Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A road trip to cherish-3

Was supposed to finish this narration last week but something literally stopped my breath! What else but demonetisation? The initial reaction was shock and then the feeling that finally something is being done about it. Then came the nagging doubts, knowing well how the Indian administration works. How in the world are they going to manage this exercise! As for it's long term effect, not even Harward experts seem to have any clue, so why break my head? And knowing our politicians, if this only to fool the voters, then it is going to burn them for a very long, long time. So let me leave it and get on with my trip.

We decided to leave Panaji early in the morning so as to reach Kerala in time. The roads were free at that time except for the cows! Think Goans are letting their cows use the roads during the night. A dangerous action for the cows as well as the vehicles. We decided to go slow until daylight broke completely. It brought back memories of Kumily- Kottayam road of yesteryears, when cattle for slaughter were made to walk all the way from Kambam, Theni etc, to Kerala. They could be seen in all sizes along the roads.

What are you doing on my road? :)
Did click a group of them but cannot find it now.

Thus we reached the Goa-Karnataka border and we still had the Feni and Wines to be taken care of.

 We had packed them into our bags and the police guy wanted to see our bags. For sure they found it and Hubby was asked to see the Inspector or whoever was heading the police station. He went along and was asked to pay IRS 2,000! The whole stuff did not cost that much but since we had no clue of the rules or regulations and since we did not want to waste time, had to settle for 1000. Yes.. it was a bribe. Meanwhile, Son was asked to show the papers by another guy who demanded IRS 100. Upon telling him that all the papers were fine he said this is the custom. After all that trouble, not many takers were there for the Feni. I think Kerala toddy is much better.

The drive through Karnataka was smooth except for a few stretch where the roads are being widened. It is only upon driving through Karnataka that made me realize that it is blessed with so many rivers. The beaches along the road beckoned us to stop but we had to reach Udipi in time to visit a friend.

We halted at Udipi and was treated to lunch by our friend. They almost made us break the journey by enticing us with so many places that Udipi has. The Krishna temple that I once mentioned on this blog is one of them and so is Manipal where so many from Kerala come to study. We promised to visit another day and continued our journey. We thought of halting at Kozhikode but realized it will be to late to find a good hotel. The drivers were fine with driving non stop (it would be almost 25 hours of driving) and since they were taking turns to sleep, it looked okay.

The GPS did take us through a vey bad stretch of road in Kasargod which delayed our journey even more. It was near Kasargod town, when we stopped for refreshments that a strange incident happened. There was this ice cream parlor which also had a board saying Tea/Coffee available. We stumbled out of the car, much tired and in want of something to drink and maybe eat too. Upon asking the father and son duo (they looked so) who were running the shop if they served coffee, they said there was no coffee but can serve tea. We waited for quite some time and found no tea coming. Later, the fellow came and said that there was no gas to boil the tea. Just when we were about to enter the car, we saw the fellow happily boiling something on the fire! Why did they refuse to serve us? I still do not have an answer to this question and at the next stop, both me and daughter stayed in the car while coffee was brought to us. Did not want to test anymore and go without refreshments but this was the first time we encountered such a behaviour in Kerala. Hence it was with much dread that we halted at Kannur for dinner. It was getting late too. But to our utter surprise and delight, we found the hotel(Bamboo Fresh) crowded even at 10:30 pm. A very jolly crowd too. Maybe it was the Onam spirit and celebration.
The rest of the journey was mostly nodding off and waking in between to see if the drivers were fine.  Reached home the next morning and used the day to rest. Thus ended our road trip and maybe next time we shall plan a longer one.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A road trip to Cherish - 2

Bombay/Mumbai, for a newcomer is always a horror until you get used to it's liveliness and convenience. Aggressive drivers are more in Bombay than anywhere else in India am sure. The skill of our taxi driver to negotiate the meanest traffic was so fascinating to watch that I kept wondering how people managed their cars out here. Don't they get scratched and dented all the time?

Our trip to Bombay was during the two main festivals: Ganesh Chaturthi and Eid A Adha. In fact our trip around Bombay was on the Eid holiday and hence Mumbai was supposed to be less chaotic! We were able to watch the big crowd at Haji Ali Dargah and also the various pandals erected for Ganesh Chaturthi.

The mandatory visit to the Malabar Hills to see how the rich in Bombay lived was done too. Unfortunately one finds not much difference anywhere in Bombay since everything is kept shabbily, at least outside. And as long one will never get to see the inside, it is what one gets. Think about Beverley Hills in California and what would you expect to see? Hopefully how the rich should be living? :) Or maybe it is the great Indian paradox where equality can be found in strange ways. Even Ambani couldn't resist building his Antilla smack in the middle of the whole mess. Am sure he faces the same mess that the rest faces unless he is using a copter for every trip that he takes outside. No wonder India’s richest man still thinks he is “middle-class” at heart. Anyway, Mumbai can do better being the commercial capital of our nation. And if the rich is able to manage the inefficient government machinery to make money for themselves, they can also do the same to improve their city too. (High hopes indeed!)

So we left Mumbai early morning for the drive to Goa. Was stopped by a traffic cop just before we exited Maharashtra and wondered if we would have to dole out anything, even if all the papers were up to date. The licence, insurance and pollution certificate were checked thoroughly and we were allowed to proceed. Hope we did not disappoint the officer :)

The drive to Goa is through a forest area and it was a very nice trip. We checked a few hotels online and called them up to see if rooms were available. Panaji was our destination and we reached there in time for hotel hunting. The first one was right in the middle of the city and the shopping centre but they had a room for only one night and had no parking space. Guests had to use the paid parking service located elsewhere. The next one was Verandah Do Mar which looked good enough and being offseason,  we were offered a suite with sea view and a big balcony. We decided to rest for the day and maybe do a bit of shopping later. The hotel had a good restaurant and hence we did not have to go elsewhere for dinner.

Found Goa exactly the same as Kerala; the same kind of vegetation, houses and weather. The only difference being, in place of mundu/lungi one saw pants/shorts. To me, Goa looked like how Kerala looked two decades back. Everything was there in Panaji; branded shops, restaurants, wine shops and yes the Casinos too,

... yet it looked laid back and simple and not filled with concrete buildings like Kerala. Maybe the Goans are living elsewhere? The one's who served us in the hotel restaurant were from Karnataka and Bengal since when I asked them about the nearby touristic places they could not help me. Even the driver who drove us around was from Belgaum.

We had a tour of Panaji and being off season it was an easy trip. Shops were also not crowded and we had a good time selecting things leisurely.

Upon asking our driver to take us to a good restaurant, he chose The Fisherman's Wharf. We loved the food!

Chicken Teriyaki
Beef Stroganoff

Breaded Kingfish fry
Midnight in Panjim

The permit paper
How can we leave Goa without it's Feni? So we were taken to a wine shop where we found the salesman who speaks Malayalam (maybe a Mallu pretending to be a Goan? :) )

We were told that we are allowed to take two bottles each per person and that the shop will provide the necessary permit papers for the same. Maybe it is an age old trickery but we fell for it! We bought a few bottles of Feni and some good wine too.

 Papers were given to cover the entire purchase and just when we were exiting the shop two Malayalees appeared and told us that it is an utter waste of money. They warned us that the Karnataka border police will not let you go and it is better to consume it in Goa. They did look a bit drunk and we decided that it must be the drunken advise from an overzealous Malayalee. (It was not!)


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