Destination Goa (Part 9)
We moved from Baga Beach to Candolim for the last leg of the Holidays. Beautiful Hotel, slightly pricier and more up market than Acron. Can’t really fault any of the facilities. customer service, etc. Beautiful setting right on the beach, amazing gardens, decor etc, etc. however, I felt it lacked the personal touch.
HA.. Yes, had to snap that one.
Amazing spa, massage treatments. We got ourselves thoroughly spoiled. We didn’t do too much sightseeing after we came to Candolim. But we did roam the roads during the day and sometimes late evening/ early night.
We came across couple of great restaurants. Soi was one of our favourites. For many reasons – good food, great service and so close to our hotel. When the mercury hits high, along with humidity, you just don’t want to drag that leg of yours too far.
Loved the sign in front of Tuscany, showed that when you are on holidays just take it easy. Throw away that schedule. Gutsy move for a business though. We wanted to check the place just because of the sign. But neither of us were in the mood for Italian food. Maybe next time.
Months of planning, then finally the day arrives for our flights from opposite hemispheres to take off, then 1.00 am in the middle of Mumbai Airport, two 50 years old’s, hugging and almost shrieking like two teenagers, then the late night chats about our personal lives, we cried for each other, we advised each other, we laughed at each other and tomorrow it comes to an end. We say good bye to Goa and to each other.
I will make another post to cap off everything. Especially about my trip back via Mumbai, my misconceptions about India etc. I think I owe them that much.
Destination Goa (part 7)
I left my last blog with a “but…”
Sorry for the cliff hanger. Ok lets get ready with the mission impossible theme music for the build up. Sorry for the disappointment, no major buts (or butts), realised that to keep a travel blog interesting is harder than I thought. Also I was writing my blog at night after a long day, so I decided to stop right there after the but.
Jan and I were really tired, hungry at the same time excited. We were torn between admiring the view from our balcony or adorning the bed. Not sure of the order, but I think there was a shower, coffee for Jan and tea for me and then a bit of a nap. More like an attempt at a nap, we were both over tired and over excited to actually fall asleep. Both of us fighting jet lag from different hemispheres didn’t help either. The whole day one of was sleepy and the other wasn’t, the one who wasn’t kept the other one up.
What I loved about these rooms were that each one was a seperate unit. Its not a hotel where it’s just a big square building with a corridor in the middle with rooms on either side.
The gardens werew well kept. The pool looked clean. Slowly the fear of being in India was disappearing. The major plus with Acron was that the breakfast was extended till 1.00 pm. I think for those on holidays with teenagers who are usually an off shoot of the sloth family, this would be a definite plus.
Jan and I slowly descended down the stairs to have some brunch. There is something to be said about eastern hospitality. But at acron it was more than just eastern hospitality.
I like to add something I wrote on”trip advisor”. For this jogs my memory of individual names and events. Please note I am not paid for this segment/endorsement. I am writing purely for the benefit of the readers who may be enticed to make a visit to Goa.
I am not surprised that this place is rated number 1 in Goa at present. I am looking for a word higher than Excellent to describe their customer service. There is customer service and then there is Goan Service and then above that would be Acron Service. We were treated like queens from the very beginning and it didn’t end even after we checked out.
We arrived very early from our flight. They were still willing to pick us up that early. After 3 back to back flights we were extremely exhausted. Taking this into account, they got our rooms ready and let us check in straight away. And this was at 8.30 am. They did not charge a penny more for such an early check in. Paul and his comrades see to it that the pampering and special treatments start from then on.
We booked Acron because we couldn’t get all of our stay in another 5 star hotel. So we were going to stay here for the first 3 days and then move to the other. I am glad the other place didn’t have the availability which made us come here. Else we would have missed this gem.
Ashwini and Gautam at front office make anything look possible. They organised us a trip to see a spice plantation, churches and temple. Our driver Avinash was with us the entire day. A very polite and knowledgeable man. Anytime you want to step out of the hotel to see the beach or get a bite, they will organise a free shuttle car. The beach is only a 10 min walk, so you have the choice of walking or they can organise a vehicle.
