India · 21 Days · 32 Moments · January 2016

Alan Calder-mcnicoll

Alan's trip to India

28 January 2016

Arrived in Bombay at 2.30pm. Paid for hotel to meet me at airport and taxi to hotel. Nice hotel for 3 star. Executive room and very spacious. Just had a proper Indian buffet. Not left hotel to do any exploring. The whole idea coming night before was just do I could chill out before the long flight home tomorrow.
Flew up to Bombay (Mumbai) today on Spicejet. Booked all the extras so I would have plenty legroom and priority boarding and priority everything I could think of! It made the flight do much nicer for a few extra quid.
Had a great meal at Ourem 88 which is the name of a restaurant run by an English couple. The food is fabulous and the owners come from London and love Goa so much they decided to move here permanently. Her culinary skills are incredible. So good in fact that Gordon Ramsay has eaten there a few times. Of course it is decidedly unindian but it's nice to have a change. This was my second visit there. Squid stuffed with chorizo in a basil sauce was my starter followed by beer batter kingfish with chips and salad. No room for desert I'm afraid !! It was Yuri's last night. He has been here every year for the last 10 years with his wife and it was the first time he was able to get away on his own. He flew back to Belarus yesterday. Last night I had my last dinner at Maria Guest House where I am staying. I taught the kitchen how to make cauliflower rice flavoured with butter lemon and garlic. It was such a winner with them they are going to put it on the menu.
My last few days in Goa have been spent relaxing and working on my latest Murder mystery called Heirs and Graces about another dysfunctional aristocratic family. Their Graces Duke and Duchess of Gillingham host a 21st birthday bash for their son Rupert who is the heir to the Gillingham title, estate and fortune. All does not go as expected!! As I have been lying in the sun I wouldn't want readers of my blog (if any) to think I have been doing nothing. There is nothing quiet like the crash of waves on sands, warm balmy breezes and and endless supply of lemon sodas brought to me by the waiters of Sealand Restaurant on Patnim beach to stir the imagination. I really have discovered that writing these stories is extremely therapeutic. Thank goodness though for mini iPads. I hate writing with a pen and my handwriting is awful. The writing gets put on the iPad later in the day but the hard work that goes on between my ears gets carried out on the beach!!
Chilling out in my room at Hotel Residency Adheri.

25 January 2016

Some pics of me on my trip. I had some of my fellow sailors but they specifically asked me not to post them online as their parents did not know they were in Goa.

