Visit Goa : A Sensory explosion of colour and calmness.
I love it when my friends and readers go on holiday and want to share their experiences with me. This is my friend Lucia sharing about her anxieties of going on holiday after a cancer diagnosis. From reading her story it sounds like she had a great time, I have been dreaming about Goa for some time as I have fallen in love with India and hopefully I will get to visit soon. In the mean time read about Lucia’s trip to Goa.
I was a bit apprehensive about travelling long haul after a battle with breast cancer and treatment in 2014 I had only ventured as far as Europe due to the short flight time and still found that hard work. I suffer with joint pain, severe fatigue and the most terrible hot flushes that just makes cancer the gift that keeps on giving.
Flying from UK to GOA
I decided as my youngest was at college that this was my opportunity to see the world while I was still able and not seized up with joint pain. A friend was going to India to visit Goa and asked me to come along too and I thought why not and off I went and booked my flights through Travel Trolley who were competitive with Southall travel who is also well known for flight from the UK to India and will try to beat any price given by the mainstream airlines. I saved over £300 by booking through this company in comparison to a large British airline.
I was not looking forward to a 9hour+ flight but have to say I was pleasantly surprised, we travelled on a dream liner which was very spacious, and I tend to be a bit scrunched up usually as I have long legs but there was plenty of room for me to stretch out. The airline staff were a little older than your European Staff but they were experts in their field and settled customers who were a bit apprehensive when we hit a bit of turbulence and had a selection of meals, served up quickly with a vast array of vegetarian dishes. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal, it was delicious. The only fault I could find was not having enough water to drink but the staff made an excellent cup of tea and was happy to provide me with real milk not UHT.
The dream liner has this cool element to it where the windows fade to different colour which stops you looking out the window every five minutes trying to figure out how much further we have to go and getting agitated and this automatically lightens as you descend and you can see your destination, the colours they use make it nice and light and airy within the cabin as it looks like blue skies.
I was able to get up and walk around and there were a good selection of films from both India, in a multitude of languages so plenty of Hollywood and Bollywood.
We touched down in Mumbai and were glad to stretch our legs; our luggage was automatically transferred to our next flight so that was pain free. We then had to make our way from international arrivals to domestic departures with it seemed like half a dozen points where they check your passport and visa-it seemed like every part we moved to we had to show them all over again. Now don’t get me wrong I am happy that security is tight but when you have to show your passport and visa 2 minutes after going through passport/border control you wonder if its security or inefficiency overload.
Mumbai is a beautiful airport and is just like an art gallery inside with fabulous sculptures, statues and art work dotted about, they have the maddest selection of doors on show and when you finally pass through this section you hit the area where the food court is and a vast array of shops both designer and local crafts being sold. The food court has a burger king and KFC which was great for the youngster we had with us. There were plenty of escalators and seats to help me get about, although I did find the first trek from the plane to immigration quite a long walk and a travellator wouldn’t go amiss in this area for those like me that suffer with fatigue. The domestic flight we got on was full but again plenty of room to stretch out, they quickly served us up a packed lunch meal with a salad sandwich and a drink, this was just enough to kill the time and give you a chance to wake up before reaching GOA.
Arriving in GOA
We had arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport and he was there waiting for us even though our flight arrived an hour early due to good winds. We went outside to the taxi cab and whoosh I was met by a wall of heat and the smell of damp earth. Having travelled through a couple of time zones and it now being early morning, the airport itself seemed a bit surreal. We had to be firm with the guys who wanted to take our cases and put them in the taxi but we just no thank you and held onto the bags for dear life. The first thing I really noticed was the traffic, there did not seem to be any road etiquette and was just a free for all, I found myself flinching on the journey out of the airport as I was sure we were going to be hit by another vehicle but the driver manoeuvred himself in different positions until we hit the main road. Main road, well dirt track was a better way of putting it, surrounded by a number of what looked like buildings in a state of erosion.
I watched out of the window with interest and saw some beautiful buildings alongside shacks, every couple of miles we would hit a town with lots of little open windows which serve as street stores. In the bigger towns we passed we could see flyovers being built and you can see the huge change to the infrastructure which is taking place but the lush greenery seems to be trying to almost steal it and hide it as it creeps up upon it.
We stayed in a place called Apora which is in north Goa at the Riveria Hermitage Apartments as a mutual friend had lent us her apartment while she was back in the UK. This residential block has beautiful grounds with a swimming pool and shares a gateway with the Hilton Double tree. In fact, the Hilton pool got closed for a week so they brought their guests to us, which was a tad annoying as we wanted peace and quiet not lots of drunk young adults who had finished university annoying us by drinking in the pool but it was a small price to pay for such lovely surroundings.