You’re treated with Breakfast from 7.00am (I am not sure, we never woke up early enough to find out) till 1.00pm. You will be greeted by Rajesh the tall elegant lad, Chinmoy a really sweet natured human being, Sooraj sweet but cheeky as well, I am smiling as I recall. There were many others whose names have escaped my jet lagged memory. Along with all of them looking after you and having a chat you will also get a visit by Mildred. Mildred is like the icing on the cake. You are in this happy place, your room is perfect, your view is amazing and the service is faultless and you think nothing can top this nor does it need any topping. And then they send you Mildred. She is a breath of fresh air, full of energy, anything you need, and she will make it happen even suggest things to do, places to go and she will organise and make it all possible. She fits the job and the job the fits her perfectly. I am not sure the word Customer Service is adequate with the staff here. As it is so genuine it transfers to another level. I have to congratulate the management as well. They have picked the right staff with the right attitude and given them the confidence and latitude. Which we found lacking in the 5 star hotel.
Loved the architecture of the place. Losing the corridors and mass building, it gives the illusion that you are living in your own town house. The pool with a look of overflowing into the river, again gives that illusion that you are one with the river. Pool chairs inside the pool, well that’s a novel idea, but works as well. Free drinks and live music at the pool side from 7.00pm – 8.00pm is again a nice touch.
I could keep on writing. If you are thinking of visiting India, I think Goa is a must and if you are visiting Goa, stay at Acron.
I think in my bnext blog I will talk about the food, culture and everything else.
Destination Goa (part 6)
We were really tired after the million flights and we wanted to get to our hotel asap. We were concerned if we could find our driver from Acron Waterfront amongst this massive crowd. Just then we saw the name board with our names on. Hard to explain our feelings at that time. It was a combination of relief and excitement.
We walked to our van. I don’t think it was parked legally. But I think that was the norm. Our van started off surrounded by a lot honking. I put my seat belt on. My sister in law Jan tried to put hers. But her side belt was broken. I joked that was her punishment for making me marry her brother.
Our actual holiday was now starting. Our driver didn’t speak much English. But seemed like a nice guy. He smiled a lot for the million questions we were asking.
We were trying take in all the scenary of Goa. Looked pretty green. But we also saw snippets of poverty. Modern billboards adorned the sides of the freeway. Battle between modernisation and poverty were rather evident.
Poverty is confronting, especially if you are from the western world. But, only a few of us want to really get involved. Most of us our sympathisers from a distance. Jan and I belonged to the same hypocrisy club.
We were hoping and praying that our hotel was somewhere nice. Acron was on the other side of Baga bridge or beach or both. It was a fair distance away from the airport . The road was becoming more remote. Our concerns were hightening.
Eventually we entered into Acron. It looked really beautiful. We were greated by more smiling faces at their outdoor reception/ office area. We were immediately offered a drink. I think it was Gauva juice. We were sceptical about accepting the drink due to all the warnings re water. We were assured this was clean and safe. I took a few sips. It did taste nice but was scared to take in more sips.
We booked the garden view rooms, as they were a few bobs cheaper. It was still pretty early in the morning, but they announced that they had a Waterview room ready and they were going to give it to us and didn’t charge us anything extra for early check in nor for the upgrade of the room.
We were both so tired this gesture was heaven sent. Good start to our holiday. But…
Destination Goa (Part 3)
Passport – check, Tickets – check, Phone – check, Phone – charger check, Ipad – check, Thyroxin – check. I was anxious that I was going to leave something behind. I was already anxious about this trip but to make things worse, just days before the departure, the Indian Government called in all the 500RS notes. This in turn caused a massive shortage of money in the country. Also couldn’t buy any Indian currency in Australia. And we heard reports that there were massive queues at atm machines and banks. “just our luck” we thought.
I was anxious of the unknown safety issues, I was excited about meeting my buddy and having a well earned break, I was sad about leaving hubby, son and my baby dog, (well I had to include and hubby and son to avoid judgement. But then again no shame in admitting that I was glad to lose them for a week or so to get a bit of rest, but my doggy on the other hand, I am really going to miss him). Those droopy eyes were telling me “mummy don’t leave me”.
