Given the year of monstrosities that was 2014, we decided that we needed to start 2015 with a bang – and so we agreed to escape grey January in London and head to sunnier climes. Initially we were talking about taking a month off, heading on a tour of the southern hemisphere, ending with being hobbits in NZ, but then reality kicked in and responsibilities reared their ugly heads so we agreed upon a 15 night tour of Goa. I know, hardship, right?
I’ve been to India a few times before – when I was a kid, we did the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur tour, my cousin lived in Bangalore for a bit, we’ve family and friends in Chennai (Madras) and I had a fantastic girls holiday to Kerala in 2007 (despite the gigantic cockroach inside my mosquito net on the first night that made me want to run back home screaming). We wanted heat, we wanted a chill out and so, making like we’re crusty hippies in the early 90s, we packed our backpacks with our finest tie dye (read: matching suitcases filled with subtle shades of white and grey linens) and off we went.
So, Goa. According to many people, it’s well past it’s heyday of the 1960s and the 1990s put paid to any semblance of culture, with dirty beaches and angry locals and bad tourists. And whilst I’m sure parts of Goa are like that, I literally spent weeks before departure researching where to go, where to stay, what to do and, most importantly, where to eat so we loved every bleeding minute of it (even the bit when we had a row in our less than soundproof hut in our first location that ended with the wino sleeping on a hammock by the pool! Again, poor us, fights in hotels, hammocks by pools. Tough break.)
The one thing I didn’t do, was really think about were the stopovers in Mumbai (on the way there) and Delhi (on the way back). Bejesus, hanging out in an airport for 8 hours (Mumbai) and 11 hours (Delhi) can really make you lose your will to live. Particularly if every time you try and walk outside to get some fresh air, there’s a machine gun armed security guard checking your tickets and passport.On the way back home through Delhi airport, we had to go through 12 different security checks before we got on the plane, from the entry into departures to actual boarding. And queues. So. Many. Queues. And Indians have a very different queuing sensibility to Brits.
That’s all I’m going to say about that. Although it’s probably worth noting that I did put on my best 1950s teacher voice on many occasions to explain ‘THE QUEUE STARTS HERE YOU KNOW’. Which I’m sure was hugely appreciated.
We’d planned a two location tour, the first week between Ashvem and Mandrem on our own private beach (sort of) and then our second week was slightly further inland and south in Loutolim.
Overall, we loved our Indian experience. If you’re going, ignore all the haterz (innit) and do your research. Decide what you want from your trip and you’re sure to find it. Our only ‘must-haves’ were not too expensive but with a pool, not in clubland and near good food and beaches. And we found it.
Goa is like the rest of India – it’s busy. The traffic is insane, people drive like lunatics but it’s rare to see a car with a dent, going with the flow seem to work. Obviously, there are cows everywhere, monkeys can be spotted in the trees, goats on roundabouts and water buffalo in the fields. Oh, and frogs in toilets and lizards in sinks. It’s all good.
The people are as nice as you could find anywhere –helpful, friendly, not put off by the rude tourists who appear in the peak of the season.
The food can be a bit hit and miss – and is probably worth a blog post all of its own. Our main issues in the North were trying to find a good Goan curry, more difficult than you’d expect. No problems finding chicken nuggets and burgers though. Not that we tried any of those though.
There’s some beautiful architecture but you have to go a little further inland to find it.
So overall, don’t write off Goa – it’s an easy entry into experiencing India and will leave you wanting to see much more of this beautiful country.
More to come… I’ll try not to be too boring.