After the agent left I took a look around. We had been promised some provisions but none could be found. I opened one of the kitchen cupboards and, to my surprise, I found a giant cockroach lying dead. I was grateful it was dead but not impressed that it was there.
It was getting late and we had no way of getting to the local supermarket, so I texted the host asking where the supplies promised were hidden and told him about the cockroach. Our host sent a man immediately around with the groceries we were promised before arrival and this man removed the dead cockroach. When he left I set to making food. Nothing exciting, just eggs and bread but it would see us to the next morning. The kitchen was very grubby and everything was in a really bad state. Dishes looked like they were barely wiped and put into the press and the fridge looked as if it had never seen a cloth. The table cover was covered in cigarette holes and breadcrumbs. The bed sheets had holes and generally looked like they should have been on kitchen duty as cleaning cloths at this stage. This was clearly not the standard I had expected when I booked an AirBnB property which claimed to have signed up to the COVID cleaning protocols. However, It was too late to do anything about this place now, instead I would deal with it in the morning. Róisín was taking it all in her stride. She had seen bigger bugs when doing her J1 in the USA. So giving full gratitude for her bravery and refusing to go into the kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom until it was first inspected we settled in (as best we could for the night). We boiled the eggs to eat with our bread as it required the least use of equipment. I was o grateful for the sleeping bags which backpackers revert to for just such occasions. I did wonder if my 5 star living had raised my expectations to a level that I could never return, but no, the place was a tip. I decided that in the morning we would find a shop and buy some cleaning products. Crazy I know! But the next day was New Years Eve and I knew it would be impossible to find anywhere else to stay.
View from balcony of AirBnB
New Years' Eve
We got up the next morning and headed out to explore the area and to find a shop. It was about a ten minute walk to the beach from our AirBnB and along the way we passed a few little shops but nothing like a supermarket. The beach was pristine white, beautiful and stretched for miles with nobody else around. I hated the thought of going back to the dirty apartment and we failed to find a shop that sold any kind of cleaning products. I could not understand how this guy had managed to get a 5 star rating on AirBnB and a cleanliness badge with his apartment in such a state. I had been an AirBnB host for a few years and cleanliness was my highest priority. To my surprise I learned that buried deep in the small print was a statement that the reviews listed for this property were actually from another property the host owns. I had been an AirBnB host and never knew this could be done. I was so mad when I realised and resigned myself to leaving and taking the loss. I got back to the apartment and started looking for another place to stay. It was the 31st of January and there was no room at the Inn unless you were prepared to pay over €300 for 2 nights. I had stayed at the Marriott for 50 euros per night so this was a huge inflation. I understood it was business. No one was preparing a room on New Years' Eve without being well compensated.
We found a resort further up the cost which we could book for €300 plus an additional €80 for the mandatory New Years' Eve party. I text the owner of the AirBnB we were staying in and told him I was leaving as his property was filthy. I told him I would appreciate a refund of remaining days as the property he had rented to me did not meet even basic cleanliness standards. I put it to him that if he gave me a refund I would not review, as in any real since the booking had been cancelled. If he chose not to give a refund I would be reviewing his property with pictures and I would not be glossing over the state of the place. Having to book alternative accommodation at this late stage was costing me a fortune and I was not going to take this hit alone. I was giving him a chance to get out of this but he claimed I was blackmailing him. He claimed that the apartment was not as bad as I was saying and that the problem was that I had expected "European" standards of cleanliness and not Indian. I sent him the full collection of pictures taken and he returned with an apology. He was quite good about things in the end and offered to compensate us for the alternative accommodation which I told him was very generous but not necessary. I knew it had been very difficult in the tourist industry for the past two years and I had no intention of making matters worse for this man. I knew a review from a European could make or break a business this part of the world as things were opening back up since the pandemic. I was happy to get the remaining days refunded and not review his property at all, good or bad which I felt was fair. We managed to book a taxi to our next destination, which again because of the day was now being charged at €40 and an hour long wait to be picked up. Beggars can't be choosers, so within the hour we were collected and driven to our new accommodation.
