This is where we grew up. The quaint town of Ratnagiri holds our favorite memories from childhood. My dad always said most people liked either mountains or the sea so what if we get both at once. Well, his placement to Ratnagiri did us just that. Between lush green Western Ghats and the lovely sands of the Konkan coastline – it gave us the best of both worlds. The people were simple, friendly, and straight forward. It was a small town where everyone knew everyone and that was one thing we really missed when we moved from there to a busy metropolis.
Years later, we always pined to go back to the place to relive the good ol’ days. We finally managed to do that one autumn when we were dillydallying on a roadtrip destination although our dates had been finalised. The four of us had been doing roadtrips together for a while and bro and I had always wanted to take Tapo and Tanny to Ratnagiri. We talked a lot about the place and I bet they always thought we were exaggerating the beauty of it – because it was so under-talked about. Ganpatipule is all they had heard of – which beautiful as it was – was only the tip of the iceberg.
Ratnagiri town has a lot of beautiful places to see. There are two prime beaches – White sea and Black sea – the latter being an old jetty turned into a busy evening hangout for townsfolk – dotted with stalls selling tender coconut and the best bhelpuri ever. As kids, we used to grab a couple of those and walk down the jetty, sit a while on the benches feeling the cool sea breeze in our face as we stuffed it with bhel.
Thiba point is another evening hotspot perched over the edge of a cliff that overlooks the sea, a beautiful fisherman village, and the Bhatye island. They have now turned it into a park with a viewing spot and all that, at our times it used to be just the rocks and some ferrywallahs selling snacks, children playing around and adults marveling at the idyllic view of the sunset. There used to be a couple selling a snack made of crispy cones filled with a stuffing of masala sprouts which we thought was pretty innovative at that time. We didn’t see them this time around.
Thiba palace is a tourist attraction that saw just us on the afternoon we visited. Most of it having converted into a government polytechnic college, the sanctum sanctorum of the house used as exile for the Burmese King Thiba is still open to public and is bit of a museum with artefacts and items the Royal family used during their stay in this beautiful place. Beautiful, but what in those times must have been inescapable. Sweet torture. Remember my dad saying at least the British were kind and respectful enough to think through the location and the Burmese architecture while building the palace to ensure the King was not homesick. But truth is, as we read from the stories on the walls of the palace, that not only the King but also his family and attendants who had been brought in to this place, were in fact terribly homesick. Nevertheless, an afternoon walk in the Thiba palace is something we will savour for a long time. We also in fact tried to venture or at least peek into the closed quarters of the palace, the huge locks piqued our curiosity as usual, and we wondered if we would be as intrigued and interested to spend a night in this place as we were on the sunny afternoon. The light, the spiral wooden staircase, the fenestrated windows and the old world charm of the entire place made for decent pictures as we posed and clicked away.
The Ratnadurg fort and the lighthouse nearby are both places one shouldn’t miss. The view from up there is gorgeous, and there is a lot of history associated with the place that adds to the mystique. We climbed atop the lighthouse, and requested the caretaker to let us stay till the sunset – although it was time for him to officially close the place, we were mesmerised by the view and the calmness of the place that we found it difficult to leave at once. The fort, again, has pretty views of the Bharti Shipyard jetty below, and the vast expanse of the sea ahead. One also catches a glimpse of the narrow caves that were supposed tunnels created by Shivaji’s troops as secret escapeways that would often get flooded during high tide and hence could only be used in a calculated manner – very guerrilla.
It is also very calming to drive around the numerous cute little villages in Ratnagiri – Pawas is one such place which is a small drive from Ratnagiri. We used to frequent to Ashram at Pawas where not to be missed is the masala bhaath served as prasad at around lunchtime.Talking of food, the place is famous for fresh seafood – a typical Konkani meal of clam curry, fried fish and ‘wade’ a deep fried bread and the Konkani equivalent of puri, to be polished off with calming sol kadhi – is commonplace across the town. We stayed at Hotel Vivek and absolutely loved their seafood dishes. Here is a picture of a typical Konkani seafood thali I flicked from bro from one of his visits to Ratnagiri.
There is also a restaurant called Aamantran that serves Kolhapuri cuisine, in case you get tired of konkani and seafood
affair, a fiery tambra rassa (red curry) or pandhra rassa (white curry) would do your taste buds real good. Also, you can’t miss buying loads of Alphonso produce, aampapads, aambewadis,
Besides the beaches, the mountains, villages, food and hospitality, Ratnagiri has an old world charm of a forgotten coastal town that has not yet succumbed to the pressures of tourism. So if you are looking for new places to vacation and have run out of options on the map, I would strongly suggest heading to this coastal town and savour a bit of Konkan in its purest form.