Thursday, 9 January 2014

Goan Relax

This was a holiday within a holiday for us. Far from the budget hotels and hospitality we'd been used to for 2 months, on arrival in Goa we were greeted with everything we'd been missing from home.

We were staying in North Goa at Candolim beach but in fact it was the places we stayed that really were the highlight of our Goan experience. We spent our first 4 nights in a Casina at the Aashyana Lakhanpal residence. The place is owned by an artist and art collector and has featured in Vanity Fair magazine, the duke or prince of somewhere in England holidays there and basically it was absolutely beautiful. Our Casina, or villa, wasn't 5* hotel luxury but It was exactly what we wanted! a kitchen! a living room, a tv with DVD player and a huge pool we had basically all to ourselves. All this with the beach right on our doorstep.
All the furniture, doors and window frames were a beautiful dark, traditional Portuguese style wood.
outside ensuite bathroom, poo with nature.
It was meant to be a shared pool with other guests, but the whole time we were there we only saw other people using the pool once.
It was just a little stroll to the wide sandy beach, which had a seemingly endless row of beach shacks serving up fresh seafood and cold beer, a perfect spot for sundowners. The best seafood around was at Bobby's shack, we had some delicious tiger prawns cooked in a tandoor. Fit for a king. We went there again in the evening and had a delicious BBQ of chicken and fish. There was also some in store entertainment of a man twirling various things that were on fire and spinning a flaming bicycle wheel on his head. Impressive.
Although candolim is quite a busy and touristy area, it was reassuring to see that it was not built up along the beach with lots of ugly resorts, just beach shacks which fitted in well. There is a restriction that no one can build 300m inland from the beach because of monsoon season as they could flood affecting drainage and conveniently keeps the beach suitably idyllic.
Another luxurious thing about having Ollys parents with us, along with the good company, was the cheese and wine! We had really missed cheese and wine. Wine was expensive in Indonesia but we found some very good local Goan wine. Slurrrrp. And therefore the weight we had lost Indonesia was put straight back on! whoops.
Goa was under Portugese occupation for 450 years and their influence is prominent throughout Goa. We went on a little trip to old Goa, which was once a thriving city, is now a UNESCO site of crumbling churches.

Convent of st Francis of Assisi, the ground that looks like tiles are graves.
This delapidated building was full or bats! If it wasn't an old church it would have been fit for Dracula.
As perfect as the weather was whilst we were in Goa, all sunny days and cool nights, the trees were evidence enough of the havoc of the Indian monsoon.
On our day out we also visited a spice plantation, where we were introduced to all the different spices and herbs that are grown in Goa and the medicinal uses these are believed to have. Whilst a bit of a tourist trap, and packed to the rafters with coach loads of Russians melting away under the mid day sun, it was genuinely interesting learning of the value of the spice trade and we had a delicious buffet lunch of Goan cuisine. We swerved the Elephant ride through a car park at the end though.
This man swung from palm to palm demonstrating how they pick the Betel nut from the canopy!
We finished the day in Panjim the capital of the Goa and it was fittingly small, quiet and relaxed quite unlike almost every other state capital in India with he fantastic old Portugese era church at the centre.
We also went to Anjuna flea market, which sold anything a tourist might possibly want, or not want which is often the case. Jewellery, tea pots, bed spreads, tea, Incense, clothes, bags, hammocks, every sort of nick nack under the sun and more. Great to look around even if not buying: 'looking looking no buying'.
After 5 nights at Aashyana we moved on to another property on the same stretch of beach. This time we had a whole house to ourselves, not just any house, a beautiful traditional Goan style Villa that had been home to a famous Goan author and art collector. The rooms were filled with books, art, random furniture and antiques, a character quite unlike anywhere we've ever stayed before. Rockheart 'gods chosen acre' was the name and it really was a magical place to be. We had this all to ourselves.
The beautiful gardens and crystal clear pool, along with the perfect balcony to watch the sun set amidst the countless palms whilst sipping on an ice cold G&T. It doesn't get much more relaxing than this, pure bliss.
On our final day in Goa we decided it was time to have a go at some of the countless water sports advertised along the beach. We chose to go parasailing! It was really cheap and a little too good to be true, as awesome as it was being up in the air, seeing the birdseye view of the beach was great but the whole thing lasted about 5 minutes each, unless, surprise surprise, we paid a little more... we didn't and we came back to shore to enjoy our final sunset before heading out to travel India.

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