First of all I apologise for the length of this first timers trip report as I’m sure that regulars of this forum will get bored of this well before reaching the end. However, it was reading reports such as this 18 months ago that began to whet our appetite for our first Goan adventure. Let me begin:-
Friday 1st Feb 2013 – Arrived at Manchester airport in plenty of time for the 16.15 Monarch flight to Dabolim. Check in confirmed our extra leg room seats. Had a pint in the bar to kill time (my first drink since 23.57 on New Years Eve). Set off just 20 minutes late. Our first every long haul flight wasn’t bad at all – food okay – extra leg room was definitely worth it (for me). Even managed a nap for a couple of hours.
Saturday 2nd Feb – Arrived Dabolim on time. Slow progress through immigration but we were the only flight so could have been worse. I managed to claim both cases from the carousel, found the Cosmos rep who directed us to the bus. The smells, sights and sounds were something else even though it was early morning in Goa. Got cases to the back of bus and handed them to a guy to lift into the bus – next thing he’s after one of our English pounds. Now I’m not a cheapskate but he only lifted them into the bus so I declined to tip him. Bus journey to Cavelossim was a bit long and a lot bumpy but, for a first timer, it presented us with a great opportunity to see in the scenery. Arrived at the Haathi Mahal at 9.40am. Told our room wasn’t going to be ready until tomorrow and allocated to another room (119) for the night. Room was a bit tired tbh but clean. Decided to unlock one case and take out essentials for the day/night. Changed some money at Jai’s (82.5 to £). Walked down to the beach via Morbor Beach Hotel through GG’s shack and settled at Fat Willy’s for the afternoon. After a beautiful afternoon, we get freshened up at the HM and then went to the Jazz Inn for the evening to see Graham (ex-UB40) play. Managed 3 kingfishers, Chicken Padkora starter and Chicken Kholapuri with rice and a cheesy garlic naan. OH had Chicken Tikka and a couple of sprites – all for 1030 Rps. Left just after 10pm as absolutely knackered – back to HM for a good nights sleep.
Sunday 3rd Feb – Up refreshed and down for breakfast which was very good. I tucked into a freshly made omelette (this was to be my staple for the next two weeks) and got chatting the the lad who was making them. Walked to the beach via the lane at side of Mobor Beach Hotel but then walked up the beach to Mikes shack. Dropped our stuff on two beds at Mikes and then walked down to the mouth of the river Sal and watched the Egrets and Kites in the bay. Back to Mikes for the rest of the day including lunch - chicken tikka roll (another staple for the next two weeks) a bottle of Kingfisher and then a fresh lime soda later on. Back to HM – given keys for our new room (204) and told our cases would be in there already. Room was absolutely spotless – recently refurbished and we just knew that we were going to have a fantastic time here. Finally unpacked, freshed up and opened my box of red wine that I’d lovingly taken in my case. Then out for a walk around the village. Finally ended up at Goan village for our meal Chicken Vindaloo for me, OH had Chicken Hakka Chow Mein – shared rice and a chees garlic naan. 3 kingfishers and 2 lime sodas – 920 Rps.
Monday 4th Feb – Up early at 7am for a spot of birdwatching round the lonely place track. 9.45 back to HM for breakfast and then a walk through the village then to the beach via path across from Old Anchor to Mikes shack. Spent the rest of the day on two beds enjoying the beautiful (if slightly windy) day – including lunch at Mikes. Walked back to HM via a nosey in a few shops, freshened up then a taxi (150 Rp) to Betty’s Place for dinner. Chicken Xacuti for me Aloo Masala for OH and rice, naan and roti bread to share. 2 KF’s, 1 lime soda and 1 sprite 785 Rps. Taxi back to Goan Village for more drinks before bed. Booked for Betty’s birdwatching river cruise for Tuesday 4pm.
Tuesday 5th Feb. Walked to Assolna via Ferry crossing – we were birdwatching so took an hour to Ferry. Loads of photos of the women selling fish in Assolna. Ferry back then stopped off at Joe’s River Cover for a much needed drink. The tide was out so we were able to watch many birds wading in the mud whilst necking a cold one. Back to HM for a swim in the pool then changed and caught the local bus to Betty’s for the river cruise. One other couple (non-birdwatchers) on the boat with us. A beautiful two hours spent cruising up the Sal – seeing kingfishers and birds of prey galore and, of course, the fruit bats. Bus back to HM (more red wine) then out for a meander in the shops on the way to Octimas for dinner. Beef chilli Fry starter, chicken Kadai for me. OH had a veg spring roll and a veg Jalfrazi (said it was a bit hot) shared rice, garlic naan and a roti bread. 3 KF’s 1 fanta, 1 lime soda dna 1 tea = 1050 Rps.
Wednesday 6th Feb. Decided to save the legs and have a full day relaxing around the pool at HM. Visited Saga store on way out for dinner which we had at the Jazz Inn where we saw Graham playing again. Stuffed mince paratha starter and chicken tikka masala with rice and a garlic naan. OH had a chees pizza. 3 KF’ and a cranberry breezer for me 1 lime soda and 2 sprite for OH – 1335 Rps. Ended night chatting to Graham about the old days and the times that they (UB40) played the Ledmill in Sheffield.
