South Goa a Travel Series (Part I)

Friendly people, serene beaches, and great food; a series on South Goa.

I won a contest on twitter held by an airline company. The prize was return flights to Goa and a ticket to a concert. The concert got cancelled on the last moment, so then I got 4 days to explore Goa. I decided to head south since I wanted to be away from the crowded commercial beaches of Goa. My flight landed at Vasco Da Gama airport in the afternoon. I had booked my first night stay at SUMMER Hostel by Hostelcrowd. The hostel is walking distance from Palolem beach. The first task was reaching Palolem, a private taxi charges Rs 1800 and a bike taxi quoted Rs 1000 to drop me at my hostel from the airport. If you are travelling in a group the taxi would be the best option. Try and avoid the bike taxi for a long distance because it will be hard on your back.

For the backpackpers on a tight budget I would recommend doing what I did. I got a bus from the airport to Margao. The ticket cost is Rs 20 and it took 40 minutes to reach the bus stand. Margao bus stand is a central hub from where you get connecting buses to other parts of Goa. I then boarded a bus to Palolem. The journey from Margao to Palolem takes about 2 hours and costs Rs 40. The buses are cramped and lack of legroom made my journey a bit painful and tiresome, but if that’s what comes with saving around Rs 2000 then it’s totally worth it.

The bus dropped me right at the gate of my hostel. Shubham greeted me at the reception and got me settled into my 8 bed dormitory. Interestingly, I was the only Indian staying in the entire hostel. My dorm had students from Germany and France. The cost for a bed per night is Rs 400. You get access to free wifi, a hot shower and a small common kitchen which is totally worth it. I stayed here just for the night since I was heading to Colva the next evening. I wanted to rent a scooter to get around the place; Shubham lives right opposite the hostel and was kind enough to lend me his two wheeler for Rs 150 per day.

I headed to Palolem beach, by the time I reached the beach it was already 8pm. The approach road to the beach is lined with shops selling handicraft items and quirky arts and craft.  Palolem beach at night is the perfect place for a stroll with that special someone. Almost the entire stretch of the beach is lined with candles and you can hear the waves crash on the shore while a light breeze brushes your face. A couple got engaged on the beach that night. The beach has shacks all along, I stopped at one to enjoy a light dinner. There are freshly caught fish on display outside each shack, you can pick what you want and they will cook it as per your taste. I got a red snapper fish cooked in a light tomato gravy, accompanied with rice.

The night life at Palolem is the most happening on Saturday night because of its famous silent party at Neptune point. Neptune point is at one end of Palolem Beach. The silent party happens every Saturday night starting at 10:30 pm and runs unto the wee hours of the morning. The entry is Rs 600 per person, usually they have three DJs of different genres playing. At the entrance you get your headphones and can tune into whichever genre you want to dance to. The genres for the night were EDM, Psy Trance and Bollywood. I was there at 11 pm and people had not even started coming in. The place usually gets full only after 12 am. I had to skip the party as I planned on leaving the hostel early in the morning to catch the sunrise.

Stay tuned for more in the series 🙂

Read South Goa a Travel Series (Part II)

Alibaug – A Fort and Three Beaches

A Day Out in Alibaug

Alibaug is a perfect getaway to help you relax and be one with nature. I set out to Alibaug on a Saturday and hope my itinerary will help you plan your trip well.

Alibaug is a coastal town in the Raigad district of Maharashtra situated 110 km from Mumbai. There are ferries that ply from Gateway of India to Mandwa Jetty throughout the day from 6 a.m to 6 p.m except for during the monsoon season. There are three ferry operators – P.N.P, Ajanta and Maldar and ticket prices range from Rs. 85 to Rs 150. It will take you around 60min to reach Mandwa. You can also hire a private speed boat that will get you to Mandwa in 20 minutes. Each ferry company has their own private buses from Mandwa Jetty to Alibaug town. The bus fare is included in the ferry ticket. We travelled by the 6:15 a.m ferry.