Coconut Creek Resort even as a 3 star was an enormous step up from what we had just left behind. Between finding new accommodations and trying to find a taxi it was 6:30 pm by the time we got to our hotel room. By 7 pm the reception were phoning the room to say we had to head over to the New Years' Eve party. The mandatory party that we had to attend because we were being charged whether we went or not. The hotel bar and restaurant were closed for the evening so if we wanted to eat we had little choice but to go to the party. Now party attire was not something we had considered when packing our rucksacks so I had little choice but to go in what I had. Oh my god! what I had was fine for hoofing around street markets but not for a New Years' Eve party. But luckily I was born with the gift of “brazen it out” as the gran used to say. Quick shower, brushed the hair, no drying as I was going for that "don’t care" look as nothing in my bag could challenge that persona. We were guided along some sandy paths and through some sand dunes to arrive at a beach bar where everything was set up for a fab night of festivities. There was entertainment, great food, table service and drinks included so the €40 ticket wasn’t looking too painful after all. They had participant games which I joined in with (if your doing the "I don’t care wardrobe" you need to be in the thick of it to pull it off!). There were a lot of English families which I hadn’t expected. I later discovered that they were all employees of the British consulate working in India and I suppose it was cheaper to put them up in India for the holidays than fly them all home. Róisín and I had our own table near the back of the room. Where other guests may have seen each other around the pool or at breakfast we knew no one and no one knew us. The owner of the club had, just a short time earlier, placed a bottle of wine on our table and said it was for an activity that was happening later. So when the request for volunteers from the audience to come to the stage to take part in a game went out, I put my hand up immediately. I figured if we didn't get with the program we would be out in the wings for the night. So in my not inspired t-shirt and ill fitting pants I took to the stage and I had a fabulous time. The game required that we had a set time to get particular items and return with them to the stage. As everyone on stage with the exception of myself had large groups or family with them to help, the host very kindly asked the audience to help me as it was only Róisín and I. It was great fun running among the audience asking people for whatever object we were required to get. It was also a great ice breaker. When I returned to our table the people at the next table started chatting and then asked us to join them. That turned out to be a 4 am party and one of the best in memory although it still doesn’t beat Vicars' Street Dublin New Years' Eve 2017. The resort was fabulous with some great craic! (Irish for fun, pronounced crack). The other hotel guests there, as well as an Indian party, kindly invited us to join them into the wee hours. The food was exceptional. I hadn’t had steak since leaving home and was surprised to discover that Goa didn't have the same reverence for cows compared to the rest of India. I had my first steak in this fabulous establishment and it was so good. I don’t usually eat a lot of steak but its extraordinary how we crave the things we are not allowed. We were relocating to a less expensive hotel the following day but for now it was new years day and we were treated ourselves to some spa treatments, good food and any other facilities available to us before our departure.
New Years' Eve fireworks
We checked out of Coconut Creek the next day and relocated to Palmieri’s Dourado, a little further down the coast and on the edge of a tropical forest, only minutes from the beach. This was more within our budget at €182 for 4 nights. We had gotten lost a few times on the trip there and at one point we pulled into the forecourt of the wrong hotel and were told by the owner that the place we were looking for was closed down. I figured he was lying as I had only booked the hotel the previous day and our taxi driver agreed saying he was just hoping to get our booking. But we did eventually find the correct location and this place was a real little find. Our room was on the ground floor with a balcony that lead onto the pool deck and to the restaurant. New Year was over for most and the hotel was empty except for Róisín and I. I think this must be what its like to own a fully staffed private villa with everyone there just to ensure every whim is answered. The restaurant had two members of staff and someone was in attendance at all times.
