Let the Relaxation Begin
After a couple hectic weeks split between Mumbai, Nasik, and Arungabad, we were feeling run down. The accumulated stress of the last few months in the US hadn’t dissipated yet – wrapping up our jobs, finding a cat sitter, driving across the country, the car breaking down… this had all added up and finally we had hit our limit. It was time to get somewhere where we could stay for a few weeks and just relax. We set our sights on Goa, a small state on the western coast of India, about 250 miles south of Mumbai. Our first stop in Goa would be the capital city, Panjim, which is a little inland, near the middle of the state, and situated on a large river.
We spent 3 days in Panjim doing… well, not a lot. Goa is a former Portuguese colony so there are lots of pretty, old churches in the area that you can visit (we didn’t visit any of them). We passed our time enjoying the relaxed environment of being in a city smaller than Mumbai and less hectic than Nasik and Arungabad. There were three major highlights from our time in Panjim:
First, we saw our first Hindi movie in the movie theater here. The theater is a large, relatively new multi-screen type cinema showing movies in Hindi, Malayalam, and English. Getting to the theater was fun; it’s a peaceful 20 minute walk from the city center along the wide sidewalk that runs along the river bank, really a pretty walk.
We ended up seeing Yaariyan which, while in Hindi, included so much English and so many obvious tropes that we followed it really well. The movie was your standard Hindi movie – 20 song soundtrack, plenty of dancing, lots of near-kissing, etc., but the theater experience was our favorite part. As in Vietnam, the theater has assigned seats, something that I really wish we had in the US. Two notable things happened before the movie started:
1) They played the Indian National Anthem. We were presented with a brief message asking us to stand for the anthem, then the screen faded to an image of the Indian flag and everyone stood. Those who knew the words sang along while Danielle and I just tried not to stand out too much. This is something I’m surprised doesn’t happen in the US, since we sing the anthem before nearly everything else.
2) There was a Public Service Announcement about helping keep foreign tourists safe. It was a short little advertisement, maybe 90 seconds long. There was a blonde female tourist who got off the train and was ushered into an auto-rickshaw. The drivers hassle her, but eventually they force her into a rickshaw and a group of 3-5 Indian men pile in with her. It’s clear that they are driving her out to the boonies to rob/rape/kill her but at the last minute, another Indian man starts yelling at them to stop, saves the girl, and drives her back into town. He is then presented with a medal in front of the townspeople and applauded. I can’t say we’ve really felt unsafe in India but this kind of thing does happen and it was nice (in a cheesy sort of way) to see it addressed.
The last bit of cinema-talk I’ll add here is that the theater has caramel- and cheese-flavored popcorn in addition to the butter popcorn, which I feel would be a welcome addition to theaters at home.
Second was Café Bhonsle – we stopped in this café because it was incredibly busy and packed to the gills with locals. We were in full-on tourist mode, taking pictures of the food and writing down the names of some of the snacks we had so we could be sure to order them again at other restaurants. The food and the chai were just delicious and our server was helpful and friendly, though he spoke little English. I think he thought we were travel writers or something because when the bill came, he had only charged us 10 rupees per item, and we had 4 cups of chai and like 6 snacks, all of which were priced at 25+ rupees on the menu. He got a huge tip, and hopefully someone somewhere out there will read this and head over to Café Bhonsle, it was really, really good.
Lastly was The Children’s Park – I know it makes us sound like creepers because we don’t have kids and we went and spent an hour and a half at a park for children, but it was a lot of fun. The park is huge, wooded, and set right on the river. We walked around the park and then sat on steps just at the river’s edge to watch the sun set over the mouth of the river where it empties into the Arabian Sea. It was really peaceful and incredibly beautiful.
The rest of our time in Panjim was spent relaxing, wandering, and generally doing nothing. We stayed at a hotel that was beyond our planned budget, so we decided to enjoy the city on the cheap as we felt the stress of the last couple months finally start to melt away. Little did we know that we hadn’t even scratched the surface of what Goa had to offer. After 3 days in Panjim, we headed south to the beach town of Agonda…