nights “down and out” in goa

In Florida, where I grew up, you can drive all the way south to Key West from about Savannah, Georgia on U.S. Highway A1A along the coastline. All the while the ocean will nearly always be within sight on your left. I guess I expected Goa to look something like that, but it wasn’t. On the long ride from the airport in Panaji, we’d get only occasional glimpses of water in the distance, but nothing really stupendous jumped out at me until we crossed this long bridge. The sight of oceans and marinas always stirs my blood a little, probably because of the Florida connection. (This begins the “out” portion to which the title refers. The “down” part will come a little later.)

During our stay we arranged to take a Sunset Cruise that featured a Goan dance troupe performing a program, for our cultural entertainment, of folk and religious dances with traditional dress. One of the dances was the Portuguese peasant dance, unsurprisingly spanish-influenced. It was still daylight when we got on the boat for departure, so there was a chance for a little sightseeing before the sun went down. If memory serves, the palatial tile-topped building in the skyline in the photo below is the Baga Marina Beach Resort Hotel. There’s also a church and a dome-topped orange temple, and you can see what appears to be homes along the edge of the river.

Then the sun begins to take on the appearance of a giant over-easy egg yolk as it begins its dip from a pink colored sky into the golden sun-rays splattered on the water. Then we hear the music and the dancers make their appearance. At its conclusion, the D.J. begins a selection of music, and invites the audience to come down to dance. The stage is quite small, so he designates couples only, ladies only, etc. so everybody has an equal chance to enjoy themselves. The rest of us watch and laugh and drink. The best part comes near the end when the men are invited to come on down! to dance Bollywood style. Yay! ML commented that she had never seen so many men dancing together and alone, except maybe on a trip to Greece many years ago, or maybe a gay dance bar. I reckon it all depends on how many drinks you’ve consumed that makes the difference, but it’s a sight none of us will ever forget. (Sorry the photo is so dark, but it is night as I said.)

We passed several boats that were mostly dark like the one we were on. This boat seemed to be a more glamorous casino-type cruise with lights flashing, but whenever we passed by I didn’t see many people about. Maybe the liquor on the lighted boat was better and everybody had already passed out on the lower decks. Or maybe the big spenders were just being tight that evening.

I wanted to show you this picture, (below) because it illustrates what I’ve said several times how you should always walk in India with your eyes cast downward to where you’re walking. Imagine if you were walking down this street on a dark night, maybe to drink a few bottles of Kingfisher (beer) at Molly Malone’s. And let’s say that there are parked cars,  and other cars passing you on your left, and you decide to move to your right to avoid the traffic. One minute you’re on solid land, the next minute you’re stepping into an abyss. An accident just waiting to happen.

That’s exactly what I did trying to avoid the traffic and ended up in the drainage ditch in the picture below. It doesn’t look very deep, but I’m sure it’s about 24 inches deep at least. What a thing to happen not even half way into our trip. I had a cut in my hand, dug some glass out in the bathroom of the restaurant we were going to, and a purple/black bruise from my hip to my knee. It only faded completely a couple of weeks after I returned home. There’s no such thing as a hazard warning for pedestrians. But this accident was one that waited for me!

By the way, the dogs usually lie in the streets. I asked Hubby why they lie in the streets where, by the looks of all those limping around on three legs, they’re being run over or killed. Because they don’t belong to anyone, he said, they’re fed or get their food from whatever they can find around town and on the beaches. Sometimes families will take turns feeding them, but if they go into a yard to rest they’re shushed away by the property owner. So if they’re not on the beaches, they’re in town. The only place they can rest is on the street. There are hundreds of these pye dogs, which literally means “ownerless half-wild Asian dog,” around. They’re very docile, but I try very hard not to look at them because they seem so sad. I think how horrible it would be to go through life with no one to care for and love you, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. If ML had not taken this picture, I would not have had the only photo  to remember my infamous fall at Goa. That and the bruise deep inside my thigh that I still feel two month later.

The next post will feature a close-up look at the Madagoan Railway Station and the train that takes us southward to Kochi. Hope you’ll join me.

arrival in (almost paradise) goa

After Anna and Babloo saw us off at the airport in Delhi, we arrived in Goa early the afternoon of January 21. Goa is renowned for its beautiful beaches and places of worship. In somewhat of a minor miracle, Hubby’s brother and his wife, Raj and Vasanthi, showed up to welcome us at the airport. They joined us in Goa and continued on with us to cruise the backwaters of Kerala and points further south.

