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Published: December 21st 2009
Just a quick blog this time, to tell the story about my trip south to Benaulim....
Benaulim is another village close to the beach, a little south of Candolim where I am staying now. I left Saturday morning, took the bus to Panjim, then to Margao and finally to Benaulim. I forgot lesson number one: never sit at the back of the bus, ESPECIALLY if you don't know where you are going. The bus may look empty at first, but this will change soon... So I was, of course, sitting at the back of the bus. Most buses have 2 doors, one at the back: this one had only the front door. I had no idea where to get off so I asked a nice lady. When we got close to Benaulim she said politely: "I think you should start making your way to the front of the bus now". Oh my God. The bus was so full, thank God, I had only a very small bag with me, I hardly touched the floor as I was literally swimming my way through the front. But as usual, it all worked out, I paid my 5 rupies to the conductor (this is the official name of the money collector that I called the manager before..). From there I walked to the Benaulim Beach road, and started looking for a place to stay.
Unlike the other beaches, Benaulim is actually not that busy. I was surprised that many hotels were not full, and the prices, although high for India, didn't seem to be overpriced for the holiday season (no extra charge for the cockroach in the bathroom). I found a decent hotel, left my bag, and walked around.
The village is nice and quiet, very green, the locals very friendly. There is a lot of buffaloes, and many pigs, which I had not seen too much recently. I also looked for other guest houses just for fun, to compare with the one I had, and realized once again that it is usually better not to go to places recommended by the Lonely Planet. These places double or triple their prices. As I walked around, I was almost attacked by a pig so I thought it was better to retreat to the beach.
The beach is beautiful and not super busy although because of Christmas it is certainly busier than usual. I walked to Colva Beach, a beach that a few years ago was almost unspoiled by "development". Now it is a super busy beach with many, many Indian families. I managed to find a really good Indian restaurant, not easy in Goa: most restaurant are there to please the tourists that want to eat "westernized food".
I met many locals, all super friendly, some tourists were also quite friendly, and the pace was a little more quiet than in Candolim. Saturday night, as I was walking back to my hotel, I ran into Shiva, a really nice Indian who spoke very good French. His wife teaches cooking lessons, I wished I had more time to learn a few tips... He gave me his phone number and as he left he said "Vive le Quebec libre"!!!
The next day I struggled to find a place that was open before 9 am, on the beach, to have tea. I finally just sat at one of the beach shacks while the staff was busy getting ready for the day. I read for an hour and then went for breakfast to the same indian restaurant. Delicious.
After more milkshakes and tea, I finally started heading back home. Took the bus to Panjim: the conductor was a young Indian and he was super nice. He sent one passenger to the back so I could sit on the metal rail (not very comfy) instead of standing. When we arrived at the bus stand, he told me which bus to take. Maybe 5 or 10 minutes later, as I was waiting in the bus looking at the "no smoking, no spitting" sign, all of a sudden someone banged on the side of the bus and waved at me. It was my nice conductor from the Benaulim bus making sure I was in the right bus: "Good bye Mad'm!". So friendly!
In Panjim I went to another of my favorite restaurants, and it was hilarious. 5-6 staff where there and I was the only customer. They treated me like I was the Queen of England. They gave me the menu, opened it at the right page in front of me. I ordered soda water and kashmiri pulao. One waiter brought what looked like a champagne glass and presented the soda bottle to me as if it were a very expensive bottle of wine. I approved and he poured the water in the glass. Then another one brought my plate and wiped it in front of me, and did the same with the utensils. When the pulao was ready, another waiter put the utensils in the pulao plate as if they were made of crystal. I started eating, they came and asked if all was fine, if I needed more water... I was almost embarrassed to eat! But it was really good, and I thought I should write a guidebook on good places to eat in Panjim. There are many really good restaurant in Panjim.
Now I am back in Candolim, Christmas is in a few days and I really can't believe it. Where is the snow?
Merry Christmas to you all!
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