Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

Posts tagged ‘Holiday’

#1 Thing to do in Goa – Check out Every Beach You Can!

Goa Beaches

Goa Beaches

Goa is a tiny sliver of land on the west of India and is rather famed for its beaches. So when you visit the state, what else would you rather do than hit the beach, frolic in the Arabian sea and lounge on the soft sand. When you’ve done dozing in the shade of a palm tree, grab a beer, tuck into some Goan food at the quaint palm thatched shacks or just go for long strolls to vibe with the sultry sea breeze.

Goa is administratively divided into North and South and the 101 kilometers of coast line is dotted with a number of lovely beaches.

Beaches in North Goa

Goa Beach_2From way up North, you start with the fairly isolated Arambol, Mandrem, the Olive Ridley turtle nesting site of Morjim, Vagator and then on to Anjuna famed for its flea market. The fort of Chapora turns into a rocky outcrop that reaches out to Baga, Calangute draws the marauding throngs, Candolim and Sinquerim where you bump into Fort Aguada, which is a rather pretty place. Round a little bend, Coco beach at Nerul and then you jump over the river Mandovi and its Miramar on the suburbs of the capital city – Panjim. Dona Paula is not much of a beach really, further down is Bambolim and Sridao, which are  wonderfully private little beaches and then you plunge into the river Zuari that actually divides the North of the State from the South.

Beaches in South Goa

Goa_Beach_3In the South you begin with the lovely and quiet Bogmalo, Velsao, the infamous Vasco, Majorda, Betalbatim, crowded Colva where all the hordes descend for a flavor of the south of Goa. Then on to the five star locales of the South, Benaulim, Varca, Cavelossim and Mobor, the picturesque Betul and Canaguinim. At the extreme south of the state, you encounter the secluded yet gorgeous beaches of Agonda, the coco huts of Palolem and then Talpona.

This is indeed a tall list of beaches to visit in a single trip and a great reason for you to visit Goa again.

To move around, hire a bike, they are rather inexpensive or if you’ll a larger group a self-driven car would be great. This should help you travel cost-effectively. Hiring a car with a driver is exorbitant in Goa, and public transport is pathetic.

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Things to do on the beaches of Goa

  • Wear light, loose casual clothes that dry quickly. Avoid expensive clothes as the sea water would seriously damage them
  • For footwear, a pair of rubber or plastic slippers or thin sandals would ensure they are not ruined even if they get wet
  • When you’ve on the beach take time to relax, it’s an extremely beautiful place to be at, especially during sunrise and sunset
  • Keep your camera at the ready and take lots of memorable pictures
  • The sea is relatively calm in Goa, except during the monsoons, so you could have a great time and venture in a bit if you are a good swimmer
  • The shacks are lovely places to hang out at, most offer good music, but they can be expensive and the food is not always the best
  • The lady hawkers trawling the beach sell lovely accessories at really low rates. Just the place if you are looking for a bargain
  • Carry lots of suntan lotion to ensure you don’t get sunburnt, a wide brimmed hat will be most useful too
  • Don’t just abandon your belonging and get into the water, your stuff could get stolen

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Things not to do on the beaches of Goa

  • Don’t litter the beach with beer cans, glass bottles and plastic. If you don’t find a bin, you will have to wait and dispose of the waste at your hotel
  • Do not stare at people, irrespective of how they are dressed or their skin colour. It’s just not cultured or polite – most of us Indians just don’t get this, do we?
  • Avoid getting drunk and getting into the sea. Just stay hydrated, that’s going to be difficult enough in hot, humid Goa
  • If the lifeguard waves you away from the water, take the advice. They are unlikely to be able to save you in case you find yourself drowning
  • Avoid getting into the sea after dark, it’s just not safe

If you are looking for a unique stay in Goa, that is homely, cost- effective and safe, book into a homestay. Like our Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/goaallyear and contact us at lilliandcosta@gmail.com

It’s Fine Weather and Lovely in Sri Lanka

It was my second trip to the island nation but I still couldn’t hold back the excitement. As the small 70 seater Spice Jet plane landed, welcoming us to Sri Lanka was a huge coconut grove on the left and the inviting blue of the sea to the right, the humid sultry wind and yippee it’s the warmest embrace of the emerald island.

