It's that time of year again, spending hours reading travel forums & guidebooks and endlessly trawling the internet for cheap flights. Our plan for next year is to start our adventures in North India where the weather is significantly cooler and, unlike our trip to Gujarat in January, I'm sorting out my travel wardrobe now - no last minute fast fashion purchases this time around.
I had an Afghan dress as a child and loved it to bits. I've looked at them in India but the modern, mass produced versions don't come close to the hand-embroidered, block printed, heavy cotton originals. Besides, viscose creases like a bastard and the last thing I want when I'm travelling is to look like a bag of rags. When I spotted this vintage beauty on my friend Fran of Goodbye, Norma Jean's stall at Leamington Spa on Saturday I knew it was going to come home with me. Of course, there's no way I'm saving this for January, I went out in it today and was overwhelmed with compliments.
Talking of India, when I was looking for photographs of those fast fashion purchases I'd owned up to last week, I realised I'd although I'd posted tales of our adventures in Gujarat and Mumbai, I'd never written about the time we spent in our beloved Goa so here goes.
After flying from Bhuj in Gujarat to Mumbai and then on to Goa, we caught a taxi to Benaulim, which we've been visiting for around a decade and, as our usual place was fully booked, checked into some rooms elsewhere in the village. We'd been to the award-winning ethnographic museum, Goa Citra, a few years previously and decided that a return visit was long overdue. It's a three mile walk from the centre of Benaulim along palm shaded winding country lanes where, in the traditional Goan way, everyone comes out of their houses to say hello.
Owner Victor Hugo Gomes, is passionate about preserving Goan culture and has spent years rescuing old farming tools, local pottery, ancient carts, palanquins and musical instruments from all over the state. There's over 4000 artifacts in the museum, an ethically sourced gift shop and an organic farm on site. The 400 rupee entrance fee (just over £4) includes an engaging thirty minute guided tour. Unusually for an Indian museum, there is no additional charge for cameras.
These artifacts were rescued from a Portuguese-era Catholic seminary. I think Victor is a bit like Jon & I and can't stand to see old things get thrown away.
You may remember these traditional oyster shell shutters from my post The Palace In The Jungle (HERE).
The well provides the water for Goa Chitra's organic farm.
After a week in Benaulim it was time for us to revisit Agonda in Goa's Deep South. The state taxi drivers were on strike on the day we planned to go so the owner of the house where we were staying kindly offered to drive us there. So we didn't get mistaken for paying passengers and thus invoking the wrath of any picketers, we were accompanied by the owner's elderly uncle from Mumbai and two of the owner's children, stopping along the way to collect both his sister's wedding cake and the weeks' groceries.
We've been visiting Agonda since 2004 when it was little more than a fishing village with a couple of hut encampments. Back then electricity was in such short supply that it went off at 9pm and everyone went to bed. These days it's a fully fledged tourist destination with upmarket coco huts and chi-chi restaurants thronging the shore but it still has a wonderfully laid-back feel and its hard to beat as a place to unwind. Shakir, the chap who we used to rent a basic beach hut from back in the old days, still insists that the Kingfishers are on the house whenever we pop into his now super deluxe 5 star resort for a sunset beer.
These days we stay at Our Friend's Place - the loveliest place in Agonda.
This beautiful horse is always seen strolling along the beach at sunset. He's so majestic he often reduces people to tears.
After a week in Agonda we headed back up to Benaulim for the rest of our trip.
After almost twenty years I'm still transfixed by the Goan sunset.
We always carry a bag of dog biscuits with us on our early morning beach walks so that we can feed any pi dogs we encounter. The Goa Animal Welfare Trust (GAWT) does sterling work looking after all the state's strays from cats and dogs to horses and cows - and even has a charity shop in neighbouring Colva. Although we're not keen on Colva itself we always make an effort to visit, dropping off a donation (cash if we haven't got any surplus clothes, books or toiletries) and more often than not we find a few bits and pieces to buy.
Just down the road from Benaulim lies Goa's second largest city, Margao. I think we're the only Westerners who ever go into the Hotel Prasad , every time we visit the kitchen staff come out watch us eat our pao bhaji, anxiously anticipating each mouthful.
We love getting lost in the labyrinthine New Market and then venturing up to Cotton Cottage, a wonderful shop selling block printed, hand loomed, organic cotton ready-made clothing. Here customers are greeted at the door, looked up and down, told their correct size Madam, you are Small....Sir, you are Medium and directed to the correct areas in the store. We never leave empty handed - Jon loves their long sleeved, granddad shirts and me their wraparound maxi skirts.
Like train travel in India, bus fares are charged by the kilometre so a trip to Margao is 5 rupees. The bus driver usually blasts out filmi music but this year we were treated to Ride by Twenty One Pilots (they're huge in India). I love the song already but now I'll always think of a bumpy Indian bus ride when I hear it.
I just wanna stay in the sun where I belong....
Wearing our Cotton Cottage purchases for dinner at Johncy's, our favourite beach side restaurant in the world and I'm not just saying that because half the waiters are my friends on Facebook! A few days previously I'd encountered a lady crocheting these tops by the roadside in Benaulim and I bought two.
Food, glorious food! I never get fed up with Goan and South Indian cuisine - nothing like the heavy, oil-rich North Indian curries we get in curry houses at home. Here they're chilli hot and palm vinegar sharp with loads and loads of locally grown vegetables, just the way I like them.
One of my favourite South Indian dishes, Uttapam, a fermented rice pancake, usually eaten for breakfast. This one is flavoured with chillies, tomatoes and onions.
Oh, Goa, we can't wait to see you again!
|WEARING: Vintage Afghan dress (Goodbye, Norma Jean) with Gujarati tribal necklace and 1960s Go-Go boots|