Category Archives: Goa

From Goa to Rajasthan.

On Tuesday I flew from Goa to New Delhi and the difference in pace was like a catapult launch from an air craft carrier. Goa was just perfect, I cherished every moment. Goan food is exceptional, curry and spicy of course but not harshly so, fish abounds, lobster is almost a staple. No hang ups about beef either, there are burgers on the kids menus. The Delhi dwellers were taking a few kilos home, frozen and packed in ice, they seemed delighted and so did the kids. Not sure about that, but hey, it wasn’t me beef smuggling, I was just the one who smuggled beer into the Tiger Reserve. The B and B ended up being a lot of fun, Simon, the owner, is a great guy tho, um, there might be some problems on the domestic harmony front I gather, plus he announced he was “going on the wagon” so I ended up hosting a dinner or two, lots of laughs with Brits from all over. At the communal breakfast one morning we were joined by a rogue ish looking type from Glasgow who had just got out of jail and had his passport confiscated by the Government so is Stateless. Happens a lot it seems, the passport confiscating, and the random twenty four hours to leave the country. The beaches of South Goa are worth the trip alone, very quiet, warm Arabian Sea, sand, beach shacks serving food and booze incredibly cheaply compared with other parts I have visited. But guess what, the Russians are taking over. In North Goa they have completely taken over two beaches and exclude any other Nationalities, they are setting up protection rackets with beach vendors and bars, even market stalls. This is having some affect on the flow of tourists, especially from the UK, who now steer clear of North Goa, preferring the South.
I had planned to leave on Monday, but alas no Internet all day so stayed an extra night in another tent, got up early Tuesday, booked everything and caught a noon flight to New Delhi. The aforementioned catapult. Even at the airport it was a maelstrom, I prepaid for a taxi but no one knew where my hotel was, least of all me. I lined up at taxi rank number five and showed my piece of paper to endless taxi drivers who just shrugged and rode off with the people behind me in the line. Oh this is great I thought the hick from the sticks, can’t even get out of the ……… airport. Eventually someone behind me in the queue took pity and told a driver what district to go to, off we went. Hair raising wasn’t in it. The Government has built a vast Metro complex throughout the city so negotiating the support pillars was a challenge, roundabouts, traffic signals, traffic cops,, all tried to cope with the vast surge of vehicles, mostly to no avail. Grid lock broke out constantly. Squeezing through the alleys, constantly asking directions we eventually found it. Oh dear. My hotel, the Magnificent Palms, was a dump. Another dump. However I was on a mission, to get my camera fixed so off to the Canon Repair shop bright and early. They said they would see what they could do, in twenty four hours. Hmm. What to do, what to do. I took a train ride. I enjoyed it. Returned to Canon shop the next day and they wanted to charge me the price of the camera to fix it and it would take forty eight hours and, they pointed out, it is still under warranty in the US. Well, no brainer, took camera and left. Now what? A six hour train to Jaipur, an eight hour bus ride? It was two o’clock and i was exhausted. Nope, I will splurge and fly. Spotted a travel agency across the street, took life in hands and crossed eight lanes of traffic, shades of HCMC, survived, and booked flight and hotel in Jaipur. I took the new Metro out of the City, oh gosh, oh wow. Absolutely state of the art, security fell about laughing at my gadget jacket, took everything out and stared incredulously at all the contents. It reminded me of a cross between San Fran’s BART and that new London underground line. Ultra swish, chrome and flashing lights, it even had a progress bar (vital to computer nerds) showing our position. The announcements included “mind the gap”, a direct crib from London’s tube, if you are not familiar with that you may have seen it on a t shirt.
Terminal three at Delhi Airport is a real treat, voted second best in the World it it is a wonder of modern architecture. I was in awe. (as an aside, I just received a comment that I take too many photos of buildings!). I think I gaped, stood still, talked to myself, took pictures, enjoyed it. Off to gate seventy two, that is 72, and still it went on after that. The announcement at the end of the moving sidewalk said “feed the hungry and watch your step” which I think is noteworthy. Off in a little plane for the forty five minute flight, time for the first few sentences above and then we were down again. A first for everything and on disembarking the plane we had to show our boarding passes. Here I are in Rajasthan, it’s a bit like what I expected, history at every turn, fantastically dressed people, bright clothing, sandy crags in the background, hill forts on the crests, dust, food smells, camels, elephants (poor things), begging children, Holy men, oh, and for the first time more people on the roofs of buses than within. Turbaned, bearded tribesmen from the distant mountains, looking fierce, and , well, a bit romantic. Oh no, my hotel is another dump, dammit. It’s a Best Western, really it is, with a revolving restaurant on top, it’s hell. Hailed a tuk tuk to dinner in a Haveli, a spruced up old Palace, terribly tasteful, lawns, trees, peace and tranquility, good food, pleasant people. I vowed to move hotels, and I did. Woke up at dawn and took a tuk tuk (!) up a hillside to the Amber Fort. If one could ignore the crowds, the affluent ones in an elephant procession up the mountain, the hustlers, the noise and dirt it was absolutely marvelous. It is huge and dominates the skyline with fantastic walls, think China, minor forts along the way, landscaped lush gardens, fountains, the harem area with it’s latticed windows, it was worth the early start. An Ali Baba type experience. Back to the horrible Best Western, checked out and am now on the Terrace of another Haveli, writing this, tea brought round, there is a pool, it adjoins the walls of the old city and is half the price of the horrible Best Western, go figure.
I am off to explore, will add photos later so check back.

