This was my third visit to Sai Baba temple, Shirdi in a span of 4 years. This time, it was more of a family affair as my son was with us. So altogether, we were 4 – myself, my 9 months year old son Aryan, my wife and my mother in law. Another purpose of this year’s visit was to get my son’s “Mundan” (Hair cutting ceremony) done.
We started a bit late on Saturday (29th March) at around 10:30am from Mira rd (Thane) and were stuck at Fountain Signal for almost 25 minutes since traffic is open only one side at a time.
The first toll booth was at Thane. Paid Rs. 20 for one side. The second toll is just before you entire Bhiwandi; paid Rs. 29 there. The 3rd toll will be before Pagdha which is called Arjunali. You got to pay Rs. 95, but make sure to retain the slip as it will be used to skip the next toll at Ghoti.
There is one restaurant named Dalvi Darbar 65kms before Nashik. You can have a pit stop to grab good lunch. Though I didn’t go there, it seemed to be a decent option en route.
Word of caution – when you reach Ghoti and bound to take a right turn on Nagpur-Aurangabad- Mumbai hwy, there is a big flyover. Remember to keep an eye on the side exit boards for Shirdi right turn. From the exit, go down to the service late and take right. If you miss it, you might end up going way beyond covering several kms before taking a U-Turn.
We had our lunch at around 3:45 at Hotel Saiways which was around 60 odd kms before Shirdi. There we had Mutton curry (OK), Palak saag (OK) and bread (bad). OK food but quick service. Probably, it was fast as we were the only ones there.
Reached Shirdi at 6:00pm. MTDC hotel was full (as expected), so better we do an online booking in advance. However, there 2 hotels just behind MTDC called Laxmi and Om. Last year I’d stayed at Om since Laxmi was full. This time we chose Laxmi.
Overall the hotel was good, clear & tidy. The staff is nice but they don’t have a kitchen. As per the tariff plan rates for Deluxe room tripple bed was Rs. 2800 per night. But the manager proactively offered Rs. 1800 that we further negotiated down to Rs. 1600. We could have gone even below, but we needed to settle down to take rest. Any ways, there are plenty of restaurants and local eating joints around Sai Baba temple, so no need to worry. If needed,the hotel staff can deliver the food to you without any additional charge.
Due to minor hairline fracture on my left ankle, I had decided to stay back at the hotel and did not go for evening darshan. Wife, mom in law and son went at 8:30 and returned at 10pm with loads of food. I’m not fond of veg when I’m outside but there wasn’t any choice.
Next morning, myself and wife went to have Darshan. To my surprise it was jam packed and way too crowded. Since I couldn’t rely on my broken ankle to withstand my weight for long hours (in the queue) I decided to have a sneak peek darshan from the side window. Most of the lazy lots end up having mini-darshan from that window itself.
I found the entire surrounding of temple full of money-heads. The place itself seems to be a business house rather than a sacred place. Taut trying to help you in lieu of money, exorbitant prices for general “prasad” items, deceiving people to skip the queue when generally it does not happen etc. So when you are there, do bargain to the core for the offering materials. Do not entertain anyone who’s willing to help you with monitory benefits in mind. Avoid beggars since if you give some money to one, others will flock and chase you till the end. Ignore people who jump onto you / your vehicle and offer parking space or give options for fast track. Do everything on your own.
At 12:00pm, we had our Brunch at Hotel Mukta – Chole Bhature (too oily but tasty), Aloo Paratha (good), Dry Manuchurian (highly recommended but not too Chinese), butter milk (OK).
Enroute, we took a halt at Shiv Sagar restaurant at Vashind for late lunch – dosa (not that great as it was sweet), medu vada (ok), hakka noodles (good).
We reached Mira Road at 6ish on Sunday.