Posted in Goa, India, True Story, Inspirational

Destination Goa (part 7)

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I left my last blog with a “but…”

Sorry for the cliff hanger. Ok lets get ready with the mission impossible theme music for the build up. Sorry for the disappointment,  no major buts (or butts), realised that to keep a travel blog interesting is harder than I thought. Also I was writing my blog at night after a long day, so I decided to stop right there after the but.

Jan and I were really tired, hungry at the same time excited.  We were torn between admiring the view from our balcony or adorning the bed.  Not sure of the order, but I think there was a shower, coffee for Jan and tea for me and then a bit of a nap. More like an attempt at a nap, we were both over tired and over excited to actually fall asleep.  Both of us fighting jet lag from different hemispheres didn’t help either. The whole day one of was sleepy and the other wasn’t, the one who wasn’t kept the other one up.

What I loved about these rooms were that each one was a seperate unit.  Its not a hotel where it’s just a big square building with a corridor in the middle with rooms on either side.

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The gardens werew well kept.  The pool looked clean.  Slowly the fear of being in India was disappearing.  The major plus with Acron was that the breakfast was extended till 1.00 pm.  I think for those on holidays with teenagers who are usually an off shoot of the sloth family, this would be a definite plus.

Jan and slowly descended down the stairs to have some brunch.  There is something to be said about eastern hospitality. But at acron it was more than just eastern hospitality.

I like to add something I wrote on”trip advisor”.  For this jogs my memory of individual names and events.  Please note I am not paid for this segment/tendorsement.  I am writing purely for the benefit of the readers who may be enticed to make a visit to Goa.

“No 1 in Goa, Should be No 1 Anywhere”5 of 5 bubbles

I am not surprised that this place is rated number 1 in Goa at present. I am looking for a word higher than Excellent to describe their customer service. There is customer service and then there is Goan Service and then above that would be Acron Service. We were treated like queens from the very beginning and it didn’t end even after we checked out.
We arrived very early from our flight. They were still willing to pick us up that early. After 3 back to back flights we were extremely exhausted. Taking this into account, they got our rooms ready and let us check in straight away. And this was at 8.30 am. They did not charge a penny more for such an early check in. Paul and his comrades see to it that the pampering and special treatments start from then on.
We booked Acron because we couldn’t get all of our stay in another 5 star hotel. So we were going to stay here for the first 3 days and then move to the other. I am glad the other place didn’t have the availability which made us come here. Else we would have missed this gem.
Ashwini and Gautam at front office make anything look possible. They organised us a trip to see a spice plantation, churches and temple. Our driver Avinash was with us the entire day. A very polite and knowledgeable man. Anytime you want to step out of the hotel to see the beach or get a bite, they will organise a free shuttle car. The beach is only a 10 min walk, so you have the choice of walking or they can organise a vehicle.
You’re treated with Breakfast from 7.00am (I am not sure, we never woke up early enough to find out) till 1.00pm. You will be greeted by Rajesh the tall elegant lad, Chinmoy a really sweet natured human being, Sooraj sweet but cheeky as well, I am smiling as I recall. There were many others whose names have escaped my jet lagged memory. Along with all of them looking after you and having a chat you will also get a visit by Mildred. Mildred is like the icing on the cake. You are in this happy place, your room is perfect, your view is amazing and the service is faultless and you think nothing can top this nor does it need any topping. And then they send you Mildred. She is a breath of fresh air, full of energy, anything you need, and she will make it happen even suggest things to do, places to go and she will organise and make it all possible. She fits the job and the job the fits her perfectly. I am not sure the word Customer Service is adequate with the staff here. As it is so genuine it transfers to another level. I have to congratulate the management as well. They have picked the right staff with the right attitude and given them the confidence and latitude. Which we found lacking in the 5 star hotel.
Loved the architecture of the place. Losing the corridors and mass building, it gives the illusion that you are living in your own town house. The pool with a look of overflowing into the river, again gives that illusion that you are one with the river. Pool chairs inside the pool, well that’s a novel idea, but works as well. Free drinks and live music at the pool side from 7.00pm – 8.00pm is again a nice touch.
I could keep on writing. If you are thinking of visiting India, I think Goa is a must and if you are visiting Goa, stay at Acron.

