Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I give you good price: Baga, Goa 2009

Don't be surprised if you are walking down the streets of Baga and hear a voice cry out for you in an accent which is a mix of Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslett and Meryl Streep. Chances are that you will turn around and see a waif like urchin, straight out of Slumdog Millionaire.
Baga, at Goa is lined with little shops which sell clothes, shoes, spices, fake watches, overpriced artifacts and curios and what have you. The clothes are quite kitsch and trendy and don't be surprised to find a Bob Marley tee shirt beside a Mahatma Gandhi one. The quality? Well if you are bothered about that then you shouldn't shop from the streets in the first place.
These shops normally spring up during season (November to March) and are often manned by girls and women who speak in very exaggerated English accents which they have picked up from foreign tourists.
Bargaining is the norm here. But this year is exceptional. You can get some amazing deals thanks to the recession, terrorist threat and subsequent trickle of tourists. Usually one gives a counter offer of half the quoted price and settles somewhere in between. This year you will often be surprised to see that your first offer itself is taken up as the sellers are quite desperate.
Some of the prices that we saw after bargaining were:
  • tee shirts - Rs 75 - 150
  • skirts/ sarongs - Rs 100 - 200
  • shorts- Rs 100 - Rs 150
  • fake watches - Rs 200
  • 'pashmina' shawls - Rs 100 (plain). Rs 175 (with designs)
  • Water sports!: para sailing at Rs 300 after initial quotes of Rs 600
  • Sling bags/ 'jhollas' - Rs 100
    Rs 100 = 2 USD
Frankly I hate wasting time shopping during holidays. But there was no stopping Kainaz or my brother this year. In fact junior turned out to be quite a shopper as he darted from shop to shop. As for Kainaz, she headed for the shops like a homing pigeon. The way I would head to the nearerst prawn chilly joint I guess.
Though I must say that I was quite excited by some of the quaint Rajasthani tiles, lamps and hooks that we picked up for the house
Traveler's notes:
  • Hotel prices of the small guest houses had gone down too. Though the mid level places held their prices
  • Food prices at restaurants remain constant though. I guess there are those who shop and those who don't. But everyone eats!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

James Bong: Water Sports in Goa, Goa 2009

I love Goa. I love the somnolent mood... the relaxed, friendly, faces... the sleep inducing meals...the cheap beer and the port wine...the balmy ocean breeze. It is just the place to unwind.
My routine at Goa reads - wake up, have a lazy breakfast, curl up on a deck chair on the beach with a book, sleep, eat, go to the hotel room and sleep, wake up, coffee, amble down the streets, eat, sleep. Repeat. To me Goa is the ideal mix of a sleep holiday with great food.
My idea of water sports is lying on a beach bed looking dreamily at the distant horizons. That's how we spent our holidays for the last four to five years at Baga, Goa.
Cut to 2009 when my brother and mom joined us.
I started telling them about the food at Goa, good places to eat, the Churches tour, the hotels ... when my little brother (he wants to be called that) cut me short and said "what about water sports", and went on to announce his plans to para sail and jet around.
And then we begun on a very different holiday. He went para sailing. So did Kainaz (see picture below). We had operators who went up with us.
I did too. Yes you heard me right! I went against my better judgment. I won't deny that it was quite an experience sailing through the skies as the boat tugged you along. I did look at the green sea and the coconut was amazing... only problem was that I opened my eye for just about two seconds!
But that didn't deter junior who went into the water jetting in a water scooter (he enjoyed this the most), he went parasailing again without an operator, waded deep into the sea and flopped into the waves.
My Mom would keep fretting about my brother but he would jet back into the sea leaving us oldies together (don't know if Kainaz would agree to being called that). I think my mom even gave my brother a dressing down on the beach, on his twenty seventh birthday!
We went in a 'slow motor' boat where we had a short ride into the sea which was really nice. The sea water was just below us. The coast looked really pretty. The ride lasted for about ten minutes. Mom joined us for the boat ride. Turned out that she was quite keen on this.
Next year? I will be back to my favourite water sport for sure.
Travel notes:
  • We were at Baga beach and water sports are available in season (November - March)
  • Average prices of the rides ranged from Rs 600 - 300 (12 - 6 USD), the boat ride was Rs 100 (2 USD)
  • Prices vary by operator. Guys in the middle of the stretch, which was less crowded, would charge Rs 600. The guys at the crowded end would charge Rs 300 for the same ride
  • Prices were depressed with the recession this year but bargaining seems to be the norm
  • You don't need to know how to swim for most of these
  • The dog in the picture is called 'Brownie' and belongs to Love Shack

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

On a break

We are off to Goa tomorrow for my brother and my birthdays and plan to come back after kilos of good meals on Sunday. This is our first birthday together in ten years. My first birthday with my Mom in ten years. A very different Goa trip from usual. Kainaz has supported my annual birthday trip to Goa so far. I wonder where that will stand after this trip. Keep commenting. Will love to read them once I am back.
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