|Goa (April 2, - April 6, 2002)|
We're learning more and more about the Indian Train system. First,
trains really do leave on time. We had misread the departure time on our
ticket and arrived 15 minutes late - to discover that the train had indeed
already gone. Luckily this was the Pune to Mumbai
part of our journey so we just jumped on the next train. We were in a fan
cooled sleeper car for the 12 hour trip from Mumbai to Karmali Station in
Goa. It was quite
nice sleeping in our own small bunks - the evening air was not too
hot. I don't know how they managed,
but many Locals would sleep two to a bunk. This is perhaps understandable as the next class of seats down had about 5 people sitting in the same
There seem to be two types of people who interact with foreigners in India - those who try to grossly overcharge us, and others trying to ensure we are not overcharged. This is the yin and yang of India for travelers. As usual, Porters and Taxi drivers are high on the list of people trying to overcharge us - a porter asked for 400Rp to carry our bags in Mumbai (the posted rate was 19Rp). Sarah ended up walking towards a policeman before the porter accepted what we were prepared to offer and gave us back the train tickets that he had been holding hostage. Taxi drivers in Pune wanted to charge us 200Rp for a 30Rp fare. However, these people are offset by many others who are extraordinarily nice - hotel staff who direct us to taxis that they know will not overcharge us, and another passenger on the train from Pune to Mumbai who bought Chloe a bun and drink to encourage her to try Indian food. We have to be careful: it is too easy to travel with 'blinders' on trying not to talk to hawkers or beggars... but if we did, we would be extremely rude to all the people who are just being nice and naturally curious about our traveling family. It is a difficult balance to find, as they almost all start conversations the same way by asking the same thing - "what is your (good) name?" and "what is your country?".
But I digress. Goa was a Portuguese enclave until 1961 when it was forcibly taken back by India. The architecture and colours are decidedly Mediterranean (yes, I know Portugal is not on the Mediterranean, just bear with my artistic license), and most people speak very good english. In short, this is not really like any other part of India. We checked into the Panjim Inn in Panaji for 4 nights.
The main reason for coming here was to meet Mark and Penny, Sarah's
Aunt and Uncle from England. After retiring, Penny and Mark have embarked on volunteer work for various
agencies mainly in Asia. Mark is also completing his PhD measuring quality
in education using an area of India as a study. They both happened to be in India at the same
time as us, so we had arranged to meet them in Goa.
We seem to be so busy organizing traveling with
kids that we never get the time to read any more than the Travel Guide's
short history. Sarah
and I appreciated Uncle Mark's history lesson when we visited the
cathedrals in Old Goa. These cathedrals rival most European cathedrals in
size and splendour. This included the Basilica of Bom Jesus that houses a
glass coffin with what remains of the remains of St Francis Xavier. The kids did not share the
appreciation of the history lesson, although they did enjoy learning from their Great Uncle
the Indian custom of eating messy/ squishy food with
the fingers of their right hand.