As we sped from the airport (and I do mean sped, there are vague road rules in India!), I couldn't believe how calm, peaceful and quiet it was. Despite it being nearly 75 degrees at that time of the morning, people were out in jeans, t-shirts and sandals running along the side of the road. I couldn't figure out why so many people were running at 4am, so I asked the taxi driver.
"Madame," he said, "they are making their morning jogging."
We arrived at our hotel, but were denied early check-in because all rooms were occupied. We were exhausted and wound up trying to sleep on the poolside chairs until 7:30am, when the restaurant opened. The breakfast spread was pretty impressive, and I was really looking forward to trying lassi, an Indian fermented yogurt drink.
After a quick nap, we headed out for the beach. The city was starting to come alive with the rising sun. We walked by stray dogs, cows, and lots of trash. India doesn't have a way of disposing their trash, so people often just burn it or leave it on the side of the road. According to this, the poor usually will come along and collect what they can to recycle and sell. We ran into this woman shown here, who was selling beautiful blankets, shoes and bags.
Cows are sacred animals in India. In some Indian states, it is illegal to slaughter them. They are a symbol of wealth, and seen as "the great caretaker"- a maternal figure to the Indian people. Because of this belief, cows roam freely on the beach, in yards, and even on the streets. Some will just lay down in the middle of the street for a rest, and all the cars, scooters and trucks will swerve out of the way to avoid them. It's considered good luck to give a cow a little snack if you come across one.
This whole thing was so interesting to me. Our tour guide told me that each cow is owned by someone, and they try to find it each night and bring it back home, but that during the day they let it roam around and eat. This made me sad because I saw so many cows rummaging through the garbage on the side of the road.
One of the great contrasts in India is its scent. I'd be walking down the road in an invisible cloud of incense and spices - so delicious and rich, and then BAM. Smacked in the face by the scent of burning garbage and urine.
We checked out Goa's famous Saturday night market, and it didn't disappoint. There were lots of people, which was overwhelming at times, but it was manageable. There were booths of all sorts of things - statues, spices, mala beads, intricately jeweled boxes, clothing, incense. I brought lots of things home to sell in my online shop, if you're interested.
We decided to go to the spice plantation on one of our days there. It was an hour and a half drive, which doesn't sound terrible, but if you're not used to the way people drive in India, it can seem like an eternity. While our driver was good, there were definitely times when my friend and I would reach out and grab each other's arm holding on for dear life. All part of the adventure! :)
Drivers pass on both sides in India. I'd look out my car window and see an entire family of four crammed on a dirt bike, the youngest child (no helmet), bouncing along on the handlebars. One lane would have at least two cars and a scooter or two trying to pass. It was just chaos. Smaller cars usually would give way to larger ones, and all trucks had a sign on the back that encouraged the car behind to beep to alert them of their presence. Let me just say - the beeping was incessant!
Surprisingly, we only saw one accident. It happened right in front of us and wasn't too major, though one guy's car was smashed up pretty good. Both people were outside of the cars yelling at one another though, so no one was hurt.
Our tour guide knew all the best places off the beaten path, and on our way to the spice planation stopped at a church on top of a mountain overlooking the jungle. We were so far away from the highway that we didn't hear any traffic - just birds chirping.
The spice plantation was pretty cool- definitely a highlight of the trip. The tour was about thirty minutes, and we had a small group consisting of just my friend and me, and a father and son duo from Sweden. Lunch was served afterwards, and it was fantastic - lots of different types of curries, a cabbage dish, and meats.
Have you ever traveled somewhere and found yourself looking at something so crazy beautiful you feel like you need to remind yourself to burn the image, the scents and sounds of that moment in your mind so you never forget? That's how I felt about almost everything I saw in India, but especially when our tour guide took us to this lookout in South Goa. I love that the color of the water and the sky were almost the same. It was so beautiful it didn't even look real. I wish you could see the color of the dirt I was standing on to take this picture. It was bright orange, and the morning was uncomfortably hot, but one of those things where the discomfort is worth it because the view is just that good.
Another highlight of the trip - meeting this elephant. There was an option to ride the elephant, but in Thailand I was told that in order to train an elephant to allow someone to ride it means that the trainer must "break its soul." I couldn't get that phrase out of my head, so I didn't want to go for a ride. Being that close, letting him (her?) sniff my hands, and seeing those gorgeous eyes up close was more than enough for me. I absolutely love elephants.
I wish I had taken a picture where you could see the eyelashes better. So long and full and those eyes! So, so beautiful.
I love people watching, and the streets of Goa offered so much to see between the tourists, locals, and various cows, goats and dogs.
The beaches in Goa were another obvious highlight. Each beach sort of had its own unique vibe. Baga beach was really packed, Candolim and Calangute where more calm and quiet. Agonda literally had no one there. At nearly all the beaches, however, there were little beach huts set up for the season that offered fresh fish and fresh squeezed juices. If you bought something, you could stay on a beach chair for free. The only downside to the beaches was the people who'd come around trying to sell their trinkets. Everyone wanted to chat you up and take you to see their shop, or whip out five or ten bracelets for you to buy. You'd just have to firmly say no, or say that you forgot your wallet at your hotel and you'll come back later.