh-so on trend if you visit this spot. A local meal and feni cocktails greet you when you’re done with the water—is there anything not to like about this experience?


Hidden Pools and Streams In Manali: This is a secluded point known only to locals. It is a great getaway if you want to escape the crowds of Manali without venturing too far for too long. You’ll get to jump in one of these glacial pools (tried, tested, and safe!) if you have the skin for it—and end with piping hot chai and snacks at a local cafe.


Farm & Forest Forage near Bombay: Kids never need a reason to run out in the rain—so convincing them to venture out in the monsoon is easy. And now, it can be fun for parents as well. Near Bombay, try our Farm & Forest Forage experience—where you’ll get your hands dirty on a chemical-free farm and forage your own food! Learn to identify seasonal and edible herbs, roots, flowers, leaves and fruits and get practical tips on how to process the foraged produce into edible dishes. A pretty stellar day, if you ask us.


Mithai-making in Bombay: If this newsletter is putting too much pressure on you to venture outdoors, and you’re having none of it, then stay warm and dry with our mithai-making workshop in Bombay. This has been a hugely popular experience and in the rainy season, you’ll get to stock up on those sweet and savoury things that are perfect with your afternoon chai. 


Tea Tour and Tasting near Dharamshala: In the verdant plains of Palampur, you’re treated to a very special tea tour and tasting. Try your hand at plucking or learn to taste like a tea sommelier. There’s a tasting, a walk around the tea plantation and a factory visit included. The best part of this experience? You get all this goodness at a throwaway price per person—so it’s perfect for large groups on a budget. 


Cruising and Kayaking in Goa: While swimming in the river or the ocean can be very dangerous given surprise currents, you can try cruising and kayaking in a wonderful 2.5 hour expedition up the Chapora river. Rain adds to the charm and the partners prioritise safety at all costs. You’ll get up close and personal with an impressive mangrove system when you get on your kayaks. This is a perfect experience for multi-generational family trips.


We’ve done a very fun series with Insia Lacewala. Her platform, www.indiawithinsia.com covers unique stays, regional cuisine and underground culture in India in a way that no other travel website does and we’re thrilled to have her try out our handpicked experiences! Check out this video from Goa, where she went Cycling in Chorao island.


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! But 20k+ travellers do use our app just in case you were wondering!


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 sure as hell plan to be a part of it!


We’ve got recommendations in 25+ cities and bookable experiences that you’ve never heard of, but definitely want to try in Goa, Mumbai, Alibag, Manali and Dharamshala—and we’ll be launching soon in plenty of exciting new destinations in India and abroad. 


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

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