Well another post, another unbelievable place in India! Right now, we’re in Palolem Beach, in the south of Goa.
We boarded a 12 hour train ride north to Goa and that in itself was an experience. For those who have never been on trains in India before, there are many different classes in their train system (definitely more than I’ve seen in Europe or South East Asia). If you need more information on Indian trains and their classes, I found this site very helpful. We booked sleeper class berths because of the 12 hour ride and it was a circus! Every 2 minutes, vendors would walk by selling everything from chai, coffee, water, samosa, biryani, friend bananas to comics and books. We decided on chicken biryani which was surprisingly very delicious! If you’re over 5’10”, the sleeper class berths may be too small for you since Mike had a hard time lying down without his feet dangling over the edge plus storing his backpack. For me (5’2″), the aisle berth is the place to be because you don’t need to share your view out the window with 5 other people when all you want to do is sleep. The middle and upper berths don’t have windows so be prepared to be a little hot during the early afternoons. However, there are fans that help move the stagnant air. So basically, if you don’t mind a smaller space, I recommend the lower aisle berth. There were also toilets on the train which were quite clean (honestly, our level of hygiene has gone down a bit) so if you don’t mind the good old “squat and pee into a gaping hole”, you’re good with sleeper class. You also have to be prepared for long train rides so here’s a list of things to bring or to have handy:
- sleep/hostel sheet – not that the berths were disgusting but the windows let in a lot of dust and dirt so you end up sleeping on it over the vinyl covers
- ear plugs – to get some solid shut eye
- playing cards – solitaire or Big 2 definitely helps pass the time
- hand sanitizer and wipes – there are taps outside the bathroom but I don’t really know where the water would have come from
- alarm clock – just in case you are comatose sleeping so you won’t miss your stop
We arrived in Madgoan in the state of Goa and jumped on a city bus then a state bus to get to Palolem Beach which is 1 hour south of Madgoan. Both buses were such an adventure! The buses here don’t run on any particular schedule and there’s really no signage of where the bus stop is or where the bus is going so don’t be afraid to ask random strangers. Also, they cram as many people onto the buses (at least 30 people standing even though there’s a sign that says it should only have 11) and open/close the doors while the bus is stopping/starting to move – I almost tumbled out of one trying to get on! Mike had a funny but difficult time too because he was too tall to stand in the bus so he had to bend his neck to the side for the 1 hour trip.
We finally got to Palolem Beach and walked along the beach front to find a cocohut to stay at. There are so many choices here so the best bet is to walk and check them out when you arrive and not book in advance. We decided on Parvati Huts since it is on the quieter side of the beach and the hut floor was actually made out of concrete (other ones are usually thrown together with plywood and a fresh coat of bright paint). All along the beach there are open air restaurants which set up tables directly on the beach and offer happy hour drinks and fresh seafood. Since we’ve been here, we’ve never had one single bad meal at any of these restaurants – all the food is so fresh and made to order! The next day, we just laid on the beach for the entire day and I tore through one of the books I brought – Half Broke Horses – awesome read for anyone who’s into memoirs. In Palolem, there’s lots of backpackers which are pretty easy to spot.
Yesterday, Mike and I decided to get off our butts and be a little adventurous so we rented a motorcycle to tour the south of Goa. It took a little getting used to driving on the left side of the road with passing scooters, cars and trucks but Mike picked it up very quickly. As a passenger on the back, my only job was to navigate and take in all the scenery! We rode to a small beach called Agonda Beach and stopped for a lassi. This beach is beautiful and totally secluded – there were about 20 people on a stretch of beach that was 3 football fields long. We then got some petrol which came in 1L water bottles (I thought it was apple juice at first :)) and headed off for Cabo de Rama which is an old Portuguese fort. Along the way, we saw the most breath-taking scenery ever! Lush rice paddies, open plains and huts scattered throughout. At Cabo de Rama, we hiked through the ruins and it was like we were discovering it for the first time since there was no sign of tourism anywhere. There were some openings in the crumbling wall that offered the best scenery of the Goan coastline. After wandering around for awhile, we started the long 1 hour ride back to Palolem Beach to get there before dark – we may be adventurous but we’re not stupid enough to ride in the dark on winding Indian roads up and over hills.
Tonight, we’re leaving this little paradise in a sleeper AC bus and heading for the big city – Mumbai!!