Throughout our trip we have had the chance to test out many delicious curries and Indian meals so when we saw a sign advertising for cooking classes Dad, James and I jumped at the chance to learn how to make them. We signed up for a lunchtime class that went for three hours and taught us to cook five dishes – all of which we got to eat at the end.
We arrived at the home of Mukti, our teacher for the day, and were welcomed into her kitchen with a drink and she explained how the day would work. We were joined by two Polish girls who had been travelling India after a wedding so we had lots to chat about as we waited for the class to start. The first meal we cooked was a mushroon masala and I stepped up to help Mukti and one of the other girls out while James and Dad played scribe and photographer. The meal was fairly simple to make although it did have a lot of ingrediants just to make it perfectly spicy. The second meal was a Paneer Mutter which basically means ‘cheese and peas’. Paneer is an Indian cottage cheese and is used as a substitute for meat quite often in their vegetarian meals. This one came with a Masala based sauce using many of the same spices and ingrediants as the last one.
Then it came to the funnest part of the class – making chapati. Chapati is a thin bread made of flour, salt and water then cooked in a pan. We got taught how to mix and knead it before watching a demo on how to prepare and cook them. It looked like a simple case of rolling them flat, putting them in the pan and then to make it fluffy popping them straight on the flame. Once we got down to doing our own I found out it is a lot harder then it looks. I couldn’t quite get my chapati evenly round so they ended up a bit wonky when I put it on the flame. We sat down to eat the two curries with the chapati and they all tasted OK even if they were wonky. The two curries were delicious and full of flavour although I did prefer the mushroom Masala so will probably try that one again at home!
After our lunch it was onto the next stage which was to cook Biryani – a sort of Indian fried rice. All of us were fans of the dish so we made sure we paid close attention to how it was done. Once again I was surprised at the amount of ingrediants used just to flavour the vegetables that were going to be thrown through the rice. Its looking like I may have to invest in the seven traditional spices that are used just so I can re-create the meal. The final dish was what I was looking forward to the most – dessert! We were taught how to make Halwa which is a carrot based dish. Basically you grate carrot, pour sugar, butter and milk over the top and boil away the liquid before serving. Sounds like a weird mixture but I can guarantee it was delicious! As was our Biryani!
With notepads full of recipes and our tummys full of food we said goodbye to Mukti and headed home to hit the beach. It was a really fun experience and I think it won’t be the last time I do a cooking class while travelling. Plus after two months of eating out for every meal it was nice to have a sort of home cooked meal. That afternoon we wandered Calangute Beach and watched the fishermen bring in their haul. They were calling out for volunteers so Dad jumped in to lend a hand and along with lifeguards, beach goers, westerners and locals they got it in safely. We watched the men unroll their nets and pop the fish in baskets to sell at the market as the local dogs tried to snack on the rejects.
The rest of our time in Goa sped by in a haze of relaxing by the pool, strolls along the beach and afternoon cocktails. It was a fabulous ten days to finish up for night in the sunny state and we were lucky to have amazing company for both Palolem and Calangue. I wasn’t looking forward to leaving as I had enjoyed my first beach/resort holiday for about five years but with just over two weeks to go until the trip is over for good we couldn’t stick around. Next stop – Hampi!
For much of our travel we have been behind ‘the season’ and I can’t tell you the amount of times something has been closed or unavailable because of it. However, now, we are finally in the season! This means we aren’t the only people eating I’m restaurants or wanting to do some activities and something we wanted to do was actually open. This time it was the Ajuna Beach Flea Markets.
Open only on Wednesdays we got to go to the first one of the season meaning that not only did everyone want our business but we had better bargaining power. The markets were placed between the palm trees right next to the beach so we spent our time wandering through the hundred or so stalls that where there. Many of them were selling the typical touristy goods such as ali-baba pants or Jewellery but we did find a few selling something different. Dad discovered that you could pledge money to buy a village a few chickens and we walked past a hippy trying to sell us trance music.
As we continued on the bargaining and pushy market stall owners got a bit much as they would crowd you, grand at your arms ams tell you to come to their shop next. Many times we heard them say ‘you give me good luck – first customer of the day – buy anything for 50 rupees’. We did get some bargains but it wasn’t long before we retreated to a shady beach front bar to compare our shopping and bargaining.
