My Trips: India 2007

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Somewhere near Kerala, India

I woke several times before sunrise, but I dose until the sun has risen. This is a noisy carriage, but my earplugs help greatly. Surprisingly it’s not the children, who behave impeccable, but the adults who generate the noise. I convert my bed to seats and watch the dawn landscape rushing by.

After a couple of coffees, a lot of reading and some samosas, I decide this train ride is no where near as exciting as the last one. It’s Ok though, as I have several interesting books, and a number of good conversations which see me through until 17:30.

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Waiting for the train to Kerala, India

I say goodbye to Ramnath and his team, who I’ve come to know well over the last days. I’ve loved Goa, but it’s time to move on.

At Canacona railway station I start a conversion with a man from New York. He has come to India mainly for dental work, but also to find the mystical India he longed to visit as a youth. He says he hasn’t found that India though. He became unwell in Varanasi and caught the train to the south to get well.

We talk for hours about many things; mainly India, it’s troubles, frustrations and the future. He constantly compares India to the USA, something I have noticed other US citizens do more than any other nation. He is highly praising of the British influence left in India. He says our train, which rolls in 1.5 hours late, would have been punctual and spotless 50 years ago, during the British Raj. This is something I hadn’t paid too much thought, but I think he is probably right. He also refers to the Western world as Europe, including the USA and Australia. I don’t question him about that, but think I understand what he means, presuming that all Western countries evolved from European settlers.

The train is packed. I have no bedding in my birth. I mention this to the ticket inspector who informs me ‘He is coming with it’. ‘He’ never shows though and I’m glad of the blanket I bought.

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Final thoughts on Goa, India

Today is my last day in Goa. Tonight I catch the overnight train from Canacona to Kollam, in Kerala. It’s a long ride; from 11pm to 5.30pm the next day. It’s a big distance though, something I didn’t really realise until I checked a big map earlier. I am traveling to the southern end of Kerala, and making my way back north as I fly from Kochi to Singapore.

I have loved Goa. The sun drenched beaches, beach huts, friendly faces and great food have made my stay better than I had imagined. There are a few things I would like to have done, but chose instead to relax and concentrate on some writing.

I have probably stayed too long in Goa. I have about 7 days in Kerala, which is enough time to see the essentials. I left it a little late in booking my train ticket. But, I know I will return to both Goa and Kerala in the not too distant future, and I always like to leave plenty to come back for.

Now, to swap my books and charge my MP3 player for the long train ride….

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Fishing without a boat, Patnem Beach, Goa

I’ve seen these guys fishing with a net on poles on the beach here at Patnem Beach. They very skilfully wade out, unfold the net and spread it out across the waves. They then wait a few seconds, before slowly and carefully bringing the net towards the shore. It always attracts a crowd of tourists and often locals.

Yesterday I saw them catch several big fish. Today they had just a few sprats.

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Why I love tropical beaches

I love just about everything about tropical beaches. The warm sunshine, warm water, cold beer, fresh seafood (I’m not normally a fan of seafood), beach huts, peoples smiling faces, palm trees, fresh fruit, the warm sand on my feet even after the sun has set, and the magical spirit that one only finds at tropical beaches.

I get bored and restless easily, I’ve always got to be doing something. Yet at a tropical beach I can stretch the whole day out, doing just a handful of things. I almost never sunbath, but can kill hours swimming, walking, or sitting in the shade reading.

I have a lot of tropical beaches yet to visit, and I’m looking forward to enjoying every last one of them 🙂

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Ramnath, my landlord, host and friend at Mountain Palms, Patnem Beach, Goa, India

I’ve been staying at the Mountain Palms beach huts on Patnem Beach for the last 5 nights (and the next 6). I’ve eaten all but one of my meals here.

The place is run by Ranmath, a lovely Goan guy, who with his excellent team will do anything he can do to help, without ever trying to sell me anything. Which is a very welcome scenario in India, where everyone has something they want you to buy.

He lets me keep a tab and I was even a few days late in paying my rent, to which he didn’t say a word.

His English is good enough for us to chat about various things. This summer he got a bank loan and spent a lot of money on his huts only to find fewer tourists visiting because of the increased complication with tourists visas. I hope he makes enough this year and things get better next year.

I asked him what he did before he built the restaurant, and he said he didn’t have a job. He says that in March everything is taken apart and packed away. He then has the rainy summer to relax. I’ve noticed that he and his team are up at at least 7am every morning, and they stay open until everyone has gone to bed, normally 11pm. They don’t have a break, but they do play chess in the evening when it’s quiet.

So, I’ll enjoy the remainder of my stay here. I’ve got a little list of things to do – visit Green Island, rent a kayak, maybe a fishing trip, writing, reading, but no Dolphin spotting trip. I’ll save that until I meet my Girlfriend in a few weeks.

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Another Lazy Day in Goa, India

Well, I’ve not done a lot over the last few days. I’ve done several long walks, a lot of swimming, quite a bit of writing, and I’ve read several books. Actually, come to think of it, I have done quite a lot. I guess I mean that there are still quite a few things I want to do here that I haven’t done yet.

