29 September 2013

Goa, India (9/10)

After a horrific start to our Goan leg, with soaked laptop and just everything going wrong, we hope that things will improve!
Breakfast was good - omelette, baked beans, herb crusted potatoes, horrid jam, stale croissants (come back Taj President, Mumbai!) and many Indian dishes which we avoided so early in the morning!
After trying in vain to get the laptop working, we decided to take a bus. What fun - you have never seen such a decrepit bus - not even in Mauritius. It went so slowly, we could have walked if not for the heat. We got off when we spotted Watson's Chemist and Mike's Restaurant. This was not very far from the Holiday Inn but we had promised Len and Alison that we would pop in and give their regards. Mike's Restaurant looks lovely - however, we were still to full from the breakfast buffet. Mike is lovely, very welcoming and pleased to get the good wishes all the way from Cape Town. He offered us a free beer and also offered to get our laptop fixed by his IT chap on Monday. This made us feeling a little more light-hearted. We popped into Watsons to buy a map of Goa as I, very stupidly, had not done much research, thinking that we wold be based near the city of Goa! Stupid woman, hey? It's a huge province so now we need to try and sort out some sort of tour/s to see this place with all it's history.
After our bus ride back in a much faster bus (IR 16) we ended up back in the hotel. A swim was called for and we could enjoy the stunning pool all to ourselves as there is a conference on so most guests were not around. After this swim, we headed up the beach on a long walk. During the monsoon season, the sea is not safe due to a strong current. Again, this is a major disappointment as I really need to get into the Arabian Sea. The beaches go for miles - one could become a beach bum and just walk and walk......! Very clean but the famous "beach huts" are not yet operational as season starts in the Indian winter - October onwards once the monsoon season is finished. So we are just too early it seems. The fun part was walking behind a bull, 2 females and a calf. They just ambled down the beach, in no hurry at all. We eventually caught up with them as they headed towards a shack just off the beach - one assumes their home!!! Luckily, no cow pats, just one long widdle from the male! Typical, no decorum!
However, having said this, we must say that we have been rather disappointed with the tourist services offered in India - quite frankly, they really are non-existent in  comparison to South Africa hotels and B&B's where we bend over backwards to give as much info as possible and to assist guests. Both Taj President in Mumbai and Holiday Inn, Goa are 5* resorts, yet very little tourist info is available. I don't really understand why this is? Don't they want overseas tourists? Are there enough Indians to keep their hotels busy? Not sure what the rationale behind this lack of info can be. No tours are offered from hotels - a great disappointment as one cannot drive in India as a foreigner. Next years destination HAS to be in a country where we can hire a car and DRIVE!

