Thursday, 4 February 2016

Travels in India, 2016 - Goa's Deep South

The tuk tuk dropped us off just over an hour later in Patnem on Goa's southernmost tip. As usual one of us minded the bags while the other went off in search of a place to stay. Over the last couple of years Patnem's popularity has rocketed; it took over an hour to find anything within our modest budget, eventually settling on a £12 a night room in the Sea View Resort.

Patnem beach is undeniably lovely,

The creek at neighbouring Rajbag beach is stunning.

Total tranquillity only a short walk away from the sun loungers and beach bars spread along rest of the beach.

Patnem Chai Shop serves up a spicy pav bhaji breakfast for 40p.

But Patnem seems rather soulless, a place created to meet the needs of the mostly British visitors, despite its obvious beauty it lacks authenticity and the only Indians we met were the ones serving us dinner. Its a great place to stay if you've never visited Goa before but lacks the vibe of the bigger villages. After a pleasant three day stay we packed up, jumped in a tuk tuk and headed ten kilometres up the road to Agonda.

We've been coming here since 2004 when it was little more than a fishing hamlet.

Twelve years ago, other than the locals' homes, there was a hut encampment, a guest house and a tiny general store with a payphone. We stayed in a thatched beach hut, washed from a bucket, ate whatever veg the cook had bought back from the market and went to bed at 9 pm when the electric supply went off.

Again, our accommodation was a thatched coco hut but, in 2016 style, came with an attached bathroom, a shower, free WiFi (not that we used it) and electricity 24/7. We've stayed here three times over the last few years, you can even book on-line (HERE).

These days Agonda is well and truly on the tourist map but at heart remains a fishing village.

Wander along the sandy back lanes and you feel a million miles away from the tourist scene.

Back in the days of Portuguese rule only the churches were allowed to be painted white, a tradition that continues today. Houses in Goa come in all colours.

Be prepared to share the beach with the cows and if, like us, you take a bag of fruit along with you, be prepared to share.

Many of the local fishermen offer boat trips after they've sorted out the morning catch.

We treated ourselves to an early morning punt along the backwaters. The young boatman told us he'd be spending his profits on a trip to the cinema in Goa's second city, Margao. He was going to see Star Wars for the third time in a fortnight.

It was so peaceful we had to keep prodding each other to stay awake.

Before 9am we'd already spotted kingfishers, egrets, parakeets and herons, saw monkeys swinging through the trees, heard the chirruping of squirrels & koels calling and witnessed all manner of fish leaping from the waters.

Like Benaulim, Agonda has some great no-frills meals joints (confusingly known as "hotels" even though there's no bed involved) where you can get a proper pure veg Goan or South Indian breakfast for around £1.

Clockwise from top left: Jon tucking into masala uttapam; me and my massive Masala Dosa; Pav bhaji; Our favourite breakfast spot in Agonda; Puri bhaji; Aloo paratha with curd; Tomato uttapam (click on the links if you're not sure what they are)
There's lots of good restaurants, too. We had a couple of fab nights out with fellow Judy's vintage traders, Saz & Andy, enjoying their first trip to Goa.

Dinner at My Friend's Place. We stayed in their coco huts, just behind the restaurant.

After two weeks in Goa (five days in Benaulim, three in Patnem and six in Agonda) we were relaxed, tanned and totally chilled out.

We could have easily stayed for longer but we needed to pack, we had a plane to catch. Goodbye Agonda! Adventure beckoned.

Part three to follow (if you can stand the excitement!)  More photos HERE

Its business as usual for Kinky this weekend. We'll be trading with Judy's Affordable Vintage at Bethnal Green (see HERE) on Sunday. Come and see us if you can.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Travels in India, 2016 - Benaulim, Burial Grounds & Beaches

Welcome to Goa, ladies and gentlemen. The local time is 4.30 am and the temperature is 28 degrees. Happy New Year! The pilot announced over the tannoy as the plane bumped down on to the tarmac at Dabolim Airport. We were back in the place we loved and, despite a tedious twenty-three hour journey, were already bursting with excitement at having 31 days of no plans whatsoever ahead.

Our first stop was Benaulim, a Catholic fishing village in South Goa. We rented a room at family-run Palmira's for the first few nights, basic but quiet, clean and comfortable and great value at £5 a night.

The antics of the family pig and her handsome feline companion kept us amused for hours.

As our pasty Northern European skin hadn't seen the light of day since last Summer we took it easy with the sun worshipping at first, avoiding the beach until later in the day for a sunset swim.

 Mornings were spent our favourite way, wandering around aimlessly and getting hopelessly lost, following paths and well-trodden trails to discover every inch of the area. One day we ended up in nearby Colva, stumbling across Our Lady of Merces, a Portuguese era Catholic church originally built in 1640.

Despite visiting Goa for over 16 years this is the first cemetery we'd ever come across. We weren't sure what the etiquette was but saw a local lady leaving and she indicated that it was perfectly fine to take a look around. We definitely wouldn't have entertained the idea if there was a burial taking place or any sign of grieving relatives.

The cemetery appeared to be divided into several parts, this gated area contained the family burial vaults and plots. 

The Portuguese were kicked out in 1961 but their legacy, in the form of the names taken by Goan Hindus forced to convert to Catholicism, lives on.

The niches in the compound wall housed hundreds of engraved marble tributes.

I loved this Azulejo tile. 

This area was filled with more simple graves with wooden cross markers. 

Floral displays commemorating the first year anniversary. 

 These graves were inside an Indo-Portuguese building with a vaulted ceiling and an altar. We were reluctant to enter, choosing to stand outside and take a few photos from a respectful distance.  

Again, these graves were mostly marked with simple wooden crosses. 

A moment or two of peace amid the frenzy of touristy Colva.

Paddy fields, Benaulim

After five days in Benaulim it was time to repack our bags, hail a tuk tuk and move on.

We got back yesterday morning but I'm not quite sure if our brains are still in India. This blog post has taken me most of the day to write. We took almost 1000 photos (more from our first few days HERE) so be warned there's a danger that I'll be blathering about this trip for months.

Benaulim villager taking a break
Hope your 2016 got off to an equally brilliant start. I'll catch up with my blog reading over the next few days, it will be a welcome diversion from the jet lag.

See you soon!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday.