Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Travels In Goa Part 4 - The Final Instalment

 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.

Linda asked about creepy crawlies. I've yet to see a spider and that's the only creature that really bothers me. I did have a cockroach run across my face in a cheap hotel in Kerala (lesson there, ALWAYS ask to look at your room before booking it) and there's the cobra who tried to get in our room in Benaulim, back in 2012! Most of the time it's just pigs & cows.

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.

This is how I bought my latest psychedelic Krishna top:

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).

Shopping Goan-style
Best time to visit? November until the end of March. We love going in April but it can get unbearably hot and many of the restaurants, beach shacks and bars have shut down in readiness for the monsoon so its not the best choice for a first visit. Peak season is Xmas week until the end of the first week in January, prices may treble and everywhere is packed.

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!


  1. hope the storm did not destroy anything ...
    can not say enough "thank you" for the wonderful photos of india and extremely practical tips :-)
    pretty patchwork pillows - they´r like the essence of all your colorful clothes......

  2. Great tips for all Goan travellers. Im a great haggler - learned it in Turkey many years ago.
    You look so pretty sitting there on your storm watch, hope you get through it all safe and sound.

  3. Oh Vix I am lying in bed (meant to be up) and have just been whisked away to the truly beautiful's pouring with rain outside. I love your trip pics and hearing how you and Jon travel.
    I hope the winds don't damage your trees......take care sweet. Love v
    Love seeing you in the squirrel present....last post.

  4. Shame that's the last travel post - they're just the thing for this horrendous weather! Stay safe in the storms xx

  5. I love your blog. You are such an inspiration. I have vowed to travel more. My hubby and I are saving now for a trip in March. I can't wait. Did I mention I love your blog?

  6. Oh yes, we are absolutely sick of your posts about Goa! Lovely photos, fascinating stories about the people you meet and the places you visit. I will never go to Goa and I just love reading about your trips.

  7. Excellent advise and tips, you are so helpful. Hope yourweather improves soon.

  8. You are so helpful, what great advise and tips! Hope your weather improves soon.

  9. Goa certainly is a very picturesque place. Some really useful travelling tips here. Always good to get it firsthand from a seasoned visitor rather than from official guides. I am absolutely in love with that crochet poncho. Don't you just love the SA x

  10. love the first and the last pic off you and your ability to make a bargain!

  11. The winds are horrendous aren't they? Mr F had a hairy car journey home, it is scary, the blooming lights keep flickering too! I hope your trees are ok, it is brilliant to see your pics from Goa, great gif too! and good luck with your internet too x x x

  12. Feck ME, this is an outstandingly informative and brilliant post, darling! Who needs a travel agent when we have our Vix?! Bloody good stuff, and I've sucked that in and will re read for when we meet you there sometime..........hopefully sooner than we'll make it to the UK, as it'll be so much cheaper for us!
    That spotty maxi is heaven sent, you look like a senorita pining for her matador!!! Delicious!
    Love Helga xxxXXXxxx

  13. Your pictures are beautiful and your writing really makes me want to go. I love the way you describe the decency of the barkeeps and shop-people. I love that. xoxo

  14. Ooh I like the moving image! And thanks for the lovely photos - this weather is driving me nuts.

  15. Fab post Vix and I loved the charming story of the man who came running out because you overpaid him. Reading all this has given me the urge to go back there next winter. Love your crocheted shawl, you look very wistful looking out at the dreadful weather. Hope the trees are still vertical.

  16. Looks wonderful, maybe one day I will make it there - will have to be overland though, maybe in a big red bus! I'm so ready for spring - N has just gone to move one of the cars away from the trees outside the house in case they come down in the wind.
    Nuts to BT!

  17. I love that first photo of you looking out the window....also the travel photos along with your travel tips. I'd love to read your entire journal....I'm sure it's very interesting.

    Hope your weather has evened out. Ours is most savage here -- much too cold with over a foot of snow which make getting out a dreadful chore.

