Thursday, April 11, 2013

Goa, India

One of the things we decided to do this year was visit a handful of beach resort areas. Doug is not a beach person, and despite the fact that we've done so much traveling together, we've never been to a resort. When we were choosing our itinerary for this trip, there were several places that we wanted to go that are clearly beach destinations, and so we decided that we would visit some beach resorts. In all, we're spending a little more than five weeks on the beach this year. Carter and I are very excited!

Goa is a well-known resort area in India, and so we decided to make it our first beach resort stop. It's a short one-hour flight from Mumbai, so it was fairly easy to get to. 

Flying in India is complicated. There are so many unwritten rules and steps you have to make sure you take as a traveler, and if you miss a step, you have to go back and start again. For example, in order to get into the airport at all, you have to have a proof that you have a flight that day. Since most tickets these days are electronic, this means that Doug had to go the hotel's business center the night before and print out our airline reservations. Once inside, you take your bags to an area to be scanned and they get stickers put on them showing they've been screened. (In most other airports in the world, this scan happens after you've checked your bags, so it would be easy to miss that you have to do it.) Next, you have to wait in line to check in and check your bags, and then split up into two lines for security (one for men and one for women, because everyone gets patted down). All electronics have to come out of your carry-on (even charging cables), which means that I pretty much empty out my carry-on bag and put everything in it in the tray. And something else that would be easy to miss is that you have to pick up airline baggage tags when you check in and put them on your carry-ons, and then the security check people will stamp the tag when your bag is cleared. If you get to the plane without this tag (and they literally check at the door of the plane), they'll send you all the way back to security to be scanned again.  So: it's complicated!

Even Carter's stuffed penguin (which he was carrying in hand rather than in his bag), had to get a stamped tag.

The flight was short and easy, and the resort (the Park Hyatt Goa) had a shuttle at the airport to whisk us off to our lovely week at the beach. The hotel's grounds were really beautiful and we joked when we first arrived that we probably wouldn't leave the hotel for the entire week. Not only did we not leave the hotel, we were only in the lobby twice -- once when we checked in and once again when we checked out.

Here Carter and I are waiting at check-in. That was the first time I've had fresh coconut milk right out of the coconut!

The resort's grounds were really lovely. Those huts you can see in the distance are beach cabanas, which gives you a sense of how far we were from the beach.

The resort was all open-air.

This is looking over towards part of the pool area.

And here is a view of the beach from the beach bar. Doug said he saw that those cabanas were also available to rent at night, for what the hotel called "a romantic interlude." Heh.

The sunsets were spectacular, and we spent almost every evening in the beach bar taking a ridiculous amount of pictures.

There's something magical about watching the sun slip into the ocean and out of sight. 

This was the first time I've gotten a close look at the Indian Ocean. The water was warm and silty, much like the Atlantic Ocean is off the east coast of the US. Carter loves the beach and playing in the sand, and he had so much fun here. 

There are many resorts in Goa, but they're so far apart that it feels like you're on a private beach. Most people at the resort stayed by the pool, so the beach wasn't even crowded with hotel guests. We had it almost to ourselves!

Here you see Doug (in blue) and Carter swimming in the ocean. Unfortunately, my sunglasses were knocked off by a wave on our last day, and they were never seen again. They're prescription, and so they were not only expensive, but also  difficult to replace. Doug thinks I can get new ones in Bangkok on a quick turnaround. I hope so, because we're heading into the summer part of our trip and I could really use them! 

And of course, Carter played in the sand as much as he could.

Footprints! Mine and Carter's. We went out on the beach with lights a couple of nights to look for crabs, which is something we do at the beach in North Carolina. Carter loved it!

Here we're hanging out in the bar and waiting for the sunset. This bar was part of a beautiful beachside restaurant. 

Here is the view from the restaurant, and it's just stunning. There are so few places on earth where you can sit at the edge of a nearly-deserted beach, watching the sun set into the ocean, drink in hand, and  a fantastic meal on the way. It really felt like paradise!

There's not much to tell about what we did all week. We woke up in the morning, had breakfast, and then headed either to the pool or the beach. The beach heated up really quickly, so we typically were back at the pool by 11:00 am.

We had lunch poolside almost every day. The resort had a great kid's menu that was available in all of the restaurants, and one of the items on it was a peanut butter and banana sandwich. I think of that as such a southern US thing, and it was really interesting to find it on the kid's menu at a resort in India! Carter ate basically only PB&B sandwiches for the first two days we were there.

