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Published: March 23rd 2010
Kia Ora from the desert Folks - and welcome to the Goa episode of our travel news!
We’re fresh back from a brilliant break in Goa, Western India - a region which is stacked with nice beaches, all things “Touristy” and a FAB climate - we (Jude) had a break from Students and some leave due, and I was about to turn 50 (hard to believe I know! Kinda surprised myself I made it lol), so Goa sounded like a Goer for a special place to clock up half a century and half a telegram from the Queen!
We’d been strongly recommended to avoid Mumbai, so took a red-eye flight via Doha, and with a flight time of 4 hours from there to Goa we landed in India around 3.00am to be met by a pre arranged transfer to our Hotel - the Riviera De Goa. (www.rivieradegoaresorts.com ). After an hour’s drive from the airport, we tried our best to sleep in and then surfaced to explore the Hotel, - which was brilliant.
A nice room with a ‘lagoon’ outlook and balcony, mini bar and room service -dangerous!
We stayed a week at this hotel and thought
we’d extend our stay once we got here - or grab something a bit more rustic, and when we eventually asked about staying on, found they were fully booked, - and we could see why. We were paying around $NZ80 a night for 5 Star accommodation - and the Staff attitude just topped it off - they were fabulous.
We spent the first day around the pool - the weather was perfect, the pool was a goodie, nice loungers and bar service, a good book - HEAVEN!
The next day was the big FIVE OH! so after a Champagne Brekkie on the patio - courtesy of our Napier Mates (Cheers Guys)- we ventured in to Baga Beach on the free Hotel shuttle. We met some cool Indian couples in the shuttle from London - they gave a good restaurant recommendation we were later pleased with.
Ten minutes down the road, at around 11am, the minibus broke down (European - how surprising) - so we were picked up by a couple of Taxi’s the Hotel dispatched, while the poor driver was left stranded without any air con - and it was h-o-t. Baga beach, like all the touristy
areas was an assault on the senses, stalls/shops everywhere selling their souvenirs, food stalls, bars, hawkers everywhere. The beach itself was jam-packed with tourists on their sun loungers - it was full on!
I was busy taking photo’s - especially of course, of motorbikes. Met an Indian Guy (funny that) on a smaller version of the FZ1 - about a 250 - looked cool - turns out it was one of 100’s of hire bikes seen around the place - he’d caught the train down from Delhi for 400 Rupee ($NZ12.42) - not bad for an 1800+ km journey - he’d just popped down for the weekend!
Next photo was of a Royal Enfield, and here’s where our day took a different direction…the owner was a young friendly local Guy who shot over to us and “presented” us with a ”Lucky Voucher” each, Pete’s smelling a rat, but it’s my birthday, so feeling laid back - my Voucher won me a dozen Kingfisher beer - nyce! Jude’s was a “major prize” - a laptop or travel or a week’s accommodation or cash - Yeah Right.
Anyway, after our free taxi ride to a nearby Hotel bar, and
a 70 minute Time Share presentation, LOL, we claimed our prizes! My box of beer came in very handy and Jude won a week’s accommodation in Bali or Goa for future use!
They could learn a thing or 200 about selling, but it’s not my job to teach them! (Nice change)
So after a couple of coldies it was back to the hotel around 4pm to see our stranded shuttle Driver still waiting for a mechanic!
After relaxing back at the pool, we went out for a scrumptious birthday dinner at SPICE, an appropriate name for a nearby Indian restaurant - YUUUUUUM! Washed down with some very nice Kingfisher Lager and a small tad of wine. (White, lie)
We both were affected to a varying degree by Delhi Belly - and we were very careful, even washing our teeth with bottled water (supplied free each day). Jude spent a day in bed - probably helped shrug off the jet lag too. I was a matter of ‘keep drinking, just use more toilet paper’ - Oh, and, of course, keep out of the pool.
Everything you’ve heard about Indian roads is true - SIZE counts for everything
in hierarchical terms - unless that is, if you’re a cow! - Which means you can go pretty much anywhere you want, with right of way. Scooters abound - and a good chunk of them ridden by tourists and expat hippies who forgot to go home in the 70s - or so it seems. The fashion police have a real job on their hands here.
Even at the Saturday “night market” - just across the road from our hotel, the huge majority of stall holders were non locals. The saying goes that the market started by visiting surfies/hippies selling their few possessions to prolong their stay and I’d believe it.
