December 14, 2012

Cocktails & Dreams in Palolem, Goa, India

While we got our first glimpse of the long-term, hippy-twirling, dreadlocked, bare-footed, San Francisco-esque travelers in Gokarna (read about it here), we knew the patchouli-scented masses were waiting for us in Goa, so we took a quick train ride up the coast to Palolem in south Goa. (Get ready for a tutorial on Indian train travel soon...Tom's working on a post.) Our main plan was to do nothing and, after our first few weeks in India, which were great, but certainly an adjustment, we were thinking of our time in Goa as a true vacation. Now, I know most people think of what we're doing as a year-long vacation, and I understand what you're saying. But most people go on vacation so that life is easier, and most of our days in India have been more difficult than our days at home, so I'm not sure most of this trip qualifies as "vacation," but more as "traveling." So we were looking forward to some beach time and I, specifically, because Goa is a little tourism bubble where customs and traditions aren't as conservative (like most beach destinations around the world), was looking forward to wearing less clothing in the sweltering heat. I'd been promised I could wear a swimsuit on the beach without being hassled and even a sundress in the town without being ogled. 
In a bikini and free of ogles

Not our beach hut...but what they all look
like, more or less
We arrived at the train station in the evening and took a rickshaw to Sevas, which is well-reviewed and set back from the beach. This was our first experience in the beach huts common throughout Goa. These beach huts are taken down after each tourist season (as they're unlikely to survive the monsoon), and put back up each year around November. Our hut (about $14/night) was about a 10 minute walk from the beach and had it's own bathroom, but the bathroom was rudimentary. There was no running water, so they provide each room with a large, covered bucket of water each day, which you use to bathe, wash your hands, or flush the toilet. The hut itself had a basic bed (which we'd grown used to), a simple mosquito net (the kind we don't like), a padlocked door (standard-issue in every room we've had in India), and a loosely-secured ceiling fan that I was sure would detach from the thatch roof at any moment and machete-chop us to pieces. We were not impressed but were certain rooms on the beach were in worse shape and more expensive so, after an evening walk on the main beach and a quick dinner, we rolled out our sleep sheet and crawled into bed for sleep…..which never came. The moment the lights went out, the noises started. The fan was loud (further convincing me that death was imminent). Cats started fighting with each other in the distance. Dogs fought nearby. The crows started crowing (and never stopped). Even with our ear plugs in, sleep was impossible. And then, hours before the sun came up, roosters joined the din of noise and we made a 3am vow that we were leaving Sevas the next morning. We also decided that we're either too old/sober/particular for temporary beach huts. 

After a morning of looking for new accommodation, we found a new room in a building that was part of a restaurant/bar right on the beach. It was a permanent structure, so much more comfortable (while still simple and budget, obviously), and even had a TV! And it was the same price as our crappy hut! The best part about the room? It was at a bar called "Cocktails & Dreams" that had an awesome Miami Vice-like neon sign on the wall. Cha-ching! (We also found out later that it's a 24-hour bar and would have 21 year olds taking shots and dancing suggestively all night in the bar below our room but, surprisingly, wasted 21 year olds are somehow quieter than dogs/cats/chickens/roosters/crows/ceiling fans.)

Unfortunately, a massive cyclone hit Chennai on India's east coast as we arrived in Palolem and, while we were spared the damage of the cyclone, we did have rain and cooler temperatures the first 4 days we were in Palolem, so our beach time was pretty non-existent. Instead, we read and learned to play gin, usually at an open-air restaurant while looking out at the rough waves. It wasn't a bad vacation, by any means and, on the last 2 days we were there (of 6 nights total), we had beautiful sunshine and plenty of beach time. And, in any case, we knew we'd be visiting north Goa soon and weren't too disappointed by our gloomy days.
Forget California - Happy Cows Come From Goa!
Another great thing about Cocktails & Dreams was the puppy, Jumbo, that the waitstaff took care of. While there are tons of beach dogs in Goa (and fights among them are very common), most of the dogs aren't really cared for. I'm not sure how Jumbo got so lucky, but the guys at Cocktails & Dreams doted on her like she was their own. And Tom and I followed suit - cuddling her when she came to us (and immediately after dousing ourselves with antibacterial gel), giving her clean water, and chasing her around the beach, playing. 

The other highlights of our time in Palolem were a day trip to Potnem Beach (a short walk away), Tom's first hot shave in India (a weekly tradition now), and meeting Mike and Deanna from England, who are on their own travel adventure. (If anyone wants to hook them up, Mike is keen to move to Texas for some reason!)
Shave and a haircut, 2 bits? (Just slightly more at 80 rupees.)
Check out all of our pics from Palolem here. A few of our favorites are below.

Potnem Beach

Walk back to Palolem from Potnem

Palolem Beach

Mmmm....burning garbage on the beach!

Sunset swim

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