Goa Beach near hotel
Bike Tour of Goa
We took the opportunity to go on an electric bike tour of the area. We arrived at the place to get bikes and to meet our guide. We were given a little lesson on how to operate them and they checked that we understood the rules of the road. I was confident I could handle this and so off we went. The tour took us out of the village and along a quiet busy road for a stretch before turning off into the narrower roads along the paddy fields and into the jungle. When I went to turn left off the main road and onto the side road I employed my rules of the road training, right arm out and moved to the center of the road, whereupon a motorbike swerved across the center line and just missed hitting me. So the lesson was take everything you know about the rules of the road and forget them. In India. rules of the road are an aesthetic aspiration but nobody really uses them and you are likely to get yourself killed if you try. Any junctions I came to afterwords, I pulled the bike to the side of the road and ensured there was no traffic near me before crossing. Our guide was great stopping along the way to point out interesting things to us like the touch me not plant which curls up when you run your finger along the leaves.
We went up a mountain to see a church and free wheeled down on the bikes. It was mighty craic (even more fun!) and the guide enjoyed my sense of humor. He brought us to some very off the beaten track locations, one being through a village in the forest and down to a beautiful river bank. As we cycled through the village children hung out the windows shouting “Hello” and laughing when I replied. I said hello to everyone I passed and everyone without exception returned a smiling "Hello" back to me. I cannot fault the friendliness of the Indian people. We Irish have a repetition for being friendly but you can still meet the odd grump, haven’t met any here, very pleasant people. Our guide told me that most of the tours he does, the tourists don’t talk and just want to take pictures so he cannot tell whether the group are enjoying themselves or not, ergo he sticks to the program and ends the tour as planned. So if you want to see the road less traveled and less commercialized, be nice to your guide and show them you are interested. Our 10 km cycle with numerous pit stops ended back at the starting point after 3 hours. It was getting pretty hot now so we headed back to the hotel to lazy by the pool for the afternoon. Oh what a wonderful life, Ahhhhhhhh! We spent a relaxing few days in this hotel. Found our way eventually to the beach through a coconut grove where deserted white sandy beaches stretched as far as the eye could see. This hotel was the perfect location to catch a breath and recharge. We had one more location to see in India and then we were on to Sri Lanka. We flew from Goa heading for Kochi after our week long break.
Rather than wait for confirmation of refund we booked the Indigo flight immediately. We figured that if we missed this flight we would just be compounding our losses with our accommodation and connecting flight that are already paid.
We got into the queue for check-in and waited our turn, as you do. We are used to making sure that our bags weight and size are correct, Mr. Ryanair has us trained like circus seals. But India seems to have very few restrictions other than the usual, no guns, explosives, nail scissors or battery items in your bags. So, a couple turn up with 6 bags between them and they get a bit miffed when the check-in staff want them to remove their laptops from the luggage. A battle ensued where they insist that they are not going to remove their laptops because the laptops were in the bags when they arrived three days earlier. Now personally, if I had been lucky enough to get away with a breech of packing requirements I would take the win and keep my month shut (those of you who know me that’s a big ask). But this couple are hysterical and shouting “I want to see your supervisor now!”. Wow, even to facially express your dissatisfaction with European ground staff you risk being grounded. Here the supervisor arrived and calmly and respectfully told them they needed to remove their laptops. I have no idea what was in the bag and as it was a domestic flight I’m guessing it wasn’t drugs. Yet, they refused to remove the laptops and so voluntarily left the airport. I was surprised to see every make and shape of cardboard box or plastic bag being presented as check-in luggage and not an eyebrow being raised. Anyhow, after waiting and finally getting our turn we are turned away because our bags hadn’t been screened at the entrance to the airport.I was so grateful we had allowed loads of time to get through the airport and pick up the bags and quickly had them screened. Absolutely painless and was returned to the top of the queue with no objection from others waiting as they seemed to appreciate our time served in the queue.
Bags checked in and off we go to our terminal gate. I had wrongly assumed that we had completed our security screening but as we approached the gate there were passport and hand luggage checks. I didn’t think I had any illegal contraband with me and was surprised when I was taken aside and my bags were taken apart. The security officer insisted I had electrical devices in my bag and I insisted it was my mobile phone and laptop in the tray. Item by item were removed and put to one side. Eventually I place my vape out and that is when he hones in on this as the criminal. I’m absolutely baffled. I have managed to stay off the cigarettes for over a year now with the aid of my vape. I had bought additional batteries and cartridges so as not to be tempted to go back on the cigs and now I discover vapes are illegal in India? Every device is taken from me, about two hundred euros worth and I am disappointed but grateful I’m not being fined. I look into this and later discover that India is a tobacco producer. They also have a strong tobacco lobby who managed to convince government to outlaw vaping based on the argument that younger people might take up vaping rather than smoking. It’s a logic I have failed to rationalize but I am now without vapes which have been my crutch for a long time. It was very straight forward after that we got the flight to Mumbai and arrived with plenty of time to get to our connecting flight to Goa.
