New world, here I come!
Cooped up at home since March, Mumbai is now stepping out to enjoy the world outside. Those who've done it, share what it is like
After six months of being locked in their home with a radius that extended only till the neighbourhood kirana store, Mumbaikars have started exploring the outsides again. But, stepping out for leisure in 2020 looks different than it did in 2019. For starters, most travellers we spoke to avoided the pool, which, at one time, was a crowd puller at most vacation stays. They took their own transport where they could, and more importantly, ensured that the place that they were staying at, scored a 100 on the safety test.
'Made only contactless payments'
Rohit Paradkar, 37
Stayed at: Garden Palace Heritage Homestays, Balasinor, Gujarat
Getting there: To get to Balasinor, take the Mumbai Gujarat Highway. It's an internal road after Hallol
Price: Rs 4,000 per night for 2 adults
NAVI Mumbai resident and 37-year-old motoring journalist Rohit Paradkar and wife Kasturi went on a road trip through Rajasthan and Gujarat in late September. Their own safety precautions included taking breaks only at restaurants that followed hygiene protocols, and had al fresco seating. "We didn't stop for chai, and carried our own flask. Due to dietary changes, we drink only black coffee or green tea and so, when we'd run out of hot water, we'd get that refilled. We carried our own dry snacks like bhakarwadi and apples, along with hydropacks to sip water from."
They also took care to ensure most payments were contactless. "The change after demonetisation is that even the smallest of chai shops accept digital payment. On route, we'd find petrol stations that would only accept cash, but we'd try and find one that was contactless to avoid chances of infection."
While on the highway, the couple would not wear masks under the helmets, off it, they'd have to. "In smaller cities, no one is wearing masks or taking mandatory precautions. Plus, my motorcycle invariably attracts attention with people gathering and asking 'kitne ki gaadi hai', 'mileage kitna deti hai'. So, then wearing a mask became important for us."
'Carried our own bedsheets'
Ramona D'Mello and Drayton Fernandez
Stayed At: The Whey Side, Karjat
Getting There: It's over a two-hour drive from Mumbai. If you don't have a car, hire a rental taxi
Price: R6,500 per night for 2 adults
In August, Kurla couple Ramona D'Mello and Drayton Fernandez, wanted to celebrate D'Mello's 34th birthday. When options for staycations at city hotels didn't seem feasible, the two looked at AirBnB options nearby and found The Whey Side at Karjat.
In a pre-COVID normal, D'Mello says their only concern would have been if the place was reliable. This time, however, they called the owner to check on what safety precautions the property was taking. "We were told that everyone's temperature would be checked when they entered the property, and from the pictures, realised that the chalets were spread out so, there'd be no contact between guests," says D'Mello, adding that the couple travelled by car to the site and even took along their own bedsheets, pillow covers and towels to minimise chances of infection. During the stay at the Karjat property, they didn't allow anyone to enter their room to clean it, minimising contact further.
'Came home and quarantined'
Where: Taj Hotels, Kumarakom
Getting There: There are daily flights from Mumbai to Kochi starting at R3,800 per person
Price: Rs 5,600 per night
Wanting to celebrate her September 29 birthday outside the city as always, Nikita Shyam got the push from her mother who suggested she not opt for Goa, but for a destination further away. "Both my mum and brother had to travel outstation during the pandemic and because of these experiences, we were less afraid of air travel." Nikita and her husband Shyam, were joined by their friends.
At Alleppey, they stayed at a property with only four rooms being occupied, and so social distancing was easier to follow. "We also hired one car for seven days, with the same driver. He would always wear a mask and ensure we sanitised our hands before entering the car. Though there was a place for drivers at the property, he chose to sleep in the car as a safety precaution for both his family and us." At the property, Nikita says, the guests were advised to return to the same dining table through their three-day stay. "We had all our meals at the property."
On returning home, Nikita spent five days at home before meeting her parents. Her friends, who live with their parents, also quarantined at a different apartment, before heading home.
'Next guest allowed 12 hours after our checkout'
Manali Rajiv and Rajiv Krishna
Stayed at: Amreena Farmhouse, Karjat
Getting There: Make the two-hour drive or rent a car
Price: R6,000 per night for 2 adults
In September, Manali Rajiv, 31, a PR professional, and her ad-man husband Rajiv Krishna, 32, headed out to Lonavla with their parents for a two-day break. Where an ideal road trip would have meant stopping for chai and snacks at the many eateries that line the Mumbai Pune Express Way, this time, they packed their chai in flasks and carried their own grub. "We stopped in a small lane off the highway and had a break," says Manali. The Lonavla stay was at Tungi Lake Pavna, a Club Mahindra property. Rajiv says, "Here, attention was paid to the tiniest of details. While the buffet table continued, guests are no longer allowed to serve themselves. Staff in gloves and masks serve you. Even the pens with which you sign the bill are sanitised. There is a dropbox on the billing desk where you can drop off used pens."
The second trip, to Karjat, was to an Air BnB, Amreena Farmhouse. He adds, "We selected the option that allowed us to be the only guests in the property. We spoke to the owner in the lead up to the stay and were confident about their measures. They said they had kept a 12-hour break between two stays to allow for better disinfection. The caretaker delivered food and we avoided cold eats like salads."
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