With our shopping out of the way we walked down Ajuna Beach which was full of Russian, German and Indian holiday makers that had all arrived on the first charter plane of the season. We snuggled in amongst them on some sunbeds and spent the rest of the morning dipping in the ocean, reading and of course sipping drinks. Its easy to see why this is the place people come for a holiday.
It was nice to check out another beach and get my shopping fix but I much prefer the quieter beaches of Palolem or Candolim. Even Calangute that is a package deal paradise is a bit more quiet. Maybe having the season start isn’t the best thing ever!
After saying goodbye to Mish and Hamish it was only a couple of hours before we met up with more company – this time in the form of my parents. Needless to say I was very excited to see them and after the hello hugs and kisses (and a few happy tears) we settled down with a Kingfisher beer to catch up. They had just finished a week long trip around the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) before making their way down to Calangute, Goa. The catch up continued as we walked along the beach for another amazing sunset and then had a delicious seafood dinner with a few more celebratory drinks.
The next day was also a pretty exciting day as it was James’s birthday. He woke to presents and cards from friends and family and then got treated to a cake with candles that Mum had brought all the way from home. James wasn’t the only one to get pressies as I received a big care package full of my favourite Australian food which meant we had heaps of Lollies and chips to add to the celebration. It was a pretty good start to the day. The rest of it was spent in true Goa style – relaxing by the pool, reading and grazing on food while sipping beers and cocktails. Followed by an evening walk along the beach for sunset where James tested his new Polariod camera and we watched the locals play beach cricket. We went out for a meal and a few drinks to celebrate and on the way home met a taxi driver who said he would take us to Old Goa.
The next day our driver, Vas, picked us up and we set off for our day out. As far as taxi drivers go, Vas was the most enthusiastic we had ever come across and immediately nicknamed my parents ‘John the Baptist’ and ‘Jennifer Lopez’. He couldn’t stop talking to us and telling us about the history of Goa, his life there and then asking us lots of questions about ourselves. It made for a pretty interesting drive but by the time we got to our first stop we were all a little ready for some peace and quiet. Old Goa is found a bit further inland and had a cluster of different churches giving it the nickname ‘the Rome of the East’. We first visited the Se de Santa Catarina which is the largest in Old Goa and would have been even more impressive on the inside if all the gold hadn’t been chipped off the sculptures and the paintings hadn’t been stolen. We then went into the Basillica of Bom Jesus which was a huge building and high on the tourist route as we had to scramble through the many other tourist there trying to glimpse the remains of St Francis Xavier that were left on display. Finally we drove to our final view of the Church of Our Lady of the Mount which wasn’t open but did provide some spectacular views across old Goa.
From there we had the options to visit some temples or head to a Spice Plantation. We opted for the spice plantation as by this stage we had all seen our fair share of temples and churches. We went there via a cashew factory where we saw how they treated, peeled, sorted and flavoured fresh cashews. It looked like repetitive work as we watched women on machines peddaling and pushing to peel the cashews and then more flicking them into different piles for sorting. We of course got a taste test and then couldn’t resist buying a bag as they were crunchy and fresh with a yummy coating.
When we arrived at the Spice Plantatiom we saw three big elephants at the entrance way so we rushed over to snap a couple of photos. Mum slipped them a few rupees and got to get up close and give one a big pat on the trunk. They were trained and we could have gone for a ride but as they were chained up only under a flimsy tarp we weren’t sure about the welfare of them and decided to let them rest. We headed across a footbridge over to the main reception where we were welcomed with a herbal tea full of some of the spices they grew there. Once we had finished we where lead off on a tour of the gardens where they grew the spices. Our tour guide made it a guessing game giving us samples to smel or taste to help us decide what each one was. As a cook that uses mostly pre packaged seasoning and rarely uses herbal remedies I was rubbish at guessing most of them but I dedinately learned a little along the way. Once we finished our tour we helped ourselves to the lunch that was included and of course it was one of the most spicy and flavoursome meals I have had on my trip. We also tried Fenni which is a cashew liquor made from the apple of the cashew plant. It was extremely potent and smelt horrible but the taste wasn’t too bad. Its not my favourite drink ever but we are glad we tried it.
We really enjoyed our day out to Old Goa but as the hot day continued we felt the pull back to the pool at the hotel and decided to head home. It wouldn’t be a holiday in Goa without an afternoon at the pool!
