Calagute Beach – Goa – Beach Shack attack

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If you are the type that loves the quiet Beach life, don’t go to Calagute Beach in Goa during the high season. However, if you love throngs of people, tons of beach, and warm waters, then check it out.

While Calagute was not the ideal Goa destination I had hoped for, it was definitely an entertaining hub for which to explore.

Many Russians and Domestic travellers were hunkered down at the various beach shacks that dot the many sun beds offering free wifi. Good food, and, a big drink selection. They have learned the ways to entice the tourists with blended cocktail concoctions and seafood galore.

IMG_2888My favourite beach shack happened to be the oldest one, first established in the mid 70’s, called Inspiration. Their fish sizzler was not only excellent but a great price with kind hearted fellows running the show. All the beach shacks are a seasonal affair. By May and once the monsoons season knocks, the beach shacks are completely dismantled for the season, only to be re-built in October. There is a transient feel amongst Goa, which few true locals, and many seasonal transplants seeking work,play and a few months away from cold weather.

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As a people watcher, the Goan experience did not disappoint. Best of all was my experience at Mapusa (locally known as Mapsa), Market. Mapusa is a 250 rupee rickshaw ride away and well worth the trip. It is a local daily market that provides everything from basic household items, to western clothes, to vegetables. It is an eclectic array of everything imaginable and is a mainstay for the locals. Wednesdays are the big day at Anjune, but it is a more touristy market than that of Mapusa.

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If you will love watching, aren’t afraid to haggle, and like the array of colours an outdoor market can provide, then check it out!  Walking along the sands from one beach to another proved to be great fun, as solicitations for sunbeds were constant and smiling waters were fresh. While for me, Goa wasn’t the paradise I had expected, it did provide for lovely weather and some fun outings. Known for its nightlife, if I was 20 years younger, I may have had a more ‘happening experience’, but the Rave Club scene is no longer my game.

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If you want nightlife, there is plenty to be had, in Calgute beach. Now I am Goa Goa gone.

Udaipur – A land of lakes and luxury

Udaipur is an oasis! There are six ‘king-made’ lakes throughout the city that make this moderately sized town quite famous. After the hustle and bustle of Indian city life, I can see why so many ‘domestic travellers’ relax in Udaipur. After a very long journey from Rishakesh to Delhi by both auto and train, we carried on to Udiapur on a plane. Luckily, the plane was not delayed due to fog, which is the norm for this time of year. And after 15 hours of travel, this lake town was a welcome reprieve.

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The people of Rajastan are all very friendly and welcoming. They are inviting and often offer their own homes for a cup of tea or a chat. This was the case with our waiter, Barat. He called his mother and suggested that his new travelling friends should come to her house for tea on our way to Pushkar. This is the way of the Rajistani people! So kind.

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Udiapur has some lavishness to it as well, with some incredible hotels and the City Palace and Red Fort are fabulous to visit. One 5 star plus hotel is in the middle if the main Picola Lake and was used for the James Bond Movie, Octopussy. The City Palace was so worth the admission with the feeling of Maharani royalty everywhere one turned. There is also one lovely little spot called the Pleasure Palace that was the king’s pleasure place. Udiapur has a sense of wealth and a feeling of royalty that is so far unmatched. Didn’t spend enough time here to really see it all. There is a richness to the people that matches the inner wealth of the experience. And I already want to go back

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Incredible India Hardiwar and Rishikesh

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Rishakesh And Haridwar

At the foot of the Himalayas lies two holy towns which sit along the Ganges about 30 km away from each other. Hardiwar is not the cleanest city I have ever seen but the many people, cows and monkeys make up for its ‘less than kind’ features. There are many holy places along the Ganges River. There are holy men everywhere due to the prominence of Hindu temples with their many stories. There are 33 million Gods in the Hindu culture so there is a lot of worshipping going on at any given time.

Our Hardiwar and Rishikesh guide, Alok, was proud to give us the top tips of Hindu religion in a simple way. Of course, the main three or Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. As it has been explained, G O D is the acronym for Generator, Operator and Destroyer. In the Hindu religion, Brahma is the generator and creator. Vishnu is the operator and protector. And Shiva, the destroyer and transformer. As one walks through the town, dodging scooter and pigs, there are little pujas and statues throughout.

A bit further North is Rishakesh, another very holy city. It is cold and rainy on the day we arrive. The Ganges snakes along the mountain valley like a serpent of servitude. This river is a reminder of the strength of India’s cultural connection to renewal. Throughout its history, and all the strife, discomfort, war and poverty, is always a sense of hope. There always seems to be that feeling that this too shall pass.