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The crushing hordes of Bangalore seem light years behind and after just a 45 minute flight I am well into a beautiful country with lovely people, cleaner air and surrounded by uncharacteristic bonhomie.

There are so many things about this country, which is just about the size of one of the larger states of India that are still so fundamentally different and uniquely pleasant from its towering neighbor.

Colombo is prim in a gently, elegant sort of way.  Broad roads straddled by clean, even footpaths, zebra crossing at regular intervals and if you are at a crossing, vehicles stop – from Prius to Trishaws as they are called in Sri Lanka. Drivers look out and smile and people are kind and sensitive to each other and to strangers too!

What really stands out in Sri Lanka are the perfectly flat roads in all the places I traveled, from Colombo to Kandy, Dambulla to Sigiriya. Not a single speed breaker. Drivers strictly follow the rules and if you are in a Prius, the drive is as comfortable as a flight or better actually.

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Standing by the lake just off Gangaramaya Temple I ogle at Prius, Audis, BMWs and Mercs passing by. Owning a car is extremely expensive in Sri Lanka, taxes can be nearly two and a half times the price of the car, but the Lankan’s have class, it does not seem like they will settle for anything less than the best, and the Government likes to keep it that way. What you can’t fail to miss is organized Colombo is the noise, smoke and bustle of Indian roads. Vehicles don’t honk unless the driver ahead has broken a rule and in that way they monitor each other.

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Most people speak English, are innately helpful, friendly and hospitable to others. It’s not uncommon to see lots of tourist from France and other Scandinavian countries with tiny kids in tow. Isn’t it hard to travel with children I inquired, “No” they said, “people here are extremely helpful if they see you have kids”. Lankan’s are also an honest and hardworking people and you can see it in the zest with which they are rebuilding the country to take its rightful place on the international tourism map.

The courtesy and law abiding mannerism of the Sri Lankan people really displayed itself one my first day there. A friend was taking a picture of Independence Square and a car actually stopped not to ruin her picture. Unthinkable from where I come from. On our way to Kandy the next day, we just about managed to get train tickets in the general compartment. Since there was a festival at Kandy, the compartment was crowded. Even though the second class boogie was empty, I was asked to desist from heading there and grabbing a seat by my Sri Lankan friend who said, “If people with tickets don’t get in at the next station, I will go meet the ticket collector and we will pay for the upgrade”.  Chastened, I chose to enjoy the beautiful shades of green as the train gently ascended to higher climbs.

Did you know, the Lankan’s like to sing. They have ‘Only Bollywood’ radio stations and folks love to watch Hindi movies. Young boys and girls grow up with deep crushes for Katrina Kaif and Shahrukh Khan. Not only do they sing Bollywood song, they also sing Sinhala songs, set to Bollywood tunes!

Just like the lovely people, the food is soft on the pallet and low on fat and spice. String hoppers with fish, chicken or pork curry, egg hoppers, Kottu Parotta, fish, Buryani, Dodol, ginger beer, sweetened tea are all wonderfully delicious foods and beverages. If however you still want to grab a brunch or snack early evening, Perera and Sons or P&S as it is popularly known is a welcome respite.

For those who haven’t heard Sinhala, it sounds very similar to a South Indian language, yet without the emphatic highs and sharp edges. With gentle lilting contours, Sinhala can drone on and on in a melodious feminine way, like the hills to Kandy.

But what fascinated me most was the Sri Lankan currency. Paper notes come in a number of hues, sizes and prints, and brought back to me the childhood excitement at a game of Monopoly. The denominations range from Re 1 to Rs 2000, and I just couldn’t resist keeping back some colourful blue, pink and green.

