Trip to Mumbai and Goa ...

Trip Start Sep 06, 2006
Trip End Jan 17, 2007

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Saturday, January 6, 2007

Hello Everyone,

Wish you a Very Happy New Year again!!

Hope that your Christmas, New Year and Holiday Season's festivities went well.

As promised yesterday, I will fill you in on my 10 days of holidays from Dec 22nd 2006 to Jan 2nd 2007... Be forewarned this is a very long log ;)

Myself and 2 other friends (Mirte and Myriam) left for Mumbai on Dec 22nd morning. Our 22-hour train journey ended on Saturday morning (Dec 23rd) at Mumbai. Myriam was staying with some family friends at Mumbai. Mirte and myself decided to be a bit adventurous right off the bat and made our way to the inter-city train station to take us to the south of Mumbai (Colaba - Church Station area). You can imagine the crowd that was at the ticket booth, but after fighting our way through it, and arguing with the agent for proper change (which we didn't get), we made our way to the "Ladies Only" compartment of the train.... A first for me.

We found a very cheap guest house surprisingly close to the Gateway of India and the Sea ... we could see and smell the sea from where we were staying. After an early lunch, we spent the day touring the city by foot, starting off at the beautiful Gateway of India, and then walking down MG road and admiring the beautiful buildings, and taking in Mumbai in stride. We went to the Prince of Wales museum, finally able to use our ISIC (International Student Identification Cards) cards for the first time in India, and getting a very cheap entrance rate (10 rupees versus 250 rupees). After this we visited the Flora Fountain, St. Thomas Cathedral, Hormiman Circle, Oval Maiden, and Chowpathy Beach. The beach was a huge highlight for me at Mumbai ... We got here just after sunset, and it was packed with families and couples, just enjoying the evening, with some food from the food stalls. Just for your info, this beach is not meant for swimming, as it's quite polluted, but there were some people venturing out into the water to soak in their feet. After the beach, we went to a restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet - Ananthashram, where I ate my first fish in India, and it was very delicious ... a taste of the great food that was to follow for the next 10 days!!

That night, my friend Mirte, got scouted by an agent, so she spent the next day at a Bollywood film studio. However, I spent the 24th with Myriam, my other friend. We decided to go to Elephanta Island, which is an island with 3 caves with rock carvings of Hindu gods. It was a 1-hour ferry ride, which was quite nice, and a great view of Mumbai from the water. Most of the afternoon was spent waiting in line to buy tickets, travelling to and from the island, and visiting the caves. That evening, Myriam and I had a nice Christmas Eve dinner (fish and prawns curry with rice) at a restaurant at Mumbai. I then met up with Mirte after dinner, and after she finally finished her day at Bollywood, we decided to go to the Midnight mass at the church (St. Thomas Cathedral). It turned out to be a beautiful celebration, with a lot of Christmas carols. They even served Christmas cake and coffee afterwards.

On the 25th, I did a little bit of shopping ... unintentionally ofcourse!! And then we made our way, by train to Mani Bhavan, where there's a museum of Ghandhi's old home in Mumbai.

A bit about Mumbai ....

Mumbai is such a different city from Jaipur, and even Delhi for that matter. It's got a very western feel, and you could see it from the buildings, the taxis (as opposed to rickshaws), and clothing that people wear. Some of the ladies wore short dresses and skirts, which would never be seen in Jaipur. There were also a lot of expensive chains of stores, such as Tommy Hilfiger, and Fab India. But you could also see the poverty on the streets. There were a lot of homeless people on the streets, and after sunset, you could see them lying on the streets, and sometimes had to walk around them. You could also see some of the slum areas ... the largest in India, on the train ride coming into Mumbai from Jaipur. If anyone's interested in visiting India, I would recommend that people visit Mumbai, but also a city like Jaipur, to see some of the contrasts and differences between the two cities. I personally feel that if you'd like to get a true feel and experience of India, a city like Jaipur would be best (... sorry if I'm not explaining it properly, but I can explain more in person if you'd like).

We were able to get a sleeper bus to Goa for that night, and left for Goa at around 5pm that evening. I had Christmas dinner at a service stop at some point between Mumbai and Goa with Mirte ... again fish! Even took a fish on the bus with us for the trip!!

I arrived in Panji, the capital of Goa, the next day, Dec 26th, at around 8am. I decided to do some sightseeing in Panji and Old Goa before heading further south to the beaches. I spent one day sightseeing these 2 towns by myself, as Mirte decided to carry on directly. I finally checked into a guest house ... it took me around 10 tries, since the hotels/hostels/guest houses fill up very quickly during the season. Goa is a beautiful state in India, with a lot of palm trees, and ofcourse beaches. Arriving in Panji felt like I was going to another country ... it was so unlike the India I'd seen the last 4 months. You could tell that it was the tourist season, as there were a lot of foreigners around. I decided to take the local bus to Old Goa and to escape the tourists a bit. Old Goa was at one point compared with Lisbon, and I can see why. The city is lined up with beautiful churches, which are now under the protection of the Archeological Society of India. I visited the Se Cathedral, Church of St. Francis, St. Catherine Chapel, Basilica of Bom Jesus, and Ruins of the Church of St. Augustine, as well as a museum of the old Archbishop's home. I spent a couple of hours at Old Goa, and then returned to Panji.

A few other observations from my first day at Goa, was that unlike the rest of India, you see more churches than Hindu temples, and you can see the Portugese influence. You definitely see a lot more tourists, visiting because of the beaches. English seems to be spoken and understood by many people from Goa. The rickshaws have doors on the passenger sections.

The next day, Dec 27th, I took 2 buses and a rickshaw to make the journey further south to Agonda, my final destination in Goa. Although it's only around 80 kms, it took me almost 3 hours to get from Panji to Agonda. But when I arrived at Agonda, and looked at the beaches, my first reaction was ... I've landed in Paradise! It was the most quiet and beautiful beach that I've ever seen in person. We stayed in huts, called Cocohuts, which was made of palm trees and overlooked the beach and sea.

Here I met up with some other trainees - Mirte, Anke, Susanne, and Judith. The next 4 1/2 days were spent relaxing a lot ... And I felt like I got a lot of much needed rest. I can sum up my days (Dec 27th to 31st) in a paragraph, because it was more or less the same thing everyday. I woke up every morning and went for a jog and walk on the beach, followed by a swim in the sea. After a 2 hour brunch with the other girls, we spent the afternoon reading, sitting on the beach, chatting, or bodyboarding or swimming in the sea. We would then all watch the sunset, and then go for dinner (where I ate fish almost everyday), and then sometimes to a restaurant/bar by the beach afterwards.

New Years Eve was spent having a nice dinner (fish again) with friends, and then meeting up with a few others at the bar by the beach. There were some fireworks on the beach, with some champagne. Definitely a memorable New Year's!!

Mirte and I caught the direct train from Goa to Jaipur early on New Year's, which took 32 hours ... of which I slept around 20 hours :) Surprisingly, I was glad to be back in Jaipur. I strangely missed Jaipur and the kids at work. And was very glad to come back to our house in Jaipur and to start work on Jan 3rd.

I know that this has been a very long travelogue, and I'm glad that you've gotten through it. I promise that other logs will not be as long!

Until my next log,
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