Australian immigration – it took me all of 5 minutes to clear. Just like Jim Jeffreys said, Aussie airport and it’s security practices/measures are rather unique. Not exactly unique but definitely very different to most other airports. Don’t get me wrong, it is safe as anywhere can be. But, just don’t have the same panic and stress ridden atmosphere. The guy checking your passport, no sorry there is no guy checking your passport, a machine does matching for you. You have almost no human contact. You see plenty of humans, but no one seems to care about you, they just want you to just piss off, without giving chance to form a queue. You will be rushed through automatic sliding door after door and you are now way too early for your flight.
Took my tablet out and started to write, continuation of my story “friendship and war…” well I haven’t settled on the heading yet. With all the travel plans I hadn’t touched this for sometime. Read the last page I had written, did some editing. Then continued on with the story. Couple of times I stopped and glanced around to see what everyone else was doing. It looked like they were practicing boredom.
Finally time to board. Once again I had to smile sheepishly at the young good looking guy, well not sure if he was good looking, but he was definitely tall and ask him if he could put my hand luggage up in the overhead locker. He was only too happy to oblige. Again not sure if he was happy as such, but nevertheless helped the short damsel in distress.
The problem with living in Australia is that, it is really down, down down there. And also it is a such a huge country. And if you are from South Australia, it takes nearly 3 hours before you can leave your own fricking country. I watched a movie and some comedy skit on a tiny screen, with screen moving as per the front persons movements. It was better to get back to writing. I put the tablet on my lap rather than on the moving tray table.
Drinks cart was a welcome interruption. “Sav Blanc” didn’t taste like any “Sav Blanc ” I’ve ever tasted. But it was free. Also, this was the beginning of the “girls” holiday. So, I convinced myself, “holiday begins now”. So rubbish Sav blanc or not I had to have it. But all in all it wasn’t too bad a flight. Spoke to hubby from the airport. Sent a couple of messages to Jan. But she didn’t answer. She must have been still mid air.
I did some window shopping. I planned what to buy on my return journey. Had a cup of tea, a massage, visited the butterfly garden and time passed. Time for my next flight. The one that I was most anxious and nervous about. Mumbai here I come.
Destination Goa (part 2)
We both liked the sound of Goa. We started to do more research about the place from the internet as well as from known people. Glenn was great at calming my nerves. As well as giving me valuable information about the place and giving me tips on the do’s and don’ts. We got to know Glenn through my youngest son. He was the Director for many of the drama productions my son was involved in. Glenn is white on the outside but truly an Indian on the inside. He visits and at times lives in India for long periods. At this particular time he was living in Mumbai and regularly visiting Goa.
The advise we heard from many was to avoid South Goa. Russian mafia seems to have an influence in that part of Goa and makes it an unsavoury place for Tourists. But, then again it would depend on your age group and your interests I think. Glenn summed it up nicely. He said South Goa for Russians is like Bali for Aussies. Glenn also gave me places to eat and have a drink. Places where if I say his name and said I was Glenn’s friend I would be treated well.
I also had a chat to another friend and work colleague. She was from Goa, or her family was from Goa. She was born in Africa but her family originally comes from Goa and she still had many cousins who lived there. She gave me a array of phone numbers, just in case we needed some help.
Armed with places to eat and phone numbers to call we were now feeling a lot more confident in booking our flights and accommodation.
Once again my buddy became a fly at the buffet. For weeks we were stripping Trip Advisor website to shreds. Every review was scrutanised. In the meantime one of her friends parted the words “you must stay at Taj holiday village”. https://vivanta.tajhotels.com/en-in/holiday-village-goa/
We had looked at this previously (many a times I might add), but now when we were finally ready to book, they did not have the dates available. The only option given to us was that they could accommodate us for the last two of the dates of our holiday. Jan was happy to take it, I was happy to take any thing. Horray, at least two days of our holidays we had a bed to sleep on.