What a huge market by the way - 100’s and 100’s of scooters and gazillions of stalls selling, surprisingly, quite good quality items, from clothes, to blankets, iron ware, brassware, food, art - you name it, it was there.
Anyway, back to the roads - A Bus beats a truck, a truck beats a van, a van beats a car, and a car beats a scooter which heads off a bicycle. Tuk tuks fall somewhere in between cars and scooters. Let the race begin! What a hoot.
The tuk tuks are not a patch on their Thai cousins tho - a tiny 2 stroke motor, a similar size to my chainsaw, appears to lurk below the seat - but the service they provide is great, - you can get anywhere for a couple of bucks it seems, often with language interpretation and directions from Indian speaking locals along the way all part of the fun. Elephants were also in the mix, with them appearing occasionally, all decorated up for photo opps with tourists - for a tip.
There were big numbers of English and - amazingly, Russian tourists here, enjoying the fantastic weather and the very cheap cost of living, often for extended periods. Many come out for months at a time. One UK couple we met, recently retired, had been visiting Goa annually for years and this time were out for 7 weeks. Initially they came on package tours but more recently had settled on one Guest house they enjoyed, and were paying something like $NZ15 a night, including breakfast for an ensuite room, and only a few hundred metres to the beach.
One friendly waiter explained that the Russians flock there to
smoke the drugs which were (apparently) freely available!
While the closest beach was Baga, - Calangute Beach was our favourite - the right mix of “busy” and beach for us - but there is certainly something for everyone here. Plenty of shops/taxi’s and bars around. Cheap too.
Beaches typically had rows of temporary bars erected with undercover drinking/dining, with a path of mats or tiles down to the water and rows of umbrellas and sun-loungers in front of the bar, for your free use, so long as you order something from time to time - be it water, lunch or beers. The service is outstanding and you soon feel pampered, with a tab being kept of your spending easily sorted upon departure. These beach huts were all vying for a memorable name - some included Rovers Return, Planet Morjim, Nobbies Hut, and so on.
Expect to see sacred cows wandering the beach tho - not so nice when they drop a steamer next to your lounger! It didn’t happen to us thank goodness, but it did happen. We even saw a cow being ‘shoo-ed’ out of a Café on one occasion.
The one challenge Jude and
I both had - and Blokes are pretty flexible - was the state of the toilets of some of the more ‘local’ bars and eateries - some were downright disgusting - one I encountered was home to a baby frog! At least I had a target I guess. The more upmarket bars and restaurants weren’t a problem tho.
We soon settled in to a pattern of Free brekkie at the hotel, followed by pool time and out for dinner at one of the local beaches later, with a huge choice of eateries to choose from.
One special one was ‘O Reverie’ - a very special restaurant - web reviews place it head and shoulders above all others In Goa and we can see why. It is set in a beautiful high walled courtyard with palm trees swaying, arty sculptures and furniture outside, including individual pagodas for your own small group, ponds and lights and mirrors creating a neat ambience - and the most delicious food you’ve ever tasted.
We enjoyed some nice bottles of wine and 2 courses for something like $NZ83 for 5+ star dining.
Another was ‘Little Italy’ - a vegetarian restaurant, once again with
lovely outside dining, American type portico building and a huge adjacent pool - the largest in this part of the coast - which is also used for diver training” - bring your togs next time” - dinner and a dip - strange combo!
India certainly is a country of contrasts - with 5 star resorts on one side of the fence, - and rubbish and filth littering the streets on the other. Supermarkets stocking all you need and a few hundred metres away an old man squats in a drain on the roadside cooking his dinner. Go figure. It’s nothing I can change, just a bit of culture shock from time to time.
There was a good sprinkling of Karaoke bars - it all seemed a bit like Benidorm at night sometimes - Poms on holiday, but it was all fun, with everyone in great spirits - or Pina Colada’s as was Jude’s case. Some songs were even in Russian - keeping the Ruskies happy.
Jude and I even belted out a couple of numbers as a Duet - safety in numbers - relying heavily in our fellow guests being as ‘relaxed’ as we were. We survived,
but The Hollies have no competition.
We decided to hire a rental car for a day and go exploring - working on the size factor versus a scooter - and were directed to the taxi office out the front of the hotel. Once we agreed on a price - haggling is a way of life here and hotel staff were excellent in guiding us with what to consider reasonable prices - we were handed the keys to an as new Suzuki - no contract, no licence, no passport, we just exchanged texts - “and if the Police stop you, it’s not a rental car, it’s a friend’s car”!!
