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Published: July 22nd 2011
Paulo Bus Lines
Jesus...Light of the World
Mysore to Goa
Our night bus to Goa starts, luckliy enough just down the street from our hotel, so it's a quick walk instead of another confusing ride in a Tuk Tuk. The bus is our first sleeper bus experience in India, which I'm looking forward to. I feel like if I can lie down flat, perhaps I can sleep a bit while we're on the bus. Most buses only run at night in India to avoid the traffic, so I better get used to it quick, we have many many more rides ahead of us!
The bus, at first impression, is a bit creepy. Its twilight, dark on the bus, and each bunk has curtains to the tight central hallway. There are only about 6 people on the bus when we leave Mysore. I've got a book light that I use for my kindle, so we're able to settle into our 2+2 bunk, we're on the lower 2 near the middle of the bus. While I've got my light on, several 'bugs' which may or may not have been cockroaches, escape from under our leather mattresses...thank god I've still got my silk sleeping bag, it's going to be
a long, paranoid night.
Because there's only 6 people and the bunk is not wide enough for both of our shoulders to lie down side by side, Trung ventures out to another set of bunks to spread out for the night. Nobody else gets on throughout the trip so it turns out to be a good idea to spread out.
I'm awake for the first few hours, we only got on the bus at 9pm, but around midnight I manage to drift off. The bus is very comfortable, temperature wise, and if you dont' think about the filthy conditions, and if I keep my sleeping bag curled tightly around me, I'm able to relax and read from my kindle until my eyes close.
I wake up several times in the night while the bus seems to be struggling to climb switchbacks and rocking dangerously fast down the other side of mountains. It feels like I might get swooped right out of bed at a few corners as the bus careens down the mountainside. I don't look out the window; I don't want to know.
In the morning we're left guessing as to where we are. The
storefronts usually have full addresses, including city names, as in Asia, except the writing is all Hindi in this location. I know there's a few bus stops, and the bus starts letting people off, and we're able to reason with the bus driver enough that he understands we want to get off where most of the tourists get off.
At about 9am the bus sets us down on the entrance ramp to a bridge across a large river. The taxi drivers are on the bus before we can get off, yelling and talking about hotels and how great they are. Trung and I are half asleep still and can't actually walk off the bus because the touts are in the way. 'You come to my hotel, very cheap, yes? Hello? Ok? You come to my hotel? Ok? No problem? Hello? HELLO? OK?' While at the same time I say 'Hello, no, I don't know where I want to go, I just want to get off the bus, no, let me off the bus, no, no, sorry, let me off the bus.' After that pleasant exchange with about 20 different people Trung and I are off, holding
onto our backpacks (the touts will take them as 'porters' and put them in their cabs, otherwise). We figure we want to go to Baga beach which is the Indian capital of monsoon beaching. Millions of Indian people visit this area during this time of year. The other areas are more westernized, but mostly empty and closed up since the monsoon started a few weeks ago.
Baga is about 15km from where the bus left us and a cabbie agrees to take us there for 400 rupees($10). In this area there are only white compact cars with 'tourist vehicle' marked in red on the side, rather than the ubiquitous tuk tuks. I guess its how they get your money to separate from your wallet faster...
We end up at the Taxi's recommended spot, near Tito's, a massive club complex that is in every guide book. We manage to get a hotel for 1000 with a pool, tv and fridge, which is a good deal, only 100m from the beach.
The following three days are fairly relaxing. There's no bright sunny days, as is the norm during Indian monsoon. There's a bluish haze all day (that you can
still tan under) with sporadic rain each afternoon that lasts about an hour. The rain is actually nice, comes down in buckets, and cools everything off for the late afternoon and evening.
Baga is like a calm version of Kuta, in Bali, Indonisia. There are small laneways with scooters flying everywhere, hotels, clothing and kitchy knicknack stores with touts at each. 1/3 of the stores, hotels and restaurants are closed, but there are enough still open to keep us entertained for our stay. Its not the best beach we've ever been to, but it'll do, in a pinch!
Its hilarious to walk down the beach to the main parking area where people come from far and wide to chill on the beach. Most Indians arrive either by bus or by packed van-cab from the surrounding large cities. Men get drunk, strip down to their underwear and lie down in the surf and giggle, women leave their saris on and wade and get splashed. The little kids chase the beach dogs and the teenagers are too cool for school, as usual. There's deep fried foods and ice cream galore and everyone is taking photos with their cell phone camera.
Mostly photos of me. Sometimes they ask, sometime they (obviously) try to get an indirect photo of me in the frame with their friends. Andy Sharpe: A minor celebrity on the beach.