So now we had to find another place for the beginning. Finally we settled on Acron Waterfront. In a way it was good that we did not get more than two days to stay at Taj as it was very pricey. https://www.acronwaterfrontresortgoa.com/
Along with trying to get accommodation in Goa, we also tried our best to align our itineraries. So, for me it was Aus to Singapore, Singapore to Mumbai, Mumbai to Goa. I was supposed to reach Mumbai around 9.00pm and then our flight to Goa was next morning at 5.00am. Jan after her million flights would reach Mumbai at 1.00am and leave for Goa on the same flight as me at 5.00am. Return journey, we would reach the airport at the same time but I leave to Mumbai and she would to Bangalore to get her connection for Kerala. This way we thought we could share the same cab/shuttle to and from the airport. Strength in numbers was our thinking.
I had a five or six hour stay in Singapore. I wasn’t concerned about that, I love that airport. I could spend a whole day without any trouble, my credit card might, but I have no issues of a lengthy stay at Singapore airport. On the other hand I was rather worried about my stay at the Mumbai airport. Found out that Mumbai had a Airport Transit hotel. So I made a booking for me, per my memory they do hourly or 4hr blocks. http://www.nirantahotels.com/
I was taking every precaution I could, I even bought a new handbag just for my travels. No, it wasn’t an excuse to buy another handbag. All my handbags are designed so I could just dump stuff in there. No zips or any other sealing mechanism. So I bought one that had a zip, straps that I could put it across my shoulder. All this to prevent the bag snatching.
Glenn kept assuring me that Mumbai was very safe and there was a lot of respect for “aunty” age people. But, I kept thinking what would a “white man” know. And he had just ticked me off by putting me in the “aunty” age group. For the benefit of other possible travelers to India, the other advise given to me was mainly regarding water. So only bottled water and no salads.
I did get a few jabs. Can’t remember what they were for… possibly for Malaria, Hep B and Hep C and something else. Not sure which Hep I took. Sometimes people have natural immunity to one of them. It’s best to do a blood test to find out if you have this natural immunity. You need to start on the jabs about a month before. My advise would be to check with your GP a month ahead rather than rely on the above information.
Applied online for the Indian Visa. Be aware there are many bogus websites. I guess one way to find out if you are in the right website is in the number of stupid questions asked. If you are in the right website, then you would need information on pretty much everyone and everything. I was surprised they did not have a question about my cat. It would have been hard to explain that I do not own a cat. The problem also was that until you answer the question you cannot go to the next page. My dad passed away 30 years ago, they needed his occupation, qualification etc. Anyway, I diligently got all the information and submitted my application as I did not want to be deported. I uttered “bloody Indians” many a times (don’t judge me yet, I am apologetic for my judgement by the end of the trip). My visa arrived within about 2-3 days.
My dog was sulking as I started packing.
Destination Goa (Part 1)
I have taken a long absence from writing with the excuse of my fractured finger. Typing is still a bit of a challenge, but as each day passes, I feel the need to clang the keyboard. Writing is a time where I delve into my inner thoughts. It’s a time when I visualise the past and envisage the future. It allows me to listen to reason and rationalise the events, behaviours of people, It is a modem for me to question the society.
My dear Keyboard I have missed you. I felt this even more last night, when I was watching the movie “Finding Forester”. I am no “Forester”, not even “Jamal Wallace”. But one line rang true to me. I write for myself too. No denying that, it gives me a sense of happiness/pride or just satisfaction when someone else acknowledges my writing and understands my message. But at the time of writing, I very rarely give much thought to the reader. I do want to tell my story, at times I do want to change the societies perceptions, so obviously I do think about an audience. But most often it doesn’t occur to me until I have finished writing. When Sean Connery says “start typing, then thoughts can come later” yes first I start typing and words and thoughts just follow. It’s like talking I think, we don’t usually rehearse what we are going to say do we?
Well so much for writing about Goa, I’ve written more about writing.
I fell in love with Goa and vowed that I would write about it when I returned. But a few tragic events in the family and life in general got in the way for the long silence. I am not really a travel blogger, this is probably the first time I am going to write about a travel destination. So bare with me if it doesn’t give you everything you want to hear about the place.