Oh, and this hotel did amazing iced tea. They served it with a little jug of sugar syrup, which is really the only way to go. :-)

The pool was beautiful and huge. There were actually a long series of connected pools, some with waterslides between them, others shallow and sun-warmed, others deep, shady, and grotto-like with overhangs and waterfalls you could swim under.  We spent a lot of time in the pool. I meant to take more pictures of it, but it's kind of hard to do while you're in the pool.

One of the things that was interesting about this resort was that the clientele was very international and multi-cultural. There were other Americans, though not many. There were lots of Brits and Indians, and also Scandinavians, Germans, and Russians. It was fascinating to see European women in tiny bikinis swimming alongside Muslim women in their head-to-toe swimsuits. I joked at one point that I was the only non-Muslim woman in the pool wearing a swimsuit that covered my stomach, but I think I actually was. Every other woman wore a bikini, regardless of age or body size. I'm not a small person, and there were women there much larger than me wearing bikinis! 

I'm not being critical, by the way - I thought it was awesome. There is no way I would wear a bikini on a beach in the US, and I felt that way even when I was 50 pounds lighter than I am now. There is just this idea somehow that a bathing suit is something you're supposed to look good in, but I got the impression at this resort that for many people in the world, it's actually just something to keep your important bits covered while you swim, and that's it. 

It was also interesting that people would change their small children in and out of swimsuits by the side of the pool. I think we were the only family that didn't do that, in fact. In the US, people would say (and I have actually heard people say this) that they'd be exposing their children to the eyes of pedophiles if they let them be naked on a public beach or by a pool for a few seconds, but outside the US, it doesn't seem to be as big a deal. This has been true in other places I've traveled as well, and I suspect it will continue to be true as we make our way through the south Pacific.

We spent a couple of sunsets poolside, and those were gorgeous as well.

The resort had four restaurants, and all were amazing. There was the aforementioned seafood restaurant on the beach, and the other restaurants were Italian, Indian, and Goan. I knew Indian food was very regional, but I'd never had Goan food before, and I really loved it. Now I need to find a restaurant in Austin that serves that region's cuisine! As I mentioned before, the kid's menu was available at all of the restaurants, so Doug and I were free to choose what we wanted at dinner every night without worrying about what Carter would eat. That was really nice, I have to admit. We've basically been eating in restaurants for more than three months, and it was nice not to have to choose something Carter-friendly, for a change. Overall, the food in this resort was some of the best hotel food I've ever had. And I've eaten in a lot of hotel restaurants lately. :-)

At last our week was up, and it was time to leave. Even though we had a truly amazing time, we were ready to move on. During the first month of the trip, Carter would cry each time we left a place, beg to stay longer, and ask when we would come back again. During the second month, he no longer cried when we left, though he still asked when we might come back. During the third month, he's been happy to go on to the next part of the adventure each time. I don't think this says anything about the places we've been in the last month so much that it says that he's settled in for the trip and understands what we're doing.

He has always been a flexible and easy-going kid, and on this trip he's just become more so. Before we left, I worried that he'd miss his toys and his house and yard, but he hasn't. He has fun everywhere we go, and 75% of the time doesn't play with any of the toys in his backpack, but instead plays with things he finds. He has toy cars and spaceships in his bag, but he'd rather pick up a cool rock and pretend it's a spaceship, or a roller coaster, or a racecar -- often all three in quick succession. Just today he spent a solid half-hour pretending the pen from the hotel desk was a rocket!

I've read many times that the best toys for kids are the simple ones that allow them to use their imaginations, and that the ones that don't represent specific objects (and can therefore be anything in a child's mind) are even better. I've seen that happen firsthand with Carter these last few months, and it's awesome.

He had one of his "toy" rocks in his pocket when we flew from Goa to Agra, and they took it from him at airport security. He burst into tears and was inconsolable for a good five minutes, which is really unusual for him these days. But it shows how important that little rock was to him. It was a favorite toy, and the security guy took it away. :-(  From now on, we'll make sure the rocks are in the checked baggage.

Another simple toy he's gotten a lot of use out of are his notebooks, crayons, pencils, and markers. His drawing has really come along in the last couple of months, and he often incorporates the things he's seeing around him into his drawings. His notebooks are going to be fantastic journals of his travels this year.

His knowledge of geography lately is really stunning. He's been very interested in keeping up with where we are on a map, and we've been using Google Earth a lot to explore the areas around us. I've always said that traveling is the best way to learn geography, and that seems to be true for a small child too.

We're currently in Agra, so my next post will be full of photos of magnificent architecture. Stay tuned!


  1. omg, that looks simply stunning...super jealous!!

  2. Emerald isle is one of the famous Resorts in Old Madras Road Bangalore. It’s very attractive and beautiful.