I think in my bnext blog I will talk about the food, culture and everything else.

 

5 of 5 bubbles

 

Posted in Goa, India, travel, True Story, Inspirational

Destination Goa (part 6)

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We were really tired after the million flights and we wanted to get to our hotel asap.  We were concerned if we could find our driver from Acron Waterfront amongst this massive crowd.  Just then we saw the name board  with our names on.  Hard to explain our feelings at that time.  It was a combination of relief and excitement.

We walked to our van.  I don’t think it was parked legally.  But I think that was the norm. Our van started off surrounded by a lot honking.  I put my seat belt on.  My sister in law Jan tried to put hers.  But her side belt was broken.  I joked that was her punishment for making me marry her brother.

Our actual holiday was now starting.  Our driver didn’t speak much English.  But seemed like a nice guy.  He smiled a lot for the million questions we were asking.

We were trying take in all the scenary of Goa.  Looked pretty green.  But we also saw snippets of poverty.  Modern billboards adorned the sides of the freeway.  Battle between modernisation and poverty were rather evident.

Poverty is confronting, especially if you are from the western world.   But, only a few of us want to really get involved.  Most of us our sympathisers from a distance.  Jan and I belonged to the same hypocrisy club.

We were hoping and praying that our hotel was somewhere nice.  Acron was on the other side of Baga bridge or beach or both.  It was a fair distance away from the airport .  The road was becoming more remote.  Our concerns were hightening.

Eventually we entered into Acron.  It looked really beautiful.  We were greated by more smiling faces at their outdoor reception/ office area.  We were immediately offered a drink. I think it was Gauva juice.  We were sceptical about accepting the drink due to all the warnings re water.  We were assured this was clean and safe.  I took a few sips.  It did taste nice but was scared to take in more sips.

We booked the garden view rooms, as they were a few bobs cheaper.  It was still pretty early in the morning, but they announced that they had a Waterview room ready and they were going to give it to us and didn’t charge us anything extra for early check in nor for the upgrade of the room.

We were both so tired this gesture was heaven sent. Good start to our holiday.  But…

Posted in True Story, Inspirational

Destination Goa (part 5)

download (1)I  have to give a shout out to Niranta staff.  Especially, to one young lad, who realised that two of us were feeling nervous and unsure about where to go next.  He loaded our bags onto a trolley and wheeled it through each check point to the domestic terminal.   It was a fair distance to get to. We finally got to last check point,  It kind of sprung on us without much notice.   He had already put our bags on the belt for the xray machine. I regret that I didn’t ask for his name earlier.  We had to rush through as we could’nt hold off other passengers.  This lad refused take any money from me.  He told me his name, but for the world of me I couldn’t grasp it.  I thought of visiting Niranta on my return journey and personaly thank them and maybe give him a gift or something.

Jan and I didn’t get adjoining seats.  I had a young mother and son seated next to me.  This leg of the flight was on Jet airways.  Really spacious and clean airline.  The lady next to me was a Goan local but currently living in Africa.  She was a lawyer, a well spoken and elegantly dressed lady.  We discussed many topics.  She wanted know about the Indian bus driver who got burnt in Melbourne.  It’s then I  realised that many Indians thought that Australia was rather racist towards Indians and life for Indians was dangerous.  I had to explain that these are isolated incidents and they know about it because, Australia reports theses incidents and takes action, worse things probably happen in India, but doesn’t attract so much traction in the media.  She agreed.   Later I realized that she was actually a Muslim.  I was surprised that she was in just a pair of pants and shirt.  She explained that most in Goa are like that.  Not so strict or conservative in their beliefs or faith.

