Posted in travel

Destination Goa (final)

Goa beach

Four am start.  Jan and I hardly had any sleep.  We were planning on a early night as we thought we need it for our 4 am start.  Didn’t exactly stick to our adult like responsible decision.  One more night of being back to our teenage days.  We weren’t exactly throwing up into the toilet bowl.  Just more chatting and reminiscing our past, the last couple of days and making promises for the future.  Relationships, Kids, loss, survival…. both of us in our own ways have been through a lot.  We are like two weeds that stood stubbornly through the storm and now looking a lot lusher.  We did bend, we did mellow, but we refused to wither.  I guess, neither of had a choice.

I so wish she lived next door and not in the opposite hemisphere. Every time I needed a hug she would have come running to me and every time she needed that hug I would have happily run over to her. But I think my hubby is relieved that there is a reprieve on the credit card and shopping. I treasure these holidays.  It’s truly a blessing that I can meet up with her once in awhile. Even though there are many days and weeks and years in between, thank god to Whatsapp and Skype, it makes it bearable.

Our bags gets rolled out at 4.00am.  We stood at the middle of the airport hugging and hanging on to our tears within our eyelids, interrupting and maybe blocking the other rushing passengers.  One big heave and then we headed back to our mundane travel procedures.

Getting through security took a lot longer than in Australia.  However, it wasn’t chaotic like it was in Chennai a few years ago.  I had about an hour or so before boarding.  For a small city, the airport was pretty good.  Very clean toilets.  Yes, this was in India.

Some Murals that caught my eye

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An hour went quickly with a bit of writing and taking pictures.  Next an uneventful flight to Mumbai.  Plane was clean and service was better than Jet star.

I had a long stop over at Mumbai before my next flight to Singapore.  After my stay at Niranta transit hotel on my way over I had decided I wanted to go back there again and get a room for a few hours.  This would give me a chance to meet that young man who helped me so much last time as well.  Unfortunately they were fully booked.  And that young man was not on duty that day either.  But, the young lady at the counter was still very sweet.  She asked me to stay in their lounge area, instead going back to the main airport area.  She even offered me a bottle of water and the ever useful wifi password. At this stage I had not spent a dime with them.  I was astounded by their empathy which went over and beyond the call of customer service.  I had breakfast with them, and left a small token of thank you in an envelope and left with plenty of time for check in etc.

I thought my bubble on perfect trip was going to unravel when the guy at the counter said my visa has expired.  I knew it hadn’t, I had checked and rechecked, so with a stern and irritated voice I replied “no it isn’t”.  On checking with another officer (lady officer) he realised he needed to have a “mummy look”.

This time around I had more time look around the airport.  Rather a big, classy, clean airport.  Yes, it’s in India and it’s clean.

This was a mural by the side of the travelator.  What a great welcome as you get off the plane.

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More quirky cafe’s and art work.

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As usual I was rushing with something and I think it was my bag zipper made a cut on my finger.  Nothing major, but the darn thing was bleeding.  So I got to the toilet and kept my finger under the tap trying to stop the bleeding.  But no joy.  The cleaning lady saw this and came to my aid, she couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t understand her.

Language didn’t matter, the beauty of humanity expands past language barriers.  

She got me a band aid from the first aid kit.  She didn’t know or didn’t care that she probably should be wearing gloves when dealing with blood.  I thanked her in English and went rummaging in my hand bag to get some money.  She held my hand and shook her head saying words, I think that meant “no, no need” and she left.

Yes, this was India.

How wrong was I to pass judgement, that India was going to be dirty and crawling with cheating, thieving vermin’s.  Am I a racist who was hiding behind past experiences as an excuse? I am not going to say entire India going to be this rosy.  Jury is still out of Chennai for me.  I hear Delhi is no paradise either.  But, lesson learnt is that there is going to be good and bad places every where, there is going to be good and bad people every where.  If you aren’t willing to give that destination a chance, you will never know and never experience and that would be a damn shame.

It’s a red hot yes to Goa and maybe even to rest of India.

 

 

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

Destination Goa (Part 9)

Goa beach

We moved from Baga Beach to Candolim for the last leg of the Holidays.  Beautiful Hotel, slightly pricier and more up market than Acron.  Can’t really fault any of the facilities. customer service, etc.  Beautiful setting right on the beach, amazing gardens, decor etc, etc.  however, I felt it lacked the personal touch.

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HA..  Yes, had to snap that one.

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Amazing spa, massage treatments. We got ourselves thoroughly spoiled. We didn’t do too much sightseeing after we came to Candolim.  But we did roam the roads during the day and sometimes late evening/ early night.

We came across couple of great restaurants.  Soi was one of our favourites.  For many reasons – good food, great service and so close to our hotel.  When the mercury hits high, along with humidity, you just don’t want to drag that leg of yours too far.

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Loved the sign in front of Tuscany, showed that when you are on holidays just take it easy.  Throw away that schedule.  Gutsy move for a business though. We wanted to check the place just because of the sign. But neither of us were in the mood for Italian food.  Maybe next time.

Months of planning, then finally the day arrives for our flights from opposite hemispheres to take off, then 1.00 am in the middle of Mumbai Airport, two 50 years old’s, hugging and almost shrieking like two teenagers, then the late night chats about our personal lives, we cried for each other, we advised each other, we laughed at each other and tomorrow it comes to an end. We say good bye to Goa and to each other.

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Adios Goa.

I will make another post to cap off everything.  Especially about my trip back via Mumbai, my misconceptions about India etc.  I think I owe them that much.

