A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gorgefest in Goa

We wanted to go from Varanasi to Madhya Pradesh region, or more specifically to the Bandhavgarh National Park where we could spot some big tigers. Unfortunately, fate wasn’t with us. Being high season and not planning in advance left us few transportation options. We could potentially take a bus to the park but pressing on to Goa sounded like three days in Purgatory, requiring several transfers between buses and trains. Apparently all the trains were booked for the entire end of December from Mumbai (Bombay) to Goa. What to do? We decided to stay in Varanasi a few extra days and take an airplane. Gasp! We cheated.

The flight wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, consisting of three separate fights spread out over 26 hours. First up was an afternoon flight to Delhi that ran two hours late. Then we flew to Mumbai and had a long stopover before flying on to Goa, arriving the following morning exhausted. Ron also caught a slight cold, making the journey more arduous on him.

We flopped into our sandy bed at Saritas Guest House, too tired to complain that the room hadn’t even been cleaned. We stayed at Bogalo Beach which was nice, but not spectacular. I thought Goa was the French Riviera of India? Maybe because we stayed in the cheaper section of South Goa instead of the ritzier North Goa shoreline.

We enjoyed eating simple grilled food on the deck overlooking the ocean, walking in the white sand, and watching the sunset. Basically relaxing and laying low, like cows on a beach, while Ron recovered from his cold.

On a search for breakfast one morning, we stumbled upon a deserted beachside café. There were some cooks in the kitchen, not intent on actually cooking anything for us hungry customers, but on our way out we scanned the book exchange. Like a chorus of angels heralded from above, there was a golden glow around a large, imposing, brick of a book, hard-backed version of the brand spanking new Lost Symbol. Whether or not it is wise to admit so openly, Ron and I are both huge fans of Dan Brown and have been eagerly awaiting his next installment. I know, we’re lame, but there it is: I said it. I devoured it in twelve hours flat while lazing poolside at the next hotel we stayed at.

My brother was beyond sweet to put us up at a swanky hotel for the week of Christmas and in doing so, won the “Best Christmas Gift Ever” award. As we walked onto the manicured grounds at Heritage Village Club on Arrosim Beach, greeted by fresh flowers, fountains, and a fizzy welcome drink, I heard the Jefferson’s theme song in my mind, “You’re movin on up, movin on up...”

It exceeded all expectation - an unimaginable treat after the slumming we’d been doing. Our room was immaculate and shiny and was cleaned twice a day. I nearly hugged the housekeeper one afternoon, overwhelmed by gratitude for clean sheets and lavender sachets, down comforters and decorative teddy bears, granite countertops and designer faucets. Even our names were personalized on a sign outside. Sort of.

How did we do without these luxuries? Oh shit, how will we be able to travel again after this?!

We spent most of our days sunning and swimming in the large pool. We played countless games of HORSE on the poolside basketball hoop and threw a beach ball around like two kids on summer vacation. Around 11am, the swim-up bar would open and we’d start sucking down screwdrivers by the gallon.

Didn't I tell you it was all-inclusive? Open bar and all-you-can-eat buffet all day and all night. Holy cow, I um, became a cow and must have gained five pounds in seven days. Can you blame me? For once we didn’t have to skimp or count our rupees. Ron could drink ten coffees a day and even have dessert after dinner. It was HEAVEN ON EARTH.

We had our first ever balmy beachside Christmas Day. It was strange at first being so far from home, although the hotel was decorated festively and played Silent Night on repeat in the dining room. There was a big barbeque feast at night with row upon row of savory Indian dishes, seafood delicacies, and a whole roasted pig.

After gorging, we snickered at their cheesy dinner show and sipped champagne until the wee hours. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas from Goa!

Everything about our week was simply splendid until we checked out and they presented us with the bill, upon which I nearly fainted. Apparently there was some debacle at AMEX and the bill was not charged to my brother’s card. We had an hour before leaving for the airport and after a frenzy of phone calls, harsh words, and tears, we settled the bill and made it just in time.

All good things must come to an end, but there are many more adventures that await us. Next stop: Thailand!


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