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!
|Breaded Kingfish fry|
|Midnight in Panjim|
|The permit paper|
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!)