Goa is located on India’s western coast along the Arabian Sea, roughly south of Mumbai (Bombay) and just northward of Bangalore. I’ve seen some of the most incredible sunsets imaginable along the Arabian Sea. (You’ll see some examples in some of the next few posts.)  The Portuguese occupied and colonized the territory for about 450 years, until its annexation by India in 1961. It was here that I felt the distinct blend of the two dominant religions–Hinduism (65%) and Christianity (30%) with Islam (3%) and Sikhs and others at 2% making up the rest. It was clear from the number of Catholic churches we visited the next day that this part of Goa was heavily Christian.

This is our handsome driver during our stay in Goa. Joseph’s good looks and personal demeanor soon began to epitomize for me the easy going, relaxed nature of the Goan people with whom I came in contact. (Click on his picture to enlarge it, though I’m very sorry you won’t be able to see his beautiful hazel eyes!) Joseph loaded us all into a large enough van to accommodate all five of us plus all our luggage.

Unlike other areas of India I’ve visited over the years, everyone here in Goa, including hordes of foreigners from all over, seems free to follow the lifestyle they wish, including religious views and dress codes (You’ll understand that line later as you see some of the beach pictures.)

Here’s the front of our hotel, the Casa de Goa, which turned out to be about a block away from the Calangute Beach–and only about a 45 minute scenic ride from the airport in the capital city of Panaji. Across the street, on the beach side, the hotel grounds continued with a large number of cottages for rent. While we were being checked in, we were served a refreshing drink made with pineapple–if memory serves–that put me in mind of Hawaii. After four cool days in Delhi, we were beginning to feel as though we were on holiday in a setting almost like my imagined paradise.

Here’s a nice touch I was to discover in most if not all the hotels we stayed in all over India. Cheerful welcoming flower arrangements were located at the entryway, and changed nearly every day, a very nice touch!

It also felt very much like a Florida hotel in both color scheme and open design. Even indoors there, you felt as if you were part of the outdoors. Here, in front of a painted tile display by a Goan born artist, Mario de Miranda, Hubby takes an Ibuprofen break on the lobby bench after check in. Although the ride wasn’t terribly long by Indian standards, the roads are sometimes (nearly always) very bumpy so it’s good to have plenty of pain relievers on hand.

Our rooms overlooked the hotel swimming pool where a buffet dinner and cocktails were served poolside each evening. On the rooftop to left are solar panels that ML learned the hard way (a late night shower) to heat water. As long as you showered earlier rather than later, the solar power worked very well. When and if you complained at the front desk about the lack of hot water they would look at you like something was wrong with you.

Because we don’t want to miss the quickly approaching sunset, we’ll go to the first of our Goan beach destinations now. Calangute Beach is supposed to be the busiest beach in Goa, reputedly a favorite of the hippies during the 1970s and 1980s. Across the street from our hotel along this dirt lane, we could walk to the beach.

Growing up in Florida as I did, near enough to the white sands of Daytona Beach on the Atlantic Ocean to go there often as a teenager, the beach itself was not quite as impressive as I had thought. It became apparent pretty quickly, however, that there’s plenty to do there . . . if you have the stamina, are young enough, or just plain foolish enough. For so late in the day, there were still huge numbers of visitors about indulging in various water sports activities or like us, just enjoying the ambiance.

Water skiing and para-sailing,such as you see in the picture below, begins in the afternoon when the wind begins to blow and continue well into the sunset.

While there are fishing boats about–Calangute is known as a fishing village after all–you could decide to fish the solitary way–like this man is doing.

Or you can just be lazy and lay claim to a wooden beach bed-bench with a thatched roof over your head . . .

Or you could roll up your pants legs and stroll along the beach . . . like we decided to do . . . . I really like this picture of the four of us–myself, ML, Vasanti & Raj–with our shadows reflecting in the water . . .

while we we watched for the perfect moment to snap a picture of the sunset just as the sun dips into the sea . . .

and click!

We’ll continue next time with more of several Goan beaches as well as some of its other outrageous visitors.