    The Portuguese ruins are SO intriguing. Could look at your photos forever!

  18. love this vix. i really never wanted to travel to india until i started reading your blog. it is now on my bucket list. you look fab as always. xo

  19. Can't blame BT at this end...just me being an unsociable git!
    But...I do so enjoy your travel posts. Don't think it's my sorta place, but love reading about and looking at your fotos of Goa. I love the un-commercialised aspect of it and the buildings, (swoons), they are beautiful.
    Lovely to have you back!
    Z xx

  20. Some excellent travel tips and lovely to live vicariously through you. Hope the storm passes!

  21. ANd once again, I am back in beautiful places!!! Thank you for this ray of sunshine! I just told my husband I'd like to go to Goa and he was like, "Ugrh, it's full of nightclubs and horrid!"! Can you reassure him on that front please?!!

    Such a lovely and useful post!

    By the way totally jealous of that shawl- I saw someone with one like that at the South Bank centre and totally had to go and tell her I loved it!!!x

  22. ANd once again, I am back in beautiful places!!! Thank you for this ray of sunshine! I just told my husband I'd like to go to Goa and he was like, "Ugrh, it's full of nightclubs and horrid!"! Can you reassure him on that front please?!!

    Such a lovely and useful post!

    By the way totally jealous of that shawl- I saw someone with one like that at the South Bank centre and totally had to go and tell her I loved it!!!x

  23. Heard about the storms your way, hope all is ok for you -
    I have read your info on Goa and India and my yoga instructor who has been there as much as you says about the same - He loves India with a passion -
    Great pics and you can post as much as you like!



  24. I was totally enamored with is post ( then again I always am with yours) . I even forgot what I was doing at the end I remember it was a blog post ~ I was vry taken in , like an amazing documentary :))

  25. Oh so beautiful. Goa, and you! You really should be snapped up by Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, or whichever travel guide series are the go-to resource for up-to-date and down-to-earth information these days. Great photos, and I think your descriptions have made everyone reading this want to go immediately!
    You do look wistful looking out at the dreadful UK weather, but that beautiful dress and crochet shawl add some much needed colour on a very gloomy day.
    Ugh to BT woes, hope it gets sorted soon. Loving yooou! xxxx

  26. ohhh, so much useful information and fascinating tips, everything sounds fabulous!
    and you look gorgeous wrapped in your pretty crochet shawl, love the colorful background, so pretty cushions and curtain!
    besos & sol

  27. What a brilliant read Vix! Especially laughed out loud at your script of bargaining with the locals. You should be the UK Ambassador for Goa! I really want to go now - these photos are wonderful! Shame about Arambol being spoilt by an influx of tourists, lets hope the South remains the hidden jewel it is now. Stay warm, dry and safe in this ghastly weather!

  28. Great post and yes, I would love to go to Goa. It really sounds like a fascinating place. You're polka-dot dress and crocheted shawl are wonderful!

    Looking forward to reading The God of Small Things.

  29. It's nice to know that you keep a travelling journal, I do the same and fill it with photos, notes, and such along my travels. I cannot believe how inexpensive everything is South Goa is on my list.

    I hope this horrid storm ends, my work flights have been cancelled twice so far. What a darling shawl!

  30. If I can't see you on Skype this is the next best thing! You look friggin sexy you spotted patchwork vixen you! Can I say that the girls are looking gorgeous in that dress! Meow!
    Such a helpful post to all those considering India! Makes me wanna go but San Diego calls:). I would snap a million photos and I love yours the silver beetle is quite nice and yes even the dumps are interesting. You speak so warmly of the people and that impresses me most after all you wanna travel where people are happy to have you right.
    Take care of yourself in those crazy winds I've seen your yard so I can see why you are concerned. I hope it's all over by now.
    Love you!

  31. roach running across your face? Sound like south Georgia, only that one was in my bed....with me. Yuck! Maybe one of these days I'll get to India, it looks so different from anyplace I've ever been too.

