Goa first timers trip report March 2013
Santana Beach Resort,Candolim
Day 1/2 16,17/3
Well,after over a year of deliberation,planning and paying for it the day is finally here ! After years of trips to various mediterranean destinations we decided to
branch out and try something a bit different,and after watching a programme with Jeremy Paxman about the British Empire we decided that India is it. OK we wont see the
Taj Mahal,Mumbai or any of that stuff but it's still India right ?
After an uneventful drive up from Wiltshire we get to Gatwick where we are booked for the Monarch evening flight in Premium Economy,much thought about this,is it worth
the extra ?,the flight only a means to an end,as long as we get there ok we can spend 2 weeks relaxing ? In the end we're glad we did,priority check in and extra
baggage not much of a plus but extra leg room and wider seats definitely worth it,and the food,if it matters to you,from what were told later,is much better.
Did I mention the free drink ? No ? well it would be rude not too so after a couple of beers,a whiskey and a bottle of wine with my tea I decide to try and get some
sleep....no chance ! The seats are comfortable but not that good (not for me anyway) so console myself with tracking our progress on the seat back screen and before
much longer the sun's up and we get our first glimpse of our destination,then it's buckle up,seats and trays up and we've landed.
We read much on TA about the living nightmare that is Dabolim Airport but....it wasn't that bad ! Sure,there was a needless bus ride for the 50 yds from the plane to
the terminal,multiple requests for your passport/visa/immigration form and pushy porters but we were through in less than half an hour.I guess this was probably due to
it still being fairly early and that we were prem ec and our cases came off first, and after giving a porter £2 to carry our cases all of 20 yds and a short wait for
our standard ec fellow passengers we're on the bus for the hour or so drive to our hotel,the Santana Beach Resort in Candolim. I've written a review of the Santana on
here so won't go into too much detail now but suffice to say it exceeded our expectations in every way and is a fantastic hotel.
First impressions of Goa ? Crazy traffic,it's not uncommon to see a family of 4 on a scooter,there appears to be no such thing as right of way..the bigger you are the
more right you have and if you want to try and cross the road...well,you might have a long wait ! There also appears to be no concept of recycling,stretches of
roadside strewn with litter and the only way of disposing of it seems to be to burn it ! but hey,we did decide to come here because it was different and a bit of
traffic and litter isn't going to blind us to the other things we see,cows walking down the road,palm fringed fields of buffalo and white cranes,Portuguese style
houses,some immaculate,some barely more than a couple of walls almost reclaimed by the forest.
Gaynor,our rep,gave us a brief introduction and tour of the sights on the way in to the resort and the main things to look out for on the CCB road,namely,Beach
Road,Elephant Shops and supermarkets,if you know where these are you can't go wrong if your staying in Candolim,you certainly can't get lost as it's all on the same
After checking in to the Santana,unpacking and a quick swim and bite to eat we go to our welcome meeting with Gaynor,not much to report here,there were only 2 couples
there and she went through the usual advice about the resort and resignedly told us of the various excursions they provide,knowing full well you can do the same with a
local tour operator or taxi driver for half the price.That over it's back to the pool for an hour and to decide where we are eating that night,after(not)much
deliberation we decide to stay in the hotel that night and check out Candolim in the morning.Off to Olegarios then,and our first experience of "proper" Indian food,We
both go for stuffed poppadoms,never seen these before,I had chicken tandoori and my wife the chicken xacuti and could not fault any of it.All this plus 2 soft drink
for the OH and a Kingfisher and a honeybee for me came to Rs 1700 (approx £21),not bad we thought,this turned out to be by far the most we'd spend on dinner during our
stay in Goa.