 

 

Posted in Goa, Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Politics, travel, True Story, Inspirational

Destination Goa (Part 8)

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As they say it’s been a long time between drinks.  But in my case there has been many drinks but not much writing.  What are the excuses that I can pin it on … broken finger, work and possibly a lack of interest or if I am to be totally honest and say addiction to Asian Teledramas. I know how stupid it sounds but I think it was an escapism. Started with watching Japanese dramas with subtitles with the excuse of learning the language, then I ran out of Jap dramas so I merged to Taiwanese so I started to learn a bit Mandarin.  I have now progressed to Korean.  Finding Korean hard to learn.  Its a bit like French and German, similar grammar patterns but German has a stronger accent making it hard to pronounce than Japanese.  The two subjects I started to write about has brought about the writers block.  What I am finding out is that travelling is great but writing about it is not so much.

The other piece that I am currently writing is about my friend whom I lost in the civil war in Sri Lanka.  In all my other writings/stories I hardly had to think about the audience.  But, somehow in this one I am aware of the audience.  Not necessarily because I am scared to upset the Sri Lankan readers, I think the issues that I am touching upon are necessary for reconciliation, it’s an actual snapshot of real life in a war torn country, along with other social issues, in my opinion an unbiased recount of evils of both sides.  I am not by any means condoning Terrorism but, I do visit the possible reasons for the birth of one.  In this regard feel it’s an important topic for the current climate in the world.  Prevention is always better than a cure.  My reason for writing this story is probably as most times to heal my heart of losing my dear friend Lalith.  I have probably a lot of anger inside me regarding this.  But the irony is I come from the clan that killed him.  I haven’t settled on a title either.  I have changed it so many times “Friendship and war”, “Friend from the other side”, “Friendship across enemy lines” the last one I have come up with is “Ammba Yalluwa” which translates to something like childhood friend/soul mate.  I think I might settle with that.

I am usually not worried about offending someone when I write, but in this story I am and that is really having an effect on my writing.  Discussing this with my son, he started to say, you can’t really worry about offending people, it’s your thoughts, it’s your reasoning, it’s your point of view.  I get that but this subject is a hard one.  This is not a subject where I tell a Christian what I think of his Anti Gay sentiments.  The wounds go deeper than that in this.  As a Tamil who lived amongst the Sinhalese and understood them way better than my own kith and kin from Jaffna (north of Sri Lanka) my so called unbiased views may not sit well with those who were tortured by the Sri Lankan Army. My views on why Terrorism grew in Sri Lanka will not be accepted by the Sinhalese either.  My sister-in-laws friend and mum who had to witness her two brothers and her dad being burnt alive will never accept my theories and explanations about the Sinhalese.  Lalith’s family never thought that all tamils were terrorists and they all had to die.  However, wrong that theory is, I will have to accept that anger.  Arj (my son) said something that really hit the nail.  “Emotions aren’t rational, there is no way you could explain to kid in Syria that the Americans are nice people”  All that kid has, heard, seen and experienced is the opposite.  It is such a charged subject, I want to do justice to this story, but I am so torn as well.

I started to write about Goa and I have written two paragraphs of my other project.  So, lets start about Goa.  Today’s topic is Goan food, music and culture.

Maybe the reason I fell in love with Goa is due to the similarities of Goa and Sri Lanka. They were both Portuguese Colonies and hence the similarities I guess.  But it’s just uncanny how similar Goa is to Sri Lanka and how different it is to the rest of India.

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The above is stuffed okra.  That was one of my favourite dishes (that I took a photo of before digging into it first).  I don’t think Sri Lanka has a stuffed okra dish, but similar to stuffed banana chillies.   Similar dishes are pan rolls (in sri lanka we call them Chinese rolls not sure why because I don’t think the Chinese are aware of that roll), muscat (Goan’s call it Bibinka) and Thothal

muscat muscat thothal thothal

The best thing about it is that they view these as possible breakfast items and it is on the hotel breakfast buffet.  Yes, of course I thought I was in heaven.

The curries are so different to the normal Indian Cuisine.  A curry with the Rechad spice mix a must try.  Fish is big in Goa.  Not sure, if the laws have changed in the recent months but at the time we were there, Goa is one of the places in India where you can buy beef and alcohol in Restaurants rather freely.  Most places in India have a ban on beef due to the cow being a revered animal as most of them claim to be Hindu’s.  Not sure which part of Hinduism says its okay to eat all other meats but not beef, per my understanding of the religion all meats were out as it was considered to be killing another animal.  I guess that’s another argument/beef (sorry for the dad pun, couldn’t help myself) for another day.

Clothing/culture:  Goa is still kind of part of South India.  The South India that I know is very conservative.  Goa not so much or not at all.  It’s a party town.  Again very similar to Sri Lanka, Negambo in particular.  Night life is very alive, and not just filled with tourists, this is mainly by the locals.  Ladies in pretty sexy clothes, having a drink or two or more. Nothing atrocious, but no conservative woman in a saree with flowers in her hair sitting quietly in a corner.

Music: At these live music places its all English music, the one place we were at was all 80’s gems.  But their local music is very similar to the Sri Lankan Baila.  Again I think we can thank the Portuguese for that.

Ok the above is just a clip from the youtube to give you an idea of the Goan music, next I will post one from the Sri Lankan Baila to show you the similarities

 

Memories are a bit vague now, but I think the two places that we tried out was Tito’s and Kohi bar.  Personal preference is Tito’s but I guess for the young ones Kohi Bar may be more attractive.

Just like in Sri Lanka Goa produces a lot of Spices as well Cashews.  Cashew snacks are very similar to Sri Lanka as well.  They go one better and have produced an alcohol drink with it as well called “Feni”, Looks clear like Vodka, as a shot it feels pretty potent, but great in a cocktail.

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I like to end it here for today.  Adeus (good bye in Konkani – Goan language)

 

 

 

 

 

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 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….