  32. You make it sound so easy! I don't think I dare venture that far from home. Love all your photographs :) x

  33. Thank you, dear Vix, very informative post. You look wonderful and your tan is gorgeous!

    Lots of love!

  34. Hey Vix thank you so much for answering our questions. You should write a book about your travel there such as what to do where to stay and what not to do etc. I love the photos its like I'm getting away for a bit. Your travel journals are so inspiring I may just take one on our next vaxation. Love it and u!

  35. What an awesome post! I'm now hungry for dal and roti, and Kingfisher beer. Thanks for sharing the details on your stay in Goa...and I hope all your trees are safe in the storm.!

  36. You were wearing a beautiful outfit during your storm watch. The colourful crochet shawl goes together nicely with the red and blue polka-dotted dress. I also love the outfit you're wearing in that fun GIF!
    Best of luck with your internet! I've enjoyed reading of and seeing the photos from your vacation in Goa immensely.

  37. I just filled an antibiotic prescription for my most recent batch of pre-cancerous skin biopsies and I noticed that the ointment was manufactured in Goa! So instead of feeling all scabby and sorry for myself, I began dreaming of Vix's beautiful stories and photos. Thanks Baby Doll!

  38. Love your pictures … love your holiday … actually … love your curtains and cushions too :0)

  39. Goodness i want to be there right now, soaking up the sun on that beach for a few hours and then wondering around for a few hours later in the day soaking up the sights. Some time's i wish i had a time machine :-) Such a great informative post well done you. You look beautiful sat on the sofa, that wind and rain yesterday was terrible thankfully its a bit calmer here today, Hope BT gets your phone sorted soon. hugs dee xxx

  40. I've loved reading Vix. You just love it. Your diaries are to treasure, a fantastic blog as always and keep smiling I mean really how could you resist haha Xxx

  41. With your descriptions and photo's Goa sounds an amazing place to visit. There certainly seems so much colour there.

    The beaches look really idyllic too with the beautiful sea and warm looking sands.

    I felt I was almost there and not in stormy old England. Thanks for such lovely posts.

    P x

  42. You really make me want to go go Goa...
    I hope you are safe and warm. the last few days here have been very unpleasant but can't complain much as it's so much worse down south with all the flooding...
    Hugs x

  43. I have so enjoyed your Goa posts not least as I have such happy memories of my own visit there over 20 yrs ago, my inner hippy is coming out! oh how I would love to go to the places yo have featured. betty

  44. Namaste Vix, i LOVE your travel posts but this is the very best of all!!! Thank you so much for answering my questions, i hope that i'm gonna make it to Goa next season finally! The idea with a travel journal is a good one! The buying convo you shared is a nice hint for those (me too) who are not used to haggling! Love your shirt it's pretty (and so is the gif animation too)
    I've read 'The god of small things', it's fab! Other books about India i like are 'Holy cow' and 'Shiva moon'.
    Sad that this will be the last post of India for a while. I could read a new one of yours every day...
    Thanks for all your effort on this!
    Btw i hope the storm will calm down and phone/internet will be fixed soon!
    xxxx Tani

  45. Looks like a fantastic trip, all the more wishful when you have the weather we're having now!

    I was always told spicy food helped keep mozzis at bay? Any truth!!

  46. Your story with beer sounds very similar to mine. In one of the Rajasthan's cafe I wanted an ice-cream. They didn't have it but send someone and brought it from another place specially for me. So sweet. An interesting and useful post, Vix!

  47. Love all the photos and this is a fantastic post with great references! xx

  48. I hope the storm passed without leaving any destruction in your neck of the woods. Someone needs to do a painting of you from the first photo in this post. The pose, and the colours are just perfect.

    You obviously missed your calling as a travel guide. This post is full of useful information and tips that only a seasoned traveller would know. I have no plans to head to Goa, but appreciated your attention to detail nonetheless. You take photos of all the things I would probably shoot as well, and your haggling skills are brilliant!