Day 3 18/3
Up bright and early after a much needed sleep and breakfast it's off out to get some essentials and get the lie of the land,first stop,The Elephant Shop for some
adaptors,smaller than I thought but it seemed to stock every non food item you can imagine.It's also one of the most popular places to change currency,We'd previously
changed some at the hotel,not the best exchange rate but convenient when we first arrived.Elephant shop was the only other place we changed currency as we used the ATM
thereafter so can't say whether they gave a good rate or not,I suppose the best advice is to shop around.Next stop,Johns boat tours to book a couple of trips,more of
which later,and Delfinos supermarket for supplies...milk,coffee,water,beer..told you they were essentials ! then it's off down the Beach road and a long walk down the
beach back to our hotel,politely declining offers for sunbeds,foot massages,bracelets and bits of rock 'til we get to the Calamari,Santana's own beach shack,although
it's not strictly on the beach and hardly a shack but more of a multi level open sided bar/restaurant with dance floor and sun lounger area,whatever,it looked popular
and we were hungry so decided to stop here for lunch,just burger and chips each,nothing fantastic but ok,then back to the pool for the afternoon.
On our first proper night in goa we decided to venture a bit further than the previous night,but not much.Almost the first restaurant you come too after leaving the
Santana is the Stonehouse,looked nice and we'd read good reviews,that'll do for us then !Again we started with the stuffed poppadums,not as nice as Olegarios but still
very good,I had chicken sagwala,a spinach based dish,and my wife again went for the chicken xacuti,something of a curry aficionado she rated it not quite as good as
the previous nights.Starters,2 mains,a soft drink and a large Kingfisher came too Rs 1000 (£12.50),that's more like it !,after a drink at the bar in the hotel it's off
to bed for an early start for the first of our trips,to Dudhsagar waterfall.
Day 4 19/3
Not that early then,woke up late so only time for a caffeine/nicotine based breakfast before we get picked up for our trip to the falls.We'd decided long before that
using a local tour company was probably the way to go being first timers,cheaper than going on Cosmos trips but properly organized rather than taking a punt on a taxi
driver to take us and Johns boat tours seemed to be the best,well only,choice.After being picked up (almost) on time and picking up our fellow passengers we were off !
First stop the obligatory stop at a commercial enterprise masquerading as a toilet/fag break,not really interested in buying anything,wooden ganesh's are ten a rupee
on the stalls on the CCB strip but we did use the facilities and learn about the rather interesting Jack fruit from our tour guide.Off again and on the way our guide
points out various points of interest,churches,temples,the Nestle factory,that sort of thing.We eventually arrive at Collem,buy our bags of monkey food and have our
complimentary packed lunch,very nice ! not sure what it all was but it was very nice ! After a wait for some of our group to do the optional elephant wash we were
shown to our jeep for ride through the jungle to the falls.If you've ever shut yourself inside a washing machine and been thrown over a cliff this gives you some idea
of what this jeep ride is like ! Our driver was the Lewis Hamilton of jeep drivers,overtaking on the river crossings,not letting other drivers through,in fact I think
he set a new record that day! Fillings still intact we arive at the falls,well a clearing in the jungle a short trek from the falls,not one for the less abled this
one,there's a path of sorts but it mostly involves jumping from one boulder to the next,dodging monkeys and drunk Indians.The falls themselves were something of a let
down, they were still an impressive sight,some of the highest in the world,but with just a trickle of water going over them,that's what you get for going in March
I guess,when it hasn't rained for months,Oh well.I left my OH paddling in the smaller pool and went up to the larger one for a swim....forget that idea,as we only had
an hour there and it was a 10-15 min trek through the jungle I didn't really have time to clamber over the really huge boulders and the hordes of Russians to get to
the pool,it looked very nice though.I contend myself with feeding and filming the very tame monkeys and make my way back to the wife,who has been having a pedicure
from the fish in the pool,after a quick paddle myself we make our way back to the jeep and another record breaking washing machine ride back through the jungle to
Collem and our bus.2 firsts for us here,First cow wandering the street,much excitement from me as an ex farmer and cow fan,and our first experience of children and old
ladies begging.What do you do when a small,dishevelled child comes up to you with her hand out ? Is it a con trick to generate some sympathy to get some money out of
gullible tourists or are they genuinely poor,but if you give to her you have to give to all of them,tough one.You like to think some of the money you spend in those
areas somehow trickles down to the bottom,poverty didn't seem too prevalent in Goa compared to other parts of India you see on TV so you hope it does.