The sunrise that you witness while you are on the ferry is second to none. Keep your camera on hand at all times as each moment will give you a different picture because of the change in intensity of light. You will be able to see luxury yachts anchored off the coast and also a few naval vessels on the way to Mandwa. We reached Mandwa jetty at 8:15 a.m. It took us 2 hours as there was a slight delay in the departure of the ferry. The bus to the main town was to leave in about 25 minutes after we reached the jetty. Instead of waiting for the bus we decided to take an auto rickshaw directly to Alibaug beach. The auto rickshaws here are large and can comfortably seat six passengers. Amongst the four of us we paid Rs.400 in total. The ride to the beach is about half an hour. There are trees on either side of the road and  a slight haze of early morning fog.

Alibaug beach is quite commercialized, the moment we set foot on the beach we were flocked by vendors offering us water rides and other beach activities. The beach is not very clean due to the crowd. Even though it was just 8:45 a.m there was a substantial crowd already present on the beach. To the left hand side of the beach there is a provision for pay and use changing rooms and toilets. About one kilometer into the water is the Kolaba Fort.

The Kolaba Fort was built in the year 1681 by Sambhaji Maharaj, son of Shivaji Maharaj. A major portion of the fort and a few buildings was lost in two fires in the years 1729 and 1787. You can reach the fort by foot or on carriages when it is low tide. Otherwise, boats ply to and fro from Alibaug beach to the fort. We travelled to the fort on a donkey carriage. Our rider waited for us while we spent an hour at the fort. The most intriguing feature of the fort is that it has number of freshwater wells even though it is a seaside fort. The fort has a Siddhivinayak temple which people frequent mainly during the Ganesh festival. There are also a few houses present of people who take care of the fort.

We reached back to Alibaug beach and relaxed for a while. If you walk straight from the main exit of the beach, after two cross roads you will find a decent restaurant. The breakfast there was not amazing but good enough to reenergize us. While we were waiting and thinking where to head next an auto rickshaw stopped by. The driver suggested that one of the best beaches in Alibaug is Kashid. But, Kashid is quite far and would take around one and a half hours to get there. Since we had just a day to spend, instead of travelling so far we decided to skip it. I am not a big fan of crowded commercialized beaches and would rather prefer a beach that is secluded and not many people frequent it. We asked the driver if there were any such beaches nearby. He suggested we go to Akshi beach and then head towards Nagaon beach.

On the way to Akshi from Alibaug we stopped at a Lotus pond. There is a narrow walkway that leads to the center of the pond. The ride to Akshi beach cost us Rs.200. It took half an hour to get there. At the entrance of the beach there were a few stalls selling chai and other eatables. Tall trees all around us and a steady flow of wind just felt extremely pleasant and serene. The beach looked like a flat desert because of the low tide. Apart from the four of us there were only six other people on the beach. This beach was clean and calm unlike Alibaug beach. This beach has no activities. You should just sit down, close your eyes and listen to the waves.

Nagaon beach from Akshi is 3.5 k.m. You will get auto rickshaws from Akshi beach but I suggest that you take your own time and walk along the coast from Akshi to Nagaon which we did. The walk can be a bit tiring especially if you do it in the blazing sun. Keep yourself hydrated and wear a cap to help protect yourself from a heatstroke. There are a number of resorts and private houses that open onto the beach along the way. The stairs to each of these properties can make for very interesting pictures. A lot of fishermen have their boats present on the coast.

As you near Nagaon beach you will be able to see jellyfish in the sky (read parasailing people). Nagaon beach is very commercialized. There are a number of activities right from camel rides to parasailing. There are a lot of shacks present as well. Do not miss the seafood from the shacks. By the time we left the beach it was already 4 p.m. We took an auto rickshaw directly back to Mandwa jetty as were tired and did not really want to travel by bus. The ride cost us Rs. 500 and it took 45 minutes to get to the jetty. We got the 17:15 p.m. ferry and headed back to Mumbai.