23 January 2016

Remember to read the blog bottom to top. It makes sense that way!!
We were stopped at a police road block and our driver had to get out and show his credentials. They tried to extort money from him but were unsuccessful. He told them he was taking us to the airport. A story he had used before. Any delay and loss of flight would look bad on the officers record!! "These people from Karnataka", he said. "They are not like Goan people!" We were glad to have made it home just short of 3 hours later but at least we were unscathed thanks to the good driving apart from the two mobile calls on the return trip!!
We returned to the beach and stayed there the rest of the day heading back by our taxi at 7pm. If I thought the road was bad coming then it was far worse returning at night. Numerous bicycles with no lights. Cows on the road. We only realised we were behind a tipper truck laden with rubble when we were about 3 metres behind travelling about 50k per hour. It had no rear lights! Another occasion saw a vehicle that looked like an oil tanker hurtling towards us at break neck speed! You would have been hard pushed to get a credit card between it and us as we were forced off the road. This happened on several occasions. I learned quickly the best thing to do was close my eyes when faced with such incidents!!
Bidding farewell to Helen it was off to explore the local temple. Everything is written in the local dialect and so could not understand anything but it was another box ticked and it was free. On the way in however numerous elderly women approached us with tiny flower arrangements to offer to Lord Shiva. They cost next to nothing but for me I did not want to offer anything to this "god".
The next morning we made the climb back to the top of the road and hired a tuk tuk to take us the short ride into town. After a browse around the town we had a coffee at a rooftop cafe where, sitting at the next table, was an elderly but very Bohemian dressed lady complete with many rings on her toes, tucking into a bowl of fruit. When she opened her mouth to speak there was no mistaking the accent. It was Aberdonian. Helen introduced herself to us and told us that she spends winter in this town rather than in Scotland. She is known locally as Granny and commented on how well the locals look after her when she is ill. She looked like a woman in her late 70s and loves to travel independently boasting two backpacking world tours under her belt.
The restaurant offered excellent food and keen prices cheaper than Goa which in itself is very cheap for UK travellers. Lying on the beach all day with the occasional dip in the warm sea. Watching a spectacular sunset and eating great food. What more can you want?
We arrived 135 minutes later. We had to get out of the car about 1 kilometre from the beach and our accommodation. There is no road there. Thankfully it is all down a steep track. At this point we were still thinking International Hotel and it seemed strange that people of all ages would have to carry by hand all this luggage. It would have been an enterprising business for would be "sherpas." Still on the same coast as Palolem Kudlie Beach apart from a few tourists the beach was very quiet and unspoilt. Beach Sellers were however more abundant and it was strange to see cows wandering back and forward eating anything that was edible. The original intention was to get a couple of rooms at the international hotel. I've spelt that name with no capitals as, despite its name, it's not up to much with the rooms well overpriced at £25 each. Instead we opted for two nice rooms at the Dragon Cafe almost next door £8 and £5. Both rooms had en suite and were very clean.
It was to this town that Yuri and I travelled for a two day one night stop. Our taxi picked us up early morning and set off for the Karnataka which is the state in which Gokarna lies. The two and quarter hour journey from Palolem took us along roads no wider that 4 metres. Roadworks all along the route will make this a 4 lane highway eventually. Driving on such narrow roads is very hair raising and our driver receiving and making numerous mobile calls did nothing for my confidence in him. There was one incident where I had to draw his attention to the fact that he had drifted into the oncoming traffic lane! Apart from that his driving was fine which is more than could be said for the many drivers we encountered overtaking on blind bends. Apart from the brakes the next most important thing is the horn and which is used often to alert oncoming traffic you can't see over hills or around bends. There was more than one occasion where I adopted the foetal position!
Gokarna is a small town with a population of around 15,000 people. It is a place of pilgrimage for Hindus. The name Gokarna means cows ear. The Hindu god, it is said, Lord Shiva was born here and emerged from the ear of a cow. It is a very old village and unlike Goa is typical Indian. Narrow alleyways and streets with their tiny shops selling everything from tourist tat to tableware. It is truly a town of contrasts. What struck me was the vibrant colours with local sari wearing women going about their daily routine. Old men sitting around on street corners, as they do in every city in the world, no doubt talking about how times have changed.

21 January 2016

Some pics of Gokarna Trip

19 January 2016

After Turtle Beach I met up with a guy called Mark from England who lives here. Mark filled me in on what life was like for a foreigner living and working here. It's not all a bed of roses but he loves it. He's married with a couple of kids and would never go back to England to live. At night we went to Dropadin Restaurant and treated me to a super mutton curry. Yesterday it was on the beach again at Patnim where I worked on (in my head) my next Murder mystery. Met up with Yuri in the evening and we had dinner at Maria's Restaurant and Guest House where I'm staying. I taught the kitchen staff there in the morning how to make cauliflower rice with lemon and garlic with butter. This is a great alternative to high carb rice. They did a great job of it and it went great with the chicken Tikka masala.
A couple of days ago I went to Turtle Beach with the Yuri the guy from Belarus. It's about 25 minutes in a tuk tuk. It's such s quiet place the turtles come ashore there to lay their eggs when it's the season. There are about 4 small restaurants there only and so we settled for brunch at Sandos. Oysters and chilli beef (separate dishes of course) there's not many places in the world where a plate of 7 oysters will set you back all of £1.30! They were amazing and oh so fresh. In the late afternoon I had another couple of dishes. Rock fish and Calamari. Just relaxing and listening to the waves. A brilliant way to spend a day. One chap was teaching his dog how to surf with some success I might add!!

17 January 2016

Pictures taken at Turtle Beach

15 January 2016

My last 3 days have been spent on the beach mostly. I never thought i would do that without getting bored. I have been working on my next Murder mystery. It's gonna be called Heirs and Graces. Set in the 20s again it's another dysfunctional aristocratic family who gather to celebrate a birthday party but all does not go according to plan for Their Graces the Duke and Duchess of of Dunniton. The weather is roasting here and I do plan to have a couple of days in other places but just chilling for now and climatising myself. The food continues to be really amazing! I met a guy last night who is from England. Michael has an Indian wife and he is giving up the rat race in London to settle in India. He asked me what my business was and just about fell off his chair when I told him as he had been looking at my product on Amazon. He had it in his online basket but hadn't bought it yet. It's a small world indeed!!