An uneventful bus ride takes us back to our hotel with enough time for a swim and cool off before we have to decide where to eat tonight.We decide on a break from
curry and after reading several recommendations on TA we plump for the Tuscany Gardens.A lovely setting,you could be in...well,Tuscany.We both go for garlic mushrooms
to start with,I had mushroom tagliatelle,my wife had prawn risotto,a large KF,cocktail and 2 coffees came too Rs 1600 (£20).a quick drink at the Calamari and it's off
to bed afer a tiring but enjoyable day
Day 5 20/3
Being a restless sort of chap who likes to have a bit of a look round the place and not lie on a sunbed all day I left my OH by the pool with a lime soda and a copy of
Closer and went for a wander down the beach towards Fort Aguada,telling her I wouldn't be that long,just a few photos,quick drink,that kind of thing.About halfway
down I was intercepted by a man from one of the shacks,in fact the only shack on this part of the beach,offering a foot massage.Now,being a man of the world and all
that I'm not opposed to receiving a foot massage from another man,just never had one and didn't particularly want one at this time,after much pulling of fingers and
telling me about my (non existent) lower back pain I managed to brush him off with a "maybe later" that'll work I thought,he won't remember,little did I,naive Goan
first timer,know.There's not much down this end of the beach,a couple of shacks and some watersports things,and it seems to be exclusively Indian.It's a strange sight
at first,while most European tourists wear as little as possible,there were a large (20+) group of Indian lads dressed in shirts and jeans,aren't they hot ? After a
look round and having my photo taken with a few of the aforementioned group,who got very excited about my tattoos (would have loved to have been there when they show
those pics to the family !) and a cheeky kingfisher it was off back up the beach.If I had planned to successfully avoid my would be masseur it might have helped if I'd
remembered what he looked like,as it was he was waiting for me anyway,rule 1,Indian beach sellers,stall and shop owners and taxi drivers NEVER forget !.Go on then !,he
had a living to make and I had literally nothing better to do.Not sure if RS 350 is good value for manipulating my manky size 12s for half an hour when he could have
been doing the fit Russian girl on the next bed !,it wasn't an altogether unpleasant experience but I can't say felt much benefit,never mind,it's all part of the
After getting back to the hotel and explaining why I'd been so long and being told I couldn't be trusted to go off on my own again we went to the Calamari for lunch
and back to the pool for the afternoon.That nights Trip Advised restaurant of choice was Kalinga,an unassuming looking place compared to some other places,and it never
seemed that busy,which is a shame because we had probably our best curry of the holiday there,again we started with our new favourite,stuffed poppadums,followed by
chicken rogan josh each,nothing like the RJ you get here.It was probably the most garlic laced food we ate,with garlic rice and garlic naans Dracula wasn't going to be
bothering us that night ! food,large KF,soft drink and a bottle of water Rs 1100 (£13.75),after tea we had a walk up the road to buy some tat..uhh...souvenirs I mean
and there was no shortage of it,eventually we stopped at a stall to look at some wooden ganesh's and elephants,time to practise my haggling skills with Del Boy (don't
know if that was his real name,but he did a passable cockney accent!) Me:I'll have those 2 please, DB:that's 800 rupees mate, Me:ok...hmm great skills ! I left feeling
slightly used and vowing never to give Del Boy my custom again but at least we've got something for the shelf !
Day 6 21/3
After breakfast we made the short walk up the beach to the much acclaimed Ryans shack,we had read so much about this place so we had to give it a try.Despite reports
of a sunbed war we managed to get one,declined the foot massage,well it's not like I needed one ! and settled down with a fresh pineapple juice.They take a while to
come,I imagine a pineapple takes quite a bit of juicing,but well worth the wait.After a lay in the sun and a bit of a swim in the rather turbulent sea we went inside
for lunch,the Indian fish and chips have to be tried,not the biggest helping but the batter has to be the best I've ever tasted,proper chips as well,OH had prawn
noodles and rated them very highly.This and several drinks came to Rs1300 (£16.25), worth visiting if only for the best toilets on the beach.
