August 19, 2015 by marksetchfield
With direct flights from London Goa has become a popular destination; over the last few years tourism has become a major part of the economy. We landed at Goa airport after a ten-hour flight, leaving behind the cold temperatures of the UK. As soon as we hit the tarmac its hard to imagine that the small military airport could handle so many visitors, this is my sixth visit to India and how its change, but for the better.
As we passed through immigration fanning ourselves with our passports the real Goa experience started, ‘your bags sir, please’ it was difficult to see who’s was who’s, for a few rupees there are lots of people willing to help with your luggage. The first thing you noticed was the incredible heat Goa’s temperatures early in the year can reach the thirties so high factor cream is a must. We jumped on the bus and headed to the Ramada Hotel; in Caravela resort situated about 75 minutes from the airport.
As we weaved through some very small villages and towns and even narrower roads sometimes the sound of car horns can be defoning. The traffic can also come to a complete standstill, not because of the amount of traffic its normally a cow crossing the road, India regards these as sacred animals.
Set just off the beach the Ramada Hotel boasts nine restaurants, a lagoon style pool surrounded by over 3000 palm trees, kids pool and an eight-hole golf course. We were greeted with a very sweet locally produced cocktail in the lounge bar, as I sat back and sipped my very blue drink the scale of the hotel really hit home, I said to my travel buddy ‘I know its obvious but this place is massive’. ‘OK lets go and see that beautiful beach we had read about in out guide books’ I said.
Sun hats, flip flops on we headed for the beach, Caravela beach is about 15 minutes from Colva which is the busiest end of this beautiful beach. We stopped and took in this amazing stretch of golden sand, it goes on as a far as you can see. So we settled on our loungers and our day has begun, one of the many things I love about Goa is the friendly local people, they will constantly greet you ask your name and of course try and sell you something.
Most of the beach sellers are young children, they spend their day walking up and down the beach waving beautiful printed sarongs and throws hoping to catch your eye, if not they love to try and show off the language skills, As I kicked back I was very quickly surrounded by a group of you girls with bags of goodies for me to view ‘a very good price sir, just look’ they push a very hard bargain.
Goan food is mainly fish but the hotel does cater for international tastes, our first main decision is which one of the nine restaurants to eat at? So we chose the Sossegado grill which specializes in grilled-to-order seafood which is caught locally, you must try the gilled tiger prawns, I have never seen prawns so big. Our waiter was dressed in a turban, long white shirt and a silk sashes it was like I was on the set of a Bollywood movie, ‘I’ll have the grilled kings prawns please, tandoori style’. As the waiter walked away we were then entertained by Tony the hotel magician, he introduced himself and asked for my watch, Ok I said wondering I had made a bad move, “what time you make it sir?’, I replied‘ just after eight-thirty local time’ after some very quick moves he handed back my watch and somehow he set my watch 5 hours ahead, we sat there very puzzled, now that will mess up my body clock.
The next day we hired pushbikes and headed down the beach, the tide goes right out during the day so the hard sand makes it very easy to ride along the waters edge. I haven’t been on a bike for sometime and certainly not on a beach. layered in sun cream we headed off north up the beach. As we headed up the beach we could see big huddle of people pushing a boat into the sea, Ok I thought this is fishing local style. About twenty men were pulling a huge net in from the sea, it’s a slow process but from what I could see it was a good catch, hundreds of silver fish shining in the mid day sun. Restaurant owners from the many beach shacks came over and took some of the catch straight away, ‘we must go there and eat tonight’ I said, so that was it the sunset bar was our stop the way back from our six hour beach trip. Bikes are the best mode of transport, but for about eight pounds you can book a taxi for the day, it’s a great way to see Goa and the drivers can tell you all the best sights to see, so the next day we got up early and met our driver Garesh and off we headed to visit one of the many and beautiful Hindu temples.
Goan’s are a mix of Hindu and Christian religions, wthe temples are off the beaten track the temples of interest are close to Ponda, on the inland route between Panaji and Margao, inside you’ll find the most beautiful mosaic walls and pillars with intricate wooden carvings and plated with silver. On the way back we stopped in Margao, Goa’s second largest city with a sprawl of indoor markets, fabric shops and restaurants, think Piccadilly circus times two and add some heat! So with bags full of spices and hand printed throws we headed back to the resort.
One of the key parts to a typical day in Goa is sunset, normally just after six pm it never fails to amaze, so we dumped our bags in the room and headed down to the beach bar, you have to get there pretty early as the seats fill, so we ordered two Kingfisher beers and sat and watch the huge orange circle dip being the horizan. Well that’s it for another day, it must be time for dinner? So we headed off to one of the many beach huts, this is when a torch is a must we stepped up to the Sunset shack and ordered our food, we said cheers as we sat and watch the sea crashing under the light of the full moon. Then it occurred to me, we’ve been waiting for ages I caught the attention of the waiter and said ‘this is fast food, there is no rush its how we do it’ as we giggled I looked up and there it was a huge notice, ‘take it easy lifes slower in Goa’
WHAT TO DO: Catch the bus or hire a cab to Anjuna market, its open every Wednesday, there you can find food stalls and hand made silver jewellery and be prepared to haggle, its might take sometime but you should never pay the first price. Take a parachute flight along the beach on the back of a boat, but make sure your insurance covers watersports.
Book a full body Indian massage at the hotel spa, if you don’t feel relaxed already you will after and hour of a full body massage.
WHAT TO EAT: Fish, fish and more fish, Goan food is spicy but not too hot, try the local dish Goan fish curry and Chicken from the tandoori oven. Check that the salads aren’t washed in the local water. Bottled water is a must but many of the hotels filter the water supply.
WHAT TO BUY: Sarongs, jewellery and hand crafted wooden figures, you can’t go very far in Goa without seeing a small gift shop or beach seller again you can haggle.
MONEY: Goa’s currency is rupees, you can’t get rupees in the UK but you can exchange money at most of the hotels or at the airport, and now most of the larger towns and cities have ATM machine where you can withdraw local currency.