En Route to Goa, India

bobbeerThis year we are spending almost 2 months in our favourite seaside village in the deep south of Goa, India.  We have been wintering here since 2009.  Not every year, but almost every year.  We have many friends amongst locals, returning Europeans and increasingly personal friends from the UK and from Cyprus who have come here and loved it as we do.  This year we will be in good company for our two month stay and it will be a very welcome escape from the wet and cold of the English winter.

We have packed fairly light knowing that we can get more or less anything we want there and because it is such a casual environment, beach clothes are the norm.  We take an old phone with us and buy a local sim.  Other packing essentials are: a universal sink plug; a charging block with 3 pin and USB slots; plenty of suncream; mosquito repellant; a limited emergency medical kit; wet wipes; hand disinfectant; old sandals; 2 old sarongs to put on sunbeds, eye prescriptions so we can buy new glasses (ever so much cheaper).

Two airlines have failed in the last 2 years, the most recent being Thomas Cook late last year.  This has had a big effect on both the availability and the ticket price of Indian routes.  Hopefully it will settle back down again over the next few years as new operators step in to fill the void.  The result for us was that we booked with Air India to travel to Goa via Bangalore, which was the best option at the time.

The check in for AI was pretty smooth at Heathrow, a lot of automation now with check in booths and security.  We had seats right at the front of economy (row 12), both on the aisle which gave us a lot of leg room.  It was about 9 and a half hours and the flight was very smooth.  It had been a while since we’d flown with AI and I have to say that we were very impressed.  The service was fantastic.  The drinks trolley came around fast and we both ordered a gin and tonic with ice and lemon.  the attendant then smilingly gave us 3 – yes 3 – bottles of Beefeater, 2 tonics, and two glasses of ice and lemon.  Very generous.  During the flight they came around multiple times with water and also served 2 full 3 course meals plus coffee and tea.  Very good.  I watched a film and read, slept a couple of hours.  It passed quickly, much less tedious than when we flew to Denver last autumn.  I noted that the plane did not take its usual route over Iraq and Iran but skirted their airspace entirely.

We were through Bangalore airport very quickly.  This was our first time to India with an e-visa and we walked straight up to an official.  I had a photo and fingerprints taken before my passport was stamped with a 5 year visa.  Bob just had a photo.  Apparently if you’re 70, you don’t need to give fingerprints!!!!!  We had a good chuckle with them about it.

Bags arrived safely and we emerged to find our hotel car waiting.  The drawback of flying through Bangalore is that the layover is 11 hours.  There used to be a hotel inside the airport but that has closed so I’d booked a room through Booking.com at a nearby hotel, The Silicon Inn.  It was a small modern hotel, a/c, and got good reviews online.

We stepped out into the warm Indian night – 20C – at about 5am.  The journey to the hotel took about 15 mins and was a classic Indian car journey: no rear seatbelts; breakneck speed, weaving in and out of busy traffic, potholes, overlarge speed bumps, horns, no signals……  ha…. it’s good to be back!!!!!

We were quickly checked in and our room was fine.  Good size, spotless, huge comfortable bed, nice cold a/c, fridge, kettle, wifi .  A bargain at about £22 for the night.  We quickly turned in and were asleep by 630.  Woke up around midday feeling refreshed.

The hotel car took us back to the airport at around 230.  The staff were really nice – so helpful.  We had a bit of lunch at the airport – all super modern as you’d expect of India’s silicone valley.    Our flight to Goa was on time at 5pm, a short 1 hour hop.  The plane was quite busy but it was a painless experience.  We were quickly through arrivals although our last bag took a long time to emerge – bit nerve wracking that!

Outside, in the warm Goan sunset, the usual mayhem of the airport was underway…. so many taxis and whistles and utter semi-organised chaos.  Our driver from Eve Resort was there with a sign and we were soon in the car which was very comfortable.  It took about 75 minutes to reach Patnem.  the drive was nice – lots of Xmas lights and decorations still up.  Lovely to see.

Marylyn and Clive gave us a warm welcome at Eve Resort as did the restaurant staff.  We unpacked a bit and then sat in the restaurant with a bit of light food and some cold drinks.  The temperature was lovely – t shirt weather at 10pm.  Felt good.  Everyone was so pleased to see us.  We got free desserts… the diet must start tomorrow!!!!!

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