When I thought of Goa the images that came to mind were of white sand beaches, crystal clear blue waters, sunshine and, of course, cows. Lots of cows. Unfortunately when I was in Goa, only one of the above was correct. The cows.
It’s always a risk travelling in monsoon season, and this time the risk did not pay off. Even though monsoon season usually ends at the end of August, this year was an exception, and the rain continued through September.
I flew from Mumbai to Goa as I didn’t fancy a 15 hour overnight train journey on my own. Getting from the airport to anywhere in Goa is relatively simple. There are taxis, buses and rickshaws all desperate to win your business.
I decided to start my trip in Panjim, the capital of Goa. I took the bus from the airport to Vasco Market which cost 10 rupees (approx 10p) and from Vasco Market I took another bus to Panjim bus station and this cost 40 rupees. The buses are very basic and usually cramped, but it’s the cheapest way to get from A – B.
I was staying in The Old Quarter Hostel run by the The Hostel Crowd. This is a chain of hostels run by a group of young guys who are very in touch with the backpacking scene. There is a great common area and also a little cafe selling homemade cakes and juices. Rooms are pretty cheap, on average it will cost you 500 rupees per night for an AC ensuite dorm, with breakfast.
Panjim is a really colourful town with a lot of Portuguese influence. There are churches, cathedrals and temples dotted around the town. A short bus journey to Old Goa (10 rupees each way) will take you to an area with a lot of history and culture. You could spend an afternoon wandering the streets here.
There are many little restaurants to choose from, but I went for Viva Panjim. Hidden up a little back street, this family run restaurant offers traditional Goan food. Goan food reminds me of Thai food as quite often coconut flavours are used. For curry and chapati you can expect to pay 200 – 300 rupees.
Goa has many beaches, the north tending to be busier and more of a party scene, and the south being more laid back. In true granny style I decided to head for the quiet beach in south Goa called Palolem. The Hostel Crowd also have a hostel here called Summer Hostel.
Buses run to Palolem from Panjim, with a change in Margoa. This will cost you 50 rupees.
On arrival I was lucky to have a few hours of sunshine and witnessed the paradise I was imagining. And then the rain started, and it never stopped. When you’re at the beach in the rain there really isn’t much you can do. Most of my time was spent reading books in my favourite beachside spot, Cafe del Mar.
The main road to the beach is lined with stalls, guesthouses, cafes and restaurants. There is a great mixture of cuisine here and everyday fresh seafood is available. A curry and naan costs roughly 300 rupees. The seafood is very cheap, for example 15 tiger prawns, chips and salad costs 300 rupees!
Most places serve all different kinds of Asian food, but if you feel you need a break there is a great Italian called Magic Italy. This restaurant is run by an Italian family and imports ham, cheese and pasta from Italy. Although it is a bit more expensive at about 500 rupees for a pizza and a beer, it is definitely worth it.
Scooters are readily available to hire, from as little as 250 rupees a day (plus petrol). There are many beaches and waterfalls in driving distance of Palolem. Unfortunately due to a scooter accident in Bali last year (I managed to drive straight in to a wall…) I am now officially banned from using them. I’ll need to get lessons at home as using a scooter is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to navigate yourself around Asia.