We had a few days from our time in Kerala before meeting up with my parents in North Goa so we decided we would check out the South of the sunny state. We were also lucky that our itinerary aligned with Mish and Hamish’s so we had two great partners in crime for some relaxing days by the beach. I was excited to head to Palolem because it was famous for its relaxed backpacker vibe and its beach front coco-huts but when we arrived we found out we were a week behind the peak season (again) and they weren’t built yet. We settled for a little room as close to the beach as we could and went to explore.
As we wandered down the beach and discovered it was a little bay with palm trees leaning towards the sun, bars and restaurants lining the beach and of course just to remind us where we were a herd of cows wandering the waterfront. We had a day before the others arrived so we spent it checking out the place which mostly included relaxing on the beach, taking shelter from the sun in a beach side bar followed by a bit more relaxing on the beach.
At the end of a very hard day we headed back to our tiny room to freshen up before dinner and we realised being as close to the beach in super cheap accommodation (£2 a night) wasn’t what it cracked up to be. There where plenty of mozzies sharing our room with no mosquito net to fend them off and a centrepede hanging out in our shower. If this wildlife wasn’t enough after we checked out our very stained bed and mattress we found what looked sucpisciously like bed bugs. Needless to say that was enough for us and half an hour later our bags were packed, we’d hiked along the beach with them and settled into a gorgeous guest house that was a bit more expensive ( a massice £6 a night) but much cleaner and much more welcoming. With that stress out of the way we made our way to find food and we realised we where tucked right behind the main drag – an even better reason to be closer to town and away from the beach.
The next morning we were very well rested before heading out to see more of Palolem. Even though it is pretty relaxed and chilled out it is also very touristy and therefore has many restaurants that cater towards English tourists. So for breakfast I treated myself to Heinz Baked Beans on toast and a cup of Tetley Tea. It was heaven! The rest of the day was spent with more time at the beach before Mish and Hamish arrived. Once they arrived it was time for a drink and dinner and we found a place with tables in the sand so we could eat while listening to the sound of the waves. We all ate meals with fresh seafood picked from a tray and drank and ate while we caught up on each others travels from when we had seen them last.
We did break our relaxing routine the next morning when Mish, James and I headed to a drop in yoga class. I’ve done a few yoga moves in a class here or there but never a dedicated class and it was James’s first time too so we where not quite sure how we would go. Our instructor Kishnan was as hippy as you could be with long hair and baggy clothes and he took us up to the rooftop of his house where we layed out mats and waited for the rest of the class. People arrived slowly and there would have been about 15 of us with all different experiences in the class. As we went through all the movements I was enjoying the class because it seemed like a good stretch out and a pretty relaxing way to start the morning. We then started on a few harder moves that us as novices couldn’t really do and yoga started to seem a lot harder then I had originally thought and since we where in the front row Kishnan could easily come along and adjust it so it was right and therefore harder. Overall I really enjoyed the class and will probably try again but I have certainly changed my view of it as a good ‘ol stretch.
Yoga was followed by brunch, and then of course the beach and then mandatory drink at our favourite bar in the midafternoon. To keep with our active morning we had an active afternoon as we decided to rent canoes and paddle across to a little island on the end of the bay. James and my canoing is about as good as our rowing in Pokhara and there were a few times we steered off course but in the end we made it out to the island. We jumped out and had a swim as all that canoing was hard work! We had aimed to be out there for sunset and it was slowly setting behind the island. Unfortunately our canoeing rental time didn’t allow for us to hang around so we paddled back and watched the sunset while we swam in the water instead.
The next morning was both our last day in Palolem but luckily for James and I we had ten relaxing days in North Goa ahead of us. We were up bright and early but thankfully not for a bus or train but for a dolphin watching boat ride. We were promised that if we didn’t see dolphins we didn’t pay so we where pretty confident we would see one and we where right! We saw four dolphins swimming along trying to catch soe fish from the schols of sardines we saw. At first they where pretty far away and our glimpse was brief but our boat drive tracked them down and we saw them pretty close up for a few minutes. We where then take on a tour of different beaches on the islands before heading back to shore. Even though it was am early start it was a great way to begin the day.
We had a delicious brunch before all jumping on a local bus up to the train station where we said farewell to Mish and Hamish and continued on to Calangute. If the rest of our experience in Goa is as good as our days in Palolem we will have a fantastic 10 days!