Welcome to another exciting edition of Postcard From… where I chat to some lucky traveller about their recent trip.
This week, I caught up with travel enthusiast Chloe Northwood about her recent travels around Goa. Chloe is a clothing store manager from Kingston. We met at university in Southampton, where we both completed our photography degrees. Last year she took an incredible trip around Asia, and since then she’s already flown out India for a second trip!
So, Chloe, it feels like you’re always travelling! Where have you been this time?
To India! We took the train from Mumbai to Goa; it takes about fourteen hours, but it’s an experience like no other. We travelled First Class with air-con, which was about £16 each. We booked this before we left the UK, as we found the trains get booked up fast – the later you book the more chance there is of being without air-con or a bed. Both of these are things you need as it was about 40 degrees.
Wow, sounds hot! So it was perfect beach weather then?
We went in April which is right at the end of the season, as the monsoon hits about June. When we were there we had the first rain they’d had for six months, so it’s very dry as well as hot.
What did you get up to in Goa?
The first night we spent in a place called Colva which is quite popular with the tourists, but the beach is dirty and there are dogs everywhere. After that we took a taxi south to Agonda which was by far the best beach.
About 10 minutes in a toktok South is a place called Palolem which is very touristy. It’s where all the bars are: they have sports bars and silent discos (its against the law to play loud music on the beach past 9pm). Palolem has lots of shops too, you can buy anything from fancy rugs, expensive jewellery and sculptures to handmade clothes and jewellery. This is also where you will find the pharmacy.
A further 10 minutes South in a toktok (or a 30 minute walk) is a beach called Patnem which is a bit more lively than Agonda, but not as loud as Palolem. There is a place called Namaste which is run by an Indian man and his family. All these places have staff from North India or Nepal who come down to work the season. Namaste offers huts just off the beach which stay up all year. They’re more like log cabins with balconies. The food at Namaste is really good, but the place next door makes the best momos.
From here we hired mopeds and drove further South to a beach called Turtle Beach. This is where the fresh water river meets the sea and creates a lagoon which is beautiful and great for paddling. If you walk up into the trees there’s a little restaurant, which is really just plastic tables and chairs with hammocks. Its not much to look at, but the guy who lives there serves fresh fish including oysters, clams and crab, most of which are still alive when you choose them. Its very cheap and very tasty!
Do you have a highlight?
Travelling inland to the waterfalls. It’s quite far and can be a bit pricey but once you’re there you get in a Jeep which drives you to the waterfall, across rivers and round dirt tracks. It’s like something out of Jurassic Park! Once you’ve scrambled over the rocks it’s worth every rupee, as the water is cool and crystal clear and there’s lots of monkeys to keep you entertained.
Other than Namaste, where else did you stay?
Everywhere we went we stayed in beach huts, which are just wooden structures they put up and take down out of season. They do the same with most of the bars and restaurants so they don’t get destroyed by the monsoon. The beach huts at that time of year you can get for around 200 rupees – which is about £4 a night – but you have to haggle and the price does depend on the quality of hut too. In Agonda I recommend a place called Simrose. They have some good huts facing the beach, the Nepalese guys that run it are friendly, and the food is good.
How was the food?
In Goa pretty much all the food is good. You have to use your common sense when choosing where to eat: for example the cleaner, busier places are usually the best. All the places on the beaches have clay ovens so tandoori chicken is popular, and the naan breads are like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. The best thing to eat in Goa though is by far the fish. As it starts to get dark the restaurants put empty glass tanks filled with ice outside, and when the fishermen get in they put their catch in the tank for you to choose from. You get all sorts – king fish was my favourite but you get shark, prawns, snapper etc…
Do you have any tips for anyone planning a trip to Goa?
I recommend you get your rabies shots first, as there are lots of wild dogs and monkeys. Also, as fun as it is to hire mopeds, there are no real rules on the roads when it comes to driving in India, and there are lots of horror stories of tourists and locals getting injured or dying. Plus I’m not sure how easy it is to find a hospital, or how clean it would be. You could rent a push bike instead, but do not try and cycle in the midday sun; it can get quite hilly and there isn’t always water about.
And finally, what is the most useful phrase you picked up?
Namaste, which can be used for hello, goodbye, and thank you.