So there we were, all bundled up into a van scooting off in the direction of the Katunayake Airport. Once there, it was surprising to see that there was hardly any security detail present. The process was certainly easier and more civil compared to previous experiences. Once on the flight, the journey was the usual Sri Lankan Airlines trip. Despite all the bad comments you tend to hear from people who have travelled on the national carrier, all I can say is that the levels of hospitality are unmatched when compared to other airlines. The journey to Mumbai via flight was good. No complaints.
Then we landed. And now the complaints begin. Frankly, I have never come across airport officials who hardly smile and are unbelievably rude. The immigration officials heckled me asking how many countries I have visited and when did I last pay a visit in an obnoxious tone. My reply was a cutting retort, “Goa is not unique enough for me to remember when I visited it last.” After that issue was sorted out, we made our way to the taxi stands. The stink of fecal matter was unbearable. There were plenty of touts and dodgy-looking people asking us whether we wanted a hire. Luckily, we had booked transport to the hotel from Sri Lanka and made our way to a city hotel near to the international airport.
One of the major disadvantages of visiting India is the fact that communication is very difficult. The stay in this hotel was decent albeit mediocre. But it would do for a one-night stay until we took the flight to Goa from Mumbai via the domestic airport. Thus far the journey was becoming one big regret. But then the journey to Goa seemed okay. Yet if I had to complain, it would be the fact that people are unbelievably rude and cannot speak one word of English. The only thought running through my mind was – “How do they expect to be an international destination when they cannot speak English and are so rude?”
Once we landed in Goa, the trip to the Royal Goan Beach Club was a bouncy ride on dusty roads. Compared to the last time I visited, many parts of Goa had given into development and boasted many shops and international franchises like KFC. The resort per se was quite good and the levels of hospitality were decent. As much as I was craving a swim, I chose to avoid the pool since most of the locals were jumping in fully clothed. Having said that the gym and apartment facilities were superlative. The weather I was told would be erratic and it certainly was. There were harsh thunderstorms that led to floods. What this meant was that there were frequent power cuts and the loss of WiFi. None of these would have mattered if not for the fact that I was on work and needed to be online to get my work done.
Travelling around Goa was not going to happen thanks to the thunderstorms. So this was a missed opportunity to say the least. Whatever travelling that was done was to the markets and shops to buy gifts for the folks in Colombo. One should, however, mention the cuisine that was on offer. The resort food was sublime. I swear I overdosed on a plethora of offerings like paneer, buriyani, Kingfisher beer, ice cream and Bacardi Breezers just to name a few. When it came to the food part of this holiday, I was in heaven. When you are stuck in a miserably wet resort with nothing to do, you do have to thank them for having a spa. And so I indulged myself in some surreal and sublime spa experiences all thanks to the resident Karma Spa.
The full body treatment was certainly cheaper and far more blissful than any I have had here in Sri Lanka. The comprehensive packages were much cheaper as well. The staff was really nice and this was certainly welcome having experienced such brutish behavior at the airports in Goa and Mumbai. All in all, the trip was enjoyable and somewhat entertaining. Still for all, I was more than glad to come back to Sri Lanka. I felt the immediate difference when I got on the Sri Lankan Airlines flight from Mumbai to Colombo. There is something about that Lankan smile that puts you at ease.
The trip was in some aspects a waste since I could hardly visit any of the many places that Goa is famous for. For instance, I have heard fabulous stories of how incredible its history is along with the fact that there is so much to see. If I do visit Goa again, I certainly would desire to visit places such as the Fort Aguada, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of our Lady of Rosary, Lamgau Caves, Madei Wildlife Sanctuary, Mapusa Market and the Ruins of the Colvale Fortress just to name a few.
If you do plan on visiting Goa, I do suggest you are aware of the fact that communication will be difficult and people are not exactly friendly. There are also plenty of touts and individuals who are willing to rip you off. It is hardly a civilized place and as far as a holiday goes, ensure that you place your trust in a tour operator. Trying to navigate Mumbai and Goa on your own would be a veritable nightmare and it is not advisable at all. Most of all, it certainly would be helpful to have a few friends in a country such as India since this would certainly help you when it comes to finding the right places to shop and the best places to eat. I would also recommend that you look up Tripadvisor when it comes to finding the ideal place to stay, since the reviews that are provided would be objective and neutral.
My next trip would be to Bali towards the end of the year. I look forward to sharing my experiences regarding this journey in the near future.
*The images for this trip can be found here.