Having been away for nearly a week now and grooming not being my strong point anyway I was beginning to look a bit scruffy,I'd so far refused the "shave sir" from the
barbers just up the road from the Santana that we had to walk past every night but the pressure to get tidied up from OH was getting too much to resist.The last person
to give me a shave was my dad when I was 13 and no one else has cut my hair for 20 years but this was all going to change tonight ! after agreeing a price for a shave
and beard trim I told OH I wouldn't be long,after all it doesn't take me long to do it myself.Sat in the chair with visions of sweeny todd going through my head it
turned out to be quite a pleasant experience and a shave and beard trim turned into a hair trim,facial,eyebrow threading,ear and nose trim only ended when he offered
to trim my armpit hair !I'm not exactly Chewbacca anyway and that was pushing it a bit too far so I thanked him for a job well done,paid up and went to look for OH.
I didn't have to look far and found her in the adjacent jewellry emporium,no ulterior motive there then ! She's the expert on these things and assures me the things
she bought were a good price,it looked like a nice job so I'll have to take her word for it !
Casa seashell for tea tonight,partly because of reviews,partly because it looked nice and party because my wife liked the name (for the most part we took it in turns
to choose),Age,experience and a hiatus hernia have knocked my hot curry consumption on the head but I'm far from a korma eater either so went for the Chicken tikka
masala,won't be too bad I thought,asked for medium as opposed to spicy,hmmm,that's the last time I trust an Indian waiter when he tells me medium isn't too hot ! a
large KF and the best part of a bottle of water helped it down,still very tasty though, Mrs O had Chicken rogan josh for the second night running and gave it a thumbs
up.Bill for the night with starters,drinks and coffee Rs1150 (£14.50),returned home early because we were going on our second trip of the week to the Tropical Spice
Plantation the following day only to get a message saying it had been cancelled.
Day 7 22/3
At a newly loose end after our trip cancellation we decided to get a taxi to Panjim for a look round,but not before going in to Johns to rebook the cancelled trip.We
asked in the office how much to expect to pay for the ride and were told it should be between Rs6-800 so when the first driver we approached quoted Rs700 that was good
enough for us.I suppose some people try and screw the price down as low as they can but these guys have to make a living,it's a wonder some of them do with the amount
of them in Candolim,and for less than a tenner we had him for a good 3 hours.Sanjay,our driver,dropped us in Panjim in the main square in front of the big white
church(you know the one I mean,and if you haven't been yet,you will)and we arranged to meet him in 2 hours.apart from the church(which was shut) I'm not sure there's a
lot to do in Panjim per se but we had a good time just walking round a proper Indian town,looking in various shops and walking down back streets which seemed to be full
of small workshops fully employed keeping old vehicles on the road ! After buying a drink and eventually crossing the road we made it to the waterfront not far from
where the small ferry lands and had a good look at the casino ships moored offshore,eventually crossing the road again we went back to find Sanjay who asked us if we
wanted to go and see the Hindu temple in Panjim via the old town with it's narrow streets and Portuguese style houses.Luckily this place of worship was open and
although I'm not given to that sort of thing it was in the perfect place for some thought and contemplation,set on a hillside high above Panjim the silence was a
complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the town below with views of the bridges and the far side of the Mandovi river.We were dropped off outside JBT and booked
Sanjay to take us to the night market the following day,quoting us another Rs700,paid him for today and walked down to Choccolatti.This place is like an oasis in
Candolim with it's lush green shaded garden,I'm not much of a cake fan but the coffee and walnut cake was some of the best I've ever had and the choc milkshake and ice
cream was a great way to cool down on a hot day.
That night we went to the Mermaid for tea,mixed feelings about this one,it's a nice little place,down a side road off the main drag,and we were greeted and shown to
our tables by the owner who spent all the time we were there chatting to her regulars.We both ordered the fillet steak and it was one of the best steaks we have ever
eaten but the portions were a bit on the small side,just a bit of veg and a few chips,Rs1110 (£14) with drinks,oh well you live and learn,Delfinos it is then for a
couple of chicken rolls !