We decided not to hire a guide, as we wanted just to wander - but when we spotted a Guide in another rental car full of Euro tourists after gassing up, we decided to “follow that car”! It was quite a laugh, as we headed North up the coast, trying to keep our target in sight and duck and dive with the traffic.
Were we on a temple tour? A pub crawl? Who knows ? Soon we were in quite a deserted area, just the white Suzuki ahead and
us - busted!
Anyway we soon arrived at a nice quiet beach, with a few beach bar huts and locals selling souvenirs in a few stalls - perfect. So we sunbathed, read our books and then continued exploring. We did I guess get a bit lost, but effectively had a good look around and satisfied ourselves that what we had seen was just repeating itself the further we went so our curiosity was satisfied.
On our travels we saw all sorts - mainly a fair bit of poverty - every man and his dog had a stall on the roadside selling something - many had a stool or box on the road edge with plastic soft drink bottles of petrol for sale for scooters - scooters and pushbikes were progressing along with incredible loads - all the stuff you’ve seen or heard of, was there.
We moved Hotels for the last 3 days, up the coast a bit to Vagator Beach, which had its own character, into a 4 star hotel called Le Gulls. It was much smaller, with a nice room overlooking the pool, but the staff attitude was out the window and the pool was
in the shade most of the day. It was still comfy tho.
The local Kingfisher is a great local brew, and “two large bottles” was the standard order - and very reasonable too. Service in bars, cafes etc is fabulous, they are very obliging. One Guy tried to rip me off in a suprette very close to Le Gulls - but I picked it up pretty quickly and confronted him - he tried to ‘go halves’ but when I insisted, he coughed up. We had a couple of cab drivers start out by trying stupid prices, but walking away either meant they lost our money or they very quickly saw sense, and dropped their prices. You can’t blame them I suppose - with the rainy season, they have to make their taxi money for the year in the 6 months tourists are around.
We didn’t buy much at the markets, but at the huge Anjuna Beach market, we did look at hammocks - and were offered them at (Indian Rupee)INR2500. We haggled - then wandered off at about the INR1500 mark, as we had just arrived at the market and maybe there were others cheaper.
minutes later a wee Indian boy runs up to me and says “Mister, he says 1200” - Okay Mate, we’ll pop back on the way out - and we did, scoring an awesomely made hammock extraordinaire for the equivalent of about sixty NZ bucks - great!
That day we lunched in one of the beach huts, and were amused by a family trio traipsing along the beach from hut to hut, and with a collection of ropes and poles. They would stop at a suitable spot and erected a makeshift tight rope. They young daughter would then perform tricks, walking the tight rope etc and the collection plate would come around - very enterprising!
That same lunch time another young Indian boy befriended us and nearby English diners. He was dressed in what looked like his Dads shirt, 8 sizes too big, and had an old gold watch on, which didn’t go - like he’s dressed up as a businessman, very comical. He had a tiny battery powered hand held electric fan he was trying to sell us, - how funny he was. He had no batteries, so was holding it in the wind to make the blades
spin - see it works he would exclaim! LOL
I think we all gave him a tip for his amusing pitch and gorgeous smile!
From what I’d read in local newspapers - which were a pleasure to read actually, such excellent grammar and English - anyone who was anyone, had their own business - and I can now understand why - I dare not think what employees are paid.
Royal Enfields were everywhere of course - and have such an iconic hero status there, it’s unbelievable.
Many discussions were had with Indian locals about bikes, and you dare not mention that they are based on an archaic British design - with early British designs not being a good start, and that if they aren’t leaking oil, it’s means there is no oil in them….no, that wouldn’t go down well at all, LOL.
So that was Goa for us- a stimulating, fun, contrasting and relaxing holiday and adventure all-in-one, and great value to boot. By the way, I managed to squeeze in 2 dental appointments, had a high quality porcelain veneer made and fitted for just $NZ 274! In Bahrain you could add a grand to
The return trip was another red eye, but we arrived home in Bahrain to our lovely apartment, appreciating the fabulous roads, manicured gardens, relatively restrained driving, structure and organisation in a totally new light!
But we’d had a ball.
Keep in touch!
Pete and Jude
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