May 5, 2013

Trip to Goa - III

Read Part-I and Part-II first. Unless you like to start from the middle and work your way back.

Can anyone get bored of doing nothing? Turns out, some of us can. Especially after spending 2 days of doing nothing, I get this weird urge to go out and do something. Anything. It was like I had become infected with a particularly bad case of Indianis touristyitis, which in case you did not know is a serious mental disorder which seems to afflict citizens of my country when they are on vacation, causing them to spend enormous amounts of money to do/buy stuff they later regret. Ever bought a traditional multi-coloured 'cap' from a friendly smooth-talking vendor in Shimla, that you have never worn since, because no one in their right mind would do so outside of a hill station? Ever paid 500 bucks to sit on a 'pony' for a ride of less than 100 metres which still took half an hour since the horse walks slower than your president with a bad knee? Ever uploaded a picture on facebook (or instagram or flickr or picasa, it doesn't matter) where you and your 'friends' have struck a weird 'pose' in front of a well-known historic monument, causing terrible embarrassment for all concerned? All that, my friends, is a result of being infected by Indianis touristyitis. A cure is yet to be found for this, although people say staying at home without taking a vacation helps.

Thankfully, some of my friends had a better immune system and were hell-bent on not doing anything. So, we had breakfast and we hit the pool. We had a frisbee which we threw with such deadly aim, that it hit the pool-side bar, the sun-decks (beds?), the other people in the pool, the shower area near the pool, in fact every place other than where we intended it to go. Maybe because we had one too many beers. Or maybe because we are bad at throwing. Whatever.

We went to Britto's for a late lunch, and I had another amazing meal. These Goans sure know a thing or two about cooking. Prawns baffad (slightly sweet, coconut milk based dish) and Fish caldine this time. And beer. And dessert. As usual, a heavy lunch necessitates a good siesta, and so we came back and crashed.

By evening (and evening in Goa means 10 pm), we were ready to go partying. After all, who comes to Goa and doesn't party? I'll tell you who. A bunch of stags, that's who.

Every damn place seemed to have this policy that a bunch of single guys, however geeky and harmless looking, presented a clear and present danger to their lady customers. Now, I have ranted about this before. And while recent events in the national capital and elsewhere have made me rethink some of my attitude (and I do feel that women in this country need a lot more respect than what they are getting), I still think this free (or discounted) entry  into clubs is a clear case of reverse sexism. I mean, ladies, the guy who owns the nightclub is not allowing you free entry to tap into your intellectual acumen, or owing to the fact that your emotional quotient is better. So, your attitude of accepting the perks of your physicality just when it suits you, and crying 'gender discrimination' the moment things don't go your way reeks of rank hypocrisy. And I won't change my mind unless some of you join me in protesting outside those clubs demanding that single guys be allowed in. I am not even asking for free entry, I am willing to pay my cover charge. After all, I have studied economics and I know there is no such thing as a free lunch (except if you are a lady and the lunch means entry into a club). Sorry for the digression, I wanted to get it out of my system.

Business in April must be slow in Goa, probably due to the oppressive heat. Or the bouncer at Cape Town Cafe saw us and decided this bunch of lojers posed no threat to the (later we realized, non-existent) women in his club. But a combination of factors led to us sitting around a table, having whisky and not-so-great food and then we decided to hit the dance floor.

Now, when it comes to dance, think of Hrithik Roshan. And his brilliant moves. And visualize the exact, diametric opposite. And there you have it, me on the dance floor. I can't move my hands and feet together, and my waist is so round that it moves independently, whether I want it or not, but give me some alcohol, and play loud music, and you'll be witness to a sight that'll rank along with some of the funniest you have seen. Or tragic, depending on the way you look at it. And so we danced away, first to an empty floor which soon filled up as people (including the previously non-existent women) trooped in to see this bunch of manic guys 'dancing' and decided to make some moves of their own. In a distant corner, away from us. I had so many beers that I lost count. I firmly believe that if you don't get wasted at least once on a trip to Goa, then the trip itself is wasted (see, pun!). We danced till 3 am, and then went back to the hotel. The fact that I managed to find my room unassisted means I did not get wasted enough. Shame!

