Getting to Goa

So we have been on our first trip and were sooooo excited leading up to it.

We had been repeatedly told that the booze in Goa is ridiculously cheap and as we are taxed very highly on alcohol in Hyderabad we decided we would take a flight case as well as a back pack each so we could bring some bottles back 😉 So when packing, Anita packed the clothes she was taking into her backpack. My backpack went into the case along with my clothes and I also had the sun cream and after sun. I knew these would be checked so put all the toiletries into plastic bags to make going through security a lot smoother… Yeah right!!!

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Once we got to the airport we had to queue to get into the airport so having checked I  already we all had our boarding passes which are checked to allow you into the airport (no seeing loved one’s off at the departure gate here) We then went straight through to security, as we had already printed off our boarding cards, and here the men have to go through one side and the ladies go through the other. Another queue. Moved slowly, slowly, slowly.

Shaun went through first having put his bag on for x-ray, then walked through the body scanner when called before having his boarding pass checked again and then being waved on. I had put my phone and wallet etc in a tray followed by the flight bag and went through the body scanner, smiled & said good morning and handed over my boarding pass which I should note was exactly the same as Shaun’s, Eva’s and Anita’s apart from the obviously different name.

The airport security guard, sorry soldier, looked at the boarding pass. Turned it over and then examined it in minute detail before stamped it on both sides (no-one else was getting their boarding passes stamped 😲 He then scanned me with a metal detector and directed me to stand at the end of the conveyor. My tray had come through with my phone etc. but the other 2 soldiers working the x-ray machine asked my to open my bag. It was entry into India all over again but as I suspected they wanted to see what the liquids were. I showed them that they were sun cream which they seemed ok with but then started paying a lot of attention to the mosquito roll on and contact lens fluid that was in the same bag as the sun cream. FFS!!!!

As I was getting more and more flustered Shaun came back over as I clearly hadn’t followed him and so he tried to explain as well as me what the roll-on was for. The soldiers eventually seemed to understand and let me take the flight case and the liquids through. I grabbed them and then hurried to try to catch up with Anita and Eva who had sailed through security with no hassles. As we met up with them they started to ask what the hold-up was and then a realisation swept over me.

My phone, wallet and camera were still in the tray on the bottom of the conveyor 😲 Definitely like entry into India!!! However I hadn’t learnt from the ‘experience’ as now in a blind panic I dumped my case with Anita and ran back the way I had come to get my stuff.

Luckily I was not stopped by any soldiers this time and was allowed back along the row of conveyors but they all looked the same and I couldn’t tell which one I had come through. I got to the last conveyor just as a guy moved out of the way and there was my stuff still in the tray. Again FFS!!!

I sheepishly grabbed them, didn’t look at or acknowledge any of the soldiers and rushed back to where I found my incredibly sympathetic wife and friends almost wetting themselves with laughter 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 I needed a beer…

We got the obligatory airport beer (Anita still doesn’t understand this tradition) and then made out way to the gate where pretty much all of the seating was taken but we did manage to squeeze into 4 seats in the corner by counter where the gate opens.

So the thing I have quickly gathered is that there is no rhyme or reason to protocols here. When you would think things should be straight forwards they are complicated and vise versa and this was no more true than when they gate opened and they started calling passengers in zones. We were listed as in zone 3 but it seemed right that we get up when zone 1 was called and that we just join the front of the queue. Nothing was said, our boarding passes were scanned and we were all free to board the aircraft. Result!!!

We got onto the plane, found our seats and settled in for the next hour and 20 minutes where I was hoping for no further dramas (at least our bags were safely in the overhead lockers and I wasn’t leaving the plane without them!!!) Anita, Eva and I were on one side of the plane but Shaun’s seat was unfortunately on the other side so he was seated next to a couple who found him absolutely fascinating. To be fair most people do find Shaun fascinating but the lady could not stop looking at him. She even managed to photo-bomb this picture…

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I have now got a lot more respect for the air stewards and stewardesses (if we’re still allowed to call them that???) who do these type of short-haul flights. There were many complaints from other passengers boarding the plane about seating and the temperature and many other things and these continued even up until we had started taxiing to the runway. This was another experience altogether especially as Anita loves to fly so much.

The plane was reversed away from the stand as usual and then the engines got very loud and the plane set off very quickly on its taxi run to the runway (no hanging around here) The passengers who had been complaining and messing about with their stuff eventually got their bags and stuff sorted and they sat down and then as soon as the plane was on the runway and pointing straight (I hope it was anyway) it accelerated for take-off. No waiting or messing about. This was good in a way as Anita didn’t have time to think about the getting up in the air but bad in that we’ll be ready next time we fly internal.

1 hour and 20 minutes until landing my arse!!! We landed about 55 minutes after take-off. The poor stewards (esses) pretty much ran up and down the plane dishing out food and drink then collected up the rubbish just as we approached to land 😲

We could see a massive difference between what we thought was a quite green Hyderabad and the luscious green of Goa. As we taxied to our ‘parking spot’ we started to notice a lot of mist coming out of the vents in the plane. Anita, with her fear of flying, started to panic ever so slightly as it did look like smoke. I think it was just the difference between the outside air temperature and the inside and so was the moisture in the air from the air-con. It did look pretty scary though.IMG_2838

We were then taken by bus to the terminal – which was pointless in my opinion as we could have walked quicker and then went straight through security (no drama’s at this end) to the waiting pack of wolves that are the Goan taxi’s. The process here is you pay for a taxi at the office at a fixed cost depending where you are going and you are given a ticket. The ‘controller’ then gives the second part of the ticket to the waiting drivers who pick and choose who is going to take you obviously depending on the distance.

