Brian Norlander / travel /

India Part 1, Spring 2022

Visiting Goa, Mumbai, and Srinagar from May 09 to May 31, 2022.

I quit my job in Amsterdam and set out to start my dream trip to India. It was 2022 and I had just gotten through two years of the pandemic working from home most days, unpredictable lockdowns, and closing of businesses. I was pretty burned out.

I had been dreaming for a long time about going to India. I had many ideas of what I wanted to do. I was inspired by the book Shantaram and many other travelers. I thought of walking coast to coast, motorcycling south to north, or anything in between. I ended up compromising and decided to city hop at first, do some mountain trekking, and then ride a motorcycle in the Himalayas.


Goa is like the Florida or Hawaii of India. Lots of domestic tourists go there for the beaches and chill atmosphere. Families, friend groups, and solo travelers can each find their sweet spot of enjoyment there. I stayed at a hostel near Anjuna Beach for about a week and met many other travelers there.

Goa is a state on the southwestern coast of India and has a large cultural influence from the Portuguese. Goa was an overseas territory of the Portuguese Empire and was used as a trading port for 450 years. Goa has an international and relaxed vibe to it that I did not see in others parts of India.

Panaji, Goa

I arrived at Vasco De Gama in Goa after an 18-hour journey from London. Immediately upon arrival at the airport, a group of Indian school boys asked to get a photo with me and gave me directions on how to get to the city and get a SIM card. It was my first taste of Indian hospitality.

I took a taxi into Panaji, the capital city of Goa, and began to get my bearings. I rented a scooter from a somewhat dubious character, got a SIM card at the market, a bite to eat, and found directions to my hostel in Anjuna Beach in North Goa, about an hour ride away.

Anjuna Beach, North Goa
Curlies Beach Shack, Anjuna Beach, North Goa
Chapora Fort, North Goa
View of Ozran Beach from Chapora Fort, North Goa
Mapusa Municipal Market, North Goa
Se Cathedral, Old Goa
Left: Aguada Fort
Right: Old Goa
Lunch with Sarang, my roommate in Hong Kong
Left: Goan Thali
Right: Fish Thali


After a week of chilling in Goa, I took a night bus to Mumbai. It took over 18 hours overnight with no AC and stopped many times during the night. Before the bus departed, the driver was writing new numbers in chalk for the seats! This experience convinced me never to be frugal when spending money on domestic travel in India.

I was exhausted when I arrived in Mumbai around noon on a 105-degree day. I found my hostel and immediately took a nap in the air-conditioned common room once I had a bite to eat.

Taj Hotel, Colaba
Left: Gateway of India
Right: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus
Left: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum
Right: University of Mumbai

While walking around in Colaba, I was often approached by people selling things or running various scams. One man struck up a conversation with me and eventually offered to give me a tour of a nearby slum. I was very curious to visit a slum and accepted his offer.

The tour consisted of him showing me Ganesh Murti Nagar Slum in Colaba where he lived. He also showed me a smaller fisherman slum nearby, where the Mumbai 2008 terrorists arrived by boat. Last on the agenda was the legendary cafe Leopolds from the book Shantaram, a recent favorite of mine.

Site where 2008 Mumbai Terrorists arrived by boat from Pakistan
Left: Children playing cricket
Right: Busy street inside the slum
Laundry operations at Ganesh Murti Nagar, Colaba
The slum does the laundry of many nearby hotels, restaurants, and individuals
The stark contrast of slums roofs with the World Trade Centre on the horizon
Left: Leopold Cafe - Famous expat hangout from the book Shantaram
Right: Olympia Coffee House - Insanely delicious mutton gravy!
Olympia Coffee House - Predominantly Muslim staff. Across the street from Leopold Cafe
The infamous Mumbai Metro
Pav Bhaji with a friend I met at the hostel.
Pav Bhaji is a fast food dish from India consisting of a thick vegetable curry served with a soft bread roll. Its origins are in the state of Maharashtra.

Elephant Island

On my last day I visited Elephant Island - also mentioned in Shantaram. The island had caves and statues that were more than 1500 years old. If I got a dollar for each time I got asked for a selfie on this day trip I could have eaten pav bhaji for a year.

Elephant Island
I made a lot of new friends!
Casual monkey encounter - they were not the nice kind!
Mumbai skyline

Srinagar, Kashmir

After Mumbai, I had originally planned on heading to Rajasthan, the "Land of Kinds", which is the largest state in India by land, and much of it is covered by desert. But it was summer in India, just before the monsoon rains were coming, which meant that the temperature reached 115° F during the day and wouldn't drop below 90° F at night! Because of this extreme heat, I decided to take a flight to the north, to Srinagar.

Mumbai to Srinagar - Looking down on the Himalayas
I stayed at a guest house in Srinagar, they had a very large family and would cook meals for me three times a day!
Left: The grandfather cooked mashed potatoes and chicken for me because I was American :)
Right: Eating room
Left: Their house had four floors
Right: The children loved to play
Typical shop found in Srinagar
Nishat Garden
Dal Lake: "Jewel in the crown of Srinagar", The lake is encompassed by houseboats and Mughal gardens. It is used commercially for fishing and agriculture as well as tourism.
Hazratbal Masjid: Mosque in Srinagar

Haramukh Mountain Trek

After a couple of days of exploring Srinagar, I set out on a trek near the sacred Mount Haramukh, a peak considered sacred in Hinduism. At the base of the mountain, there are many alpine lakes and streams as well as pastures where shepherds bring sheep, goats, and horses to graze.

The first glimpse of snow-capped mountains in India
View from the village I stayed at before we began our ascent
Some of the homes in the mountains did not have running water or electricity. The lifestyle here was extremely different than that of the people in the valley.
Horses getting geared up for the trek
Traffic jam on the trail!
Our squad
First rest after getting above treeline
Left: An army camp near where people could camp. Only after we started our trek was I told that about a year ago a hiker went missing and his remains were never found. Because of this, the Indian military stationed men in this area in barracks complete with barbed wire, sandbags, tents, and guns. I needed a permit to enter the area.
Right: Eating dinner inside our tent.
Camp for three nights
Left: Kashmiri tea and bread for breakfast.
Right: I felt low energy and a lot of altitude sickness the first day and rested in the evening.
Left: The boy who was helping with the ponies on the trek was an expert angler in the trout streams!
Right: I tried my hand at guiding the ponies.
Kashmir - Heaven on earth