Best beaches in Alibaug:

  • Alibaug
  • Mandwa
  • Kashid
  • Akshi
  • Varsoli
  • Nagaon
  • Murud
  • Rewas

Things to Carry:

  • Beach Towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Lots of Water
  • A few snacks
  • An adventurous attitude

JOURNEYFUEL 1: PIYUSH JAIN

Follow the link to know who do I refer to as JourneyFuel!

I was at the Kanteerava stadium in Bangalore on a solo trip to watch the Indian national team take on Oman in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Oman, the clear favorites in the game were leading 1-0 with an early goal. All of us fans were very vocal; chanting and cheering our boys in blue, then a breakthrough in the 26th minute. Sunil Chettri from the edge of the box turned towards goal and took a shot right into the top corner sailing past the mighty Ali Al-Habsi. The entire stadium erupted in joyous cheer. Out of instinct I turned to my right and hugged a fellow fan. This fan was Piyush Jain.

After the feeling of having just scored against one of the best teams in Asia mellowed down, (It did not completely sink in, even now I get goosebumps remembering that goal) Piyush and I started talking. It was like we have known each other for years on end. He was so welcoming and a really great listener. After the game, (which we sadly lost 2-1) he offered to take me to a Café for dinner. We went to Truffles on St. Marks Road. Piyush is a crazy biking enthusiast and a graphic designer by profession. He told me that he also loves to travel and sets out alone whenever he can. He has completed almost all of south India on his bike. After dinner he took me around entire Bangalore city (Bangalore at night feels like another city altogether without the traffic).

Piyush is a wonderful storyteller, he will keep you engaged with his narratives in such a way that you will always be asking for more! We spoke about life, travel, people and still felt that we could go on and on. Both of us shared the motto, No amount of money can buy you the experiences that you get through travel. Not knowing whether we would meet again we exchanged contact details and as he dropped me off at my hostel, I thanked him for the hospitality he provided me with.

You never know how soon a person can enter your life and leave a lasting impression. Don’t think twice before you greet a stranger, you might just make a friend for life. Piyush is still a very good friend of mine. We met again during the football game of India vs Iran and then a few months ago we went backpacking  across northeast India and Bhutan (Stay tuned to the blog for posts on this trip).

WHO IS YOUR JOURNEYFUEL?

My urge to travel is fueled by the desire to meet new people. Staying with local, indigenous people, interacting with them and breaking bread with them gives me first-hand experience of their customs, culture and beliefs. It is also heart-warming to see how locals in remote villages are one with their terrain.

I have come across a number of people who have left me with the thought, “I hope I meet this person again somewhere down the road”. I call these people JourneyFuel! Just when during your travel you are out of energy and you suddenly meet a person who lights up your mood, those are exactly JourneyFuel. These people enhance your travel experience and keep you on the edge of your senses always asking for more. These are people who make you think about “What is it that I really want from life?” and urge you to “just calm down and relax.”

JourneyFuel stay with you long after your travels and turn them into memorable experiences!

JOURNEYFUEL 1: PIYUSH JAIN

JOURNEYFUEL 2: CCIR CYRUS GURUNG

This post will be updated with links to posts about people who have been memorable for me. Do you have any such people you call JourneyFuel? Let them know how they made your travels memorable. Share your story in the comments below. You can also tweet about them using #JourneyFuel.

 

18 MUST KNOW TRAVEL HACKS BEFORE YOU SET OUT

Whether you are setting out for a weekend trip or a month long journey, these travel hacks will make your packing easier and organised while saving you a lot of time.

1. Create a To-Do List

Did I get the passport? What about travel insurance? Have i packed my favorite pair of socks? Avoid all the last minute running around by maintaining a handy To-Do List. This list will help you keep a tab on all things packed and what is to be packed.