There was a beautiful selection of local fauna in the grounds and the staff worked hard to keep it looking nice and green. There were a selection of animals that had found their way onto the complex and we often sat on the balcony watching them chase each other about, as well as lots of lizards and birds. Behind us was the river which comes off the western Gandes which was a dirty brown colour but I could soon see this was due to the colour of the earth and next door was a holy temple and we could hear the prayers and people chanting which gave a nice ambience to the whole place.
The mode of transport for this area is the moped but having had an accident a few years ago I totally refused to get on one which hampered me getting about as the heat and humidity make it difficult for you to walk about in but I soon found a gent with a tuktuk and he ferried me about everywhere I wanted to go.
There are a selection of supermarkets and restaurants in the area which offer an array of different foods to cater for all taste buds. I can highly recommended the restaurant named pink chilli which has an old hippie vibe to it but the chef takes pride in his food and it’s as cheap as chips. I tried a selection of different Indian foods whilst there and the taste in comparison to home was second to none. Layer upon layer of flavour and textures and an added bonus they have free wifi and overhead fans. All of this is just opposite the sturdy night market which we had been told to visit. It was on an old field and it smelt like the funfair when you were a child, you go through a turnstile and all you can see in every direction is small market stalls with the most colourful items I have even seen.
I did not realise that India was so colourful. The market is great for taking home gifts and the people are lovely, they want you to barter with them and soon call you back if you refuse a price. We spent quite a while just walking about and looking but had to make it clear we were not ready to buy. In the centre of the market is a tree strung with coloured light and there were live singers and bands playing a selection of different music, Indian and Australian reggae when we were there. The characters singing were almost as amazing as the surroundings. There is a huge food court of street food from all nations and we chatted to a couple of lads from burrito boy who came from the UK who come out for the season and then go back to the up and do the music festivals.
Fireworks are a huge part of Indian culture and these were going off all evening, although you do ah veto is careful s health and safety is not the same as in the UK. We had been told that there was great music at the market and we soon found the next spot where lots of people were sitting eating with a dj playing old 80’s tunes and people just getting up randomly and dancing, we continued to walk about and right at the top with a brick amphitheatre where there was dj playing trance and house, this was a lively area but was soon shut down by the local police who filmed every moment of their musical destruction. This was a bit disappointing but funny to see at the same time. It wasn’t long before the crowds started to disperse and we went back to the pool area where we were staying but from all accounts there were plenty of clubs to go to nearby if we so wished.
Wednesday is for Anjuna market and this has a beautiful beach about 15 minutes away from Apora with bars with sun beds along the top and you just walk down to the beach to the market. We quite happily sat up there for a few hours watching the people go by, ladies in amazing saris balancing heavy baskets on their heads, the local massage man tending to the aches and pains of those less mobile (like me) and the beach dogs who like to frolic in the water.
There are a variety of different places that you can stay here some treetop shacks and some beachside shacks, our favourite was the sunset bar who looked after us very well and made up dinner for us to take back with us. Anjuna market again had a vast selection of goods but was different from the one in Apora. There were the Tibetan silversmiths next to the hippy dream catcher makers next to the leather smiths and what we call the looky looky men who have a bundle of fake goods. I found some wonderful glad hanging lights and they were carefully wrapped by the man in charge of the stall.
This market is quite deceiving it seems so small when you first look at it but stretches back for miles, I was warned to avoid the ice cream and we soon found an undercover cafe where we could get a cold drink and watch people go by, this is where you see some funny looking people and the stall holders are very competitive, as soon as they hear a price next door will try and undercut it. I bought some quality leather goods and a beautiful silver chain here for my kids and if you want a sari or Indian sheets then this is a great place to come and barter but make sure you have a large bag t carry it all back with you.
We come to the beaches, we were very lucky in that Apora is very near to all beaches and we made our home over at the secret beach which is a secluded part hidden by rocks in Chappora below the fort in fact you can reach the beach by walking down the hill from the fort but it would be a nightmare to walk back up again so transport is a definite. My little tuktuk man scared the living daylights out of me with his driving but I soon realised that he knew was he was doing and had him taking me to all sorts of places, Dipak where can we get spices, he knew, Dipak where can I get footwear he knew in fact he knew everything and everyone and showed me some great hidden little shops and everything was so cheap in comparison to home, good job I had space in my luggage allowance.
