Wait, am I still in India?
A few posts ago, I made a statement declaring that I have found the chaos in India to be quite relaxing. Well, if that is the case, then I have entered into a comatose state! Immediately as we were leaving the airport for our hotel, I was questioning whether we were still even in India. The landscape was completely different, everybody seemed to move at much slower pace, the roads were orderly, the architecture was screaming a Portuguese influence and the air was fresh (I could finally breathe!). What a contrast to the India that I had experienced for the past week!
Goa is so peaceful and serene. For the first time in two weeks, I could actually hear my inner voice as it wasn't being drowned out by the noise of the hustle and bustle on the streets. Clearly the use of a car horn is done sparingly here! And you don't get harassed by beggars or people trying to sell you random things off the street every 5 minutes (unless you are at the Anjuna Markets, which is discussed below). It also seemed to be much cleaner too.
The terrain looks like it is something out of the Jungle Book; a very tropical feel to it. Part of me was expecting to see Mowgli and Baloo swinging from the vines of the trees singing "The Bare Necesscities". There is much space, so much greenery and so many palm trees....heaven!
The people of Goa also look different to some of the other areas that I have visited. Their features look much more European and could almost be described as a really dark Portugese person. In other areas of India, espeically further North, I have noticed that generally people have more Asian characterisitics. In Mumbai, you can definitely notice more caucasian features among the locals (obviously due to the British influences there). Of course, this is very general as people in large areas do hail for all over the place these days!
As far as the other tourists that seem to visit Goa, there is an enormous contingency from the UK, Russia, Israel and various European countries. Apparently there are direct flights chartered from the UK and Russia to Goa. While I loved Goa, if that is the only place that you have seen in India, then in my opinion, you haven't seen India. She's a whole other beast; a magic country indeed.
So many stories to tell about our time in Goa that I could hardly get it all down in one post so I've decided to share the highlights through a few of my favourite pictures/events that happened while we were there.
The view from the entrance of the hotel. The reception area is completely open aired and gives off a very tropical vibe.
The ladies looking very lovely at check in! This is by far the best check in experience that I have ever had! Upon arrival, you given a shell necklace and are immediately summoned to a lounge area where you can enjoy the view with a few Kingfishers (while they do all the leg work, I might add!).
While Laz had a spa treatment, Sagey and I ventured into Panaji which is the biggest town in the state of Goa. Below are a few of the snaps from the walk.
We stumbled across some markets in Panaji - marigold flowers!
It seems to be quite customary to sit on your stalls in the markets. In Mumbai there were also quite a few of the street vendors that sat on top of their stalls too. Although I am not too sure how I would feel eating some street meat that has been in close proximity to someones feet??!!
I'm not quite entirely sure what this woman is doing here (de-shelling something!) but it was one of my favourite pictures that I took at that market!
Cheers! All that walking and photo snapping works up a thirst. Kingfisher o'clock was a regular occurrence (and at less than $1 AUD a pop it would be rude not to support the local exports!)
The local lads enjoying a game of cricket. Indians love a game of cricket! I have seen it played in the most bizarre locations. In the middle of the street in Mumbai, under an overpass in the middle of a highway....unfortunately have just been too slow in getting the camera out for photographic evidence!
On our second full day, we ventured out to a quaint little sea-side restaurant about an hours drive from Panaji called La Plage. It was a French restaurant that was run by a Frenchwoman. The food was exquisite and a much needed break from all the curry!
Beach chic - inside La Plage
Ladies who lunch. No lunch is complete without being paired with a bottle of Sula (or two). This time we tried the Blush, delicious!
The beach shacks. This spot seemed to attract many hippy expats on a quest for self discovery. The beach was also packed full of men in thong-backed banana hammocks (be thankful I didn't subject you to any evidence!). I saw far more skin than I would have liked to on that beach! The next day in the markets, I discovered that they only sold for $200INR (about $4 AUD). Surely there should be some kind of deterrence tax imposed on these monstrosities?!
More beach shacks
Me completely hijacking someone else's "Goa"
At the Anjuna Flea Markets. These markets take place every Wednesday and are a feast for the senses. So many colours, sounds and smells (some better than others!). The markets are great fun and are a hagglers paradise (PPFA you would own that market!). Laz was particularly savvy with the bargaining and got some fantastic purchases for well below initial asking price. I bought a silk dress for that evening at around $8 AUD! Pretty impressed with myself. Mind you my negotiation skills are pretty limited and are based upon the premise of them naming a price, me countering (at about 40% off), them saying no, me walking away and, if the price is right, I have a very eager Indian chasing after me. It worked 3 out of 5 times! Good enough odds for me!
The smell and colours of the spices are amazing
I had to include this photo as I ended up having to pay 10 Rupees for it! This guy dresses up his cow and tricks gullible tourists like myself into taking a photo of it and then having to later pay. I've been duped a few times since I have been here. Probably the funniest was my first day when this Hindi man came and blessed me, put some saffron on my forehead, gave me a bracelet (that I am still wearing - getting my moneys worth!) and made me eat some kind of sugar candy for good luck. He then followed up by telling me that it would only come true if I have him 100 rupees (about $2 AUD).....ummmmm...."you can have 10INR". Surely asking for money defeats the purpose of the blessing?! Live and learn! Even the holy men know how to hustle...
