All the trains that we had booked in India, were confirmed seats. This time, we decided to give the waitlist option a go as every other train was fully booked. We had read that if your waitlist number is less then 10 there is a high possibility you will still get a seat. We were listed 14 & 15 and up until 6 hours before our departure to Goa, our number hadn’t changed. Then all of a sudden we were confirmed but in separate areas. Our idea was just to sit together and see if who ever asked us to move would swap seats. In the end, it didn’t matter, as we were sat with two nice guys who didn’t mind us taking up the extra room. One was a young guy studying medicine and the other, a High Court Judge so we, for the first time in all our train journeys, were able to converse with our fellow passengers using English rather than talking with our hands and saying three familiar words, Cricket, Ponting & Dhoni.. Now, don’t get us wrong, that is usually quite fun, but this was great company. We learnt a lot about some differences in the Indian culture and places to visit in Kerala as well as some pointers on where to go for a drink in Goa.
We said goodbye to the Judge as he disembarked and noticed our doctor passenger leave his personal belongings and make a beeline for the platform. It had to mean one thing. Food. I quickly got up and followed him to a stall selling £1 Chicken Biriyani. Our friend helped my buy it and we sat down on the train silently devouring the delicious meal. Buying that biriyani turned out to be our last good decision for a few days.
Our bad choices began with heading to North Goa rather than South. It was also off-season so most places are only built in October/November, so we were a month early. We found what seemed to be a great backpackers in Vagator, the old stomping ground of the trance party hippies from the 70’s, it was said to have been long gone now and was more a place to chill out. Wrong! The trance scene may have left in the 70’s but the partiers who partook in such frivoloties are still there. In body – definitely not in mind. Add these geriatric stoners to the hundreds drunk Indian men in jeans on a beach drinking warm beer and straight whiskey, while groggily undressing any unfortune female who passes by with their blood shoot eyes, and you have a North Goan Beach.
We soon learned that sitting on the beach was not an option so decided that we would grab lunch at the nearby restaurant, Mango Tree, then head back to the room to catch up on everything. The only flaw in that plan, was our private room wasn’t all that private as we had another guest, a very large rat, who we named Stuart Biggle.
We instead stayed at the Mango Tree drinking beers while watching the expats and locals getting wasted, as seedy individuals would ride up on scooters to make, what we imagine to be, illegitimate transactions. Before we knew it, it was dinner time. We ate, and as we headed towards the exit, we were sidetracked by the bar and sat down for one more (No More). Then we read the menu and saw bottles of port for £3. Goa was Portuguese so we may as well try the local liquid. Another bad decision. Not wanting to break our already tired budget, we opted for the 50p glass of port. It turns out a glass was a third of the bottle. It wasn’t the nicest port, but a 50p a glass, it was fantastic. Next thing we knew, were were on the equivelant of our 3rd bottle of port, watching as the resident lady bar-fly handed out lollipops before ordering a plate of chips to individually dip them in ketchup to throw at her own scooter.
It was time to leave. But unfortunately, when alcohol is involved, violence sometimes ensues. We are not sure how many bottles of £3 port the
steer bull had to drink, but when I went to pat him at 5am, he wasn’t happy. After a quick conversation, informing him that I know a couple of butchers, I managed to put him in his place. We woke at 2pm the following afternoon to see Stuart Biggle staring at us so decided to move on prematurely.
We had heard about a cooking class through Siolim House, a hotel in the restored home of the the former Macau Ambassador. It was above our daily limit, but with the hostel making our rat room free of charge, we used it towards staying in the old house.
We had our cooking class the following morning with Natty in another house a few doors up. Natty said it was hands on, and within 5 minutes, we were gutting and scaling fish ready for the Goan dishes we were going to create. It was up there with the best food in a cooking class so far and we can go as far to say that the Okra Caldine could be our favourite curry all together.
It was unfortunate were weren’t staying at Siolim longer as we were kindly invited to the family wedding on the weekend, but we missed it by one day.
We hired a scooter the following two days to discover what North Goa had to offer, but due to the wrong time of year at the Northern beaches, there wasn’t much going on. All the resorts were not yet open, so the beaches were pretty much empty except for some colorful tarps protecting what was left of the bamboo huts.
We made it to one beach that consisted of no sand, no bikinis or board shorts, no surf, no reef, no fun or even a frisbee. Instead there was concrete structures that resembled ocean mines, broken whisky bottles and the underlying feeling of a sexual assault.
It did, however, have a bar that was proud to lack wifi. A nostalgic reminder a yesteryear. We totes wanted to tweet about it #lol
We had originally tried to to stay at Yab Yum in their hairy coconut huts but ,they too, were closed. However, the kind owner, Joe, emailed me with heaps of information and a link to his website tripzuki, that had a run down of where to eat. One that was mentioned was Anand. We were keen to go but were 20kms away. When we arrived at one of the northern beach restaurants open, it smelt of raw sewage. We made the call to drive back 20kms to Anand and try their food. And we are glad we did. It was packed with locals eating the fish thali and many other seafood dishes. We opted for a prawn chilli fry and washed it down with a cold Kingfisher.
That night we headed to another reccomended restaurant called Gunpowder. The Keralan Backwater Curry was fantastic. We found the owner, and after chatting for a while, we convinced him to give us the recipe.
We had one more day of riding around before dinner back at Anand. The people at Siolim even gave us a free room to clean up and watch movies until 2am before catching our 3am train to Nasik. The train was late, so we had 2 hours of watching the drunk men argue and throw things at the poor street dogs. All the while trying to convince ourselves on how we could adopt two of the cutest pups who never left our side as if to protect us. We did the worse thing instead – we named them – Rosie and Bourbon Biscuit. Then we left them behind. The hard choices we have to make. Sad times.