Anyway back to the secret beach, you come to Chappora and go to Vagator beach, now this can feel like a bit of a trek in the heat and the sand is boiling hot so make a beeline for the water and walk along through this, you meet a pile of rocks and if low tide can walk around and at high tide clamber of the rocks, you can soon see the path made by the trudge of many feet over time and then all you can see is this white sand beach in a beautiful cove and two shacks on the back with sun beds, this became our home.
Mamma and papa who own one of the shacks have no electricity and carry blocks of ice down to the beach to keep everything cool and mamma cooks on a hot plate, her payolas are to die for, she has a vast menu of foods which you can try and fresh juices, beers and water all in a little paradise. The sea is beautiful and warm although you have to be a bit careful with the waves as they can catch you unawares and lose your swimwear. However what the majority of people come here for is the sunset which is the most beautiful, everyone just sits at the beach and watches it as it slowly sinks and gives out the most amazing colours across the sky and then blink and its gone.
As you make a slow trek back up the beach to pick up your transport the sacred cows decide it’s time for them to hit the beach and you seem streams of them going down to the water line to cool their feet off. It’s all a bit surreal. Oh one thing I didn’t say they have a toilet at this end of the beach and it’s not your normal mode of affair like home, it’s a tarpaulin covered branches with an open top so no fumes and you have to climb up sandbags to the throne and then squat over it, an experience to say the least but needs must when your busting to go.
We returned to our complex and when the Hilton started to take over we decided this would be a good time to go and see some other areas and we travelled south to Palelem, this was quite a drive and took about three hours but was told it doesn’t usually take as long as this but was a great way to see the different towns and buildings as we drove through, the new government buildings going up and hospitals were vast and had the most amazing architecture and colours to them you can certainly see the vibrancy of Portugal throughout Goa.
Now pallelem was totally different we went down a dirt track and then had to get out and pull our luggage down to the beach where we stayed at Dylans, this was like being at your best friends place. The shacks are basic with two rooms a large bed with a very comfortable mattress in the bedroom with an overhead fan and a couple of plug sockets and some very strategically placed nails to hang your bits off of inside. Then there is a small bathroom with a toilet and sink and overhead shower and bottom washer. There are gaps throughout the shack so an array of different insects join you but if you leave them alone they leave you alone.
Dylan’s has a number of shacks and were lucky enough to have sea facing ones so got the breeze but could be a bit difficult if no air con I’m sure., they all have a balcony out the front with a couple of chairs and where you can hang towels and swimwear off to dry as well as a bowl of water for you to wash your feet off with or else your sweeping the room of all the sand, I learnt this the hard way and soon stopped. They have a vast menu of both traditional and European foods which was handy with the youngster in tow but great for us to be able to try different foods and if you can’t see it just ask and they are happy to make it for you if they have all the goods. I enjoyed sitting there in the morning with a cup of delicious tea watching people doing yoga on the beach or running up and down. There are a great number of shack and restaurants on this beach so you can wander up and down and there is a load of souvenir shops further up just off the beach if you so wish. We didn’t get harassed by anybody here and it was truly a beautiful part of the world. As the season was winding down there was not a huge number of parties going on but you could find them if you wanted them, at the end of the beach there is a place that looks like it was built into the rocks and they had a mad foam party there.
Again there are the most beautiful sunsets here and at dusk the local fishermen came along and drag the fishing nets by hand through the water and the children who come and gather to see what they have caught and the fish is freshly filleted and cooked for you.
I met some wonderful people from all nationalities in Goa who had some interesting stories to tell and made you feel like you had known them forever. Deryia the lady who runs Dylan’s is lovely and makes you feel like an extension of her family and they all work with here and invited us to come back again. They have a collection of animals there that people interact with a baby parrot that lost his mum is being hand reared and a soppy dog called daisy and another one called Disney and then there are the cats and the cockerel who we named George.
Every evening we sat in Dylan’s at the close of the evening and people all came together to watch the cricket and the football and have a drink before going to bed in their shacks ready to get some sleep before another beautiful day.
Slow Pace of Goa
I loved the sloth pace of Goa which was great for me with my fatigue and we didn’t have to walk very far to anything and when we did we could go at a snail’s pace. I fell in love with Goa and cannot wait to go back but think next time I will go in January of February when the humidity is not so bad, we went march/April and the monsoon is on its way so it was very hot but what a great place to be hot and sticky. I have to say though my hot flushes were almost none existent out there which was great and the slow pace of life allows you to deal with the fatigue but the jet lag coming home is terrible, waking up at 4.30am every morning but it only takes a few days to readjust.