Goan, goan, goan, drink!

Trip Start Nov 07, 2004
Trip End May 20, 2005

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Flag of India  ,
Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Happy New Year!
We've spent the last two weeks in Goa. The first week and Christmas was in Panjim, a busy but pleasant town in the centre of the Goan coastline. It certainly made a change from the usual UK celebrations. Christmas is still a pretty big holiday here (1/3 of Goans are RC) but it was really nice to miss out on all the marketing hype (that had just started when we left!) and the cold weather. The external temperatures were unfortunately matched by Caroline's fever, which knocked her out for Christmas eve and the following day. Luckily she rallied in time for our enormous Christmas curry.

10 km inland are the remains of the historic capital, Old Goa. There are few houses left but the massive cathedral (the biggest in Asia) and 5-6 equally impressive smaller churches are testament to rampant Portuguese Catholicism (tales abound of the horrors of the Inquisition held here). The place was much busier than expected due to the decennial exposition of St Xavier, which draws thousands of pilgrims from all over India. His miraculously preserved remains are periodically taken from their resting place and marched around the town. So miraculously preserved in fact that we were assured that if we bit off a toe, even now it would still bleed. A market had sprung up to cater for the pilgrims, the worst excesses of Catholicism and Indian culture marry together perfectly to produce the most astounding array of religious tat. We managed to avoid the temptation to buy a plastic Jesus on the Cross with flashing crown of thorns.

Goa, home of the vindaloo supplies a large proportion of India's spices and we had a tour of a spice plantation to see where cloves, cardamon, pepper, tumeric etc actually come from. We'll never look at the Schwartz rack in Sainsbury's in quite the same way again.

For the last week we have been further north, in Vagator, famous for its beach and party scene. The area attracts a spectrum of types and nationalities from sedate families to the earnest crusty travellers cruising the roads on their motorbikes, but it easily accommodates them all. For NYE we got whacked up to the eyeballs on a dizzy cocktail of speed, E and Bhang lassies and danced naked until 6 in the morning, before skinny-dipping in the sea. Either that or we found a great restaurant that served lobster, 4 varieties of French cheese and a very good Chablis. What do you reckon? Although the place was certainly frantic enough, especially at new year, we couldn't help but feel we'd missed the boat by about 10 years!

The other draw of goa was the chance to do some diving, and for CT to get her open water PADI cert. The waters were murky to say the least (fortunately the tsunami's only effect on Goa) with visibility less than a metre. It did improve over the next few days, almost doubling! And we even saw a fish.

Time to leave the coast behind as we head back inland to the temples at Hampi.

Caroline and Mark
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