Thursday 23 February 2012

Panaji; Old Goa

A bit tired today, so expect this to be shorter.

To start, we're in the fastest internet cafe in the capital of Goa, and I still cannot upload pictures. This is particularly infuriating as the reason why is the internet connection drops for a second every minute or so. That blip usually cancels any loading pages and any uploading files. Sigh. Oh well. Maybe the internet in the touristy beach area will be better.

Panaji. Well, it's not particularly interesting. We went for the top choice in Lonely Planet for food, a place called 'Upper House' and found they had doubled their prices since the LP came out (maybe 6 months ago). Some people thrive on success, some exploit it I guess. We left sadly, knowing it was too much for us. Still, we found the lovely untouristy Hotel Vihar vegetarian restaurant, which served 'mildly spicy' Aloo Gobi for me and a Dhal for Aya. I was almost crying from the spice and Aya had to beg the kind waiter for some yoghurt to cool her melting mouth down. I saw flames lick her ears for a second. Wow oh wow. This was a source of much merriment for the other patrons, who I'm assuming all shook their heads and wondered what would happen if they slipped us some of the spicy stuff.

Hotels are in their plenty after you leave the bus station. The city looks bigger on maps than it actually is, and it's easy to walk around the place. Imagine the bus passed through a small timewarp and ended up in southern Spain, and you have an idea of Panaji. Small, narrow streets with brightly painted houses and twisting back alleys. Tall, whitewashed churches surrounded by parks and trees. It's quite a shock after Cochin. Still, the city has been granted the Andy award for weirdest street names around. Two of the main roads are called '31st January Road' and '18th June Road' respectively. Huh?

Oh yes, hotels. Sorry. After stepping off a bus, head for a tall blue building in a corner of the complex. Next to that is a small alley way you can pass through to a road. Take a left, and then a right (follow the road basically) and you'll find yourself at the footbridge across into the main area. Autos will cost about Rs 50 for this 5 minute walk, so man up and get a'walking.

The hotels are located immediately in front of the footbridge in the back alleys. Comfort Inn and Alov's Guesthouse both offered Rs 500 per night for clean looking double rooms with attached bathrooms (Alov gave a discount from 600, as it was about 4:30 when we were looking. They're pretty desperate at this time to fill the rooms) but we went with the small and cheerful Relax Inn, located just to the right of in front of the footbridge (this will be quite obvious if you look at a map. Road names are pretty useless out here). Incredibly friendly man and woman just inside, serving chai to some locals. Welcomed us in, showed us the rooms (clean, spacious, with fan and mosquito nets on the windows) and the bathrooms (two indian style toilets, one western, not attached to the rooms. Single shower between all 4 rooms) and gave it to us for 400 per night. Sadly, almost all hotels around here want a 9 AM checkout. Ouch!

Upon choosing, we headed out for dinner (starting paragraph) and on our return decided to take showers. Annoyingly, my cheap lock had, again, changed its combination when I had closed it. This sounds like a little weird, so I'll explain. When the lock is open, if I turn it backwards and press it down I can set the combination to something new. This is really easy to do when I open it, the combination changes when I put the lock back on the bag, and then I randomise it without thinking. I've done it before, luckily only changing the number 1 up or 1 down from the correct combination. This time, no luck. I cursed many times and asked the owners if I could borrow a couple of wrenches. Let me say, the annoyance of having your lock refuse to open for you dissipates quite quickly when you destroy said lock. New lock required now. Ah well, I wanted a shower goddamnit.

Today we hit up Old Goa, and the churches and cathedral were interesting for me, while Aya quietly died a little when I headed for the next. I really wanted to see the well rated Museum of Christian Art, mainly from the location rather than the stuff inside it (it's inside a renovated convent which is apparently beautiful) but sadly it was closed for maintenance today. If anyone follows, perhaps something to check before going.

And that's about it. The Post Office out here is expensive as hell, go for one of the smaller parcel packing people on the beach. Cheaper; seem to know what they're doing more; nicer.

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