  49. I love your travel posts. I never would have thought that it was such a beautiful place. And I see why the locals couldn't help but stare at you in your bikini. You look great.

  50. Loving all these images!

    The pig in the dump is just gorgeous, now I know where the phrase 'as happy as a pig in muck' comes from!

    You're making me want to visit India, please tell me you have more images to show us :)

    Love the photograph of you staring out at the rain, you look gorgeous and cosy xx

  51. A lovely warming post to read as the wind howls outside

  52. Oh yes, whenever you write about Goa, i want to go there. I want to see it through your eyes and enjoy it the way you do, you just make it sound magical. I love all the detail you put in and don't think you are a saddo at all, writing a journal. I bet you go back and re-read it so you can relive the experience, so it is well worth it. As soon as i saw that photo, i thought, the god of small things. Such an outstanding book. I love the picture of that little boy, he is just adorable. God, this weather, it's frightening isn't it? Imagine how long the clear up is going to take. I dread to think! Stay safe! Xxxxx

  53. Hope all your trees made it! Sad your weather is difficult, but I'm wishing you a lovely spring to follow.
    Hope you know the real value of these fabulous and seriously informative post ... they are wonderful. Dan will look at them when he gets back from the restaurant tonight.
    Fabulous you!

  54. An interesting post that I enjoyed reading. Hope you enjoy your stay.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

  55. Stay safe in the storm Vix, I hope all this horrible weather ends soon. Your trip to Goa sounds wonderful, I've enjoyed reading all about it x

  56. So much great information! You are the India tourist board all by yourself.

    I think I might have died if a cockroach ran across my face! Or I'd be in some psych ward right now.

    My husband has been to India twice on business and vowed never to go back. He didn't have the great time you two have. He was also there staying the same hotel that was bombed a week later after his return.

    I've wanted to go to Brazil for a while. I need to check if you had a review on that trip on your blog as well.


  57. Loved reading the re-caps of your adventure- and may have to take your homemade Indian food making tips to action around here. It's so cold for Florida around these parts!

  58. Oh Vix! I really had to laugh when I read your comment on my blog. People are forever giving me things and telling me to watch things that I will "LOVE!" Oh Connie, you will LOVE it!!! And I immediately develop an aversion to whatever it is. I'm sure a psychiatrist would have a field day with this. Anyway, YOU are so totally unique and 100% fabulously yourself. That's why we all love ya! Audrey Hepburn was cute but she was no Vix!

  59. I haven't been anywhere outside India but I wholeheartedly agree there are plenty of things you can photograph in every lanes on this country, at least that is the case in my city. today only I snapped a few photos of 3 pairs of pigeons nesting on the different branches of the same tree! it was a sight to see!

  60. Oh haggling. That's a game a seriously need to learn. I am terrible at it because I'm such a coward!

  61. Bonitas fotografías!!

  62. oh Vix i hope you haven't blown away in the storms! Its raining here too - mixed with summer weather, it feels like were in Goa - but in like Monsoon season! If i ever get to go to India, ill definitely need to put Goa on my list after the main cities. It looks so lovely and quiet - im glad you went to the non popular parts - they make me not want to go on holidays. For example Bali is not appealing for many Aussies anymore. Its become very western and more like a bogan hang out than cultural exchange. Vietnam i think is becoming our new quick Asia jaunt

  63. You look beautiful in your storm watching post - although I know it must have been quite unpleasant. We had some very bad storms her last winter, fortunately our art deco apartment block is built in the style of a bunker! These are some great travel tips Vix and some of them are pretty relevant for anywhere, I never did get the hang of haggling though. Fortunately I usually have Rich with me and his haggling skills are excellent. Say safe and warm xoxo

  64. Your posts about India are definitely wanting to make me visit but have to admit the idea of snakes bothers me a bit! Loving your amazing crochet shawl!

  65. Loved this post ... found it so interesting. If ... No ... WHEN, I visit India your blog will be my 'go to' for all the info I need ... Really practical advice. M x


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