Thursday 7th Feb. Up at 7am walked to Ponds across from Cavelossim football pitch for more birdwatching. By 9.15 it was getting too hot so walked back to HM just in time to catch breakfast (10am). Walked the beach to Mikes shack got two beds easily. Sea was rough today and it was quite windy on the beach. Lunch at Mikes then at the end of the day a steady walk back down the beach taking in the sunset on the way to HM. Decided to go to Raj Mahal to eat as it was advertised as ‘Party night’. Singer was a little naff but we were treated to fire juggling and fireworks. Highlight was some very bizarre dancing down by a group of inebriated Russians. Service was slow although waiter did say it would be as they were busy and we hadn’t booked. Our starter (Garlic Bread) arrived after we’d finished our main course but, to be fair he knocked the charge off the bill. Chicken Dupiaza for me, Chicken Sizzler for OH with rice and a naan to share. 3 KF’s and 2 sprite = 790 Rps. Went on to Goan village for drinks afterwards.
Friday 8th Feb. After breakfast we caught the local bus to Margao (30 Rps). Arriving at Margao was a complete assault on the senses. We wandered through the municipal gardens- OH got a new battery fitted for her watch for 40 Rps. Then we went in search of the ‘indoor’ market which was a sight to behold. At 1.30 I persuaded OH that I’d had enough (I’m not a shopper) so we fought our way onto the next bus back to tranquillity. A great experience but once in two weeks was enough for me. A quick ‘pit stop’ in HM then we went down to Raj Mahal for lunch via the little tailors near Jazz Inn where OH left a pair of her trousers to have the hems turned up. Lunch at Raj Mahal with a stunning view of the river watching kingfishers (the birds) galore. Collected Pam’s trousers from the tailor (100 Rps) and then back to HM for a swim in the pool. More birdwatching (and red wine) on the balcony as the Egrets came in to roost bang on time 6.30pm. Dinner at Mikes place tonight – very busy and another group of very bonkers Russians dancing to Abba songs !! Onion Bhaji starter and Beef Vindaloo for me. OH has veg hakka noodles and we shared rice and a cheese garlic naan. 2 x KF and 2 x sprite = 770 Rp. We also booked for mike’s beach party for this coming Wednesday. Then went for after dinner drinks in Goan village.
Saturday 9th Feb. After breakfast we walked the beach to Mikes shack, dropped our stuff on two beds and then walked to the mouth of the Sal. We watched the women raking the dead fish/prawn carcases – being mindful to stay up wind. Got chatting to one of the local fishermen as we watched him fishing the mouth of the river. Lunch at Mikes and a full day on the beach in what was another beautiful Goan day. Walked the beach and sat to watch local playing cricket as the sun set behind them. After freshening up at the HM we decided to walk to Kinara for dinner. Need to be a bit careful as the road is unlit but it only took us 10 minutes to get there. Another fantastic meal for a ridiculously low price. 1 Masala Papads and 1 Onion Padkoras for starters. 1 x Chicken Kalimiri for me and OH had 1 veg byriani – rice, garlic naan and roti bread to share. 2 x KF and 1 fanta orange = 560 Rps. Walked back to Jazz in for a couple of after dinner drinks.
Sunday 10th Feb. Up at 7am for more birdwatching on the lonely place track. Back to HM for 10am for breakfast then walked to Mikes shack for the day. Lunch, as usual, included a chicken tikka roll, chips a KF and lime soda. After another wonderful day, back to HM to freshen up (this includes red wine of course). Taxi to Betty’s Place for dinner. The evening was very warm but Betty’s was so quiet and peaceful – perfect. Chicken Hakka noodles starter (to share), Chicken Patiala for me and Chicken steak with salad for OH. Rice, garlic naan, 2 x KF and 2 x sprite = 940 Rps. We booked for the birdwatching cruise for Wednesday afternoon and also booked a table for valentines night. Benson gave us a lift back to HM and we got out near Saga store and went to Goan village for after dinner drinks.
Monday 11th Feb. After breakfast we strolled along the beach to Mikes shack and settled ourselves down for the day. OH bought a ‘silver’ bracelet from the beach sellers for 200 Rps after some serious bartering. We decided to go to Joe’s River Cove for the evening so got a taxi (150 Rp) there. Another warm evening, quiet and peaceful with just a hint of a breeze coming off the water. Chilli Paneer starter and Chicken Tawa for me, OH had Aloo Masala and we shared rice and a garlic naan. 2 KF and a large Honeybee, 2 sprite and a coffee. OH finished off with a Creme caramel = 780 Rps. We booked for Friday night (our last night) and then Joe booked us a taxi back to HM - 150 Rps.