Day 8 23/3
Ryans shack again today so not a great deal to report,lay in the sun,bit of a swim,couple of beers and some chicken noodles for lunch then back down to the pool for a
couple of hours before meeting Sanjay to take us to the Saturday night market at Arpora.This place has to be experienced,it's one of the maddest places ever,it's a
massive market selling all the usual stuff,with live bands playing and a huge food area.We had a quick drink and then had a wander off round the stalls to try out some
haggling,and let's face it I needed the practice !,We eventually bought 3 trance cd's for Rs450,a small stone elephant and a pendant for Rs400,and a job lot of 5
fridge magnet,a couple of keyrings for Rs300 and a scarf for Rs200,all considerably less than the original asking price,getting better at this lark ! after all this
retail therapy we needed something to eat and there was no lack of choice,going for 2 chicken tikka wraps,Rs600 for the both,We then found Sanjay,or rather he found us
and went back to the hotel after one of the best Saturday nights out we've had in a long time.
Day 9 24/4
Despite my previous solo adventures on the beach I was tasked with going to the supermarket for "feminine items",no problem,see you in a bit.Unknown to me Delfinos
wasn't open at this hour,not to worry,Newtons might be and if it isn't Delfinos will be by the time I get back.I normally pride myself on being able to remember
places,my job relies on it to a degree,but I managed to walk right past Newtons without realising,"I'm sure it wasn't that far from Delfinos","it was definitely before
the football pitch","it was dark last night and I was in a car going the other way,maybe it's a bit further" so on I walked,in to Calangute,Definitely missed it
now,might as well keep going and see how far I get.I eventually got to the fork in the road with the white chapel in the middle,thought thats far enough,took a photo
turned round and was met by the most bizarre sight.I was already used to seeing cows wandering up the road but where this pig came from I have no idea ! no one seemed
that bothered about getting him back either.I found Newtons at the second time of asking,purchased the required items and a litre of apple juice which disappeared in 2
goes and trudged back to the hotel,by now a sweating heap that taxi drivers were taking pity on ! I later checked on google and worked out I walked 4.5 miles,which
isn't bad going when the temperature is nudging 30c.I found a grateful but worried wife sat by the pool fretting that I'd been mown down by a tuk-tuk,reassured her
that I'd been fine and sorry I'll take my phone next time.
After a cool down in the pool we went to the Calamari for lunch,don't know what it is about this place,we only really went there for convenience sake,but they don't
seem that bothered about you in there unless you're a regular or Indian.we got served eventually and I must admit the food is very good there and we had quite an
entertaining half hour watching old Brits and young-ish Indians dancing to some rock'n'roll classics.
After an afternoon by the pool we went to the Horizon for tea and my first taste of the local favourite,chicken xacuti,it was ok,no better and according to my wife the
Stonehouse was better but the tarka dahl (a favourite of hers) was very good.2 garlic mushrooms,2 xacutis and drinks Rs1020 (£12.75)
Day 10 25/5
Up and out early for our rearranged trip to the Tropical Spice Plantation,like the previous trip we'd done with Johns Boat Tours this one was a mix
of age, nationalities,couples and singles but everyone seemed to get on really well,helped I think by our guide,Max,who seemed to know everything there was to know about
Goa.After the compulsory fag/toilet/retail opportunity our first stop was old Goa where Max gave us a tour round the Basilica Bom Jesus to see the remains of St
Francis Assisi,Max certainly knew his stuff here but his praise was a bit too fulsome for this confirmed non believer, nonetheless it was very interesting.Next stop
was a Hindu temple set in a very picturesque garden,plenty of photos here of Ganesh and other deities and a quick smoke of which Max seemed grateful and we set off for
our final destination,the spice plantation.It's reached via a bridge across a lake which would have looked better if there had been water in it but the buffalo and
various wading birds didn't seem to mind the mud.Upon entering we were given a bindi mark and a flower garland and took a seat to be served a welcome drink which I
think was lemongrass tea which reminded me of aspirin ! Our group then joined a couple of others for our guided tour around the plantation where we were shown all the
different spices by our very knowledgeable and humorous guide,I never knew piri piri chilis were so small,none of our party including the Indians amongst us were brave
enough to try one ! at the end of the tour we were given a demonstration of betel nut harvesting by a man who shinned up one tree with only a bit of rope tied around
his feet for grip who then jumped to another tree and slid down that one ! this was followed by a buffet style lunch and a sample of cashew fenni...what can I say
about this,I'll give anything a go but one sniff was enough to burn the hairs in your nostrils !as a Frenchman in our party put it after he'd taken a sip "zis
definitely has to be done in one", one's probably enough but for the purposes of research I had another and it wasn't quite so bad second time around but it left me
with a rosy glow and a feeling I might be singing rugby songs and mooning out of the back window of the bus on the way back.There should probably be a warning on fenni
bottles not to ride elephants after drinking it but that's what I did next.
