Goodbye Dehli, Hello Goa

Goa Beach

The day after our trip to the Taj Mahal, we made ready to board yet another plane that was to take us two thousand miles south to the tropical climes of Goa. Still concerned about potential fallout from 9/11 and the fact that the US was getting ready to retaliate in Afghanistan, I invited Ash to join us on the trip so that I would have a skilled travel agent on hand if we needed to leave the country in a hurry. He couldn’t believe his luck, as for him, it was like being invited to take an all-expenses paid trip on a rich man’s yacht in the Mediterranean. Something he was unlikely to be able to afford, no matter how hard he worked.

As we were leaving the hotel for the last time, we were surprised to find the staff lined up in the foyer to wish us Bon Voyage or whatever the Hindi equivalent is. Each and every one of them shook our hands and declared their undying loyalty and desire to serve should we ever return.

At the time we were flattered by this expression of appreciation and put it down to our being jolly good chaps and good tippers. It was only later that we were told by one of Ravi’s uncles that the real reason was that we had set a new bar record by spending £1800 in just five days.

We had even outdone the notoriously boozy Bill Clinton entourage that had stayed the previous week, despite there being only the three of us assisted by an occasional guest or various member of the Delhi contingent of Ravi’s extended family. As a consequence, the bar staff had received a commendation from the management and a generous bonus. Still, it’s nice to know that we made an impression.

So it was that we left the dusty, crowded, and poverty-stricken streets of Delhi behind and jetted down to the tropical climes of Goa. We were booked in at the five-star Taj Village resort where I had reserved an individual villa for each of us.

In the airport lounge, Mick began his obligatory lesson on the geography and history of our destination. Ravi made an excuse and went off to find something to eat, but I had no choice but to sigh, push back in my seat and endure. The usual acknowledgements to Google and Wikipedia for filling in the gaps in Mick’s narrative apply.

The state of Goa is on the South Western shore of the Indian sub-continent. To the West are the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. To the North is the mega-city of Mumbai, the largest city in the World and to the East is the Deccan Plateau. Goa is separated from the highlands of the plateau by the Western Ghats.

In the third century BCE, Goa was part of the Maurya empire ruled by the legendary Buddhist Emperor Ashoka, whose descendants also brought Buddhism to Sri-Lanka.

Mick skipped past the many Buddhist empires that followed to get to the part that really interested him, namely the Portuguese period which started in 1510 and lasted until 1961 when the Indian army invaded the colony and forced the Portuguese out in a mission named Operation Vijay. This resulted in Goa being annexed into the full Indian state.

The lecture continued for a while as Mick explained the influence that Portuguese rule had on the colony, including the adoption of the Portuguese language, Catholicism, and culture. He could have talked for hours, but before he could get fully into his subject, our flight was called and we boarded.

As we approached the airport at Dabolim, Ash directed our attention to the wreck of a huge tanker, on the shore below the starboard wing. This set Mick off on another ramble about the ship-breaking industry that thrives all along the Konkan coast. Fortunately, just at that moment, the pilot turned on the seat-belt sign, and so we were spared.

As we were on an internal flight, we quickly passed through arrivals, to where our driver was waiting with several porters for our luggage. At least we would not have to rescue Mick from unwanted wannabe assistants.

The journey in the air-conditioned minivan to the Taj Palace Village in Candolim only took 45 minutes along narrow roads with thick tropical forest either side. It was certainly a change of scenery from the empty, arid expanses of Rajasthan and the tightly packed buildings of Old Dehli.

A Villa at the Taj Village

The village stands in 28 acres of landscaped gardens right on the shoreline. Apart from the humidity, it could have been any luxury resort in the Caribbean. The accommodation comprises of 142 luxury suites and villas in what the brochure describes as an “Elegant Indo-Portuguese architectural heritage showcased through Romanesque arches, pillared verandas and sunny saguaros (central courtyards). With the beach on one side and cocooned in dense foliage, the resort delivers contemporary luxury amid nature at her most glorious.”

I was very pleased with my own single storey two-bedroom villa until I discovered that Ravi had been allocated the equivalent the two-storey presidential suite. It was absolutely fantastic and Ravi, being somewhat embarrassed because he was my guest, offered to swap with me. Naturally, I turned him down, but I must confess to feeling a tad jealous.

The first order of business was to ensure that our villas were suitably stocked with essentials and so we sent Ash off with a couple of fat bundles of Rupees to find the nearest liquor store. He returned a couple of hours later with a sack cart and enough booze to satisfy a fairly large crowd of football hooligans.

Next on the agenda was a tour of the facility with particular emphasis on the location of the bars and the swimming pools as well as the private beach.

Now I have been to some pretty exotic places over the years, including more than a few high-class tropical resorts but nothing can prepare one for the humidity of Goa. Within seconds of stepping outside your air-conditioned villa, you are dripping with sweat, especially in the sweltering afternoons.

The only way to survive is to spend as much time as possible in the pool, which should have dramatically reduced the available drinking time. Fortunately, the beautiful pool at the Taj Village includes a swim-up bar on an island in the middle. You can, therefore, combine sitting in the bath warm waters of the pool with sipping a gin and tonic, or, in my case, a beer. I was to spend a lot of time in the pool that week.

Before dinner, the Amigos took a walk along the fine sands of the beach and a paddle in the warm waters. Mick actually took his socks off for that, a first! We were quite surprised to see that the wreck we had seen from the plane lay on the shore just beyond the limits of the resort’s private beach. We resolved to explore it later but never did get around to it. It was just too hot and humid for walking any distance.

That evening, we explored the restaurants and bars of the village with envious eyes, and, like H.G.Wells’ Martians, ‘slowly but surely drew our plans.’