Ok so it's been quite a few days since the last blog but considering we've spent loads of it travelling and the last few days chillin out relaxin', there's not so much to report!But first to wish everyone reading it a Happy Easter for tomorrow, I hope you're all excited about finishing your lenten vows (Gary and Dad in particular haha!). Jade and I will be celebrating by taking our very first bite of an indian chocolate bar, I'm not being too optimistic though as I've heard it's not so great!!
Anyway, so back from where we left off... we caught our train from Udaipur to Mumbai around 9.30pm on the 30th which was on time again so I was impressed. This time we were in 2AC class so only four people per sleeping area with two at the window, instead of three and two- not much of a difference really! When we got on the train we were expecting maybe a few more travellers as we thought it would be quite a common route to be on, but alas no, just us and LOADS of indian men. uh oh... Thankfully after a chat with one of them we soon discovered they were all train guards travelling back home together after a two week training course in Udaipur, and most of them were middle-aged and non-pervy so we actually felt pretty safe!!the toilets weren't much to speak of which we expected (very smelly and a bit scary to pee in when you can see the tracks moving below!), but I actually had a great night's sleep, despite being slightly chilly from the very effective air conditioning which made a change!!
Jade unfortunately didn't do so well sleepwise, but we arrived in Mumbai's Bandhra station at 2.30pm (on time again!) the following afternoon in generally high spirits. However, we soon discovered that to get any sort of transport into Mumbai central we had to walk along a very long platform to the 'new' train building to get tickets, and after 5 minutes in the midday sun trekking with our massive sacks to get to it, we were suffering!!the bus seemed too complicated and we couldn't seem to get a train into Mumbai CST (the main station), or anyway we were told we couldn't, so hot and sweaty we decided to get a car in for the 45min journey to the centre, and we got him down to a slightly more respectable price of 550R (about 6 pounds) from the original 900R charge. so this was fine, and we saw some interesting sights as we went in including what looked to be a shanty town perhaps, as well as some of the skyscrapers that make Mumbai a very different city to Delhi!however, when we were at the station the guy by some slight of hand managed to make my 500R note disappear and show me two 200R notes, insisting this was all I had paid him instead of the 600R I KNEW I had in my purse and had looked at intently before handing it over.Well, what could I do?Jade was getting the bags out and hadn't seen anything unfortunately, and I really didn't want to get into a fight so I paid him again (he kept another 50R for our 'baggage charge' which we had not agreed to either, grrrrr) and I walked away seething...what a b*****d, I hope he gets his comeuppance!!we also discovered he'd dropped us to the entrance the furthest away from the main terminal, so by the time we checked our bags into left luggage we were both sweaty, tired and very very pissed off!
After that experience we needed a cool drink, and we had about 8hours to waste to boot, so we rickshawed it up to a fairly swanky area near the World Trade Centre and headed for Cafe Coffe Day, the cheery indian version of Starbucks for yummy fruit coolers and chocolate brownie ice cream sundaes- AMAZING!!!afterwards, we both really needed the loo and to freshen up after our whole day travelling so we nipped into the nearby Taj President Hotel, to get a quick drink as an excuse to use their facilities. We felt like absolute tramps though as it's at least a 5 star hotel and extremely swanky, with lots of german businessmen hanging about and we walked in wearing our dusty sandals and probably looking like something the cat dragged in!despite paying through the nose for diet cokes (more than you'd pay at home, and we weren't even going to think about alcohol with wine starting at about 5 pounds a glass!), the toilets made a nice change to the non-flushing sqat variety so it was kind of worth it...
So we managed to wile away the hours in ANOTHER Cafe Coffee Day near the station, as well as the rather dingy ladies waiting room, then boarded our train around 10.30pm that night. This time there were loads of travellers on board!In our wee cubby we had a nice 30 something spanish couple and a Danish couple who were staying in a package hotel in Candolim in Goa but had just come up to see Mumbai for a few days. We went to bed pretty quickly, and before we knew it it was 9am and we were 2 hours away from Magdaon in Goa!!Again the train was on time, good stuff.We got off the train and onto a rickshaw which took us to the bus stand then we waited for our bus to Palolem, a smallish town to the South of Goa that I'd fancied going to from my lonely planet reading! the countryside is Goa is so different to what we've seen before, so many palm trees everywhere, and it was cool to watch the other buses go past as because of the portugese influence over the years there's still quite a big Catholic presence in the region so lots of the buses have interesting indian interpretations of Jesus on them and have slogans such as 'bless us o holy mother' and stuff like that. Weird to imagine anything like that at home!So, we got on our bus Palolem, and what a journey!It was PACKED with people, and the conductor had a whistle which he insisted on blowing loads every time the bus stopped, or was about to stop, or started again, and he also shouted the name of the stop about 50 times every time we did stop too!By this stage, our lovely showers in Udaipur before the first train seemed a millennium ago, and we were both feeling disgusting and so, so sweaty, which was also made worse by the fact we had to hold on for dear life every time the bus rounded a corner!But when we eventually arrived in Palolem, about a day and a half after we'd set off from Udaipur, what a treat awaited us!!
The beach and the sea are just gorgeous (although the water is very salty and you can't really see to the bottom at all as it's quiet murky but still obviously fresh), and the beach itself is lined with lots of little beach huts, restuarants and a cocktail bar that has happy hour 2 for 1 drinks every hour of the day. Not too shabby!we met a nice guy from LA called Cody on the bus and we had a look at a few different places to stay but managed to wrangle beach huts opposite each other at 'Leela Cottages'. They're pretty basic, but have mossie nets and are bright pepto-bismol pink which is pretty fun and they're costing us the ridiculous sum of about 2 pounds each a night as it's coming in to off-season now so we can't really complain!
The last two days we've basically just spent chilling out on the beach, though we did get a bit too much sun yesterday as the steady sea breeze is pretty deceptive, so we covered up a bit more today and sat under an umbrella. I also got some more henna done, black henna this time, on my ankle which is very pretty. We've had dinner with Cody both nights (yummy fish curry with rice, prawn curry with rice and I had a huge mound of calamari from the grill last night)and a few drinks watching the sun go down and playing cards too which is cool- he is at the end of his year of travelling after being made redundant from his engineering firm in Holywood and has been to China and South East Asia so it's been great to get a bit of advice and reassurance- especially about travelling in China which we've been worrying about a wee bit!!Also, the two of us are still getting on brilliantly nearly 3 weeks (!!) in but it's always nice to speak to someone else for a change too!!
I think we're going to go dolphin watching tomorrow morning with a few other people from the cottages which will be amazing if we get to see any dolphins, and in a few days we are going to make the 10hour overnight bus journey to Hampi, which is a Unesco World Heritage site famed for its temples surrounded by big boulders, so we're still keeping up on our cultural stuff as well as the sunbathing!!I rang Gary for the first time today, it was so good to hear his voice and I'm excited that him and Chris might be coming to see us for a bit in Vietnam (get your bums in gear guys and book your tickets!). Home feels a world away where we are, but it doesn't really feel like we are in India at the moment either because Goa is so different to everything else we've seen!!
love from Palolem xxxxxxxxxx
P.S. Happy birthday to John for yesterday, hope all the Bell and Harris family are well!