Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Holiday Vacay Round-up: Christmas in Goa

23 Dec 2012 to 8 Jan 2013

WOW. I was gone for a really long time! Now that the Christmas and New Year holiday vacation is over, it made me realize how loooooong I have been travelling. So far, this is the longest on my record - 17 days! There are also many firsts and records in this journey that took me back to Goa in the West, then to the freezing Delhi in the north before I moved further northwest into a more freezing Amritsar (Punjab) and to the relatively pleasanter weather of Jaipur (Rajasthan) in the northwest/central India.

Here's an account of the Goa episode:

Sequernim Beach, Candolim, Goa (north)

Upon completion of my placement in Nagpur (seven weeks total), I returned to Mumbai (on a WAITLISTED TICKET!) just so I can take the train again, but this time bound for Goa.

Yuva Rural Association Office. more on this in another post!
I met my co-vols Sue and Rosie, with her twin sis Penny and her boyfriend Tom (Penny's!), in Mumbai just a few hours before our train to Goa on the 23rd. Sue and I are traveling together via the Konkan Kanya Express which stops at Karmali, the train station closest to Panjim (aka Panaji) where we're staying.

Someone's excited!
In Panjim (north Goa area), we met my friend Leah who arrived a day earlier. She couchsurfed with my and Rajie's former CS host Warren. It was also there that she met Sumin, a South Korean volunteer-cum-solo traveller.

Christmas in Goa

We all ended up spending Christmas Eve dinner together and managed to attend (at least half of) an open-air Midnight Mass. The next morning, we visited the Immaculate Concepcion Church (which unfortunately was closed) which has the biggest nativity scene I have ever seen! Bigger than the Belenisimo entry of my beloved town Victoria!

Sumin, Leah and Sue Mom (the bigger-than-life nativity scene
is at the front of the church)

After a brief walking tour, we proceeded to Miramar beach, which was closest to Panjim, for an afternoon stroll and to watch the sun set in the Arabian Sea! Sumin playfully agreed to do some shadow/silhouette photos for us!

Sumin at Sunset
Right after the stroll though, Leah had to take her overnight bus heading to Hampi for her 12-hour day tour of the temple ruins (she boarded the bus again returning the next night to Goa) and Sumin had to leave for Mumbai. Well, at least Sumin fulfilled her wish of seeing the sun set!

Sunset at Miramar Beach near Panjim
The next day, left by ourselves, Sue and I went to Candolim to visit Rosie, Penny and Tom who arrived on Christmas day! Their rented apartment is right next to Sequernim Beach. We walked to see the lower Aguada fort. From this viewpoint, you can see the Arabia Sea, far and wide! It also gives you a nice panoramic view of the Sequernim shore / Goa coastline.

View from the lower Aguada fort
After climbing up and down and then having late lunch at a place called Sweet Chilli (happy hours!), we returned to the beach and went for a swim. Sunbathed as well! Goa, being a well-known tourist place and us, being touristy and all, were of course in our swimsuits. (more actual beach pics to follow!)

WORD OF CAUTION though, except for Goa and other very well-known beaches in India, wearing bikinis is either frowned upon or an open invitation to be stared at. So, be a little more, uhm, sensitive about the places you go to and the outfit you wear. :)

After this, we had drinks by the Blue Shack and enjoyed tax-free Kingfisher beer while watching the sun set once more, but this time at Sequernim!

YEY tax-free beer :)

Parasailing in the sunset
There are a lot of water sports to choose from
We also had dinner at Aberdeen's (???) Steak House. All the English girls and boy got themselves steak (with a lot of on the sides through convincing prowess of the waitress/order taker) while I got myself a Kingfisher curry. I wasn't feeling so great at this time and I never knew why! After dinner (10pm), we headed back to Panaji through a cab (Rs 400, FYI) and marveled at the floating casinos, cruises and advertisements/signs around the Mandovi (?) river! (sorry, no photo!)

And then, the next day, Leah has returned from her Hampi trip (which was awesome and is tempting me now to change my plans for my final Indian vacay) and I am about to leave for Delhi. Rosie, Pen and Tom went to Panjim to have lunch with us, have a tour of the city, and see me off (???). This is also the last time I'd be seeing Sue and Rosie. Well, in India at least! :)

We had lunch at Hotel Venite (we always went here and told the three that they must try!), which is a Goan/Portuguese restaurant with a lot of artistic charm in it. Not to mention that it's floor was made of salvaged shipwreck wood! Food is also excellent at very reasonable prices. Word of advice though, don't come when you are very hungry as food takes a bit of time to be prepared. Fresh and hot! Worth the wait! :)

Christmas Dinner: Pork Chop - Rs 310 (?)

Send-off Lunch: Chef's Stuffed (ham and cheese) Beef Steak - Rs 350

Fresh Strawberry Juice - Rs 90
I also liked the fish curry rice meal of Flag's Inn btw, where we always get breakfast. It's pretty close to Paradise Inn where we stayed. (Thanks Sue for letting us crash!)

Fish Curry Meal - Rs 70 (???)
After lunch, I bade goodbye to Sue and Rosie, my volunteering batchmates, and wished Pen and Tom a safe and happy journey (as they are traveling further southwards to Kerala) while in India and returning back to England. As for Leah, I wished her a great time with the elephants, also in Kerala, and demanded pics and stories to be told once we meet again in Mumbai, soon. :)

And so, having had a great Christmas time in Goa with my pseudo-family, I bade goodbye to the warmth from the Indian Ocean and headed to the Madgaon train station (south Goa) via bus and pillion (backride) for my 38-hour trip to freezing Delhi for the wedding (Minrose, a Filipina, to Shishir, an Indian) and New Year celebrations with fellow Filipino volunteers and expats!

Sleeper class: 38 became 43!!! Longest train journey taken, ever!

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