From Mumbai, we took a 7:00 am train to northern Goa. The train was quite similar to what I had experienced in China, but not as comfortable or as pleasant a way to travel. The problems are two-fold. In China the trains had two sets of either double or triple stacked berths per section (2nd class had triple stacked, 1st class double stacked). There was then a spacious aisle where they had additional seating and a small table. Along the side of the train by the aisle the Chinese trains had massive clean windows. The additional seating made it such that you could have a seat at the small table if the beds were down for sleeping. You could also look out the big windows and really enjoy the view.
In Indian trains, they’ve added an additional two berths perpendicular the aisle which makes the train far more crowded. It also means that once the beds are down, there is nowhere to sit, so your options are to stand in the area between the cars of the train, or lie down in bed. You can’t even sit up in bed if you are in the lower two berths because the space is too small to sit up. The windows are also very small and dirty so if you want to really see the scenery you have to hang out between the cars and open up the doors, or opt for the cheap non-berth seats. The non-berth seating has big windows but there is no glass so it can get chilly at high speeds. I spent most of the trip between the cars. Going first class is not a solution because they also don’t have the seating on the other side of the aisle, though at least sitting up on the berths is possible when the berths are down.
There is unfortunately no dinning cart either, vendors come up and down the aisles selling food and tea, but there is no place where you can go and sit down in the section of the train where the food is prepared. Don’t get me wrong, I still had a fantastic time on the train because the scenery was stunning but the trains do leave room for much improvement.
The train at the station in Mumbai:
The narrow aisle:
Standing in the area between the cars with a door open behind me. There are doors that can be readily opened on both sides of the train so you can easily check out the scenery on either side.
Flo and Laura sitting on the bottom berths perpendicular to the aisle. As you can see the window is pretty small and grimy:
Photos taken through an open door in the area between the cars:
Our ultimate destination in North Goa was the beach town of Vagator. There is no train station in that town so we had to take a colourful taxi to our hotel.
The pimped out console of the taxi:
Vagator is a small beach town peppered with colourful little houses that show off its Portuguese history. There isn’t all that much to do or see aside from wandering the beaches and exploring the little houses along the narrow streets. The place is very pretty and super chill so it would be a relaxing place to spend a couple of weeks: it ended up being my favourite of all the beaches I visited in India.
Our hotel, the Julie Jolly, was a 10 minute walk from the beach and had really big and clean rooms. The rooms were about $40 CDN a night so they are a killer bargain for the quality of the place.
After checking into the hotel we made it to a nearby hotel’s restaurant for my first taste of fish in India. I was looking for the One Degree Restobar and the place we had dinner at was extremely nice, but I’m not sure we ended up at the right place.
We showed up about two weeks shy of the start of the tourist season so the place was entirely empty. However, the food did not disappoint and as you can see in the photos below, we were able to dine in a lovely outdoor couryard:
An outdoor seating area in the bar portion of the restaurant:
The following morning we just walked around Vagator taking in the colourful houses and the beach area:
This is the only time I’ve seen cows at a beach. They appeared to be having a splendid time:
There were a number of very relaxing restaurants next to the beach, with seating arranged stadium style with most seats facing the sea:
A nice little house on our walk back to the hotel:
We ended up at the Alcove Resort for another pleasant outdoor dinner. The best part of the dinner was the live performer they had stashed by the fountain. Picture a man in his 40’s belting out pop hits from the 80’s on an electric keyboard. The fellow was so kitchy that the music turned out to be really good. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a middle-aged Indian man singing Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” in a beach resort.
I went for a stroll along the beach after dinner and I discovered a charming little bar that had only been open a couple of months. The best thing about the bar is that it has these great little private booths that can seat up to four people, some of them elevated. These photos do not do the place justice:
On the way to the hotel our driver/mechanic on the trip, Bob, sent me a text inviting me to come out to rave of sorts near the beach (no drug scene as far as I could tell, just booze). The fellow below is the owner of the bar across the street from our hotel where Bob picked me up in a fancy vehicle driven by very nice locals. It’s a pity I wasn’t able to take more pictures of the place, the area around the pool tables in particular had dome ceilings replete with mosaics reminiscent of Gaudi.
Some photos from the rave (I apologize for the poor quality of some shots, it was killer dark):
The next morning we departed on a short drive to south Goa, stopping by Old Goa along the way. Let’s just say that, having gotten back to the hotel at 4:00 am from the rave, I was too tired to take many shots:
In south Goa we stayed in a hotel at Palolem beach which is considered one of the nicest beaches in India. Much like Vagator there isn’t all that much to see in cultural terms, but Palolem is more of a pure beach town–they don’t have the nice old Portuguese inspired houses. The night scene is also a lot quieter; the town pretty much shuts down at midnight.
I was very jealous of this couple in their great little hotel room right by the beach:
Dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant:
A cow wandered into the restaurant. Only in India.
I’ll leave you with some photos of the beach area and a lovely looking beachside bar at night: