Trying to Keep Cool

Trip Start Sep 16, 2002
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Trip End Jun 14, 2003


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Flag of India  ,
Thursday, May 29, 2003

Unfortunately due to the delay in getting to India in the first place and the imminence of the monsoon heading up the country, our plans to visit Kerala were put on hold for a while at least. Instead the need to come back to England with a tan meant Goa was a perfect substitute and a week on a deserted beach, lined by swaying palm trees did the job perfectly. Palolem beach is the furthest south in Goa and has little of the package holiday development associated with the beaches further north. Instead a few other Westerners, including Eithne, a very friendly Irish lass, were mainly joined by the locals, also here to escape the heat.

It was great fun watching the locals on the beach. They tend to visit with four generations of their family and while none of them seem to be able to swim, they all splash around happily on the water's edge - the women in their saris and the men in their ill-fitting underwear. Not a pleasant sight in most cases, especially the guy who had tight Superman underpants. The young local men also find it very difficult not to stare at the Western women sun bathing on the beach and do so in the most unsubtle manner. A few stern stares back from Jo usually had them walking off in the other direction rather embarrassed. The days were spent relaxing on the beach, watching the locals bring the fishing nets in by hand. There were plenty of beach side cafes to enjoy the view and the food, especially the fresh fish, was excellent.

We also explored the state capital, Panjim, where the Portuguese influence is rather obvious in the white washed churches and chracteristic Latin Quarter. We stayed in a heritage hotel which was decked in beautiful dark wood and had the only four poster bed of the trip. Panjim is also home to India's only casino; a floating casino which gets round India's strict anti-gambling laws. We spent a few enjoyable hours on board enjoying the complementary food and drink whilst gambling our remaining money. Jo was a shark on the blackjack table while Simon seemed incapable of anything but losing at roulette. We also spent another evening on an entertainment cruise which seem to involve some terrible traditional dancing and the locals dancing as if they were stars in a Bollywood movie.

A short distance away is Old Goa, the centre of the old Portuguese rule and home to a very large concentration of churches. Most famous is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, home of the remains of St. Francis Xavier. Although currently situated high on an altar (with the head only just in view), the body is brought down for full viewing every ten years (the next time is 2004). Unfortunately it is not complete - an arm was removed in the 17th century to be sent to Rome and a Portuguese woman bit off two toes around the same time. It reminded the two of us of the mummies we had seen in Cairo museum and is rather bizarre.

From Goa we headed back up to Delhi on a couple of overnight trains, the second of which was made interesting by the fact the Indian couple opposite had brought 15 pieces of luggage including a full size TV, a stereo and a large bag of what we think was rice. Their things were everywhere in the carriage. The amount of luggage on the plane home also indicated the Indians do not travel lightly. Back in Delhi the temperature was stinking hot (47 degrees in the day, 33 degrees at night) which made doing things extremely hard work. We did visit the Red Fort and the largest mosque in India (which can hold 25,000 people), as well as the memorials for Mahatma Gandhi and Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. All were well done although slightly bizarre in that they contained, among other things, the bullet which killed Mahatma Gandhi and the soiled and bloodstained clothes both Indira and Rajiv were wearing the days they were assassinated. We saw a surprising amount of Delhi, whizzing round on small rickshaws. The place is certainly very interesting to visit, if slightly hectic, although you will inevitably visit numerous emporiums (thanks to your friendly rickshaw driver) selling some useless tourist souvenirs. Still it was a great city to end our trip, a vibrant, cosmopolitan city (which now has a great Mexican restaurant) that was perhaps just a little too hot for us.
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