But that’s OK. From Goa I intend to travel south to Kerala, where I will enjoy the towns and of course the backwaters – the wonderful canals and river ways that Kerala is famous for.

Today I checked the availability of seats on the train to Kerala. The 1st and 2nd of January are unsuprisingly fully bookd. So this leaves the question – When should I leave Goa? I could leave tomorrow and be happy that I had ‘done’ Goa. You know, had a good experience. But I don’t want too many days in Kerala, looking at streets and towns, in blistering heat with no sea to jump in, when I could spend that time in Goa.

I’m so indecisive that I’ve spent most of the day not making a decision. So, I just saw a travel agent and asked him to get me a ticket as soon after the New Year as possible. I’m guessing it will be the 4th or 5th, but that’s fine. That gives me more time here in paradise, eating seafood, writing and enjoying the hospitality of my host Ramnath. To save time though I have booked my train ticket to Kollam, in the south of Kerala. I am flying from Kochi, at the northern end of Kerala’s sights, to Bali on the 12th January. So I’ll start in the south and work my way north, saving time and uncessary backtracking.

I will definately take a houseboat from Kollam to Alleppey, and hopefully another from Alleppey to Kochi. This would be great, traveling Kerala entirely by the backwaters.

Time permitting I’ll also visit the hilltop tea plantation of Munmar.

I’m looking forward to the next leg of my trip, but I’m also looking forward to at least 5 more nights here at Patnem beach in Goa.

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Rented a scooter and rode to Baja and onto Anjuna for the market, Goa, India

A 7am start, probably my earliest ever for a boxing day. After breakfast I rented a scooter and headed north towards Anjuna, where on a Wednesday the flea market is held.

The roads are furious and hectic, but quite fun. The roadsigns are reasonably good, and enough to get me near to Mapusa, from where I head to Baja beach, which I noticed was the only beach in India with a surf report on the MagicSeaWeed website. This is either because this is best surf here (although I have read that Patnem has the biggest waves), or because it is the only beach with a bouy reading they can use on the website.

It’s probably the later, as when I arrive at Baja beach the wave is no different to that of Patnem. But boy are there a lot of people there. There are so many sun loungers and people that I have to weave my wave through them to see the sea. This is exaclty the sort of place I don’t like – wall to wall tourists, surprisingly many of them are Indian tourists. I thought they would long for somewhere quieter. I need a break from the scooter, which has given me a numb bum, and rest with a banana lassi and my first sandwich on the trip, and quit possible the strangest toasted sandwich I have ever had. There was barely enough filling to qualify it as a sandwich. Any less and it would have been toast. But it only cost 50 pence, and always remember, when in rome….

Onward then to Anjuna. After deciding not to go down what I though was the lane for market, I end up at the beach and walk a few kilometers to the market through the sweltering heat. I pass through little settlements that, as always in India, as quite interesting. There are a lot of rooms available for rent.

As if by magic the lads I met on Elephanta Island pop up and ask if I am famous again. We chat briefly, they are looking for rooms.

Eventually I see the market in the distance, which is huge, and walk in.

Unfortaunately the market seems to be filled with only the few different types of stall one finds in Indian tourist places ( jewlery, clothes, music and food) and they all seem to be selling the same stuff at seemingly infalted prices. I guess this is a very tourist zone with tourists spending money, so what else would one expect?

My girlfriend’s sister (Becky) asked me to buy her some India jewelery parts so that she can make some necklaces and other things. I was expecting things to costs around 50 pence per item. When I ask they cost around £6, which would obviously come down a lot with bartering, but this seems way to expensive. It then dawns on me that I know nothing about Jewelery, silver, (which all the jewelery seems to be made from) or really what Becky wants. I decide, even after coming all of this way, that I shouldn’t risk wasting her money. I am sure there will be similar things for sale in Southeast Asia and my girlfriend can buy them for Becky with sisterly love (and advanced jewelery knowledge).

Absolutely parched I down a bottle of water, and a couple of samosas. I’m tired after the 2 hours scooter ride, and decide not to do anything else today, which is quite unlike me. I jump on the scooter and make the almost painful 2 hour ride back to the Patnem, where upon arrival, my very friendly landlord Ranmath serves me a wonderful banana lassi, and I go for a swim.

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Onto Patnem beach, Goa, India

After a fairly restless night in which I had to rescue my sandals from being eaten by rodents, I awake a bit blurry eyed. I am keen to leave this beach hut, and so head south to Patnem beach.

I walk across the beach and stop at the place I looked at yesterday. It seems to be one of the few places with a direct beach view. The same guy from yesterday comes over and we chat briefly. I get a good rate and have a cup of tea in the restaurant. Some other Brits in the restaurant and really enjoying their food, and book for Christmas day with they guy, which is a good sign.

I take a swim and get on with clearing my writing backlog, which has been slowly building up.