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Sri Lanka is steeped in Buddhism with a smattering of Islam and Christianity. There are little temples and statues of the meditating Buddha everywhere, and it is probably this rich tradition of non-violence, love for your brethren and search for equanimity that overarches and crafts Sri Lankan tradition and culture.  Besides the Gangaramaya Temple, is the Kelaniya temple just 12 kms from Colombo, the tooth temple in Kandy is a sacred pilgrimage spot, the golden and cave temples in Dambulla are yet another sight and the Lion foot and the Pidurangala Cave Temples at Sigiriya offer panoramic vistas that are memorable. All the temple are rich is frescos from ground to ceiling, and display stories on the life of the Buddha, if you have a guide explaining along the way that would be most helpful, if not, would you care to do a week’s research.

Sri Lanka is also famed for its quite pristine beaches and snorkeling and with the decades of war at an end, once isolated beaches in East or North Sri Lanka are being developed.

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However just because the country seems small don’t think you can wrap your holiday around it in less than a week, the roads are excellent, but narrow and driving is slow. That’s why zipping around Sri Lanka is just not an option, and I firmly believe one needs to know what they want before they head there. It’s either the beach or the pilgrimage sites. That makes for either a longer stay or two holidays. Relax, enjoy yourself, don’t waste your time trying to shop and just take in the wonderful ambiance called Sri Lanka.

Holidaying in Gods Own Country

Statistics on tourism in Kerala are all UP!! According to figures put out by the Government of Tourism, Kerala saw an 11.18 % increase in foreign tourist arrival in 2012. Domestic tourist arrival was up by 9.15%, so were foreign exchange earnings, which grew by 11.18% and total revenue from tourism grew 9.74%. Not bad during recessionary time and I’m not surprised by the numbers.

Its balmy winter in Bangalore, but we decided on an extended weekend in Kerala. We were driving down there for a colleagues wedding. Five in the morning, dawn is ready to break and our Punto rushed to get out of the city before it awakes. Beautiful four lane drives, mist flanking the road, plants lining the highway and occasionally a bright bunch of flowers too, the characteristic granite reliefs of the South, some excellent music and we were cruising at 100 kms per hour. Thank you Reeves Mathews for wonderfully managing the wheels!

A huge breakfast of blueberry pancakes, fresh fruits and croissants, at Salem and off we shot for lunch in Palakkad, Kerala. Simple yet tasty fair beef fry and parotas, on bone chain plats at a small yet well maintained restaurant along the highway, some awesome view works well with the wonderful food.

We were in Kerala for three whole days, all in Palakkad district, and we never encountered a bad road! Tree lined roads, with dividers and reflectors, 98% of drivers are well behaved and this is another feather in Kerala’s cap.

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After my first encounter with beef, I decided that the weather, which is hot and humid like all coastal places, is just not conducive to red meat. And boy, was it the right decision. For subsequently, we really pigged out on some of the freshest and tastiest fish I have ever eaten. No small feat, considering I come from another coastal state just up North – Goa.

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Unlike Goa, Kerala is neither overpriced, nor nauseously commercial. For hours you drive through villages of pretty modern homes, all painted in bright hues, and sitting midst a generous garden. The crush of people that you see in cities like Bangalore, is thankfully missing, the air is fresh and when the humidity gets to you, stop by for some tender coconut water, pickled pineapple or even tangy Amala. How’s that for a healthy snack?

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We stayed at a beautiful hotel called Devaragam in the holy town of Guruvayur. Quiet, lovely airy rooms, polite staff, pleasant décor, and affordable, its shouting distance from the temple. December – January is Sabarimala season in Kerala and devotees invariable stop over at Guruvayur too. That explained the rush at the temple.

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The Guruvayur temple is a very popular Krishna temple and is amazingly small and filled with wooden carvings and frescos. It reminded me that the temple was probably built for a much smaller population. It is auspicious to get married at this temple, so each year hundreds, or probably thousands of couples tie the knot here. Strangely, the religious ceremony lasts for 3-4 minutes and then it’s the turn of the next couple!