My intentions were not only to talk about Goa but also about my perceptions of India and how wrong was I in some of my preconceived ideas of the place and it’s people.
Not sure when Jan and I became friends. We are kind of related, but everyone’s related in Sri Lanka. I remember snippets of our childhood. It was my grandfather’s funeral or after the funeral some ritual day. All our rituals ends with a feast at the end of the day. Both of us were sitting outside on a wall or ledge or something like that and eating a “Vadai” (my son describes it as a savoury doughnut). A crow swoops and pecks my head and snatches the “Vadai”. We both screamed and then cried. Our lives have always been that way since then. We’ve screamed at cockroaches and then cried for one another for lives so called challenges or mishaps. But, between the screaming and crying we didn’t forget to laugh together either. And I guess that’s what friendships all about.
We never realised that our lives were going to be more intertwined by our marriages later on in our lives. We didn’t attend the same school, We didn’t even live in the same city. We usually met at weddings and other family gatherings. Occasionally letters were written. We kept in touch and I knew she a girl who was kind hearted and I could rely upon. In my books she was a friend. Later in our lives, through a series of coincidences and maybe the thing called fate, I married her brother and she married my first cousin who was like a brother to me, (his dad and my dad were twins and we both had no siblings of our own, so we grew up regarding each other as brother and sister). We didn’t set out to marry each other’s brother. But that’s what happened. This did bring upon our bond even closer.
Fate did have some twisted notions as well. Fate took my cousin/brother away rather hurriedly, just like he did with my father and her mother. Mr. Fate was planning similar things for my youngest son and me, but we had other plans and so we turned him down or have postponed the invite. Through all this our friendship grew stronger. We became pretty strong women too.
We turned 50 last year. Destination Goa was all due to that. Jan and I don’t just live in different cities now, we live in different hemispheres. She hails from Canada and I from Australia.
We decided we need to celebrate the fact that we’ve made it to 50. We wanted to go somewhere for a holiday, just the two of us, no kids, husbands or pets to worry about. Just the two us, sipping Champagne and being pampered was the key to this holiday. Our families were all up for it too. Especially hubby wanted me to have a good time.
Planning was pretty tricky as Jan had limited leave and had a school reunion that was happening in Kerala (South India). She wanted to have a holiday with me, then Kerala and wanted to see her dad in Sri Lanka at the end. We didn’t know where to go. We hashed around many ideas, a cruise around Burma and Cambodia, Dubai and Maldives all investigated. But, couldn’t really fit it in with latter part of her schedule being fixed.
She kept saying why don’t you come to India. I was very reluctant as my previous trip to India wasn’t a pleasant one. I have been to India a couple of times but mainly to the south. Or that is the part that I remember. When I was just a baby my dad had gone to New Delhi to do his Masters and I had lived there for 2 years, speaking Hindi very fluently. At present I can only say “Acha”. We had pretty much toured the whole of India at this time, including Kashmir. But I don’t remember any of it.
Later when I was a mini teenager. I do remember some of the temples and their imposing architecture. But I also remember getting sick. But the one after that was when I vowed never again. Especially the Chennai airport. To make things worse, my cousin had a bad experience just weeks before with the Indian Visa. They were deported back to Australia for their own mistake and then allowed back in the next day. Yes “huh?@?” is what comes to mind.
Eventually I gave in as all other destinations would mean that Jan would spend more time at different airport on transit than with me. So we decided we will pick another city in India, so at least for her it will be just another internal flight to Kerala. Now the task of picking a city in India. Now, for all the amazing things about Jan, she could be a real pain in the rear when it comes to making a decision. She is like a fly at a Buffet. We or more like her started at Darjeeling – she wanted to feel the Himalayas. I felt like “Asterix” banging his own head. Anyway slowly I managed to settle her with Goa.
My hubby who was encouraging me on this holiday was now a bit reluctant. He was not too keen on me going on my own to India. To be honest I was very nervous too, after all the horror stories you hear about foreigners coming to harms way in countries like India and my cousin being deported back didn’t help my anxiety.
That’s all my finger can take it for today. Cont….