Tuesday 12th Feb. After breakfast we went birdwatching on the lane towards the Ferry crossing and eventually walked to the ferry and on to Assolna. After returning via the Ferry we stopped at Joe’s River Cover for lunch and shared a Chicken Byriani and a plain naan. 2 x coke and 1 x KF = 345 Rps. Strolled back to HM and spent the afternoon round the pool. I got bored and suggested we go for a walk and a cold drink so we got changed and walked to River View where we spent a lazy hour birdwatching on the river sipping a long cold drink – this is just like being in heaven. 1 KF, 1 sprite and 1 strawberry ice cream 180 Rps. Wandered through shops on the way back then got freshened up for a night at the Goan village. Onion Bhaji starter, chicken Hyderabadi for me. OH had veg hakka noodles and we shared the obligatory rice and naan bread. 2 KF and a large Old Monk, 1 sprite and 1 coffee = 880 Rps.
Wednesday 13th Feb. After another lovely breakfast we caught the bus down to the end of the road (past the Holiday Inn) and walked the peaceful road to the end then walked across the sand dunes and back down the beach to Mikes. No beds left at Mikes so we went back to Betty’s shack and spent the day lounging in the sun. Lunch at Betty’s was just as nice as at Mikes. Left the beach at 3.30 and walked down the lane between the Leela and the Holiday Inn to get to Betty’s boat cruises for our 4pm birdwatching trip. When we got there we were on our own so we had to pay for 3 (minimum charge). Hardly broke the bank though at 1050 Rps (350 Rps pp). We had our own private two hour cruise up and down the Sal – truly wonderful. Caught bus back to HM with just enough time to get freshened up and then down to Mikes Place to catch the jeep down to Mike’s beach shack. We’d been wary after booking because one of the lads had said that at least one of us had to eat from the seafood menu. As neither of us likes sea food I decided to speak to Mike one day earlier when we were in his shack for lunch. He assured us that it wasn’t a problem and he would sort it. Anyhow we had a great night. The entertainment (firejugglers, Goan dancers, fireworks, disco) was excellent. Chicken lollipops starter, chicken jalfrazi for me and OH had 1 x spring roll. Rice and naan. 4 KF, 1 cranberry breezer, 2 sprite = 1310 Rps. Lift back to HM in jeep. Great night.
Thursday 14th Feb. As it turned out this was to be our last day at Mikes beach shack. Another hot day, but rather windy on the beach. We left the beach early (4pm) and got back to HM feeling a little bit sandblasted. Taxi to Betty’s place for valentines night – the place was decked out with hundreds of red heart shaped balloons – very romantic. Chicken Hakka noodles starter (shared), chicken masala for me and Aloo masala for OH, 1 rice, 1 cheese garlic naan, 1 creme caramel. 2 KF’s, 1 Betty’s special cocktail and an old monk + 2 sprite and a coffee. 1115 Rps. We had a fantastic evening and then Benson gave us a lift back to the HM.
Friday 15th Feb. Our final day. After a last breakfast and a final farewell to the Omelette guy, we strolled the beach to Mikes but the beds were all reserved (this seems to be the way over the last few days has a number of larger groups of people have arrived). We settled for Betty’s shack and dropped our stuff on a couple of spare beds. We walked to the mouth of the Sal once last time watching the Kites and Egrets. We stood watching a dolphin in the bay and then saw what can only have been a whale (of some kind) – we watched it through the binoculars for 20 minutes until it finally disappeared. After a stroll back down to Betty’s shack we settled for the day. Over lunch we got chatting to Benson again who really is a nice guy. Took once last walk down the beach watching the sand crabs and then saw a Sea Eagle fly past the setting sun on it’s way to the mouth of the river – a fitting finale. After packing we got a taxi to Joe’s River Cover for a warm but very peaceful final evening sat at a table by the water’s edge. 1 x chilli paneer starter, 1 x Chicken Cafreal for me and a tandoori chicken for Pam. Rice and garlic naan shared. 1 honey pancake for me and a banoffe pie for Pam. 3 x KF and an Old monk + 2 cokes and a coffee. 1015 Rps. Had a long chat to Joe who was keen on asking how we’d enjoyed our time and wanted to know how we had heard of his place. I told him that we’d read it all on the Goan forum on tripadvisor. He booked us a taxi back to HM as we bade farewell to wonderful Goan evenings for 2013.
Saturday 16th Feb. Up at 4am. Bus arrived on cue at 5am – as we boarded the bus it started to rain. The next 90 minutes was spent travelling back to the airport in the most torrential rain I’ve ever seen. Fortunately it stopped just before we reached Dabolim. Usual nightmare filling in immigration forms whilst trying to offload your cases but once on the plane we were off on time. Fight back was painless and we arrived in Manchester more or less on time.
In summary. Pam was slightly apprehensive beforehand but two days after arriving home she was looking for prices for next year – this to me says it all. The most endearing feature (amongst so many) was the wonderful Goan people that we met. I can’t wait to go back and I’m sure we’ll be there again next February. We met quite a few forum members whilst we were there and I also know that others were in Cavelossim at the same time as us. Because essentially Pam and I don’t like to intrude on other peoples space we may not have said hi. To those who made themselves know to us, thanks for contributing to our holiday. For those who are like us, and like to keep themselves to themselves in the main, then I'll say hi from a distance. To all forum members – you helped to make this into (and I quote my OH here) – the best holiday we’ve ever had. Thank you. Mark and Pam.
P.S. – there will be a birdwatching report and curry special report to follow in due course (they will be brief though)