Goa – Where you end up staying longer than intended

29 10 2012

After my adventurous trip from Aurangabad via Mumbai I finally made it to Magao, the transport hub of Goa. But it was still in the middle of the night, so I had to wait another couple of hours until sunrise to catch a bus to Panjim, according to the Lonely Planet, the cutest capital of India, with lots of portugese influence and charm. When I finally arrived in Panjim and found a clean hotel with reasonable prices, I was reliefed that this most strenuously trip was over. The only thing I wanted to do was to take a shower… with all my cloths Which stank and were really dirty from all the different trains and waiting rooms.

Panjim - Do you see the portuguese flair?

Panjim – Do you see the portuguese flair?

Panjim was disappointing. Maybe because the expectations are high after reading about the city in the Lonley Planet. If there is some charme it is well hidden. Some buildings remind of the great time of the city and the portugese influence but most are of the ordinary Indian style: weather-beaten cubes of concrete. To distract myself I booked a river cruise tour that took place in the evening going up and down the Mandovi river for one hour. I was the only foreigner on board and at least for some of the Indians the main attraction. The tour included a cultural program with ugly local dances which could have been coreographed and performed by 6-years old kids but on the stage were grown-ups 🙂 for me, the main attraction was that I could immediately observe and feel the Indian culture. Between the ugly „cultural“ performances, the passengers were invited to dance on the stage. But, of course, in distinct groups. First were the children, afterwards the, mostly married, couples. It was strange to see how embarrassed and stiff they danced with each other, hardly touching each other or even looking at each other. This all changed within seconds when the groups of only single males and, after that, single females were asked to enter the stage. When males or females were amongst each other, they started to dance in the most detached way, touching and animating each other to dance even more wild. Social studies could be conducted on this river cruise!

River cruise in Panjim

Panjim – Do you see the portuguese flair?

I left Panjim the next morning to go to the southern beaches of Palolem or Patnem. I went back to Magao by bus (there is absolutely no need to take the overpriced rickshaws and taxis) and rented a scooter, haggling with the man in charge over the price. I managed to lower the price per day from 400 to 300 rupees and to be charged on a 24h basis. I thought that renting the scooter in Magao, where I would have to take a train or bus to Kerala at the end of the week, would be a great idea, so I would be free to move along the whole southern coast. In the end I stayed almost the whole time in Patnem and Palolem which are only 3km apart. So renting a scooter at one of the southern beaches would have been suitable, too. They are even cheaper at the beaches, charging around 200-250 rupees a day. But be aware: that you can test the scooter is also an assurance for them if you are able to drive it or if you represent a danger for the general public 🙂 I know two girls that actually wanted to rent a scooter but only got the answer „you not rent!“ after the test drive.

Sunset at Patnem Beach

Sunset at Patnem Beach

The freedom the scooter gave me was only restricted by my own laziness and so I was only commuting between my guest house in Patnem and the beach in Palolem. It was still two weeks until the season would begin and so my beach in Patnem was almost deserted. Only the workers buidling up the huts for the high season and occasionaly one or two tourists were seen on this 1km stretch of beautiful, sandy beach. Unfortunately the options for shops, bars and eateries were equally limited. I spent the first afternoon at this beach but went for dinner to Palolem, which provides far more dining options. The „Fernandes“ restaurant at the northern stretch of the beach proved to provide very delicious food at (at least for the beach) reasonable prices. Later I discovered the Krishna stall in the city of Caudin, which serves very good local cuisine for a fraction of the price the beach-side restaurants charge you. This became my favorite spot for breakfast. If you are around, try the Puri Bahji (some sort of chickpea curry sauce with slightly sweet bread) or Igili (rice bread with different sauces). There I met an old man that looked and acted somehow very much Indian but on the other hand not a bit… it was his cloths that distinguished him: pink tank top and shorts 🙂 he was an Israelian who comes to India for 6 months since 1987. He adopted most of the Indian gestures and habits perfectly, especially the head waggling (he even did this better than the most Indians 🙂 ). When I told him about that, he admitted that something must have changed over the years, because even the Indian beggars didn’t approach him anymore… I didn’t tell him that he, exept for his cloths, reminded me exactly of them 🙂

Krishna - very delicious eatery in Chaudi

Krishna – very delicious eatery in Chaudi

The beach at Palolem is a lot busier than the one in Patnem. There they were raising many huts, too, so I could enjoy the familiar sound of hammers and saws. My favorite spot on Palolems beach was the northern end near a little island off the coast. The advantage of this spot is, that it provides at least a few plaes that give a little shadow. There are absolutely no other shady places on the whole beach. A little river has to be crossed to reach this spot. Unfortunately this river wasn’t that small at high tide. Infront of me was a girl, that slowly searched for a shallow path at the mouth of the river were it meets the sea. I thought, that this must be the place with the strongest currents so I walked a little bit down the river and tried it there… just my luck that exactly there a stone was hidden and all the sand around was washed away by the (not so strong) currents. So I stumbled and almost fell full length into the water. Fortunately I put the camera into the wet bag to prevent it from becoming sandy 🙂 and I could feel the girl laughing and thinking „what a fool… he should only have followed me“. And she, Luise from Berlin, just told me that 🙂

View of my favorite spot of Palolem Beach and behind

View of my favorite spot of Palolem Beach and behind

In the evening Anne Lise, the french fellow traveller I met in Ladakh and Udaipur, was arriving on my second day in Palolem. It is funny how one meets known faces again and again along the road. So Luise, Anne Lise and I formed a little dinner and beaching club. Palolem is also good for Yoga, the girls told me. There are numerous classes for every level. The ones that are keen for a little bit more action can rent a kayak at rates of around 200 rupees and less, according to your haggling skills. I can recommend the tour up the river. Though the water is really dirty, the scenery definitely compensates for that and you might be able to see different types of Kingfisher birds, other animals, and some mangroves.

Kayaking on the river behind Palolem Beach

Kayaking on the river behind Palolem Beach

I also tried the beach at Agonda which is further north from Palolem. I was only there to see the sunset and for a Lassi at the H2O-Lounge/Resort/Bar. The sunset is really amazing and from the colors totally different from Palolem beach, although they are only 10km apart. I even saw some sun worshipper making some weird signs towards the setting sun.  The lounge area of the resort is really cool but I’m sure it doesn’t justify the price of 4000 rupees per night for a hut!

Sun worshippers at Agonda Beach

Sun worshippers at Agonda Beach

On my last day in Goa I finally took advantage of the freedom the scooter gave me and I drove a little detour on my way back to Magao to see the Braganza House, a massive portuguese-style mansion built in the 17th century. Therefor I went to Chandor, some 15km from Magao. Even the tour from Palolem to Chandor off the main road was worth the trip. Some other (smaller) portuguese-influenced mansions can be seen along the road and the people seem to be more relaxed and laid-back. Back in Magao I returned the scooter and boarded the overnight train to Cochin/Eranakulam in the state of Kerala.

My scooter in front of the Sea View Resort in Patnem

My scooter in front of the Sea View Resort in Patnem

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