Post the wedding, which was an elaborate, grand occasion and typically Malyalee from ‘Oh My Gold’ fame, we drove down to Snehatheeram beach. Narrow, clean and uncrowded, the Snehatheeram beach mostly sees the local population and a few fishermen mending their nets. The beach is lined with coconut trees, the sand dunes and their vegetation still intact. We saw just one foreigner in all our time there, how she located the place is probably a credit to Google maps.

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The next day saw a long drive along hairpin curves to Thirapally waterfalls. It seems some scenes of the Hindi movie Raavan were shot here. It’s a huge gushing barrage of water and you can see it both from the top of the fall or experience its might by going down to its foot.

Some great company, a sure driver who enjoys the road and Kerala can be super fun, affordable and of course memorable too.

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Holidaying In the Wild South – Nagarhole

A small diversion of the beautiful 8 lane Bangalore – Mysore freeway, down some terrible narrow roads and Bingo, you are smack in the middle of Nagarhole National Park, also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park. It was a long weekend in early May and we decided, like scores of others to hightail out of simmering Bangalore.

Unknowingly, but with a happy coincidence we had booked a homestay on the periphery of the national park and so boy, did we feast our eyes.

Nagaraj, mom who was down from Goa and myself, all in a battered down sumo vehicle, the bad roads and rattling vehicle notwithstanding, we were all geared for some wild excitement!

A check-post, sign in your car number,  a few kilometers ahead a big board says welcome to Nagarhole National Park

The sights and sounds of modern life recede and we drive down a single lane bumpy road. The signal on our phone vanishes and we drive and drive through dry forest. It’s May, and there are shades of brown starting from just off the road. The only bright colours are the boards that spring up at regular intervals our left and right. Put up by the forest department, the boards are instructional, like “do not stop your vehicle”, “do not get out of your vehicle”, “do not honk”, “do not drive above 30 kms an hour”, “speed kills” animals in this case, common sense stuff really, but when you are a moron from a city I guess this is indeed helpful stuff.

The trees are cleared 3 meters off on each side of the road and then the scrub begins. These clearings with roughly hewn holes have been carefully designed so that wide-eyed folks like us see more wild animals. It had rained the night before and at a little pool by the side of the road we were face to face with an India gaur. You recognize an Indian gaur, not only from its large size and huge hump, but its 4 white socked feet as well. It’s amazing to be before such a magnificently large creature but god help if it’s in a bad mood and decides to charge.

Spotted deer range free and often break the scrub and bushes to nibble off at tender green leaves facing the road. Male deer’s have majestic antlers that stretch out skywards; females with little ones are a bit skittish. As luck could have it we even saw a pair of barking deer. These are tiny deer really compared to their spotted cousins and you need to have a keen eye to see them. Thankfully, Nagaraj who even others has eyes like a hawk kept stopping the driver every few minutes.

Like deer, wild boar was plentiful and small herds could be seen foraging among leaves and swampy grasses. We bumped into a playful pack of wild dogs and saw mongoose scampering by, couldn’t get that one on film. A tree stripped off every leaf but full of wild figs had as many as six Giant Indian Squirrels eating up with gay abandon, we caught pictures of the Racket Tail Drongo, peacock and wild hens.

The mornings were especially beautiful as the mist hung heavy over the forest and the haunting call of the cuckoo rang from tree to tree. Parrots and parakeets broke into periodic cacophony and in this surreal setting, Nagaraj chanced upon a herd of 4 elephants with a calf.

Nagarhole is surrounded by coffee plantations and human habitation is constantly shrinking the forest, when the surroundings are loaded with fruit, especially jackfruit, the strong fragrance draws elephants which rampage through the coffee plantations. But that does not stop plantation owners from growing a few jackfruit trees anyway.

The road through Nagarhole leads to Kerala and though it is a narrow, ill maintained road there is a fair among of traffic roaring by, most drivers are disciplined and the area is clean. One can also stay at government lodging in the heart of the forest and go on jungle safaris. Patrolling the forest are guards who live in small thatched houses with smooth floors and walls. Even as wild animals roam free, so do villages and little children. Schooling looks to be rather rudimentary.