I was directed to go outside the building again and was told I could get a taxi if I headed right at the exit doors. I could not see any taxi rank and could see on google that terminal 2 was some distance away. We stood around trying to figure out how to work this but nothing was clear. Started walking the length of the exterior of the building as indicated by google maps but it just looked like we ran out of path. Two foreigners looking lost and bemused drew the attention of an official who was directing traffic. He very kindly approached us and asked if we needed a taxi guessing it was for terminal 2 and pointed across the road to a tuk-tuk station. Over we went to discover a very efficient system. There was an endless supply of tuk-tuks and no fighting over the price. You were given the next available vehicle at a fixed price. In we climbed into the vehicle, stacking our bags on the seat in front and off our driver went.
I was surprised to learn that Mumbai is bigger by population than Delhi and very different. Although we just drove through the city it didn’t seem to be any bit as crazy a Delhi. The driver drove with a reasonable level of caution, or perhaps I was becoming more accustomed to the driving, whichever it all seemed more in control. That feeling quickly disappeared when another tuk-tuk comes along side us as we are driving and asks if we are going to terminal 2. He then went on to tell us that our driver wouldn’t be able to take us to terminal 2 as only taxis were allowed there and tuk-tuks were prohibited. Our driver noticed him speaking with us and although our driver had little to no English he knew this guy was causing trouble. Our driver started shouting at the other tuk-tuk driver as we continued driving on the motorway. The road rage made it feel like we were in an action movie. I was more worried about that shouting than anything the guys were saying to each other. The interloper was so cheeky and told us not to worry as they were brothers and his brother didn’t understand the rules. Now our driver starts shouting "liar!" and pulls across the traffic, reigniting memories of Delhi to park at the side of the road where he gets out and starts to take picture of the other guy's vehicle. At this point the other driver gets back into his vehicle and takes off. I never cease to be impressed by the scams that we are regularly presented with. We may have believed the other guy if we were tight for time and in a panic to get to the other terminal. As it was, we had plenty of time and knew we had been directed by an official at the airport towards the tuk-tuk in which we were traveling. But I imagine this scam would work a treat on anyone in a rush and panicking that they might miss their flight. As it was we made our flight. Security was a breeze. I was confident and oh so sad I had nothing to declare. We had a comfortable and uneventful flight to Goa. All we needed now was a taxi to our apartment.
We land in Goa to a crammed and chaotic airport. The place was packed but it was the day before New Year's Eve and I got the impression that Goa was the expat and party capital of India. Just an impression, I’m basing that purely on my observations. Everyone was dressed up and ready to go lounging by the pool or walking on sandy beaches. So as we enter the arrivals hall and we are assaulted by taxi drivers asking where we are going and do we need a taxi. Róisín went to ask at an information desk how we go about getting a taxi. To her discovery, there are independent controls at Goa airport so that tourists can avoid getting ripped off. Personally, I believe there are controls on airport taxis because the prices bear no relation to any other taxi fare anywhere in India. They are through the roof. Not by Irish standards but defiantly by Indian standards. We had been getting 4 hour drives for €30 to €40 whereas Goa was looking for €16 for 30 minutes which made me wonder if we were still in India or were we in a totally different country? Anyway we hop into the taxi and make our way to the AirBnB that we booked along the Goa coastline.
Hi, I'm Olive and I am the writer of this blog. I am traveling the world with my 22 year old daughter, Róisín, who has just graduated University. I wanted to document this journey because it is unusual for a woman of 58 years old to go on adventure that most students do on a gap year. I will try to share my insights into this epic journey with you along the way and maybe inspire more people my age to go on these crazy adventures too.