Woke up the next day to a slight headache, which meant that the 'get wasted' plan was not a total wash-out (see, one more pun!). Had read somewhere that a long run is a cure to a hangover (provided you drink lots of water), so got on the treadmill and did a 5 km (proud!). The only effect was that the pain in my had shifted to my legs. But I got over my hangover with a hearty breakfast and lots of watermelon juice. This day was uneventful, in the sense we had yet another good lunch at Fisherman's Cove and yet another dinner at Britto's. And of course, I caught a lovely sunset at the beach. And played some pool, which is like playing carrom with sticks and balls, except the balls never go where I aim, unlike in carrom. But I still managed to win because the other guy potted the 8-ball in the wrong pocket. Yay!

And thus we come to Sunday, the end of the vacation, usually the hardest day since thoughts of coming back to the same old routine haunt you, preventing you from enjoying the last few hours. Again, not much to report, other than a very nice lunch at this place called Republic of Noodles, which is apparently an award-winning restaurant at Lemon Tree. Well, I don't know what awards, but they definitely qualify for SRK's Good Food Guide. Which, in case you didn't know, is more prestigious than Michelin stars.

And thus, we come to the end of the trip report. Written in such detail, because unlike some people, I don't click snaps to retain memories of trips. What I do, is write lots and lots of words about it. possibly because a good camera is expensive and clicking good snaps takes some talent, while blogging is free and no quality check is being done here.

May 1, 2013

Trip to Goa - II

Read Part-I first. Not that it would make any difference, but still.

You know this guy called Murphy? He loves me. I open the newspaper on the flight, only to see a headline: "Drinking banned on Goa beaches"! One of my fondest memories of Goa is sitting on the beach with friends, with a bottle of port wine and plastic cups, sipping the sickly-sweet liquid, observing the sun slowly turn from a bright yellow ball to a soft orange one as the waves lapped at our feet. Now, it will remain just that. A fond memory. The stated reason is to ensure safety of women and to avoid littering on the beaches. A typical government 'solution' to a problem. It looks good on paper, makes it seem as if the government is trying to address the issue, makes all the boring people happy and puts the blame on something harmless. A person who is prone to molesting women can do it when he is sober. And one who respects women wouldn't do it even when he is drunk. Try explaining that to the government though. Anyways, the fun part is that you can get drunk in the shacks on the beach (and then go around molesting women, if that's what you were planning to), but you cannot carry your own bottles and drink on the beach. Sounds suspiciously like some serious lobbying was done by the shack owners to me.

Such depressing news aside, we had a fairly uneventful flight and landed in the land of sun, sand and super cheap alcohol. The first of those was brought home to us immediately as soon as we stepped out of the flight. It was hot. Unbearably, irritatingly, mind-numbingly hot! If-someone-had-thrown-an-egg-at-my-nearly-bald-head-I-would-have-returned-them-an-omelette hot! An air-conditioned prepaid cab was found, and the hotel was reached post an hour long drive. We had booked ourselves into this place called Lemon Tree (on Candolim beach, nice place!) which had a swimming pool with a bar. And water with ass-jet in the loo! All my needs were met, and I mentally thanked my friends. Because you don't say thanks to friends. A fact that Salman Khan made clear more than 2 decades back!

There are 2 things that happen to me on a vacation. I get perennially hungry and once I have had my fill, I feel perennially sleepy. So, we walked into this place called Fisherman's Cove, and I had the first of many brilliant lunches. Rice with fish curry and prawn curry, and a nice dessert to top it off. Food was a highlight of the trip, considering we did nothing else on the trip.

