05 January 2008

Goa, where life is colourful - Day 1

.23 Dec 2007.

You have to listen to this Goan chillout i found at the flea market when reading this post. It's amazing.

Goa is an unexpected surprise, we knew it as a destination where we could dive and perhaps chill by the beach when we first decided to go there. Little did we know, we'd make good friends, feel as welcomed and bring home so much good memories.

.Travel route: Baga, Panaji, Old Goa, Anjuna.

Goa, the tiny state lying on the west coast of India, is known for its world famous beaches, swaying coconut palms and delicious seafood. A little history on Goa tells that its natural harbours and wide rivers was an ideal base for the seafaring Portuguese, who then controlled the trade routes (dominantly spices) across the Indian Ocean and widely spread Christianity. It's Portuguese influence is evident when i visited Old Goa, it does not feel like you're in India at all.

Upon arrival in Goa, we were quite stunned at the miniscule size of the airport but relieved at the sight of other foreigners. Right outside the airport were flocks of "receivers" hustling for their guests. Thankfully, without much trouble, i spotted a "Lee, Yong".. that's me!! If you notice, there's a string of flowers hanging from the license plate. I later found out from my driver in New Delhi that Saturday is considered a "bad" day in India. The charm is for good luck, any cabs with those charms will be preferred by passengers. Though, he failed to explain to me in his bestest English why Saturday is a "bad" day. It will remain a mystery until i'm free enough to google it.

.View of Goa from atop.

.(L) Is that Hiro Nakamura??. (R) This is what i deem self-confidence!.

The ride from the airport to Baga is roughly one hour. In this one hour, i've gasped at men pissing by the roadside, stuck my head outside the window for that cool breeze, wowed at the winding uphill routes with a town view, sweared at the deafening, undying honks, hollered at cows and laughed at a family of five cramped in a tiny bike signalling to turn right by waving their hands. It's unbelievable. The idea of us being in India, and celebrating Xmas in a place we've only learned about the past week hasnt exactly sunk in yet. Occassionally, we'd turn to each other and blurt out a "I cant believe we're here babe..."

.From Panaji to Baga.

When we finally reached our hotel, we had to brace ourselves for what's instore. The walk to the reception reeked of cowdung and piss, there were millions of mosquitoes zooming for my legs, gahhhh BUDGET la BUDGET! It looked so much better in the pictures posted in MakeMyTrip. Though it's cramped, i must say it's comfortable at a basic level. What's important is the bathroom is clean! While i was spritzing away with my anti-mosquito can, Caryn screamed "OMG, there's a balcony!!" That balcony is a huge blessing. >_< Muhuuhuu. Oh and the 35rupees Kingfisher beer.

.Goan Holiday Resort, Baga.

A couple of bottles later led to nightfall. It's dinnertime! I had a whole list of restaurants to choose from, all top-rated by travellers. As it's our 1st night, we wanted to try some local food, Mirabai's review stood out among the rest: "The best! Authentic Goan. Good, excellent sea food, charming knowledgeable owner" and that was the best decision we've made.

.By Baga beach.

Mirabai's built like an open shack, laid with seatings in and outside the restaurant where you can kick off your sandals and dig your feet into the cool, soft sand. We chose to sit ourselves on the upper deck right under the moonlight fanned by coconut trees. It's absolute bliss.

.Cheap Goan food.

So we ordered with the "everything must try" attitude and ended up with more than we can swallow. The appetisers, esp Chicken Rama Fry, Beef Chili Fry, distinct taste are totally indescribable. We later found out that it is the spices that gives it that strange yet absolutely delicious taste and aroma i've not savour before in my life. No Joke!

Now, this drink deserves the *drumroll*. Before i came, a guidebook on Goa highlighted it as "a drink you should not take on an empty stomach, a drink you should offer your friends if you want to incapacitate them", a drink we thought we have to try! It is Goa's most famous double distilled perfectly clear and fearfully potent drink that is made from cashew nuts - Feni. Respect man...

We asked the waiter if we should have a shot before our meal, his face wrinkled almost immediately, shaking his head "Nooo, nooo, maybe a little.. hmm nooo". Better take his advice 'cos we know the word that goes around;

"You dont realise how strong it is until you get up."

.The killer - Feni. Needless to say i brought some back muhuuhuu.

Vasu, the owner of Mirabai checked in on us. He thought he's got a prank call when i called to make reservations. The whole restaurant was packed with expatriates and he seemed to know all of them individually. He first appeared cool and collected but slowly ease in to our conversation. I, being keypoh as usual tossed him a million and one questions about Goa, about their culture, about his life, and about feni. So, i found out that most women in Goa do not work. You wont find any women working as waitresses, salesgirls, bartenders or anything along that line in Goa, those who dare to will be judged and deemed a "bad" woman. And if they do work, they are usually found doing menial office jobs.

According to Vasu, life is Goa is pretty much laid-back. People are not very rich here, but they're not very poor either. They are all in a way contented with their life. Crime rate is very low, which i have to agree when i dont feel the least threatened when i walk down the streets.

It wasnt long before we thought we should start making a move, to Tito's, supposedly a very popular nightclub in Goa. Even my orthodontist told me i have to go to Tito's. But Vasu quickly brush us off "No.. the most happening nightclub in Goa now is Paradiso" and offered to drive us there when he closes up. How nice!

With Vasu.

.Mirabai - the wonderful restaurant, named after Vasu's mum.

.While waiting for Vasu, his amazing dog Sheeka led us down the neverending beach, constantly turning to check that we're on his tail. Along the beach lies an entire stretch of bars and restaurants all donned with christmas decorations and striking neon lights. People were jiggying to the latest bollywood tunes, britney spears is blasting in the next bar while we
stopped for shisha and a glass of kingfisher. It was a psychedelic experience.

Vasu cut through alot of corners, into villages, over tons of humps and it got us wondering where the hell is he taking us. After a good 20minutes, we were greeted by a huge Paradiso sign sporting a pink lotus - which was considered the "sacrosanct third eye" by Om-tattooed European Goahead ravers. Vasu handslapped the owner and got us in for free, which would have otherwise cost us a 1000 rupees each, with free flow of drinks. N.I.C.E.

As we channeled down the staircase that has a prehistoric touch to it, faint sounds of trance rhythms started piercing my ears. There were Europeans everywhere, lazing on the sunchairs, dancing, and snapping away.

Vasu showed us around the club and led us down another set of stairs to a private open space that is usually open for big events and VIPs. Here is when we realised what the club is sitting on. Paradiso is actually poised on a wind-blown Anjuna cliff top. The view is absolutely stunning.

Our 1st day in Goa has been very positive. Meeting Vasu was a bonus. With a contented stomach, we went to bed early to freshen up for our Xmas Dive the next morning.


Anonymous said...

Hi! My 2 girlfriends and I also went to Goa this xmas, and we went to Mirabai and met Vasu also. We also got coco feni and a trip to Paradiso :) Funny.. Seems to be a thing he does for the young and beautiful girls who eats at his restaurant :)
Hope u liked Goa very much - we did!

Lee on January 15, 2008 at 1:42 PM said...

Hi! Haha, perhaps that's his thing. But he definitely is a good host and did not in any way tried to be fresh. We loved Goa very much, it is one place everyone who's travelling to India shld stop by. =)

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