2. Make Google Translate Your Voice

Are you travelling to a destination that does not speak a language you know? You need not worry about communication. Just download the language pack of that destination on your phone through google translate. It also helps you communicate with the help of text-to-speech conversion.

3. Set up Google Maps Offline

Just in case you do not have access to data on your trip you should download the map of the place you are going to visit. Google maps lets you access your saved maps offline with all the navigation features.

4. Reduce Book Weight in Your Luggage

If your are a fan of printed guide books, try and take a photocopy of just the pages that you need. For your novels and guidebooks if you switch to ebooks and use an ebook reader you can save on a lot of space.

5. Make Your Camera Look Old

Certain places you travel to might require you to be extra cautious. You do not want to end up getting your expensive camera stolen. It is advised to hide the camera logo and model number with black duct tape. Brown duct tape placed at other random places on the body of the camera will make it look used and worn out. This will avoid unwanted attention.

6. Roll Clothes Instead of Folding Them

When you fold clothes and pack them for long duration it leads to formation of creases. To avoid creasing you should roll your clothes and place them in ziplock bags. Doing this, you will free up a lot of space in your bag and also the clothes will be easier to find.

7. Pack Your Shoes Smartly

Avoid staining your clothes with your shoes by packing them in shower caps. You can stuff your shoes with items like socks or other cosmetic filled tubes, this will help you make optimal use of space.

8. Prevent Your Liquids from Leaking

Cover the nozzle of the tubes containing the liquid with cling film before putting on the lid.

9. Place Your Toiletries in a Ziplock Bag

10. Storing Valuables in an Organised Manner

Ever found yourself looking for A missing ear ring? Or Have you been worried about where to store the cash? Do not worry, first of all start by storing small ornaments in pill boxes. You can also use empty chapstick tubes to store ornaments or rolled up notes. By doing so, you will know where what is kept and won’t waste time searching later.

 11. Protect Powder Make Up Products from Breaking

Place a cotton pad in the compact box before placing it in the bag.

12. Pack Minimal Cosmetics

Fill up contact cases with cosmetics, as a result you will save the space of carrying along bulky tubes and bottles.

13. Have a Copy of All Your Documents

Email yourself copies of your passport, travel insurance and other documents that you will be carrying along with you because you never know when it might come in handy.

14. Carry Extra Plastic Bags

Always carry extra plastic bags of different sizes. They can be used either as a bag for soiled clothes or various other purposes like shopping, throwing trash, protecting your devices from water and so on.

15. Carry a Purifier Bottle 

If you have not used one of these you should. The personal purifier bottle comes with a interchangeable filter. This is useful for your trips where you do not know how hygienic the water is. You can refill these bottles directly from streams or lakes and also from public drinking sources without a problem. You do not need to spend on buying new bottles of packaged drinking water and as a result, you cut down on a lot of expenses.

16. Weigh Your Luggage

Airlines will always try and add their hidden baggage fees to make a quick buck. Therefore, you should always keep in mind your baggage allowance and stay under the limit. Consider wearing the heavier clothing it will help reduce the weight.

 

17. Make Your Suitcase Stand Out

There is a chance that the person next to you picked up the same suitcase back home at the end of season sale. The last thing you want is a carousel crisis at your destination. Make your suitcase identifiable by tying colored ribbons on the handles or by sticking labels on the case. This will save you the pain of double checking your bag before taking it off the carousel.

 

18. Pack Your Daily Bag Efficiently

Make sure you carry a handy backpack for your daily use. Keep your valuables and a pair of clothes in this bag. You could also keep a few toiletries in this bag. This bag will save you last minute panic just in case your check-in luggage is delayed or misplaced. Carrying this bag around town will be much easier compared to carting along your suitcase.

 

 

Hope these travel hacks are of good use to you. Please do let me know in the comments if you have any other hacks that can help your fellow travelers minimize effort. Happy Travels!