Goa is an old Portuguese colonial state, so we travel by cab back to Panaji, the capital, to stay for 1 night at the state-run hotel, and also the cheapest room in the city. For 900 rupees we get A/C and television in a clean room. The hotel also has a good restaurant.
Panaji at first glance is a really picturesque city. Tight streets lined with pastel coloured homes dotted with blinding white churches. Colonial looking government buildings in bright yellow with red trim and hilly monestaries with good views. Trung and I decide to stay three nights and just relax here before moving on. There's a government run tourist bus that explores the region (similar to the Chennai Bus). It takes us to some amazing sights and some not so amazing. We visit: the joining of three rivers on the ocean with a kitchy romantic sculpture on the point; 'The Abyss' sad aquarium with 10 fish tanks in the dark; The oldest
house in Goa sad museum with an automatic loud speaker audio guide and an attendent to make sure you didn't skip any stops; Goan wax museum sad museum; The spectacular churches of Old Goa, some of the largest churches in the world set side by side on a great lawn in between; and a few old churches converted to beautiful hindu temples.
On our 2nd night we take the local boat cruise down the river. Panaji is located between two rivers and boat cruises are a popular way for locals to relax. For $2 you get a 1hr boat cruise including entertainment. I just want the cruise to see the old city from the water, but when we get on the boat there's a stage set up, and tarps are down all around the group of 100 seats on the boat. Trung and I sit near the front of the boat in order to see out and also to see the stage. Everyone else scrambles to sit in the makeshift auditorium in the middle of the boat so maybe it'll be a good show?
As the boat pushes its way through 5 other boats parked at the dock
(large passenger ferries pushing eachother around...) the first of many awkward shows start up. The MC tries to warm up the Indian crowd with jokes and excitement, but everyone is completely straight-faced the entire time. Then he asks all the kids to come up to the stage to dance. About three 12 year old girls take the stage, the DJ plays some dirty hip hop. Its the kind of situation that's beyond being 'cute' and becomes 'creepy'. We're semi-facing the audience who are staring at the 12 year old girls doing their best hip hop dance for the entire, painful song. Next up are a group of 'professional' dancers in traditional Goan dress who do a pretty cool maypole style dance with ribbons the colour of the indian flag. The dance is really interesting. Too bad the professionals are interspaced with the MC asking a different group of people to come up. Next its all the bachelors, then all the women, then families. Each time a dirty hip hop song plays and maximum four people are on the stage doing their best, to a crowd of unchanging, staring faces. Its hilarious to Trung and I, which draws some of the
stares in the crowd to us, giggling in the foreground, next to the stage.
The scenery is great, I don't know why these people aren't caring. About 10 people stand at the front with Trung and I, taking in the city passing by and the crashing surf at the rivermouth. After 1/2 hour we turn around and head back to the dock. Several of the men have had several beers during our travelling and are starting to get roudy. A crowd develops on the stage of these rowdy guys and they looooove dancing so the DJ just plays a string of hip hop songs for them to dance to. The lawn chairs, once set up in lines across the ship, are now in dissaray as people move about wherever they please. Its quite the experience!
Panaji and Baga are still not quite the best things we've ever done, but they're a HUGE step up from Chennai. I'm encouraged by the turn of events and actually look forward to our next adventure in Mumbai.
Panaji to Mumbai
Trying to find the bus location in Panaji proves more difficult than we thought. Trung doesn't want to take a
tuk tuk, so we end up walking and sweating for 15 minutes before we reach the place the bus from Mysore let us off. It's my best guess and Trung has no idea. We probably should have taken a Tuk Tuk but here we are! There's a guy who says we need to cross the bridge, but I don't think that's right, and when I question him where exactly we should go he grunts and waves us off and walks away. 15 minutes until the bus arrives! After wandering with our bags and sweating I'm finally able to find someone who points us back to the bridge. We walk, with nowhere else to go. Turns out there's a parking area just before the bridge crosses the river. We wait by the side of the road after I ask some people and they point to a spot on the road. I guess this is exactly where the bus stops.
Eventually our semi-sleeper bus pulls up and carts us off to Mumbai, but not before I can refill my stash of chips, chocolate bars, and water from a guy carrying around a big sack of the stuff. Its about 50 cents
for one of each!
The bus trip to Mumbai is capped off by a stop at a roadside restaurant with a creepy children's playground and the largest, most stinky bathroom area I've ever seen. There's several buses there and people gobbling up food. Trung and I stick to plain 'buns' which are tasty and fresh, and some deep fried spicy potates and mango juice.
Next stop: Mumbai!
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