Rishakesh is famous for two bridges to cross the river in significant spots. Laxshman Jhula and Ram Jhula both provide passage to the North side of the river. The most amazing experience there was the Aarti Ceremony right on the foot of the Ganges. The rain stopped and the skies opened to a beautiful sunset. People gathered around next to the Ganga and a large flock of young boys dressed in their saffron and maroon clothing flanking the holy fire. It was simply beautiful. The singing was something I have never experienced. I think the Hindi spoken ceremony was basically about honouring the experience of ‘life’ and ‘light’ that is within. The feeling that overcame me was surreal. The mood was one of release and an uplifting of spirits. And the young boys seemed entranced with such passion as they sang along with the holy man overseeing the service. It was truly moving.

As we left Rishakesh, dodging cows, pigs and scooters along the small streets, I could feel a shift inside. It will be a moment I will fondly remember. No matter what occurs, It is as it should be.

Continue reading Incredible India Hardiwar and Rishikesh

Delirious in Delhi

Delirious in Delhi? Delirious doesn’t even begin to describe it. We’re already leaving and I feel a pang of withdrawal from the organized chaos of honking cars, shouting people, and seamless workability of a system that’s been around for thousands of generations. It’s 6:45am and we’re on the train heading from Delhi to Haridwar and Rishikesh. The trains are really a great way to get around. And with a second class fare you get the comforts of a nice seat, and tea. It’s a chilly morning but nothing like the Canadian frigid air. Though all the Indians are wrapped in their head scarves and pashminas as if it was the Arctic. It’s an experience to see Delhi via train. Seeing everything from drying cow patties used to burn for heat, and plops of the ‘morning constitution’ being witnessed, to all the goings on of a new morning day. Workers on their bikes or scooters or cars, leaving for work. And the green countryside mixed with small collections of towns or shanty places along the way is part of the experience.

Delhi! Incredible and difficult to describe! I already look forward to coming back. The sites, sounds, smiles, scents and sensory shock is exactly what the Doctor ordered. It’s beautiful and special here. And though my blonde hair on a tall frame makes me the ideal target for hawkers and such, I find everyone really respectful in their way. They see me, and attempt to get my attention, and why wouldn’t they? So it’s by nature of survival that I would be pushed, prodded and cajoled to hand over some rupis. Nodda problem.

The shopping bazaars seem to be some of my favourite experiences. Thanks to our life saver, Baeni, our driver, we fought our ways through the traffic and honking horns to Chandi Chowk in Old Delhi. Wildly chaotic and insane shopping area that is made up of winding wee passages linking one bazaar specialty area to another. You can buy anything there from silver to saris, spices to shoes. It is near the Red Fort which is a major historical site but for my tastes it’s the shopping areas that provide the sense of any city.

Chandi Chowk was bizarre, crazy, and full of people all hawking. Buying, betting and selling. The passageways are so small that in,y a bicycle rickshaw could fit dodging the walkers, hawkers and stalkers. Any wall nearby seems to be the local pee zone and any small crevasse one viewed, Was filled with people! And the strange thing about it, is that it works. Amongst the chaos, it works. And, everyone, old or young, has a cel phone. It’s a lifeline as important here as it is to us in North America. It’s been an incredibly fulfilling experience thus far. Delhi is a cacophony of all things imaginable. I know I have only just scratched the surface of this place. And this is just the beginning. Next stop Haridwar and Rishikesh.

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India Calling!

India Calling! Its not your standard hang out at an Ashram and cleanse from the karma that bites you in the ass trip.  It is more of an Indian Buffet of all things wild, weird and wonderful about India.  As I’ve never been, everything and anything about it will be wickedly gob-smacking!  Two weeks in the North, the Taj – OMG factor; Jaipur – Pink City Retail Therapy;  Pushkar– Get to know your camel toe (on a real camel) and Varanasi – the cultural slap of the Ganges Ghats ; and then two weeks in the South, backwater cruising in the Kerala District; Ayurvedic de-tox sensations; and the final Hippie fest in Goa.  The great thing about travelling in places so foreign is that its like a cold splash in the face on a humid, hot day. It’s a shock to the system and ideally sets you on a new refreshing course.  Travelling has always been my way of ‘system shock’! And, it works!

So, friends, this will be an opportunity for me to share with you some of the wilds of the tastes, smells, sights, and intuitions – both the gross and the glorious!  It will be INDIA in all its glory, on my terms and from my perspective! I hope you enjoy!

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