We had some reservations about doing the elephant thing after reading about the welfare of them at different places but the elephants here looked well looked after.Me
and another member of our party changed into our swimmers and took our place in the queue and soon enough it was my turn to climb the steps for the elephant wash,it
wasn't the easiest of things to get on her back and once there I gripped the rope as if my life depended on it,which it probably did because it was surprisingly high
off the ground !I think the elephant was quite relieved when I got off,we then had our photos taken with it and made our way back to the bus for the journey home,both
agreeing it was the highlight of the trip so far ! I would say to any other visitors to Goa if you don't do anything else on your trip make time for a visit here,it
really is a wonderful place !
No need for a shower tonight before going out,we went back to the Stonehouse,our favourite restaurant so far.I'd not had any seafood yet so went for the pomfret,not
having a clue what it was like,my mistake,I should have asked.Small and rather bony it nonetheless tasted very nice with the spinach sauce,my wife went for her new favourite,chicken xacuti.Stuffed poppadums for starters,pancakes for dessert and the usual drinks came to...hmmm,I didn't record the total,sure it was very reasonable
Day 11 26/5
We were getting near the end of our holiday and decided it was probably time to send the postcards we'd written a week ago so after a bit of googling I set off in
search of the Post Office,not entirely convinced it existed.Sure enough it was there,just past Newtons up some steps in a building set back a bit from the
road,stepping into that was like stepping into something from the 50's and it must be the only un AC'd public area in Candolim,the only electrical item I saw was a set
of scales,not a computer in sight ! Somewhat dubious that my mail would reach their recipients I nonetheless bought my stamps and handed over the cards only for the
rather surly postmistress to put them on a nearby,otherwise empty shelf,that's the last we'll see of those then ! (for the record they arrived just over a week later
so visions of them gathering dust on that shelf were unfounded).
Nothing else worthy of note today apart from the ceremonial dancing bull which was being paraded down the CCB road and stopped for a turn with his handlers outside the
bottom gate of our hotel,greeted with much excitement by yours truly and a group of Russian ladies who leapt up from our sunbeds for a photo opportunity with said
Tea tonight was at Raffles,didn't look like our sort of place but we gave it a go on the recommendation of some fellow Santana guests who said they'd had one of the
best steak and ale pies ever ! Being a S and A fan we thought why not and have to say if you're getting tired of curry and fancy something from home this is the place
to go.I had what can only be described as a slab of pie with mash,peas and gravy,I don't know what ale it was cooked with,probably kingfisher,but the steak was to die
for,my wife had fish and chips and it rivalled anything she ever had from our local chippy,after watching some rather drunk Danish tourists dancing to the karaoke we
left very full and happy to have been proved wrong about our previous doubts
Day 12 27/5
Awoke to find our normally patient roomboys keen to get finished today because it was the festival of Holi,the Hindu colour festival.None of the guests could escape
even if they wanted too,being daubed with various colour powder while eating breakfast and the whole place seemed to have an even happier air about than normal.
We'd rung Sanjay,our tame taxi driver, the previous night to see if he could take us to the hippy market at Anjuna and he said if he couldn't his brother would.His
brother must have been busy as well but bang on time a taxi pulled up by the gate with the driver announcing himself as Sanjays friend.In we got and off we went to the
market,dodging the celebrations going on all along the road.