14 January 2016

12 January 2016

Last night I went to the Nest Restaurant and met up with Ura from Belarus. The fillet steak again was really amazing. Today I went to the small local town. It's only about 10 mins by tuk tuk. Looked at the supermarket and stalls there and then went into a small cafe and sipped away at fresh coconut. I met up with a nice Canadian couple. They were older retired social workers and so we had quite a chat about their experiences working in South Africa.
Day 3 and 4 Spent more time on the beach. Never would have done so much of this before but this holiday is about relaxing and not running about. In the afternoon I went to Agoda beach. On the way we stopped at a tiny roadside small restaurant which serves up only one set lunch each day. For £1.20 we ate fish and chilli with vegetables and dhal as well as rice. For that a large bottle of water was served to each person. The place was called Millie's and it's near Leopard canyon aptly named. The owners dog was attacked by a leopard last year at the restaurant. Small and slim as the owner is she heard all the noise and managed to scare away the leopard.

11 January 2016

Agoda Beach as the sun goes down.
Relaxing on Agoda beach as the sun was going down.

10 January 2016

Ian is another chap from London who comes here every year and stays here for the winter. He tells me he can get by on £3 per day. Ian can write a book based on all the people he has met here over the years. He has seen so many changes as the place expands. I can't imagine Palolem beach becoming huge as the beach here in particular is quite small. Terrorism and the economy, for now at least, are playing a big part in keeping tourists away. Last night I went to "The Nest". The food was outstanding. Beef Chilli for starters and fillet steak with fried eggs and all the trimmings (saying no to the chips) set me back about £6. The seafood is to die for. The beach is lit up with candle top tables and bbqs where you can eat the days catch very cheaply. The water is warm and shallow for a long way out. Not planning trips at the moment and just taking it very slow for now.
Day 2 Today is Saturday and during the weekend a number of locals come down here with their families for the weekend. They don't frequent the restaurants or bars here opting to bring their own food instead. A lot of the businesses here are run by Nepalese who come down here for the tourist season. This is the high season but things are very tough as it is much quieter than normal for here I'm told. I have met some really interesting people here already. I have been spending today at "The Big Fish" which is a bar and restaurant right on the beach. Almost all the people I have spoken to are people who come here every year. They love it so much. There is a really nice family, who are staying in the same place as me here, from Malmo in Sweden which is the city in which my cofounders in Champions For Children live. An Englishman called Ben he has been in Sweden for 15 years and married a Swedish girl. They have 2 kids. They come here because the beach is very safe for the children.
The Big Fish Restaurant on the beach.

9 January 2016

It's gonna remind me and flood me with memories when I am in my dotage (think that's how it is spelt!) if I am able to remember at the time it's on my iPad that is! Speaking of pads the Maria Guest House is my home here. The room is basic on first sight and it looks like a garden shed but heh it's £7 a night!! It's very comfortable and all I need. I don't see the point as a single guy of paying for a more luxurious place. When the lights are out and your eyes are shut, it makes no difference whether your pad is luxury. Remember I travel lots and don't want to waste cash on fancy rooms. If your still reading this then great! Congratulations! Met some interesting folks today who are regulars and been coming for years. More tomorrow!
What a difference a day makes 24 little hours or so the song says. Well in my case we are talking about 18 hours travelling on three separate flights with, apart from the odd nod here and there, no sleep to reach another world. Southern Goa lies in the southwest of India. It's hot. It's relaxed. It's wet. Unlike Scotland though the water is confined, at this time of year anyway, to the Arabian Sea. Palolem Beach is my home for the next 3 weeks. It is in Goa which is India's richest state. Tourism forms a major part of Goa's income. Most people flock to the north where the beaches are packed with tourists who come and soak up the sun packed like sardines on never ending rows of sunbeds. This, my friends, is why I am not there and have chosen the quieter south. On day one I very quickly chilled out and it's likely to remain that way for the next three weeks. If you have given up reading now I'll understand but that's ok because this blog is designed first and foremost for me.

8 January 2016

Some pics of entrance to my pad and inside!