Travel Report: Goa, India.
April 2004. When my travel mate Allan and I arrived in Goa we were determined to base ourselves as far away from the party zones as we could. Happily the peaceful Benaulim Beach in Goa’s drowsy north did just the trick. It really was the perfect base for napping, eating, swimming and napping some more with an added dimension of ultra-napping for good measure.
April 2004. According to my records I was so relaxed in Benaulim I forgot to take photos. Sadder still, the few shots I did manage to take were of terrible quality, so I owe a huge debt to the photo editing app Prisma for jazzing these pictures up and helping me ensure Goa can at least be added to the Leighton Travels directory. That sarong was my main napping accessory, while just out of shot sat on the sand was the amazing Donna Tartt novel The Secret History. I devoured that incredible book in about three days right there on Benaulim Beach.
April 2004. Our Benaulim base was Rosario’s Inn, the ultimate cheap and cheerful guesthouse ran by a plump, middle-aged woman who called herself Mama Rosario. Just a hundred meters or so from Benaulim Beach, Rosario’s was all about its location and less about Mama and her squadron of lazy sons, who obviously didn’t give a crap about the place. Nevertheless, it’s cool to see that the place is still alive and kicking and, from what I’ve seen online, the overall look and service has greatly improved. Check out their page on zenhotels.com for availability.
April 2004. There were just two or three places to eat and drink on Benaulim Beach back in those days. Our favourite of these was Dominick Bar and Restaurant, a wobbly shack famed for its dirt cheap beer and freshly cooked fish. They also held a disco once a week, therefore becoming Benaulim’s only nightclub. With nothing better to do, Allan and I decided to give the disco a shot, with hilarious results. The music turned out to be all the usual crap we’d been expecting, YMCA… I Will Survive… Dancing Queen. But the star of the night was an excitable local boy who clearly fancied himself as king of the dance floor. Bopping wildly to every single tune, he eventually whipped himself into such a frenzy that he was actively trying to engage Allan and I into a dance-off. Here he is swinging his hips into my camera as I photographed him, while Allan laughs his ass off in the background. Dominick Restaurant and Bar is still alive and well and while they don’t have a website, you can check out the latest reviews here on TripAdvisor.
April 2004. We’d been in Benaulim for around three or four days when I started getting restless. So I made plans for an overnight trip to the town of Panaji, Goa’s Portuguese-influenced capital. Allan was happy enough staying right where he was on the beach, but the night before my trip I met a Scottish girl called Lisa at Dominick’s and suddenly I had a travel mate! Arriving in Panjim mid afternoon, Lisa and I had very few ambitions beyond a stroll down Panjim Promenade, a charming albeit crumbly walkway running alongside The Mandovi River. It was from here that we were tempted into a river cruise by a persuasive tout. The cruise turned out to be an awful, hour-long ordeal of ear-splitting techno music played so damn loudly there was nothing we could do to make each other heard. I can’t recall which cruise operator we went with, but a glance online today suggests the best of the bunch is Paradise Cruises.
April 2004. Lisa and I didn’t bother with any of Panjim’s main sights, which has haunted me a bit over the years since I’ve become a travel blogger. Instead, we simply strolled around the Portuguese flavoured streets, stopping here and there to snack and chat with locals. These excitable school kids came sprinting down the steps of their middle school to talk with us. “London Cool!” announced one of them, “Panjim boring!” added another. I can’t help but stare at this photo and wonder what became of them all.
April 2004. In Panjim Lisa and I also met a quirky Englishman by the name of Phil and the three of us quickly hit it off. Exchanging travel stories and breaking out into sporadic singing of Top Cat, we decided to travel out to the nearby beach region of Vagator to visit the famous night market. It was a little out of the way, so we booked a night in the quiet and leafy Jolly Jolly Roma guesthouse. It never ceases to amaze me how many of these old Indian haunts are still going, you can check out its current availability here.
April 2004. I was totally bowled over by the sheer scale of Vagator Night Market. At some point the three of us got separated between the tangled rows of stalls, food tents and barbecue stations. When I eventually stumbled upon Phil he was flopped out at a seafood joint, feet up on a chair, beer in hand… that mad doctor grin plastered across his face. These days I see there a handful of lively markets scattered around the Vagator area and it’s not clear to me if the one I went to even exists anymore. For more info on Vagator and a wider look at Goa, tourismofindia.com has a decent overview.
You can also check out more travel reports from that long ago trip to India.
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