Sunday 26 February 2012

Laryngitis. Oops.

Not me, Aya.

I thought I would start with the bad things this time, to stop all of the 'I hate you' comments coming at me recently. Aya has had a cough for the last few days, and it's been getting worse, so we visited the doctor, whose first question was 'Have you been on a long train journey recently?' Apparently the AC blows all of the nasty germs around and it's easy to get sick. So, she's curled up in bed right now with antibiotics, with me placing a blanket ban on kissing from now on and hoping I haven't been infected too.

Also, I spent too much money yesterday.

Right, that's the bad news out of the way, on to the good stuff. Last time I left you, we were about to leave Panaji, heading north to Mapusa and then Arambol. The bus journey from Panaji to Mapusa was uneventful, a small shuttle express which dropped us at the bus station and then sped off again. It cost 10 rupees each, and was overcrowded. I must say, I have never seen people working for a government company work so hard at getting people on a bus. They will squeeze you on and then step on top of you to collect fares. Makes a cheerful atmosphere though I guess.

We then hit up the market in Mapusa. It was large and cheerful, with everything from live chickens to little bracelets. Aya was enraptured by a couple of large bedsheet/carpet things, which I was informed were 'very cute', and after half an hour of stiff negotiations (she hates spending money) walked away with two hand made 2x2 metre bedsheet thingies for 3500 rupees. Well, I say she walked away, guess who ended up carrying them?

After that it was another bus journey, and this has to be my favourite one yet. The conductor (I'd like to say that all of the conductors we've met have been helpful, cheerful, and friendly) helped us stow our luggage in the back, and then started the traditional squeeze as many people on the bus as he can. So we stood for a bit, after giving up our seats for two elderly ladies. Aya managed to get a seat after a few stops, but I remained standing, giving up my seat to any women on the bus first.

'Seat here sir!'

'Oh no no, ladies first. It's an English thing.'

At this point, most of them were staring at me as if I had grown a second head. Giving up a seat?! To someone else!? Crazy foreigner! They assumed that I didn't like the seats in the middle of the bus, and so, even though half of the bus was standing, I was called to the front and told to sit in the cabin with the driver, to which I again politely refused. Women and the elderly first please, I was more than capable of standing. This was a source of amusement for the women on the bus and a source of pure confusion for the conductor for a good hour or so.

But the journey. Wow oh wow. We soon left the highway, and became surrounded by villages and tall trees. It was one of those twisting, hidden roads you go searching for on quiet days. School kids got on the bus for short periods, and it really felt like a taste of Indian life like we hadn't seen before.

The bus driver around this point flicked on some music, and his first choice must have been entitled 'The Bongo Brothers badly remix the worst pop songs of 2005'. I call them the Bongo Brothers, as it was just the really awful pop songs with a bongo playing loudly over the top. After a couple of songs though, I think the bus driver could feel the growing desire to garotte him from the back of the bus, and so flicked over to some Indian DJ mix CD, which wasn't half bad actually.

Arambol. Well, straight off the bat, I preferred Palolem. Just to throw that out there. Arambol is busier, more shops, more restaurants, more people. Much more of a traveller vibe, hippies, 'hemp cafe's, drunken parties on the beach. Palolem was more laid back, volleyball on the beach, more on the beach, less behind. Here, the beach is just dotted with restaurants, while Palolem was pretty much a solid line of restaurants, beach shacks for rent, and bars. They're different, but I prefer Palolem.

We hit up the Lonely Planet recommendation of Chilli's guest house, which is a little way back from the beach, but we're on the top floor, with a veeeery big balcony and a hot shower. The room is better built than the huts, and we got it for 400 rupees (LP says 500, don't believe it) so all in all a good deal. If you really want a beach hut though, the nicest beach huts I've ever seen (tiled floors, solid bed, large room, little bit back from the beach so quiet) were at Coco Cabana, which is next to a small temple on the southern end of the beach. Ask for Ravi. 400 rupees if you arrive in the afternoon, but he wanted 500 at first. Just a warning.

I've been eating and drinking breakfast/coffee at a place called Deepo's Place, up the Northern. Friendly guy, nice atmosphere, a little pricey perhaps, but not so bad just for breakfast. Plus, wi-fi, which I'm using now.

The best Mojito's on the beach can be found at Opinhal Beach Shack, which has a tall green sign above it and is towards the northern end of the beach. They're 150 rupees at time of writing, and are the second best I've ever had after Fish D'Vine. They also come in at a decent size, a tall glass instead of a short one, so a good deal too.

Food is definitely more expensive up here, we're paying on average an extra 100 rupees per bill, which sucks, as the food is no better than Palolem, Varkala or Panaji. Booze is the same price though, so it isn't all bad.

Off to Hampi soon. Either tomorrow or more likely the day after. Thanks for reading!



  1. Clicking on your pic link on the right gives a "that does not exist" error at picasa.

    1. Woops, sorry! Here's the correct one: