Returned from India on Monday 30th Nov
I thought I would write a quick review of our latest visit to Goa, finished off with a night in Mumbai.
Last November was our very first visit to Goa, enjoyed it so much we went back in April before our six month visas ran out then back again last week, just for ten days.
This time, we decided to "do it ourselves" so to speak! Booked flights with Emirates to Mumbai via Dubai then Kingfisher down to Dabolim.
Apart from slight delays on all legs, about half hour or so, the flights were good, comfortable and the the stewards/stewardesses quite attentive and the food (if you dont mind asian food) was quite nice too.
We had about a 4 hour wait in Mumbai so after the transfer to the domestic airport, I managed to end up in the Kingfisher first class lounge, not sure if this is generally allowed, but once inside, soft drinks and snacks were free, and it was very comfortable.
This time we booked a guesthouse that was owned by Bono (of Bono's Shack) called Sarah Guesthouse, I had already arranged for Avi our regular driver to collect us from the airport and supply us with an Indian PAYG sim card, he was there waiting as efficient as ever, and as we neared Candolim, he rang Rose (Bono's wife/partner) for directions to the guesthouse, five minutes later we were greeted with smiling faces at her front gates.
I spoke to Rose before we set off and, at her suggestion, we would only pay for our stay with her, if we were "completely happy" and the room was booked with a nod and a wink and nothing more official than that, and I think some people are not comfortable with such arrangement, but this suited us fine, knowing, should it go "pear shaped" then there are many other places in the area we could stay.
We were shown to our room, on the thirt floor, or is it the 2nd floor if you call the bottom ground? Th room contained the biggest bed yopu have ever seen (but not the comfiest) with the exception of the pillows, they were super, a TV with satalite, a fridge freezer, a small kitchen area and the air con (almost new air-con as well and very quiet), also a bathroom, containing the usual shower come tap, toilet and sink with a vanity mirror and cupboard. Also in the room was a wardrobe (well more like a locker really) wich was lockable and contained a safe inside that locked seperately. We had 2 balcanies, a private one that was furnished with chairs and tables of ample size, also a shared balcany at the enterance, that was the size of a small football pitch, excellent for catching sun all day! Oh yes, we paid £15 per night for the room.
During the whole of our stay there were no beach shacks open, this didn't really matter, as when we visited the beach, and we only did this twice, we were well looked after by the boys who brought us drinks and food upon request, so other than not having a roof to sit under, not much different really.
During our visit we did a couple of trips! These included the dolphin trip, waterfalls, sunset boat trip in Panjim, Mapusa market, and took the time to visit a few local villages.
All these trips we arranged with our driver, we agree a price up front and away we go!! The dolphin trip went out from Coco beach and cost us 500rs each plus 300rs for the taxi, there weere just 6 of us in the boat, goth the chance to see many dolphins and get some nice pics, followed by a brief sight seeing tour of the prison, lighthouse, smugglers house etc all for less that £8.50 each, bargain!
The waterfalls were just fantastic, the drive is a bit of a way, but the sights en-route are well worth the journey. You arrive in the village where you get into a jeep and pay for the jeep and bags of nuts/sweets/biscuits that you have to tell the officials you dont have when entering the National park gates, so the cost of the jeep and bag of goodies were 300rs each, when you get to the gates of the park, you are asked ror a further 20rs per person and 30rs per camera!! Then starts your journey to the waterfall, approximately 35 - 45 minute drive (I believe they call it "green laning" over here) through the national park being suitably informed of your surroundings by the ever present guide. The last 10 or so minutes is done on foot, this is where your bag of goodies come into their own.
We went on this trip early in the morning, therefore, the monkeys (and there are lots) are fairly hungry and tame I might add, will feed freely from your hang and are very gentle, all the way to the lagoon at the base of the 1,000 waterfall which is just spectacular, a swim in the lagoon with "all" the fish. You know how many fish are in there when you throw a handfull of broken biscuits in the water, its like a scene from Jaws!! but the lagoon is nice and cool and well worth a swim.
There are also people up there selling drinks and snacks should you require, the trip back to the village is similar, if not quicker than the trip up.
Once back in the village we got Avi to take us to a local cafe for lunch, this was probibly not the cleanest looking, and I would never have gone near the place on our first visit, but this time, the OH and I decided we would broaden our horizons a little, and I must say, the meat curry and rice was fantastic, we invited Avi to eat with us, we all had a couple of soft drinks and lunch, and it came to somewhere in the region of 300rs, a cracking day. The taxi for the day was 800rs.
We visited Mapusa market on Friday, the reason for Friday, is that we were informed that this is the busiest day and all the locals from all the neighbouring villages come and sell all their wares, irrespective of what it is, spices, vegitables, dried fish et all. anyhow, we were not dissapointed, as Avi dropped us off and arranged to give him a call to come and get us when we had finished, becase there is just nowhere to park.
Anyway, into the market we strolled and the first thing that hits you are the aromas, from fresh fruit and veg to spices and herbs, this is however, until you are suitably intrenched within the market and you stumble into the fish market, I can only say that the smells in this area of the market were somewhat different, but the experience was emense and I wouldn't have missed this for the world. They also sell chickes whilst they are still alive (with legs tied together so they dont do a runner). it is also worth noting, this is not a tourist market, but well worth a visit and was definately a highlight for me. When we had finished we found a bar upstairs next to the market and I think it was just called "The Pub" and we had a drink and lunch, then watched the "mad" world below going about it's daily business.
The river cruise in Panjim was a little dissapointing, but then again what can you expect for 150rs, the trip lasted about 1 hours with folk dancers, a quick up and down the river and thank you.
Following the cruise we went into Panjim and had dinner at the deli Dubar (sp) with some friends, this was fantastic, as was the journey their, it was the night of the Indian Film Festival, so the City was very busy, colourful and noisy, so Avi took us around the city to see all the different stalls and live bands that were playing for the occasion.
During our stay the OH bought bags (plenty of them) and gifts to bring back with us, therefore, having to hettisun the majority of my belongings to do so!
I got a regular shave with Krishna the barber at the side of the football field, we ate out every night, other than the Deli Dubar, the best two restaurants were Souymans Kitchen Roys Tai food and Cinderellas.
The best place we found for a "cheap" and sociable drink was a place called Nina's Nook, this was just a shop with a few chairs and tables outside, but was always packed, but at 40rs per kingfisher and 35rs for a small bottle of honeybee understandable
On our way back we had made arrangements to stay the night befor we flew back to the UK to stay in Mumbai at the Le Meridien, this was absolutely fantastic, five star luxury at its best! Collected and returned to the airport in an air-con Merc, got a free upgrade to Club Class, there were two weddings on outside the hotel which were just amazing, the whole 5 star experience was worth every penny.
All in all we had a fantastic time, one of the things I have not mentioned on here is Dubai airport, its beautiful (as airports go) and its massive, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to reach your gate.
I hope you enjoy the read.