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India: South Goa - Patnem and Palolem

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After 3 days in Calangute we were happy to be moving on. We very much enjoyed the heat, the beach and Alor hotel but we wanted to move on to somewhere quieter and less Westernised.

After a 2 hour taxi ride we arrived at Palm Trees; our hotel in Patnem, South Goa. And you certainly couldn't accuse it of false advertising; to get to our room we had to climb through an aisle of palm trees. We were staying at 'Majesty Palm', our own private hut built from bamboo and with, you guessed it, ONE king size bed!

Our hosts were George (Goan) and Laura (American) both of whom were incredibly helpful. Fortunately, Laura was as passionate about food as we are and so told us where to get the best that Goan cuisine had to offer (which was a lot).

Compared with our tour, we didn't do an awful lot in the 6 days we were at Patnem; we figured we deserved some R&R in the form of long lie-ins, aimless wandering, regular snacking (as always), gentle swimming and overall reclining on a sunny beach.

Our hut was a wonderful place to recoup and let all our experiences so far sink into our unconscious. The area was so quiet, all we could hear were the resident crows that live in the trees. The one less peaceful auditory experience was the sound of a motorbike being unsuccessfully revved for 15 minutes every late morning at around 10am. This didn't bother us though, in fact it amused us greatly. We just couldn't fathom the tenacity and spirit of the poor man or woman clearly getting repetitive strain injury in their wrist. Grainy video below (apologies for quality - my phone is almost as old as the Taj Mahal).

Another welcome feature of our hotel was the complimentary breakfast at the café next door. We went each and every morning, Lauren getting an Indian dish whether it be dosa or something else and me getting some cold milk, bowl and spoon (for my museli) and a black coffee. Even though our orders were the same daily, our waiter (who had an air of Rylan about him), always gave us the wrong dish. This never failed to make us chuckle.

Our most imminent task was getting more dosh out, so we hot footed in to the nearest town 2km away called Chaudi where we found an ATM that serviced us. The town was small but full of the familiar Indian hustle and bustle we'd gotten used to; street food, beeping, tuk tuks, dirty roads, pointless sweeping and limited oxygen to breathe. There were Indian sweet shops, bakeries, toy shops (with Indian Barbies that Lauren wouldn't let me buy) and electronics stores. I even managed to pick up some flax seeds. The walk gave us an opportunity to see a bit of rural Goa; sprawling farms and grassland with copious water-buffalo, eagles, wrens, cows and plenty of dogs.

For our first supper in South Goa Lauren scouted out a well-reviewed little restaurant/cooking tuition centre called Peter Bar. Hidden away among some huge beautiful trees, we sat on cushions and were joined by a few very sweet begging dogs. We were warned by the waitress that our food would take upwards of an hour to be served as there was a cooking class on. We were happy to relax and ignore our rumbling tummies for a short while. The food was amazing and we couldn't rate it highly enough. Lauren, fresh from her recent Tibetan meal, got momos, and I decided on a fish thali.

One day (mainly out of boredom), we bravely ventured to the Kranti yoga retreat (Patnem is full of yoga fanatics, spiritualists, and health foodies) to have a sunset Ashtanga yoga session while looking out to the Arabian sea. Our instructor was the leanest and most sinewy person we'd ever seen in our lives. I am not exaggerating when I say she had ZERO body fat. She was also at least 6 foot tall and had swimmer's shoulders. We were a little scared.
Luckily, the session wasn't too different from the yoga we'd done in Manchester, it just had a much quicker pace. We were without doubt below average but we did our very best; even managing not to laugh when everyone loudly exclaimed OOOOHHHMMM!

On one evening, Helen and Jack from our tour came over to Patnem to have dinner with us from the neighbouring town they were staying at; Palolem. In typical style, Lauren and I, having been in the sea and sun all day and not eaten for 5 hours, drank a fair number of 2-4-1 cocktails (attempting to keep up with the Aussies obviously). Then, Jack being a professional fisherman, selected the best seafood for the three of us to devour (Lauren staying loyal to her vegetarianism). The fish was amazing, particularly the squid, but unfortunately it didn't hang around to be digested as I vomited it all up shortly after saying our goodbyes. Ah well, it's not all bad, I may have lost a few ounces...
We later found out that Helen was also ill (but hers lasted for a few days whereas mine passed after 24 hours), which made me feel less silly.

The following evening, after a day of small, plain foods and replacement electrolytes, we decided to save some money and go back to Chaudi to have street food for dinner. At 6pm the food push-carts open up in a small square where the taxis and tuk tuks are stationed. Although armed with some advice from Laura, we weren't entirely sure what everything was and so did a bit of 'one of everything'. We started with Gobi Manchurian (we didn't know that's what it was called at the time). It's a bright red plate of deep fried and spiced cauliflower with shredded raw cabbage and crispy bits on top. We followed this with some spicy deep fried potatoes (not sure on the proper name). For pudding, we wandered over to what looked like the ice cream stall and Lauren ordered one cone. She was then presented with two pint glasses full of what appeared to be custard. Happy to give anything a go we didn't quibble and took some hearty gulps of the thick yellow gloop. It turned out to be a very sweet, thick, almond milkshake. Needless to say we were as happy as pigs in shit; everything was delicious and in total (including the tuk tuk back) cost less than £3!

Later on in the week we met up with Hattie and Michael from our tour in Palolem. Palolem is bigger and louder than Patnem, with many more tourists and touts to match. We went on a sunset sea cruise where we saw both dolphins and some young Indian men on another boat showing off. Surprisingly, there's a distinct shortage of authentic (and well-reviewed) Goan restaurants in Palolem so we settled on an Italian, which, even though I'm not into pizza or pasta, was very very good.

We had considered going to the Infamous Goa Silent Disco on Saturday night the day before we left but neither of us could muster up enough enthusiasm to justify the taxi travel, entry fees and booze, so we very boringly stayed in instead. We did however enjoy a bit of a rave because that night in our hut there was some sort of creature making bizarre clicking and squeaking noises. It was probably our consciences berating us for being old farts.

On our last day, before our late flight at 10pm, we found another little cute café called Jaali where Lauren spotted Joe McGann; a famous Liverpudlian Thespian. Unfortunately, we couldn't hang around for the Goa carnival that was on that day and evening as we had to get to the airport, but we did drive past some of the elaborate floats.

We kissed goodbye to Goa and India feeling refreshed and sad. India has gone above and beyond our expectations and we're already planning our next visit. If you haven't been yourself, I urge you to; the food, the people, the mayhem, the fun - unforgettable.


Posted by advensha 18:57 Archived in India Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches planes india goa backpacking backpackers palolem patnem

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Wonderful commentary Aisha. You can publish this all in a book eventually, it's like a Bill Bryson.........great stuff. X

by Joan Jones

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