December 18, 2004
After 4 plane rides, 2 hotels, and over 6000 nautical miles, I have finally made it to India via Bangkok. I was only able to enter India via Chennai (formerly known as Madras), as flights to other Indian gateways were full, due to the busy holiday season.
From there, navigating transportation to Goa took luck and persistence, as internal flight reservations were hard to obtain. Overnighted in Chennai, and finally made it to Anjuna safely the next day.
I immediately fell in love with this beautiful, magical place.
Traveling within the country does require some patience, due to oversold flights and long passenger lines. This country is enormous and with so many people traveling, I was lucky to have snagged a seat.
The people of India are surprisingly friendly - and not all of them are looking for the occasional bakshish. Speaking to the locals about their initimate lives and culture has made a memorable first impression.
I am presently in Goa, which is located off the Western Coast of India.
This Indian state was occupied by the Portuguese hundreds of years ago, who took control of the heavy tea trade in the area. Because of this influence, the Portugeuse architecture is everywhere from beautiful European styled homes to numerous catholic churches that are sprinkled throughout the area. This part of India is one of the only regions with a significant concentration of Catholics.
Presently, we are staying in an old Portuguese convent with Julie (a friend of my travel partner), who has a yoga retreat center that teaches classes to visitors and educates yoga professionals from all parts of the world.
Our accomodations are very comfortable and we share the house with other yoga instructors, who are here to study at the center. There are about 10 of us in the house and everyone comes and goes with varying schedules.
Our meals are being prepared by Marita - the cook and housekeeper - and she is truely one amazing chef! I am now loving Indian cuisine and enjoy noshing on the homemade nan bread.
During the evening as we sleep, the noises of birds, insects, roosters and other live creatures play noisily outside our window. The neighbor's dogs have added to the nuisance recently and has kept everyone awake. The house is situated in a secluded area about 10 minutes from the city center via motorbike or taxi. Blackouts are common, and we are sitting by candlelight nightly, as the electrical grid has problems keeping up with the high season of visitors!
Goa is known for its gorgeous beaches and we have been exploring them daily. Yesterday, after a grueling 2 hour yoga class, a few of us treked to a secluded beach, where we ate lunch, while enjoying the beautiful, natural surroundings.
The food here is very cheap and quite delicious - a two course lunch for $5, including beverage! I am hooked on the Lassi drinks - a yogurt drink filled with an elixer of your choice.
Reposing on the beach here can be a quite an experience, as locals merchants aggressively solict tourists everything from hand massages, to ear cleaning, to selling surangs and drums, and even the fresh fruit lady appears with her bountiful harvest.
We learn to fend off potential merchants by lying down in the sun and try not to make eye contact, all while observing several cows graze on the beach. One even sat next to us a short distance away...a sureal experience!
That evening was the local Anjuna Night Market, a weekly affair with hundreds of merchants and deals to be found. Indian crafts, clothes, and spicy foods were available. I was able to snag some good deals, while almost being head butted by a cow. Yes Virginia, there are cows in India who wander freely and can surprise you when you least expect it.
Tomorrow's plan is to head down south to Kerla, which offers scenic river barge tours and beautiful river settlements. After that, a visit to Hampi is on the schedule, which is home to numerous Hindu temples and the place to experience some of India's rich history.
Julie asked if we wanted to stay on for the Christmas holiday, but as much as I would love to stay, I need to keep moving and visit other areas.
Goa will be much in my memories and as many travel guidebooks tell you: focus on a few areas and cherish visiting them!