I'm on storm watch. We're currently being buffeted by 85-mile-an-hour winds which aren't half scary when you've got twenty six trees in the garden.
Its almost impossible to imagine scenes like this were a common occurrence less than a fortnight ago.
India is so photogenic. You don't need a fancy camera to snap a decent photo, which is just as well, these were taken on a £5 mobile phone from eBay and a (now defunct) Samsung point & shoot someone dumped by the bins at last year's Glasto.
Everywhere you look you'll see something beautiful, from this gorgeous 1970s Beetle rusting in the grounds of Goa Chitra, an ethnographic museum....
These water lilies remind me of the cover of The God of Small Things, one of my all-time favourite books (set in the backwaters of Kerala, which we visited HERE).
Or this discarded pot of kumkum powder on a temple wall.
Even the local dump has a certain kind of charm.
ThriftyParka asked how I first discovered Goa - being a fan of all things Indian and obsessed with the original overland trail, I'd fancied going for years. Our first trip was in 2000, a two week package to North Goa. We checked in, dumped our bags and, pursued by a pack of stray dogs and an elderly beggar, made our way to a tatty little chai shop on the main road. We asked for beer, unaware that they didn't sell it, but without a word the proprietor dispatched a boy to the nearest bar to fetch us some, accompanied by samosas for which they refused to accept payment. I knew then that I was going to love it.
The following year we travelled to Brazil, it was beautiful but it wasn't Goa. We returned a year later. Within hours of arrival a man from a shop near our guesthouse rushed over to welcome us back insisting we took 50p he thought he'd overcharged us by on the last visit, two years previously.
Thrifted also asked if it was safe. Following the Scarlett Keeling murder in Goa back in 2008 and several high profile rape cases in North India the media seem obsessed with Goa being a danger zone. Its not. Ok, I sometimes get a bit of unwanted attention, whiskey-ed up men taking my photo without permission or standing over me when I'm lying on the beach blatantly staring but acting outraged and shooing them away soon does the trick. I've walked along beaches on my own after dark, dined alone and caught public transport without any mishaps. Basically, exercise the same caution as you would at home.
Eeek asked about mozzies. Funnily enough until I'd had a couple of blood transfusions I'd never been bitten, now the little sods make a beeline for me. I buy the local stuff, Odomos, which is cruelty free, safe on skin and less than a quid a tube.
She also asked if I keep a record of the places we stay. Yes, I am that saddo. For years I've kept a daily travel journal crammed with receipts, fliers, bus & train tickets and pressed flowers. The sari fabric one was this year's. Jon bought it me for Xmas - its made from recycled paper and scraps of fabric salvaged from Indian factory floors.
Tani asked about snorkeling. Its no good, the Arabian Sea's too murky. She also asked about the best place for relaxing which, in our opinion, is definitely the South. Head to Patnem and Agonda for beautiful beaches, great places to eat and a laid-back, peaceful vibe. The place most independent travellers stay at is Palolem. The beach is gorgeous (its the one Jason Bourne jogged along in the Bourne Supremacy) but its a bit too commercialised and busy for us.
Cherre asked about the water. We brush our teeth with tap water (to no ill effect) but drinking it isn't recommended. If we're having ice in drinks at a bar we always check that the cubes are made with mineral water first.
How do you haggle? Some people are a bit nervous but its great fun once you get into it. Always have a price in mind before you start and offer the shopkeeper around a third of that price. Never be aggressive and keep smiling.
Me: How much?
Him: How much you want to pay, madam?
Me: 100 rupees (£1)
Him: Madam, no good, this very special, export quality cotton, it's 600 rupees (£6)
Me: That's too much, I'll give you 200 rupees
Him: I give you special price, morning-time price, only 500 rupees for you
Me: That's too expensive, I'm a poor tourist, need money for food. I'll give you 300 rupees
Him: Madam, too cheap! I come down, you come up, final price 400 rupees
Me: Sorry, I cannot afford more than 350 rupees, that's my best offer...goodbye and thank you! (Puts vest down & starts walking away)
Them: Madam, okay, okay. You have for 350 rupees.
Me: Thank you. (Shake hands and exchange cash).
So, fancy going to Goa?
If you're a British passport holder you'll need a visa. Details HERE. Apparently India is planning to offer visas on arrival to residents of over 180 countries (and its rumoured that the UK may be one of them).
Once that's sorted you'll need to get yourself a flight to Dabolim (Goa's only airport). You can either pick up a cheap charter flight direct from the UK (we've paid as little as £250 for a 28 night, flight only deal). Alternately, fly to one of the major cities (Mumbai or Bangalore are nearest) and then catch an internal flight to Goa (details HERE) or, if you're in Mumbai, take the train (which you'll need to book ahead (details HERE).
If you like the look of the of places we stay in then head to South Goa . In our opinion North Goa's had its day - it's dirty, over-developed, brash, overly Westernised and expensive. Even our beloved Arambol, for years a hippy haven, has become a polluted cesspit. Read about our last (and final!) visit HERE.
Benaulim is the perfect place to ease yourself into the laid back lifestyle, its has the cheapest rooms, bike hire and food in Goa and you'll easily find yourself a decent place to stay for around £5 per night. This is the village where we explored the crumbling Portuguese mansions.
A taxi from the airport to Benaulim costs £5. From there a bus to Margao (seen HERE) will cost you 10p and a tuk tuk to Agonda around £10. Travelling onwards to Patnem will knock you back £2.50 (photos of these beaches, and many more, are HERE).
Tips for planning and preparing for a trip are HERE and you can read about how I pack HERE and now you can all breath a collective sigh of relief, that really is the last of my travel posts (for a few months!)
|Spotty 70s maxi (Cancer UK, 99p), vintage crochet shawl (Salvation Army, £1.25), Beaded earrings & Virgin Mary pendant (birthday pressies from the fabulous Em), Orgy of patchwork (made by me)|
We're having a 'mare with our Internet connection & have been without a land line since we got back from India (it'll be a miracle if I manage to publish this post). Please don't think I've fallen out with you if I don't reply to emails, "like" you on Facebook or fail to comment on your blog...its not you, its BT.
See you soon!