In a couple of places we had boards which meant that tigers are sighted in those areas and even though we went early one morning hoping the gods would favour us with an apparition, our luck did not hold through.

At the very end of the forest was a little post office, which I found most intriguing, but you never know, some people might just be sending out an annual letter to the animals each Christmas 😉

Pics by Nagaraj Papanna and me

Breaking a Leg in 2011

Mom, myself & Nagaraj with our Christmas tree

End of year are exciting times. I was to be heading home after a strenuous eight months in Bangalore. Having changed my job but a few months earlier, adjusting to my new job and workplace had been hectic. Nothing like an holiday in home sweet home Goa, take in all the awesome food and attention before heading back to work for another round on the grind.

Goa has a lot of hoopla and hype around it, especially during Christmas and New Year, especially for all its beaches, drugs, alcohol, nightlife and women. To us Goans, Goa is just home. It’s the cool breeze one can enjoy sitting on ones veranda, greeting familiar faces as they pass by, eating loads of fresh fish, sharing meals with family, catching up with friends, all in a very relaxed and congenial environment.

The excitement of heading home had led me to shop extensively and I could not wait to pack my bags, until a week before I missed a step and what I fervently prayed was a sprain turned out to be a fracture. A Jones fracture to be precise.

A cast, and five weeks of rest is what the orthopedic doled out nonchalantly. “W-H-A-T”, I shouted, “five weeks, you must be joking”. I live a rather hectic life, waking up at 6.00 a.m. cooking my meals, travelling to office, beginning work ahead of time,  travelling back, cleaning, washing… I hate sitting around in one place unless I’m working on my computer. My mind is always abuzz and I’m doing stuff, now I have to sit in one place with my right leg alleviated, oh man that is simply going to kill me, I thought. The first week I went about like a wounded animal. Frustrated, aggressive, irritable, snapping at those around when I wasn’t engaging in self pity…. It was terrible.

Finally, I decided I needed a perspective change and convinced myself to look at the brighter side of things. This was an opportunity to slow down, sit and smell the coffee. I could now jam on the brakes and experience what it means to be dependent on others, how to seek assistance, how to appreciate assistance, relearn the importance of interdependence. I re-acknowledged the tons of love, concern and caring that makes the world go round, from my dear neighbor who brought over steaming bowls of sumptuous food, to another neighbor who accompanied me to the hospital, the auto and cab drivers, my concerned colleagues who kept calling and messaging to ensure I was comfortable, my family who kept my spirits up and positive and then catering to my every request when I reached Goa. Lowering myself a few notches, life came back from fast-forward to its normal pace, a bit leisurely … on the whole, it was nice.

For five weeks I could not travel and thus needed to work from home. For the last six years I had not spent more than a week at a time in Goa, the slow pace of life bored me. Now I spent a month there, and it seems like fun, work from a comfortable, caring home, enviable isn’t it. I had to thank my luck I had the most cooperative office and a family that felt it could be with me every step of my temporary disability.

My restricted movement actually came as a blessing in disguise, I was back to reading, something I love to do, write for my blog, something I had not done in a while. I got to spend loads of time with my nephew and nieces who were springing up but I didn’t have the time to watch them grow. I got time with my mom and sister; my friends and relatives who visited me. I got loads of time by the window, take in sights and sounds I previously had no time for.

My mom Virginia with her grand kids
My nephew David and niece Jamima at the BBQ

For a while now, I have been associated with the disability movement, now I know just a little bit, what it means to have a disability. The hardships that are bestowed upon the person without their asking.  The limitations a person with a disability experiences because their surroundings have been insensitively designed for able bodied people.

I nearly through my five weeks of hindered movement, wont kid you that I can’t wait to get my cast of, but the learning’s have been tremendous, almost worth the initial suffering that has since evaporated into lessons I could not have paid for even if I tried.

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