Finally we were in Goa.  Grabbed our bags, came outside for our pick up.  Acron (waterfront resort) were supposed to send someone to pick us up.  The pick up area was very crowded and chaotic.

 

Posted in True Story, Inspirational

Destination Goa (part 4)

Anxiously boarded the flight. I was on an aisle seat. No no one in the middle and an old lady next to that. It was all middle aged men in front, on the side and behind me.  Felt a bit uneasy, even to have eye contact. Not sure why.  Thought it might be a good idea to break a conversation with the old lady.  Unfortunately that didn’t go too far as she didn’t speak any English and my Hindi stopped at “Acha”.

I took my tab out. Taking refuge under my writing seemed wise.  Drinks started flowing. I noticed that extra calls to attendants were made by  neighbors for more Singapore sling (a Singapore special cocktail made with Vodka and everything else).

Thought to myself, “of course it’s free, bloody Indians ” while sipping my own free Sav blanc.  Although, stopped with my second glass, as I wanted to have my wits about with this mob.

My neighbors were getting a bit roudy and boarderline harrasing the flight attendants. Half way through the flights they managed to completely reck the toilets. I had to wait until the attendents could clean it up. “Typical” I muttered again to myself.

My eyes were getting weary.  But no chance of getting any sleep.  What’s worse than a crying infant is a bunch of over age badly behaving men.

Thankfully the flight wasn’t as long as the one between Australia and Singapore.   Finally landed in Mumbai.  Customs and Immigration was long and tedious.  Then another long queue to get some Indian Rupees.  Met up with two Aussies and a Kiwi. They all thought I was Indian.  Vehemently had to detach myself and say no I am Australian with a heavy tinge of the tan due to my Sri Lankan heritage, but Noo…, not Indian.

I had to go in search of Niranta transit hotel.  It was now that I started to look around the airport. For an Indian airport it looked very clean and modern I thought. Directions to Niranta was very well sign posted.

Was greeted by a couple of smiling faces and nodding heads. My bags were taken for security check.  Check in was pretty quick. I did mention to them that my sister in  law would join me around 1.00am or and if that was okay for her use my room to have a quick wash and what not before our next flight.  I was happy to pay extra.  To which they obliged.  Gave hubby a call and sent mum a txt.  Had a shower and got into bed. It was around 11.30pm.  I was very tired after the two flights and jet lag.  My phone rang at about  1.30 or 1.45 am and it was Jan.  She had cleared customs was going to get some Indian Rupees and head to the hotel.

I gave instructions how to get there. I got changed out of my pj’s.  My excitement of seeing my buddy overstepped my patience.  I thought I will go up and meet her at the money changers.  It’s only then did I notice that there was thomas cook right outside the hotel.

Halfway through to where I changed the money, which was right next to the baggage claim, I saw two more queues for the same task.  Taking the 500 rs notes  out of circulation has sent the country and every visitor into a massive panic.

Anyway as I was passing this queue, I see a familiar face, at the same time she sees me as well.   She left the queue, the bags and everything, came running with open arms.  It was well worth the jet lag, lack of sleep and crammped feet.  I had to remind her to go back to her bags and the queue.  But, then lost my patience to wait anymore and suggested to get it from Thomas cook near the hotel.

Just as we got there,  the counter girl turned down the customer in front of us saying she has run out of money.  We kept the bags in the room and went looking for another  money changer. After a few disappointments we finally managed to change some currency.

By this time there was no time for any more sleep.  We had a quick wash and got ready for our next flight.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Goa, India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, travel, True Story, Inspirational, Word prompt

Destination Goa (Part 3)

passport

 

Passport – check, Tickets – check, Phone – check, Phone – charger check, Ipad – check, Thyroxin – check.  I was anxious that I was going to leave something behind.  I was already anxious about this trip but to make things worse, just days before the departure, the Indian Government called in all the 500RS notes.  This in turn caused a massive shortage of money in the country.  Also couldn’t buy any Indian currency in Australia. And we heard reports that there were massive queues at atm machines and banks. “just our luck” we thought.

