I can't remember ever feeling this clean!

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End May 05, 2011

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Flag of India  , Goa,
Sunday, January 30, 2011

Well I woke at 6am and took a tuk tuk to the jetty where I got a ferry across from Fort Cochin to Ernakulum, then the other side I shared another tuk tuk to the train station with an Irish couple and we had a delicious breakfast before boarding the train.  9 hours later I arrived in Mangalore.  The highlight of the journey (which was quite beautiful) was that I finished my French book!  What a sense of achievement!  So I arrived in Mangalore and walked to the bus station only to discover (after some time and walking from person to person) that I was at the wrong bus station - everyone was very insistent that there were no private buses at all to Goa, which I find very difficult to believe.  Anyway I took a local bus and was unceremoniously thrown out onto the side of the road to find my way to the other bus stand.  I managed it, and found out that the next bus was an overnighter and left in 3 hours' time.  I went on the internet and got some dinner, preparing myself for the next 9 hour journey.

At 7am we arrived into Panjim, where Pat and Graham were waiting for me!  Amazing.  When I got to the villa I got straight into the shower and scrubbed and scrubbed.  I still have black heels but I think that may be semi-permanent.  At least I can see white under my fingernails (yes I have fingernails now!).

Goa is very different to the rest of India that I've seen - much less hassle and staring, much more Western comforts such as proper toilets and even loo roll and soap!  So it's a great place to relax and recharge batteries a bit.  And of course it's really nice to see Mum and Lewis.  It does feel a little as if I've left a friend without saying goodbye though, if that makes sense.  As if I've left India without realising it.  I can't believe I only have a matter of days left here, just as I was getting used to it!  The other thing is that because there are so many Westerners here it's acceptable to walk around in short skirts, tight tops etc. - even bikinis on the beach.  Having had to dress so modestly for the past month it seems quite shocking!  Especially as someone told me that Indian tour agencies arrange trips to Goa for groups of Indian men where you get your money back if you don't see a Westerner in a bikini!  How awful is that, it's like a safari!!

But Goa is really nice, it's beautiful and as I say everything is so much easier here.  Everyone's English is practically perfect, and it's easy to have a conversation without being paranoid they're going to ask you for money just for the privilege of speaking.  Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of beggars and vendors but they do leave you alone after a while because there are plenty of other tourists for them to move onto!  Last night we went to a night market which was really fun, although we ran out of money!

I'm trying to rearrange my tickets so I fly into Vietnam rather than Thailand so I still don't really know what I'm doing next week!  I'm stopping in Singapore for a couple of days though as I'm flying with Singapore airlines, and I discovered my visit coincides with Chinese New Year.  As I'm staying in a hostel in Chinatown I'm quite looking forward to that!

Just a quick update as we had quite a busy day today and I really enjoyed both Panjim and Old Goa.  Well yesterday was really fun as we went to Pat and Graham's beautiful villa in the evening then went to a local restaurant and tried all sorts of things I'd never eaten before so that was great.  So this morning we woke early and took the bus to Calangute (nearby) and had a cheap Indian breakfast at one of the local places by the bus stop.  I thought it was great but Lewis was considerably less impressed.  He's not a morning person. 

We got another bus to Panjim, the capital of Goa.  It's a lovely city, just the right size and the Portuguese colonial architecture is beautiful (reminded me of Pondicherry in a way).  We walked along the river, and had lunch at a rooftop restaurant with a really nice view which made up for the non-existent atmosphere (we were the only customers).  We then tried to look round a couple of churches which are the main attractions in the town but the siesta lasts until 3pm so we were a bit stuck! 

We decided to take a tuk tuk to Old Goa, which used to be bigger than Lisbon or even London in the 16th century but in the 1830s-40s massive outbreaks of both malaria and cholera led to the population being practically wiped out.  These days it's basically a collection of churches - incredible to see so many impressive churches in such a small space!  We did get a bit tired so only saw a couple but they were really amazing.  The "Bom Jesus" basilica (bom means infant!) was castle-like and made of red sandstone, and inside the decoration was ornate but not gaudy.  The highlight was a glass coffin containing St. Francis Xavier, a  16th century missionary whose body did not decompose despite not having been embalmed or preserved in any way.  It was placed up high but you could make out the fact it was a corpse rather than a skeleton for sure.  Below were a series of framed bones, which various people had nicked just before he was canonised (one person had bitten off one of his toes).  These parts decomposted (?!) normally.  Another church opposite contained a wooden cross which had
miraculously grown in size.

A bit churched out we headed to the wax work museum which the Lonely Planet recommended in an ironic way.  Totally worth 100 rupees for the three of us!  Gandhi, a handful of gurus, and last but not least a life size replica of the entire Last Supper tableau.  A guide enthused about the fact that real hair and beards had been donated by people for the figures, which was a bit gross.  One of the disciples, Philip (who we'd never heard of) had amazing ginger straightened hair like out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting.  I particularly liked the way they'd made all apostles and Jesus have bright pink blotchy skin, I guess the white people tourists they meet must look like that and they think it's normal!  It was like patchy sunburn.

We bussed it back and have been chilling at a restaurant with free wifi and a live band (Bob Marley, Queen, Dire Straits, Elvis... with free entertainment from an old couple who dance exactly like Sims when they're hungry/angry/their house is on fire).  I just can't believe I have one day left in India!
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Sue Parsons on

Hi, was talking to your Dad last night and he told me that you surprised Mum and Lewis by being asleep downstairs without them knowing you'd arrived. Lol.

Sounds like you saw a good deal of India from the bus; a bit of an epic journey for a bus ride, even if not as long as the train rides you've had. Hope you enjoy a bit of sea sun and relaxing with the family before your next learning curve in Vietnam. Have fun, Love to all. XXX

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