This is very frustrating for me as we are used to being independent. Once again, if there was a choice of tours on offer, with experienced tour guides, this would not be such a huge issue. Methinks, India must be more forward thinking in this regard.
My bright idea was to place the laptop in the sun on the balcony - James pooh-poohed this idea and told me I was wasting my energy.
Thankfully, I listened to my inner voice or whatever prompted me to do this. After about an hour in the afternoon heat, I asked James to try again. Voila!!!!
It worked and we were able to save the 7 days of photos to an external drive. Nightmare over for now - let's hold thumbs that the laptop is OK.
I am not even going down the road of why it stopped working in the first place - far too embarrassing a story.
Supper is now calling, lets hope it's not all too "hot" and spicy!
The supper buffet was great - some salads with no spice or curry, good Indian dishes to sample, and dessert treats. The ice-cream is good and just calms/cools down the palate after all the Indian food. Service is excellent and very friendly.
Frustration, frustration, frustration!!!! Getting anywhere here is very expensive and there are no tour operators around? Taxi drivers charge IR 50 per hour for waiting whilst one visits anywhere so it really is not the place to be unless you just want a beach holiday. And with the beach still "dangerous" it's just frustration all round. Next year - somewhere where we can hire a car!!!!!!!!!!!
Breakfast was very busy this morning - apparently 600 pax in last night, mainly for some sort of conference. Food good though - no complaints on that score.
I even had something with curry - for breakfast - can you believe it?
The wi-fi at the Holiday Inn, Cavelossim is very expensive and one is charged full rate for an hour even if you only use it for 5 minutes. Not impressed as this is a total rip-off. We do not mind paying for an hour as this would have lasted a few days at 5 minutes per log-on but no, it does not work like that.
Tourists to South Africa are so very spoilt compared to services here in India. However, I suppose one must take the rough with the smooth - we opted for Timeshare in Goa instead of doing a tour so let's make the best of it. But at a cost......
Luckily, there is a tiny little shop just outside of the hotel so at least the beer is cheap!!
Humidity is high this morning so not sure what we are going to do - maybe another bus ride. The air-con in the bus is fresh air from the windows - makes quite a change from living in air-con rooms all the time.
Our guide - with very red eyes!!
After some debate, we decided to book a taxi ride the the Sahakari Spice Farm. This seems to be the nearest one to the hotel and is still quite a drive away.
There are a number of Spice Plantations in Goa, namely Savoi, Pascol, Abyss and the Tropical Spice Plantation. The tropical climate in this area of India plus the dense forests, make it an ideal place for growing spices. On arrival, IR400 per person, one is greeted with a flower garland plus some warm tea with spices. Rather tasty.
Our Indian "English" guide appears to be very food of his beer, whisky and the local drink, Feni as he told us all the spices that would take those hang-overs away or also make sure the wife did not smell any liquor on his breath when he returned home .....after a hard day's work! The Indians do believe that spices are a cure for many ailments. For example, taking curry leaves before you contemplate becoming pregnant can prevent heredity diabetes? True or false?
Nutmeg produces 2 spices, nutmeg and mace. Some black pepper helps constipation...... but don't take too much as you will be stuck for the day! Take Cardamon to assist your memory but if you are over 40, then you need to add another spice to the mix. Sad, but true!
Food is included in the price but it looked very boring so we did not have any.
The tour was interesting and the farm uses organic methods. I love the tiny little bananas that one finds here - apparently, the smaller they are, the sweeter they taste. Tiny, tiny - just 2 mouthfuls, if that!
The vegetation is very lush in Goa so everything is pure green and tranquil looking. However, the buildings are so very decrepit in looks, there is rubbish dumped along the road, dogs are very street-wise as they wander all over and we have not yet seen one being knocked over, cows lie alongside the road, sometimes in the middle of the road, scooters are everywhere, roads are pretty good, except for the odd pothole, and the roads are not as busy as in Mumbai. Thankfully!
I would imagine that it is difficult to keep buildings sparkling when the monsoon season brings so much rain and the humidity is high. However, it would not do my well-being any good to live in such run-down houses or work from shops where rubbish is strewn outside and everything just looks so dirty and unhygienic.
We drew the short straw with the taxi driver, a morose chap with no commentary except to ask if we wanted to visit the Shatadurga Temple. As we had not kept him waiting whilst we had lunch at the Spice Plantation, we thought this was a "freebie" out of the kindness of his heart! This is a Hindu Temple and the complex was constructed in 1738 AD. No photos are allowed inside as one has to take off shoes before entering. A family of 3 was standing listening to the prayers of a half-naked man and afterwards took out their wallets and parted with much cash. He did give them a blessing in the form of a flower. Unfortunately, without a guide, we do not understand what this was all about.
Outside the temple, an elderly man asked us where we were from and told us that the temple has a long history but this has never been translated into English. He recommended that we get a guide in future so as to learn about the history. I wish - that's what we have wanted all along but the hotel is unable to assist in this regard. This despite the fact that they are hosting a Hospitality Conference this week-end!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Goa is lacking in tourist facilities as the taxi drivers just drive - there is no information given. Unless, of course, we got the short straw with this driver?
The driving was also very erratic, hard braking which even upset James. Thankfully, I take my Sturgaron each day otherwise I would not survive without getting violently ill.
Perhaps we may find a better driver who is more open to telling us about the country he lives in? We live in hope.
Margoa is the closest large town to where we are staying but oh my goodness - really run-down and not very inspiring at all. Whilst we did not get out of the taxi here, I doubt we will return. Apparently, there is a large market but the town is so depressing I would prefer to stay away from it. Perhaps, our clinical cleanliness would not go down well with Indians who may find it cold and depressing as well? There are grander houses tucked away in the forest at various points - these do look much better.
Compared to other poorer countries such as Greece and Spain, Goa is not "cute" We have visited many really poor Greek villages where time has stood still, yet they are clean and well-kept. Different strokes for different folks? It is beautifully green though, very tropical with swaying coconut palms everywhere.
After that crazy taxi ride, some Kingfishers and Lays Chili Limon (spelling is correct!!) chips are going down a treat!! I prefer them to the Lays India's Magic Marsala as they are not quite as tasty.
The area of South Goa where we are staying features most of the luxury resorts in South Goa - namely, Varca, Cavelossim and Mobor.
A stint on our balcony in the balmy evening breeze, listening to the waves, watching the palm trees sway, hearing the cacophony of hundreds of crows, seeing the rain clouds descending to make us wet and cool us down, such is life in the slow lane. Time out from the day and it's turmoil.
A shower and jeans (yes, feeling cold!!) and then off to our dinner.
Dinner at the hotel is a treat - the dishes are very Indian as 99.9% of the guests are Indian. Every night there are loads of dishes to try and there was also Jain food tonight. The Jain sect do not eat onions or garlic so their food has to be prepared without these 2 ingredients. I could well do without garlic but onions? Oh my goodness, no. I love onion in any form. The Jain religion is now a minority religion in India with approx. 4.2 million followers. The Jain's have a high degree of literacy and their libraries are the oldest in the country.
The waiters are first class at Holiday Inn, even more attentive than those at Taj President in Mumbai (although they were very good!)

All round, service is excellent - we have no complaints.
Only the Wi-Fi cost and lack of tourist info has been a disappointment.
However, who says life has to be perfect all the time?
On that note, good night!

© Judelle Drake

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