Sunday, May 9, 2010

Arriving in Goa

I learned my lesson on the train down to Goa - Don't get too far away from the train when it stops at a station. There's no warning when it goes again. It just goes. Fortunately, I was able to leap on. It would have been a little odd for Colleen to wake up the next morning with me no longer aboard.

We arrived in Goa after the overnight train ride somewhat refreshed but not totally there. It had been a long night and it was hot and muggy out. We had booked a hotel in the Goan capital of Panaji ahead of time on Hotels.com and were looking forward to visiting the town. It was supposed to have a nice Portuguese influence and be a cool place to check out.

When we got to our hotel, The Ginger, they didn't have our reservation. I could spend the next couple of paragraphs ranting, but I'll save it to say that after 45 minutes sitting in their lobby and downloading the confirmation for them they finally said they had our room, but they needed another RS500 to complete the reservation. That probably would have been fine at the start, after all it's only $10, but we were so fed up with their whole process and lack of service that we just walked out of the hotel and caught a cab for our next destination, Palolem.

We did get the cabbie to drive through Panaji and stop so we could grab some lunch. It appeared to be a nice enough town, but we don't feel like we missed out on anything.

Our cabbie drove us the hour and a half down the coast to Palolem. We hadn't made a reservation and, knowing that we're here in the off season, we knew we might be in trouble, but our driver was willing to poke around into a couple of places. The first place we went was closed. And the second was very scary. But the third, a place called Bhakti Kutir, showed us around and had lovely rooms. We expected to pay a premium, but when we asked how much they gave us a dirt cheap price, saying that the rates were low since it was the off season. Nice! Things were working out in our favour for a change.

We checked in, spoke to a guy about getting a motorbike for the next few days, and headed down to the beach. It's a very nice crescent shaped beach with huts built all along the shore. Apparently the law here is that there are no permanent buildings allowed within 200M of the shore, which means that every year all the buildings get torn down in May and rebuilt after the monsoons. Our building, not being within 200M of the shore (although I suspect it is) didn't have to follow those rules. Apparently they mean business with this law. We were told that a few years ago owners disregarded the law and the government rolled in with bulldozers, taking it all down. As a result, the beach huts now are extremely basic, but the temporary nature of things gives the town a pretty cool feel.

We grabbed a dinner that evening at one of the many beach restaurants along the shore, the Round Cube. The food was terrific and the service was entertaining. We enjoyed it and planned to go back.

After dinner it was back to our place for a good night's sleep. After the night train the day before we needed it.

We'd made it to Goa and to a beach. This was one of Colleen's key criteria for this trip, after spending the last 7 months working with a dog sledding operation in the Yukon. It's lovely and hot and a tropical paradise. A great spot to be for a few days.

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