On arrival in Goa, there’s one thing you learn immediately, it’s bloody hot. Ok, well, that’s nothing a weather forecast couldn’t tell you. After the immediate heat exhaustion, breathing the air fills your senses with a different smell, not like the smog filled city of Delhi, I can only describe it as ‘fresh dirt’. Driving through the roads on an hour and a half trip invites us to experience a style of driving we’ve luckily already been used to, except for some reason you feel safe, why? Road markings are just merely decorative, although on an upside horns are used for their real purpose, to actually tell people you are there rather than as a sign of anger (in the western world). On arrival, Goa presents you with a ‘chilled out’ India vibe, something much appreciated from the hustle and bustle of Delhi. Certainly it seems Gandi’s calming energy has soaked under the Goan sun providing positive rays…well, I expect that’s what one of the native Yogis would say. The first couple of days was more about catching our breath, seeing what was around and enjoying the kudos of a paradise beach. I say paradise, the place we resided, Palolem Beach, was infested with beach huts and bars. If you can see past this, the beach has an impressive array of Palm trees. As with most of India, the usual money making characters are up to their usual daily tasks, apparently our blue eyes give away the fact we must have money. The competition for sales is fenomenal, stall after stall, tuk tuk after tuk tuk, India can promise you the world’s gold for better than their neighbour’s. There is a true desperation between locals, which can get quite exhausting for the tourist. Accommodations are basic but adequate, standards become ‘what can we get away with’, it’s all about saving every rupee. Sometimes on a manager’s good day, he will ask you how you are and tell you have whatever you would like from the menu and to not rush, other days you feel if you don’t purchase one of everything on the menu, he might toss you into the sea. Walking along the beach is something enjoyed by many, but in Goa and in specific, Palolem, you’ll face various obstacles. Every man and his dog has a boat; there’s two things I don’t want to hear for a while and that’s “dolphins” and “butterfly beach”. They don’t give up. Needless to say, we did embark upon one of these ‘great’ voyages and it was very pleasant, although butterfly beach is about as over rated as a Great Expectations DVD that eventually doesn’t work. Other obstacles, cows. Now, we didn’t see as many as we had expected, but when you do everyone of them seems slightly confused, well, if I was a cow, I would be if I ended up on a 32 degrees beach in South India. They also all seemed to be stood outside signs, which also backs up my theory in that they are all lost. Although not an obstacle, dogs are everywhere. They are wild, some are angry, others are also probably lost. It’s ironic how unfortunate they are, not just for the lack of food but their environment. I could imagine any dog given the chance of miles upon miles of sandy shores to run along, beautiful warm waters to swim in and plenty of people to love would be heaven, the shame is, is that it’s too hot, so they are too lazy to do any of that. Goa is not really India as you imagine, but more of a watered down version. It’s not luxury living, nor is it a place for your average ‘Benidorm’ contingent. It has an untouchable vibe, some people will fall in love and others will just simply say, “well, that was nice”. No one can reject its charm and offerings, not forgetting how cheap it is to visit; well, unless the sight of a dog or cow causes you unwanted nausea. The last day was nicely rounded off with a visit to a local retreat where we took part in a relaxing early morning meditation at 8am, followed by a yoga session. This peaceful place was separated by the daily tide, a river that cut itself through the beach only accessible by foot two times a day. As we looked back riding on a free tin can boat back to the beach, we appreciated the wonderful peace we had just experienced, not just that morning, but in Goa as a whole. Other mentions: – The concept of the ‘happy hour’ can last all day – 3 beers for the equivalent of £1 is a great deal. – Try a Momo and a Sumo – Dreamcatcher resort doesn’t actually catch your dreams, I had a nightmare…just wondering if this would be valid criticism for a trip advisor review? – The Boat Approach is a method locals use to get you to go on their tours. It essentially means as you walk forward, the approacher will be 5 steps away at a 90 degree angle from you. The person then starts walking and eventually (via a diagonal motion) they will cross your path, stand side by side, murmur the words “boat trip” and then glide away the movement you say no. – There are obvious no smoking signs in restaurants, but people still smoke. – Two things I forgot exist over there, cars and grass – Every form of transport is mini, probably has something to do with fitting in between other traffic and cows – Mint tea is just minty water with a regular tea bag on the side – If you require a toilet break in the taxi, it is completely fine to communicate in ‘numbers’. Gladly I didn’t have to admit I required a number 2 after being asked by the taxi driver. Goa was a wonderful experience, it’s not a place of wonder, but it’s a great setting to chill and gorge on a budget. After our time there, it seems the right time to move on…so here we go, onwards to Bangkok.