After a very quick flight on Spice(y) Jet (the Indian version of Sleazy Jet with older planes and tiny seats!), we landed at Goa airport. We had pre-booked a taxi through our friendly Air BnB hosts who greeted us at the airport with our names on the sign (it felt very Westernised!). The 2 hour journey whizzed by as our taxi driver recommended things to do in Palolem and where to try his favourite local drink, Feni.
If you haven’t heard of Palolem, it’s a small village at the tip of South Goa where the sea is calm and the shore is lined with multi-coloured beach huts and restaurants. Goa is divided into the North and South: The North being known for its clubbing and party atmosphere whereas the South is recognised as being quieter and more relaxing. As it was only our first week in India (after the Madness of Mumbai) we thought South Goa would be a gentle introduction to India, where much to Jack’s relief they would still have Western toilets!
The landscape of Palolem and the surrounding islands can only be described as b-e-a-utiful and we spent the first day just taking in the sights. Our Air Bnb (Nimi’s Homestay) was in the perfect location; in the heart of the busy market stalls, restaurants and just a 2 minute walk to the beach. On our first day, we couldn’t resist going for a dip. The water was so warm it felt like being in a bath! However, in our haste to get in the water, we acted as classic Brits and forgot to properly cream up. For anyone that knows us we are not particularly brown (polite way of saying we are pale and pasty, but there is hope!)
By the evening we were badly burnt and resembled lightly poached lobsters. Rookie mistake! At least we weren’t the only ones, as plenty of other tourists looked like they had dipped themselves in red food colouring. Lesson learnt and 2 tubes of aloe vera gel later, we started to feel a little better.
G: “It didn’t take long for me to find myself a yoga instructor at Shiva’s Yoga Centre, just a 2 minute walk from our accommodation towards the beach. Swami had been practicing yoga since he was 12 years old and boy did it show! He could contort himself like a snake whilst looking calm as anything. He was patient and very experienced (I knew he would be the perfect instructor for Jack…little did he know!)”
The next day we started the morning with a coffee in a local bookshop (this was to become Jack’s daily ritual). We use book shop in the loosest possible sense as it was more a shack with some books and a tiny kitchen at the back, but it wasn’t pretentious, and no one pressured us into coming inside.
We found out that during the off season (April-October) the village is a shadow of its former self in comparison to the peak season. When the monsoon rains come during the Summer months, they deconstruct all the restaurants/shops/beach huts and move elsewhere. Although the prices are still cheaper than England, some people are able to work 5 or 6 months in Palolem and build up enough funds to live off for the rest of the year.
J: “I ended up being roped into going to yoga with George and went…reluctantly, but even after 1 session my lower back, which has given me jip for such a long time, felt a little better. I’m still not convinced about all the spiritual mumbo-jumbo, but there can be no doubt that it is good for you. I was hooked, though won’t be doing any headstands anytime soon (unlike George!)”
Palolem hosts a mix of people (Indian’s coming down from the big cities and foreigners on an inexpensive vacay) who were all there for the same thing: cheap drinks, beaches and sun. Some of whom looked like a throwback from the 60s, they were an eclectic bunch (more than a few looked like they hadn’t washed for days), but under the Indian sun there didn’t seem to be a divide and everyone mixed together which was good to see.
Our taxi driver had recommended we try the local drink Feni, which is fermented cashews or coconut and is native to Goa. We tried some and it was pretty grim, it tasted just like paint stripper with some coconut water. We later found out we were supposed to mix it rather than drink it neat but neither of us were willing to give it a second shot!
It was Jack’s birthday during our stay and we (Georgina!) decided to treat ourselves (and our burns) and have Ayurvedic massages – £8 for 30-minute neck and shoulder massage, £18 for 90-minute full body deep tissue massage. Later that day, we walked to the tip of the headland to reach Sundowner, a bar which can only be accessed at low tide by walking through the shallow water. It is famous for…can you guess? Its sunset, which was pretty spectacular. Our pictures don’t do it justice!
Whilst in Palolem we also decided to take a boat tour to some of the local beaches and an island nearby called Monkey Island. We were told it would be stunning; with water like glass, dolphins that would come right up to the boat, monkeys and an amazing sunrise. We were sold! Well the day we booked we got up extra early and made our way to the beach to be confronted with big waves and a grey sky (turns out it’s not always sunny in India). Still, we had a great time on the boat and saw plenty of dolphins – although no good photos so apologies.
Jack also experienced a mild case of dejavu whilst we were in Palolem. Having been on a bike trip around Europe with a friend (associate) they had met an Indian serving behind one of the bars. After chatting it turned out that “Kavalesh” owned a bar in Palolem called Le Petit Palolem! We had to check it out. Walking there through the palm trees in the sunset with the beat of bassy dance music was intoxicating. Having had a pretty chilled time so far in Palolem we were up for a bit of a party and George busted some shapes like back in our uni days.
Would we recommend Palolem?
This was probably the most touristy place we will visit, and the prices are far higher than expected (though still cheap), but it is very much tailored to the tourist industry. If you are planning a 2 week holiday to India for some R&R mixed in with a bit of partying and stunning scenery, we can highly recommend it.
Our next destination will be Chennai and then onto Auroville, a famous village in which there are some strange practices and beliefs.