I love seeing the Indians carry things on their head. Definitely a skill that I would have no hope in mastering!
Ladies night! This was our designated "big night" in Goa. After a few members of the Grande Gringas being bitten by the "Dehli Belly" monster over the past few days, we opted for another curry free night. One of the chefs at the Marriott recommended us to go to Thelassa, which is a stunning Greek restaurant overlooking the sea and is rated as the best place to watch the sunset in Goa.
Gorgeous little huts that you can stay the night in (perhaps after consuming a few too many flaming sambucas!!).
I just loved the ambience of this restaurant.
You could be anywhere with that sunset! Stunning. The sun sets quite quickly and appears as though it is completely swallowed by the sea. Once it completely disappears, everyone in the restaurant cheers and applauses. Not entirely sure why this happens (surely the sun sets with success every evening?) but Laz mentioned that the same thing happens in Greece.
Another "where the hell am I?!!" moment as the son of the owner and his mate kick off with a traditional Greek dance and start throwing plates around. OPA!!!! Very excited for Greece now!
Ladies night isn't complete without a flaming sambuca on the house (thank you son of the owner! Spoiling the Grande Gringas rotten!). Never thought I'd be getting stuck into sambucas in India but as I have previously mentioned, you have to just roll with the punches in India...never know what to expect!
Chronicle bar. Hatim (more on him below) took us to this phenomenal bar. The picture doesn't do it justice. This is by far the best bar that I might have ever been to! It is absolutely amazing. If you are in Goa, it is a must do!
Cheesey but had to be done! Love that movie!!!
Enter Hatim (or "Juniorburger" as Julz coined him due to being younger than us). To say this guy is flushed is an understatement. Julz met Hatim through a very exclusive online community that she is a member of and while we were at Elephanta, had met him for lunch in Mumbai. He happened to be in Goa on business while we were there so offered to take us out for a night on the town in Goa. From what I could pull together from our conversations that evening, it seemed like his family owned the better part of Mumbai! Dressed to the nines in some very high end designer threads, he was a lovely guy with a thirst for jäger bombs and Moet Chandon. He and his driver took us around to the various hot spots that Goa has to offer (Chronicle being by far my favourite). Towards the end of the night we ended up in Baga, which is an extreme tourist trap that was full of bright red Russians on vacation (certainly no mail-order-esque brides in here...these were a hefty bunch!). Baga didn't have much character and was a sea of dingy bars lined up after each other. We did manage to find a somewhat decent bar (can't remember the name but pictured below) and shared a Shisha. It was a highly entertaining night and enjoyed by all (except poor Laz who was down and out again with DB!). At the end of the night, the Juniorburger had his driver take us back to our hotel (which was about 45mins away!). Chivalry is not dead!
Sagey getting amongst some Shisha! Not sure what Julz is doing it the back ground but that pretty much sums up ladies night! A very random night indeed!
Feeling a tad seedy on Thursday morning, probably could have done without that last jäger bomb, we made our way to the Spice Plantations. On the way we past several church ruins and saw many famous temples and churches. Below are a few snaps from our ride.
St. Francis Xavier church
Inside St. Francis Xavier church. St. Francis Xavier is actually inside the tomb in this picture (at the top). Apparently every couple of years they take him out and give his hair and nails a cut (nothing wrong with a bit of manscaping to look presentable!). For those of you who didn't realise, your hair and nails will continue to grow after you are dead!
Our elephantastic welcome to the Spice Plantation.
The lush scenery as we walked over the bridge to the Spice Plantation.
Bridge to the Plantation.
Channeling my inner Hindu. Upon arrival at the Spice Plantation you get some saffron on your forehead (it's a nightmare to get off by the way), an Indian lei and some lemongrass tea.
For those of you who haven't seen a pineapple tree! Also, did you know that there are male and female pineapples?!
A dwelling inside the Spice Plantation. All of the spices grown here are organic.
The lush terrain.
My favourite part of the Spice Plantation tour, the buffet! The food was incredible. So many bright colours and intense flavours.
Following the tour, later that afternoon, we took an Indian cooking class. Pictured below is three of the Grande Gringas looking very saucy in our hair nets and aprons at our cooking class (poor Julz was down and out with Dehli Belly again!). We made three dishes; a starter (chicken), and two mains (one prawn and one fish) that were traditional Goan dishes. Goan cooking uses a lot of coconut oil and vinegar and also cashews in their sauces. Our chef is emailing the recipe so will definitely be trying to recreate these for you all at some stage!
I absolutely adored my time in Goa. Sadly, we never made it South, which is apparently supposed to be much slower (I can't even imagine?!). But all the more reason to come back! While the Marriott was a fantastic resort to stay at and had exceptional service, if I were to do it all again, I would probably have found a nice beach shack and stayed right by the water. Having said that, it is very lucky that I didn't do that in the end because I might have spent my entire year on that little beach in Goa! Thank goodness for my return ticket to Mumbai or it might have become a reality.
Well my friends, there is a hard spoonful of reality swiftly coming my way as my stint of living the high life is coming to a drastic halt. It's the punter express from here on out! The Grande Gringas have now disbanded (Sagey & Laz back to Oz and Julz staying in Goa) and I am on my way to an ashram north of Mumbai for a bit of soul cleansing. It has been an amazing few weeks with the girls and will definitely be a trip that we will look back on and laugh about for years to come! Time for chapter two...