We spent a couple of days wandering around Panjim (Panaji) and Old Goa - for a bit of culture to break up the days soaking up the sun on the beach. The streets of Panjim were full of character without being hectic like other Indian towns. The brightly painted churches, empty streets and perfectly mowed green lawns of Old Goa seemed like another world from the tie-dyed-tourist traps on the coast, and helped explain Goa's distinct character within India.
Unless you’re foolish enough to choose the two months a year when it actually rains all the time, you’re guaranteed not to see a cloud in the sky for days, and while warm enough to be comfortable in a t-shirt day and night, the temperatures will rarely reach the scorching levels of heat which can be so exasperating in other areas of the country.
Indeed, Goa has very little in common with the rest of India, and in particular, that annoying let-me-rip-you-off attitude which is common among the locals in a lot of Indian cities is kept to a minimum there, and it is actually very easy to establish good, chilled-out relationships with the locals. The thing is, while far from wealthy, the local population is doing far better than most Indians, and this definitely contributes to the cheerful mood which permeates the place.
I’m 28, and two years ago I arrived in Goa after about six weeks in the rest of India. My plan was to stop for a week, but I ended up staying there for six!
A really great overnight trip is to the ruined city of Hampi in Karnataca. The highlights include sunrise and sunset over the city's pagoda like temples and drumming on the hollow pillars - they are like stone organ pipes inside the temples and when banged lightly, you can play a rhythm on them. The attached palace is interesting with its geometric buildings and elephant stables.
Hampi is popular as a school visit destination and the children thought my wife was Princess Di (trust me - my wife is lovely but there is no resemblance!) and would creep up to touch shyly as they had never seen a white European! They drove in from India's little tourist visited interior.
We took a taxi to Hampi from Dona Paulo and paid about £70 for the two-day trip. On the way we drove through a chilli farming region and the chillies were laid out on the road for passing cars to thresh.
A fascinating trip all in all - and we had our cheapest meal ever there - £1.80 for a three-course meal for both of us! Just what do you tip when the meal is so cheap?
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