I was anxious of the unknown safety issues, I was excited about meeting my buddy and having a well earned break, I was sad about leaving hubby, son and my baby dog, (well I had to include and hubby and son to avoid judgement. But then again no shame in admitting that I was glad to lose them for a week or so to get a bit of rest, but my doggy on the other hand, I am really going to miss him).  Those droopy eyes were telling me “mummy don’t leave me”.

Australian immigration – it took me all of 5 minutes to clear.  Just like Jim Jeffreys said, Aussie airport and it’s security practices/measures are rather unique.  Not exactly unique but definitely very different to most other airports.   Don’t get me wrong, it is safe as anywhere can be.  But, just don’t have the same panic and stress ridden atmosphere.  The guy checking your passport, no sorry there is no guy checking your passport, a machine does matching for you. You have almost no human contact.  You see plenty of humans, but no one seems to care about you, they just want you to just piss off, without giving chance to form a queue.  You will be rushed through automatic sliding door after door and you are now way too early for your flight.

Took my tablet out and started to write, continuation of my story “friendship and war…” well I haven’t settled on the heading yet.  With all the travel plans I hadn’t touched this for sometime.  Read the last page I had written, did some editing.  Then continued on with the story.  Couple of times I stopped and glanced around to see what everyone else was doing.  It looked like they were practicing boredom.

Finally time to board.  Once again I had to smile sheepishly at the young good looking guy, well not sure if he was good looking, but he was definitely tall and ask him if he could put my hand luggage up in the overhead locker.  He was only too happy to oblige. Again not sure if he was happy as such, but nevertheless helped the short damsel in distress.

The problem with living in Australia is that, it is really down, down down there.  And also it is a such a huge country.  And if you are from South Australia, it takes nearly 3 hours before you can leave your own fricking country.  I watched a movie and some comedy skit on a tiny screen, with screen moving as per the front persons movements.  It was better to get back to writing.  I put the tablet on my lap rather than on the moving tray table.

Drinks cart was a welcome interruption.  “Sav Blanc” didn’t taste like any “Sav Blanc ” I’ve ever tasted.  But it was free.  Also, this was the beginning of the “girls” holiday.  So, I convinced myself, “holiday begins now”. So rubbish Sav blanc or not I had to have it.  But all in all it wasn’t too bad a flight.  Spoke to hubby from the airport.  Sent a couple of messages to Jan. But she didn’t answer.  She must have been still mid air.

I did some window shopping.  I planned what  to buy on my return journey.  Had a cup of tea, a massage, visited the butterfly garden and time passed.  Time for my next flight. The one that I was most anxious and nervous about.  Mumbai here I come.

 

Cont…

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/passport/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/security/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/luck/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/clean/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/automatic/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/nervous/

 

 

Posted in India, Sri Lanka, travel, True Story, Inspirational

Destination Goa (part 2)

Goa beach

We both liked the sound of Goa.  We started to do more research about the place from the internet as well as from known people.  Glenn was great at calming my nerves. As well as giving me valuable information about the place and giving me tips on the do’s and don’ts.  We got to know Glenn through my youngest son.  He was the Director for many of the drama productions my son was involved in.  Glenn is white on the outside but truly an Indian on the inside.  He visits and at times lives in India for long periods. At this particular time he was living in Mumbai and regularly visiting Goa.

The advise we heard from many was to avoid South Goa.  Russian mafia seems to have an influence in that part of Goa and makes it an unsavoury place for Tourists.  But, then again it would depend on your age group and your interests I think.  Glenn summed it up nicely.  He said South Goa for Russians is like Bali for Aussies.  Glenn also gave me places to eat and have a drink.  Places where if I say his name and said I was Glenn’s friend I would be treated well.