After arriving at the market and telling Sanjays friend we would be a couple of hours we set off to buy yet more souvenirs and presents for anybody we'd forgotten.I
think the hippies must have packed up and left Anjuna market a long time ago,driven out by rampant capitalism,because this was a completely different place to the night
market (not geographically,well it was,you know what I mean) I'm normally quite implacable but when a vendor follows you halfway through the market trying to sell you
a drum and eventually offers it for Rs200 i bought it more to get rid of him than any other reason ,I'll worry about fitting in to the case later ! he even offered me
a trade in on a bigger drum on the way back.My wife being the shopping enthusiast of the 2 of us I left her looking at some jewellery to go and try some more haggling
and this time did rather well,after a bit of quick no nonsense negotiations I came back with 2 stone tea light holders only to find her simultaneously trying to deal
with 3 separate vendors at once,holding necklaces,ankle bracelets and decorative elephants none of which she really wanted,deciding they'd do for presents for various
workmates we settled on a price and left for a much needed drink in one of the cafes,noteworthy only for having one of the most disgusting toilets I've ever had the
displeasure of using,and this is coming from a Glastonbury veteran,when it rained ! it did at least have walls,a roof and a door but it was a good job I didn't need to
sit down because I wouldn't have been able to,it was your genuine porcelain footprints next to a hole in the ground job,last seen by me in Cherbourg ferry terminal 20
years ago.Don't get me wrong,I'm not that fussy about these things but this was a particularly bad example,the odd bucket of water and scrub wouldn't have gone
amiss,the look on the face of the next female user as she came out said it all ! final thoughts on Anjuna market,it's the cheaper of the two and worth a visit if you
don't mind the hassle but there's much the same here as at the Saturday night market and with it's music and food that's much more entertaining.
Leaving an hour earlier than we'd planned and waking up our taxi driver we made our way back to the hotel for an afternoon by the pool watching the staff and fellow
guests getting in to the Holi spirit,I already had a purple beard and hair so didn't feel inclined to join them !
Back to Stonehouse tonight for a record breaking 3rd visit and for me to finally taste a decent chicken xacuti and I have to say it lived up to my wifes hype of the
last week,Babycorn Manchurian for me and stuffed poppadums for OH 2 x chicken xacutis and pineapple fritters and coconut pancakes for dessert plus drinks etc Rs1400
(£17.50).this was our 3rd and final visit to The Stonehouse and we didn't just go there that many times out of convenience,it was a genuinely great place,lovely
setting in front the eponymous stone house,it felt like you were indoors but if you looked up you could see that it was completely open,the music here was good unlike
most of the other cheesy crooners at other places and the staff were always quick to serve you,definitely 5*
Day 13 28/5
Going for our 3rd and final trip with Johns today,up the backwaters of the Mandovi to look for crocodiles and other flora and fauna.Again our bus was a mix of
couples,families and a sweet elderly lady who was on her 14th trip to Goa,her 3rd solo since her husband died,there's definitely something about the place for people
to keep coming back time and again like that.It also meant our 3rd stop at the fag/toilet/retail place and to learn about the interesting jack fruit ! Like family you
can of course never choose your fellow trip goers and unlike family at least your only stuck with them for a few hours but we could have done without Mr Goa and his
mate behind us,who gave a running commentary on absolutely everything,not just interesting stuff but everything,the route the driver took,bus times,advert
hoardings,everything !!if they were football commentators they would have put John Motson and Barry Davies to shame.After passing through Old Goa and down a back road
and nearly driving over 2 puppies asleep in the road we reached a ferry crossing where our boats were waiting for us.It's a nature lovers dream,we saw
eagles,cranes,massive fruit bats and even a kingfisher although if you'd blinked you would have missed it ! and of course crocodiles,how the spotters ever saw them
I'll never know because I had a job when we parked right in front of them but they did,eventually we found a real monster and moored the boats right next to it for our
complimentary lunch of samosas,rolls and free beer !(other drinks were available),we were probably only 10 feet from it so managed to get some good pics and he stayed
still throughout despite being splashed and tempted with leftover samosas, Perhaps if we had bought the puppies with us he may have been a bit more animated !