Ok, we actually set out to do nothing on the trip, so one could say we did everything we wanted to (this is a line borrowed from this guy and I never get tired of using it). There are two kinds of people in this world. The first are people who do things on a vacation. They visit places, they shop, they party, they sing karaoke (badly!), they drive around, they take snaps on their fancy cameras and they put it up on every social media imaginable to let the world know that they are having a good time. The second kind are the people who just be. We laze around doing nothing, sitting for endless hours quietly, with a book in one hand and a beer in another, occasionally raising our head to admire the view of the sea. We also do stuff sometimes, like a dip in the pool, but that's just us taking a break from taking a break. Now, I am not saying that this way is better than that or anything of that sort. Some people get excited ticking off a check list. To each his own.

But we also succumb to the temptation of doing stuff. And so, post lunch, we walked to the beach and had a beer or two (at a shack, since taking your own bottles was 'banned'). The combination of great food, chilled beer and bright sun always make me drowsy, and so we returned to the air-conditioned comfort of our rooms for a nap.

Dinner was another memorable affair, at a place called Club Jazz or something. Food wasn't all that great, except for the prawn balchao that I ordered. The server warned me that it might have a strong smell, since it has dried prawns and vinegar. I decided to risk it and was glad that I did. Went well with the whisky too. Simply brilliant!

Since we had already done our quota of sleep, and 2 of the guys in the group were keen followers of European club football, we did some walking around and found a sports bar (J29, it was called) where they were showing the Real Madrid-Dortmund match. Now, I don't know much about club football, but it was a nice fast paced match with the Germans running circles around the Spanish. 2 more beers and I was in this perfect 'happy' zone, with a slight buzz in my head but not too drunk to have a throbbing headache the next day. The trip had got off to a perfect start and I was looking forward to 3 1/2 more days of fun.

The next day, we woke up late (at least by my standards, although my friend insisted that waking up at 9.00 am is really early by Goan standards). Lemon tree has this nice breakfast buffet which comes as part of the room package. Now, I make fun of most traits of my countrymen, especially the way they behave on a vacation. But I am guilty of one of those crimes myself - whenever I see a buffet, I stuff myself silly, eating way more than I possibly can digest. Somehow the concept of unlimited food triggers some switch in my brain which then goes batshit crazy. So, I sampled almost everything they had laid out, then found out that one could order eggs separately, so ordered an omelette, then a french toast, and then sampled some of the pancakes (with generous topping of maple syrup) ordered by friends. All my fitness karma, from 2 half marathons this year, was wiped out in that one meal.

After such a meal, there is only one thing a person can do. And that is to go back to sleep. Which is what my friends did. For a brief time, I was infected by the Indianis touristyitis and I decided that I hadn't come all the way to Goa to sleep in a room. So, I gathered my Kindle and found a hammock by the pool and lay down there. And rose from there half an hour later, with a pain in my neck from trying to maintain the reading angle on the hammock.

After some time in the pool, we went off for another lunch of rice and fish curry, followed by another long walk on the beach, and went back to sleep. We also hired a car to ferry us around for the next 2 days, but were handicapped in the sense that only 2 out of 5 knew how to drive (I don't. Must learn soon!) and one of those two wanted to drink a lot more than would be safe. And so, one guy ended up driving all through. Thanks man, JB.

We read somewhere on the net that there was a party at Curlie's and decided to go for it. We ended up driving to the wrong end of Anjuna beach, and then decided that we were too lazy to go back and find out the correct way. And so we ended up having dinner at Souza Lobo (Calangute).

Now, I have very fond memories of Souza Lobo from my last 2 trips to Goa. Their prawn cocktail was to die for. But somehow the magic seems to have waned. Either that, or it is the 'familiarity breeds contempt' concept as one of my friends (and fellow Souza Lobo fan) put it. But my dinner there was uneventful, with nothing memorable. Hope the next time I go to Goa, it'll be different.

Another trip to the J29 sports bar, this time to watch Chelsea-FC Basel. I found the match boring and hence decided to give up at half-time and go back to bed.

"2 1/2 more glorious days lie ahead," I told myself as I drifted off to sleep.

(looks like I'll have to do a third installment. Considering that people come back with 300+ snaps of their vacation, and every picture is worth a thousand words, I guess I can keep writing...)