We met up with our driver just outside the airport and he led us to his waiting taxi which was a Nissan 4×4. We all piled in but Anita got the dubious honour of being in the front. The 45 minute drive down through Goa to our hotel was frighteningly funny.

The driver sped off from the airport in typical Indian style but once away from the airport I swear he only actually drove on the correct side of the road half a dozen time maximum. The rest was spent speeding along, overtaking anything and everything as we went. It didn’t matter if there was a bend (right or left there was no difference) a speed bump (there are a LOT in Goa and the locals call them speed stoppers) a bridge or roundabout the driver just kept on going.

I was in the back and was taking as many pictures as I could of the beautiful houses that we were passing. Please remember that we are used to the concrete office blocks and high rises of Hyderabad so to see brightly coloured houses was amazing. Apart from the fact that I don’t think I actually saw most of them. I just got a flash of colour and so took a picture and then looked back over them to see how nice and very big they were. I have added a few below. Not going to add them all because when looking back through the pictures I realised I had taken 138 just on the way from the airport to the hotel 😲 I’m glad I put a large capacity SD card in the camera

We then did have to stop as we had come across a railway crossing. The lights were on red and were flashing to signal a train was coming but this did not deter people from walking across. There were also people getting out of their cars to duck under the barrier and take pictures. WHAT ARE YOU DOING PEOPLE??? THERE’S OBVIOUSLY A TRAIN COMING!!!

For those of you who don’t know I have a fear of railway crossings and have done for as long as I can remember. Maybe seeing video’s and films of crashes on them when I was a kid gave me this fear but I break out into a cold sweat and shudder as I drive (or am driven) over them and here we were in Goa about to do exactly that. I was very glad I was in the back.

The train did arrive. Very anti-climatic and made a total mockery of my fear as it slowly crept past. Those people who were stood the wrong side of the barrier were never in any danger but I did manage to video it going past. Apologies if there is any swearing on the video 😉😉

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The rest of the journey to the hotel was much the same as up to the rail crossing – mostly on the wrong side of the road – but the house colours mellowed a little and we passed shops and churches until suddenly we were at the hotel. Thank the lord!!!

The Karma Haathi Mahal was the hotel that Anita & I had picked pretty much at the last minute because we had tried to get into another hotel further down. It was fully booked but because we had been recommended they would squeeze us into their Club suites with a discounted rate which worked out to £350 per room per night 😲😲😲 This was obviously a definite no-no as a 3 night stay there would have meant that we limited on further trips around other parts of India. We politely declined the offer.

As It turns out I’m glad we found and booked the Karma Haathi as it looked like a fabulous hotel as we pulled up.

There was, however, a little hiccup at the beginning as we checked in. We were all given water and fresh mango juice on arrival which we drank in reception whilst they got all the paperwork together and then we were shown to our rooms. The rooms were next to each other which was not a problem and they both had a large balcony’s overlooking the road outside the front of the hotel. Again not a problem. There was, however, two single beds in our room instead of a double as requested. When we queried this reception said that’s what we had requested. What!!! 😲

What they had failed to do on the online booking was recognise that there were four adults staying at the hotel on the same booking for two rooms and so they had assumed the booking was for two adults and two children. Their solution was to push the single beds together and give us another single mattress 😲😲😲 Neither Anita or I could understand how that was going to solve the problem so Anita insisted we were moved and so it happened. I love my wife ❤

However we waited and waited and then 3 people appeared (it didn’t need that many for us and two back packs) and us to another room just down the corridor – Voila – a double bed 😁😁 we could now settle in properly.

My apologies at this point as there are no pictures of the room and only minimal pictures of the hotel and swimming pool etc. Something I’ve got to get used to when doing this is to take as many pictures of stuff that I can. I just get a bit carried away with enjoying and experiencing stuff that I do forget. Must try harder J… 😉

Once we were all sorted we decided to go for a wander to find somewhere to eat. As we walked along the street we saw signs for various restaurants and I will be the first to admit that I did not like the sound of ‘Mike’s Place’ To me it sounded like a typical English pub abroad. having walked a bit further and not seen anything that took our fancy we decided to turn around and give Mike’s Place a go. How wrong I was about it being an English pub abroad!!!

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The head waiter greeted us as we walked in. Seated us on a large table at the front of the restaurant and immediately bought 2 fans over for us (sweaty brits in the front of your restaurant is never going to be good for business) Beers and cocktails to start before getting to the food where we chose a mix of traditional Goan dishes.

The restaurant also had a musician playing a keyboard next to the bar and singing along. His repertoire was incredible. There was no sheet music or lyrics but he was word and pitch perfect on everything he sang and played including Ed Sheeran – Shape of You.

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Now Shaun is very similar to me in that he loves music. Many different styles and genres and he has told us that he has met and knows a lot of (famous) people in the music industry so having a decent musician playing whilst we ate dinner and talked was amazing. We also found out later that Eva had challenged Shaun to try to out-dance the locals during their stay in India. This is a challenge that Shaun embraced with both arms and as soon as the food and some of the drinks were done he was up and dancing on the already very crowded, small dance floor.

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It wasn’t long before he was joined by Eva, then Anita and, yes, I followed and did my finest Woody (of Toy Story fame) dancing but it was Shaun who was the star of the dance floor and he definitely gave the locals a good run for their money.

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What was not unusual for Anita and I (I’m won’t speak for Shaun & Eva) is that we were the last to leave Mikes Place after a fantastic night. Just goes to prove the saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover…

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