The quiet roads of Goa.

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming. A menu in a beach shack.

Just a tiny corner of Delhi. Bad Craziness. Taken while waiting my turn in the mobile phone shop.

India Gate, New Delhi. Taken from high speed tuk tuk.

The slums of New Delhi went on for miles and miles. I never could have imagined.

Metro train to Airport.

Terminal Three, New Delhi Airport ! No, I didn’t include it just to annoy you.

Amber Fort/Amber Palace, Jaipur.

The Ganesh Gate.

The view from “Purdah”.

Deep in the Palace there was this. Incredible.

This looks quite nice, perhaps out of my price range.

Jaipur, also known as The Pink City.

Colorful ladies abound.

A Stopover in Goa.

I woke up on the train after sleeping and dozing for six hours and looking out of the window what did I see, yep a warm dusty plain and village after village after village, again. With Internet access on my phone I did about a minute’s research and placing palm on forehead realized, of course, there are one point two two billion people in this country, that apparently works out at three hundred and ninety three point eight three persons per square kilometer. No wonder they have all these villages, all those people got to live somewhere. Not exactly rocket science but it did help explain a lot.

The train. Well it was a train really, not the crazy mob scene I had been expecting. The station at ten o’clock at night was very calm and organized, in fact the announcements were easier to understand than British Rail. There were plenty of seats for the waiting crowds, food booths galore, loos, baby changing rooms, all the usual train station trappings. The Rajdhani Express pulled into the station as advertised at ten twenty five and departed on time at ten thirty. My eleven dollar seat was adequate, room to lie down after it was made up by the steward, sheets, blankets, pillows, a reading light, it was just fine and the night zipped by. There was a full moon but I really couldn’t see much, dawn came early and there they were, as mentioned above, the villages. Tea came round, then breakfast, and suddenly it was all over, we arrived at Madgaon. A three dollar ride to the B and B, the Vivenda dos Palhacos, lunch and a long nap.
That got writ on Friday afternoon and here it is, Sunday evening already. I read on a wall, in graffiti, Goa is like a fridge, it’s so chill, and oh yes, at least down here in South Goa it is, any calmer the whole place would fall into a pleasurable coma. Of course there is the beeping, but not nearly so frequent, there are tuk tuks, but I have not once been asked if I want one while out walking. There are vendors and begging children on the beach, but one, no thank you, and word seems to spread, don’t bother with the ancient British guy, so be it. The beach is about two kilometers away, not exactly walkable but a staff member is always available for a quick ride in the hotel jeep, for free. Huge sandy beach, some Euros who seem to start drinking before I arrive at ten am, lots of locals, it’s the weekend, there are life guards, tho how efficient I can’t tell, there are beach shack restaurants and I am pleased to announce I have found my curry ! At the Zeebop, I had chicken Xacuti with Jeera rice and naan bread, the search is over, now I can relax, it was superb, though perhaps the environment helped . Just spicy enough, I could identify the various ingredients, spices, vegetables etc, one of those meals you just don’t want to end. The roads are good, very few potholes, palm tree lined, no traffic jams, lively looking bars, colorful shops, locals walking and Westerners looking dangerous on scooters. Train horns sounding mournful in the distance, birds singing, quietly, children playing, quietly, oh yes, Goa lives up to its reputation.
The hotel too is pretty great too. More a B and B kind of place really, it only has half a dozen rooms. The guests are one hundred percent British, how about that, lots of tea, lots of gin. Let’s see, we have the food correspondent from the Evening Standard (London’s evening newspaper) and her sister who owns a restaurant in Hampstead (a tony part of North London) and her daughter who runs a school in Tamal Nadu, and her daughter aged eight. We have the South Asia correspondent from the Guardian, his wife and a two year old and nanny. There are two gap year kids, girls, from very proper English schools who are actually quite pleasant and very resourceful. I took them to a market last night about an hour away and we got back too late for dinner, they persuaded the night watchman, no English whatsoever, to let them use the kitchen and whisked up a three course dinner in no time, pretty damn good effort ladies. Lastly an English couple from Delhi who used to live in Chicago, Ed does something with Bloomberg, his wife is from Edinburgh and two sons eight and six. I had one of those surreal conversations, discussing the World Series (baseball), the Chicago White Sox, the San Francisco Giants with a very well informed English boy here in India. Strange. The rooms are good, beds comfortable, there is hot water, books to read, out of date newspapers and magazines, a huge communal dining table, a bar, a small pool, croquet, ha, obliging staff, good food, enormous wine glasses that hold half a bottle per pour and no bugs. This is no tent in the wilderness ! I think it’s ok for three or four nights after a week in the back of beyond, hope you agree.
As I said to someone today, there is not a lot to blog about lying on the beach for two days, but don’t worry fearless readers, one more night and I am off again, Delhi, to see if I can get my camera fixed and then a two week ramble through Rajasthan.
Let’s see how that pans out.
Thanks for all the comments, keep em coming, they really help this solo trip, and as best I can I will try and reply, now I have figured out how to do it.
Nat, when are you home from Mexico ?

A wet sari must be very uncomfortable.

The Rajdhani Express.

The young ladies with the three course dinner they cooked for themselves.

The enormous table where we enjoy communal dining.