Rose-gold shimmers across the beach. A blood red sun takes its final bow, slipping into the silver Arabian Sea. I sip my frozen coconut drink and think, “Goa, you’re alright.”
We travelled to India last week, the journey slightly fuzzy around the edges due to numerous refills at the A380 bar.
I’m blaming the handsome Irish bar man, “Go on ‘av another,” he’d urge. So I did.
For a few panic-stricken minutes, I lose my passport at Dubai Airport and Jim sighs very loudly in my face. The passport is found, and we’re on to Mumbai, and our final connection to Goa.
Welcome to India
I am wildly excited, and slightly delirious with jet-lag, when we finally arrive at Goa’s International Airport – joining a motley crew of hippies, backpackers, loud Brits and locals.
Face-pressed against the window, I gorge on my first sights of India en route to our hotel in South Goa.
A woman in a bright blue sari carries a water jug on her head. Coconut sellers crouch at the roadside, faces shielded from the pounding sun.
Children play in arid, red dirt and holy cows meander by with a lazy flick of the tail.
Two days ago we were driving along winding country roads in England, a procession of hunting dogs and riders in top hats clattering by. Now, here we are, in India.
India’s west coast paradise
Goa is the most westernised part of India, a recommended good introduction before braving the mayhem of the cities.
Divided into two states – north and south – Goa is home to over twenty beaches. And they are all idyllic – clear blue waters and soft, gold sand fringed by palms and coconut groves.
The area is also notorious for its party scene, a result of the many hippies migrating here in the late sixties.
We skip the Goan trance parties and local lethal ‘moonshine’ – cashew feni – for some good old-fashioned sunshine and rejuvenation.
The days pass slowly as we fall into a lazy rhythm of breakfast, pool and early evening stroll along the beach for sunset, drinks and dinner.
Tourists, locals and expats gather on the beach nightly to watch the spectacular Goan sunsets. No two nights are the same as the sky explodes into gold, pink, red and orange.
Thali, a feast for the eyes, and stomach
The local food is fantastic – aromatic Goan fish curry, fresh seafood and coconut-flavoured curries. The best food I sample is a delicious, colourful vegetarian thali.
‘Thali’ is a way of serving food in lots of little dishes, generally served with roti and rice. The pleasure of thali is sampling a number of dishes, savoury and sweet all in one hit.
My favourite thali included colourful pineapple curry and a red spinach and coconut dish, followed by sweet coconut crepes and a tart, lassi drink.
A friend told me she crept up a dress size while travelling India.
“Well that won’t happen to me,” I smugly thought at the time. “I’ll eat lovely healthy veggie and fish curries, lay off the rice and actually, I’ll probably lose weight.”
I may have spoken too soon. The food is insanely good and the ‘healthy’ veggie curries are served with mounds of steaming rice, roti and garlic naan.
I’ve been hitting the hotel gym in a desperate bid to work off some of the calories.
Sadly, the lure of the delicious food is far greater than that of the gym.
Goa has been blissful and I know we’ve barely scratched the surface of its natural beauty and old charm. However, it’s time to pack up and head off – the cities of India beckon!