I also had a chat to another friend and work colleague.  She was from Goa, or her family was from Goa.  She was born in Africa but her family originally comes from Goa and she still had many cousins who lived there.  She gave me a array of phone numbers, just in case we needed some help.

Armed with places to eat and phone numbers to call we were now feeling a lot more confident in booking our flights and accommodation.

Once again my buddy became a fly at the buffet.  For weeks we were stripping Trip Advisor website to shreds. Every review was scrutanised.  In the meantime one of her friends parted the words “you must stay at Taj holiday village”.  https://vivanta.tajhotels.com/en-in/holiday-village-goa/

We had looked at this previously (many a times I might add), but now when we were finally ready to book, they did not have the dates available.  The only option given to us was that they could accommodate us for the last two of the dates of our holiday.  Jan was happy to take it, I was happy to take any thing.  Horray, at least two days of our holidays we had a bed to sleep on.

So now we had to find another place for the beginning.  Finally we settled on Acron Waterfront.  In a way it was good that we did not get more than two days to stay at Taj as it was very pricey.   https://www.acronwaterfrontresortgoa.com/

Along with trying to get accommodation in Goa, we also tried our best to align our itineraries. So, for me it was Aus to Singapore, Singapore to Mumbai, Mumbai to Goa.  I was supposed to reach Mumbai around 9.00pm and then our flight to Goa was next morning at 5.00am.  Jan after her million flights would reach Mumbai at 1.00am and leave for Goa on the same flight as me at 5.00am.  Return journey, we would reach the airport at the same time but I leave to Mumbai and she would to Bangalore to get her connection for Kerala. This way we thought we could share the same cab/shuttle to and from the airport.  Strength in numbers was our thinking.

I had a five or six hour stay in Singapore. I wasn’t concerned about that, I love that airport.  I could spend a whole day without any trouble, my credit card might, but I have no issues of a lengthy stay at Singapore airport.  On the other hand I was rather worried about my stay at the Mumbai airport.  Found out that Mumbai had a Airport Transit hotel. So I made a booking for me, per my memory they do hourly or 4hr blocks. http://www.nirantahotels.com/

I was taking every precaution I could, I even bought a new handbag just for my travels. No, it wasn’t an excuse to buy another handbag.  All my handbags are designed so I could just dump stuff in there.  No zips or any other sealing mechanism.  So I bought one that had a zip, straps that I could put it across my shoulder.  All this to prevent the bag snatching.

Glenn kept assuring me that Mumbai was very safe and there was a lot of respect for “aunty” age people.  But, I kept thinking what would a “white man” know.  And he had just ticked me off by putting me in the “aunty” age group.  For the benefit of other possible travelers to India, the other advise given to me was mainly regarding water.  So only bottled water and no salads.

I did get a few jabs.  Can’t remember what they were for… possibly for Malaria, Hep B and Hep C and something else.  Not sure which Hep I took.  Sometimes people have natural immunity to one of them.  It’s best to do a blood test to find out if you have this natural immunity.  You need to start on the jabs about a month before.  My advise would be to check with your GP a month ahead rather than rely on the above information.

Applied online for the Indian Visa.  Be aware there are many bogus websites.  I guess one way to find out if you are in the right website is in the number of stupid questions asked. If you are in the right website, then you would need information on pretty much everyone and everything.  I was surprised they did not have a question about my cat.  It would have been hard to explain that I do not own a cat.  The problem also was that until you answer the question you cannot go to the next page.  My dad passed away 30 years ago, they needed his occupation, qualification etc. Anyway, I diligently got all the information and submitted my application as I did not want to be deported. I uttered “bloody Indians” many a times (don’t judge me yet, I am apologetic for my judgement by the end of the trip).  My visa arrived within about 2-3 days.

My dog was sulking as I started packing.

Cont….