On leaving Kerala for Goa we commented to each other how clean the places we visited were and we often saw people sweeping in front of their properties and there were many signs about not littering and not speeding etc along the roads.   There are also an amazing number of very lavish houses either new or being built.   In the small villages there were a number of new commercial buildings and along the way many  new blocks of flats and others under construction.  All the stations are very clean with little stalls selling drinks, fruit and snacks.

We had a much more pleasant trip down the mountain to Ernakulam (Cochin) with the same driver who must have had a change of heart because he drove very smoothly and luckily there was very little traffic going down the mountain at 9.30 in the morning.  We got in early enough to visit the “Fab India” shop which specialises in handwoven fabrics.  In  Cochin it was a three story building full of clothing, homewares and natural products.  The fabrics are of every pattern and colour and they sell everything in the way of clothing as well as bed linen, soft furnishings,table ware and cloths.

We then took our driver to have lunch at the “family restaurant” where we took our driver before we got on the train at 3.15pm  headed for Panaji, Goa, a trip of 13hours.

The train was very comfortable and we were alone for most of the trip in our 4birth compartment.  The “Pantry Car” on the train supplies all the food and the waiters walk up and down the train calling  veg. omlette, cheese sandwiches, onion Bhaji, vegetable sandwich and tomato  sooou..p but they also sold things that sounded like “honey bunny” and “noody nah”.  We had no idea what they were.

We arrived in Madgaon station, Goa at 4.30am to thick fog which made for a nervy trip to our hotel about an hour away in Panjim or Panaji to the locals.  India must have the worlds supply still of carbon paper and checking into the hotel or filling out a laundry slip or getting a receipt for clothes are in all done in duplicate or triplicate.

The Panjim Inn where we stayed which is an old Portuguese house and is still in the same family 5 generations on.  It has a lot of character and some lovely antique furniture and fittings.   They kindly let us check in at 5.30am at no extra charge so we got a few hours sleep before getting up and having some breakfast.  Tracey a friend from Perth who had been travelling in Rajasthan and northern India for three weeks met us at the hotel and we spent a few hours chatting and having a bite of lunch at the hotel before heading to Old Goa in an autorickshaw (a bit of a squeeze for the three of us but our driver told us that they sometimes put 15people in one (small Indian people).  The trip took about 1/2 hour and our man waited for us while we saw the many churches and cathedrals – one more impressive than the next.   It is amazing to see the collection of such large churches in such a small area.  Our sweet autorickshaw man dropped us back  in the main street of Panaji (18th June St) where we shopped and had a delicious frozen yoghurt.

There are a lot of architectural leftovers from the Portuguese occupation of the town for over 500years.  There are some beautifully renovated buildings and some under renovation and some crumbling ones as well but it does make for an interesting mix of buildings in the town.  It is a pretty clean looking town and there are a lot of parks and beautiful large trees in and around the town and down towards the ocean.

We walked for a few hours and did some clothes and jewellery shopping before heading to “Delhi Durbar” a wonderful non vegetarian restaurant where the service was impeccable and the tandoori food delicious.  Their gulab jamuns and kulfi were the best we had tasted.  Our little Nepalese waiter was delightfull.  He took a photo of the three of us and reappeared about 10minutes later with a complimentary calendar for next year with our photo at the top.  They did this for all the clients that night and presumably as a gesture before Christmas and the New Year.

The taxi driver dropped us off at our hotel before taking Tracey back to her resort about 3/4hour north of the town.   Goa is very spread out with many beach resorts to the north and the south of Panaji.

We went for a long walk the next day to the Goan “Fab India” shop which was even better than the one in Cochin.  In front of us was a gibbon who was galloping along the street.  We did a bit of clothes shopping there and then took a couple of things for alteration to a nice little man on the first storey of the municipal markets.  He altered sleeve and shirt lengths for us and added some lining to a dress and covered a burn mark all for $3.

We caught an Autorickshaw back to hotel for a shower and then to Fidalgo hotel and the O Goa restaurant to try some Goan food.  It was very tasty and completely different to north or south Indian food with more subtle spice flavours. Most restaurants give you little onions and other little snacks to eat before ordering your food and I gave Maurice what I thought was a green bean which he chewed and swallowed.  I didn’t have my glasses on and didn’t realize it was a chilli.  Maurice nearly had a seizure and was jumping around to hurry them up to get him some yoghurt.  He couldn’t talk and could hardly swallow so I was relieved when he started to settle down after a bowl of yoghurt.

They had a three piece Phillipino trio singing who had very good voices.

We walked back to the hotel which was only about 15minutes away as it is a very pleasant temperature in the evening with breezes off the sea.

Panaji has a nice atmosphere and there are not too many people on the streets so it is comfortable to walk around even during the day.

We hired an autorickshaw for a couple of hours for $6 (we gave him $10) to take us out to Dona Paula beach about 10kms away where a lot of Indian tourists were walking along the promenade and up to a lookout to take in the views.  He then took us to the Marriott hotel in Miramar where he waited while we had a “Long Island Iced Tea” and sat and enjoyed the view.

I had been trying to get a CD of Ravi Shankar’s classical Sitar music and was unable to find one in all of Kerala but finally found one in Goa.  Such a coincidence that he died on the 13th December in the USA.

We went to another excellent restaurant called the “Sher -e Punjab” that night where we ate very different and delicious vegetarian food from what we had had previously.

On Fridays they have a large market at Mapusa about 1/2 hour out of town so we got an autorickshaw and headed off to the market.  They sell everything there from food to clothing, carpets and furniture.  I did see an original willow pattern small bowl which I wanted to buy but the stallholder wanted $140 for it.  I don’t think he wanted to sell anything or thought all tourists were idiots!  Needless to say I didn’t buy it.  Instead I bought a nice cotton skirt for $3.

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