GUEST ARTICLE: When we arrived in Goa it was hot, very hot. We were told that taxis were organised by the airport and that prices were regulated. You pay your taxi fare at the airport and your allocated driver takes you to your taxi. So far so good. However, when we got into the taxi, by this time sweating profusely the driver wouldn’t turn the air-conditioning on – we had paid for a taxi without air-con?!
Needless to say, after a bit of gentle persuasion the air-con was turned on and we were taken to our hotel on Candolim Beach – The Lemontree Goa. There are quite a number of beaches in Goa and, as it turned out, Candolim was probably the best of them. Candolim beach is like no other in the world. There are cows roaming around where the grass meets the sand and plenty of dogs roaming the beach. The water is really warm and if you are there in the dry season (we were there in October at the tail end of the monsoons) the sunsets are truly spectacular.
In the centre of Candolim beach is one of the worlds greatest shipwrecks – the River Princess. It was beached there about ten years ago. Depending on how you look at it, this shipwreck is an eyesore or an amazing tourist attraction. It certainly makes for a different swim when you’re body surfing next to an old freighter! While swimming the lifeguard looked a little nervous. I realised later that many of the people who visit Goa can’t swim. Once they step out of their depth they can easily drown. Two Russian tourists drowned at a nearby beach when we were there.
Walking around Goa isn’t really possible. It is very spread out and if the relentless traffic doesn’t get you, the humidity will. The alternative is to travel around by taxi or to hire a motorbike. We decided to hire a motorbike and that was a great idea.
Although the traffic is fierce, it is also slow so you feel pretty safe. Hiring a motorbike allowed us to see most of the beaches in the area (confirming that Candolim is probably the best because it is the cleanest and most deserted) and to see the magnificent hinterland. The hinterland is full of paddy fields, farms, hotels and old Portuguese mansions. The hinterland also has many tree-lined streets with the shade ofering a welcome relief from the heat of the direct sunlight. The bike (well, scooter) was cheap at about $7 a day.
One highlight of our Goa trip was an incredible restaurant on Calangute Beach – Souza Lobo. While it doesn’t look like a first class establishment, the food is second to none. We feasted on their famous butter chicken and Tandoori king fish. The meal cost considerably less than the food at our hotel and the beach view (with thousands of Indian tourists paddling along the waters edge) was fantastic.
Another typically Goan adventure is a boat ride out to see the Dolphins. We opted for a private boat (good idea) and it cost about $30. The ride takes about an hour and it was actually better than we’d expected. We found a small pod of dolphins, saw the Goa Jail from the water and got a clear view of the city along the water’s edge.
One day riding our bike through town we were stopped by the Goan Police. Why? No helmet. When I explained to the policeman that others weren’t wearing helmets (as hundreds of people without helmets rode past) he seemed disinterested. While he was explaining that my bike was going to be impounded I realised that this was just a scam for a bribe – stop the tourists on motorbikes and ask them for money. I quickly produced Rp500 and we were on our way. Later I found out that about Rp100 would have easily done the trick but I guess I was unfamiliar with Indian officials and bribes! It was my first time 🙂
Overall, Goa was great. I am not sure I’d be in a hurry to go back there but it if someone is interested in going to India then Goa should be on the list of places to go. It is unlike anywhere else in India (especially the big cities like Mumbai and Delhi) it is has a certain charm.
The food is fantastic and the people of Goa are very proud and friendly. I think the bohemian, hippy atmosphere that existed in the sixties and seventies is a thing of the past. We found little evidence of that. With the advent of cheap airfares Goa is now a favoured tourist destination of Indians and a new wave of Russian tourists.
This travel diary has been written by Machalle Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!