They don't serve puppies in Top Nosh which is just as well,but despite some reservations about the naff name, did serve some rather good food.I went for fishcurryrice
and OH had a rather fiery chicken madras,which even she struggled with.the usual 3 courses with drinks came to Rs1460(£18.25) don't be put off by the name,it's well
worth a visit,just off the main road and has a lovely garden area and did serve some truly top nosh !
Day 14 29/5
Spent the day at Ryans so not a great deal to report apart from the beach being strangely eroded,normally it sloped down gradually to the sea there being quite a wide
area of shallows to paddle in but today it stopped halfway and there was a 2 foot vertical drop,very strange,the sea was also a bit rougher than normal so whether it
had anything to do with this or high tides I don't know.It was also notable for being the first day I got sunburn,I'm not normally fussed about getting a suntan for
the sake of it,unlike some of the mahogany coloured people we saw,but thought this time I may aswell try so up to now had always put on plenty of cream and had turned
a nice colour (for me).Maybe it was the wind making me think it wasn't as hot as it was but by mid afternoon when we decided to leave my face had turned an attractive
crimson and my nose looked like a strawberry ! we made our way off the beach to go to choccolatti for an ice cream milkshake but that just made me feel sick,feeling
dehydrated I had a pineapple juice but it didn't help so we went back to the hotel where I didn't even have my usual KF and a swim,just went for a lie down in a dark
sufficiently recovered after a short sleep but with neither of us feeling like going very far we went to the Calamari for tea,I had pizza,OH had fish and chips,it was
a 98% Indian crowd with us being the 2% and didn't feel like they were that bothered with us,so because of that and the strong wind blowing through the place we didn't
hang around long and went home early
Day 15 30/3
Our last full day in Goa ! We hadn't planned on doing much of anything today,just laying by the pool really.I walked to Delfinos for some Honeybee and Kingfisher to
take home and said goodbye to Sanjay and that's pretty much it,we stayed by the pool all day,listening to music,reading The Goan (excellent english language weekly
paper) and chatting to fellow guests.Lunch was some rather good chicken satay skewers from the pool bar.
We treated ourselves to a taxi to Coyotes for tea,somewhere we had been meaning to go since day one,apparently very popular on karaoke nights,it was deserted when we
arrived but didn't stay that way for long,it's location up a track off the Beach road probably means it doesn't get much passing trade but it's obviously got a good
reputation spread by word of mouth,of course a good rating on TA doesn't go amiss either ! I had chicken tandoori,my wife had a huge mixed grill sizzler,banana flambee
and chocolate torte for afters with drinks and coffee Rs1600 (£20)
That was it then,one last walk down the main road to buy some last minute souvenirs and presents and back to the hotel for a last KF on the balcony and to say goodbye
to The Santana,a fantastic hotel with fantastic staff who always had a hello or good morning for you,no matter how hard they were working,and most of them worked very hard !
Day 16 31/3
Up early for our 8.15 pick up to go back to the airport and one last look at Candolim and the countryside around it.Once again the airport experience wasn't as bad as
we'd feared,I counted 7 document checks and we had a bit of a queue to get through security but that was it really.We had a 2 hour wait in the rather inadequate
departure lounge,did a bit of duty free shopping and shortened our lives considerably with a couple of visits to the smoking room,infact it's knocked Toronto Pearson
airport off the top spot of worst airport smoking rooms I've visited.Our flight was half an hour late but we boarded ok and took our seats,window and aisle this
time,and said goodbye to Goa.
10 days later 10/4
Well it's finally finished,it's taken me almost as long to write this as the holiday itself,I make no apologies for the length but don't feel I could have done justice
to such an amazing place with anything shorter .I've tried to be as honest as I can with my report,everything was seen through the eyes of first time visitors.
Will we go again ? Probably,although that all depends on a lot of things,visa cost not the least of them,but it's a big old world with a lot of other places to see.
I hope this has been helpful to any other people thinking of visiting Goa,we loved every minute and I'm sure you will too,if not it might at least have given you a few
laughs and helped pass a few minutes on a cold April evening