India: The land that split opinion (Part 1)

We’re travelling together, we write together so why no collaborate on this blog and take turns in writing a post. Here goes, welcoming a first post from Tom;


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India, what have you done to me? Underwhelming and beautiful, dirty and spectacular, down-right rude and hospitable. Trying to explain our month is extremely difficult as one day I scanned flights to book an early exit and the next I was left thirsty for more of this intriguing country.

While summing up India as a whole is difficult, Goa left me without any doubts of my feelings. Selfish, unclean and the worst way to start the trip.

Two nights in Panjim was enough for us to get our feet under us and recover from the overnight flight. We feasted on decent food at a restaurant I can’t remember and Viva Panjim while staying at a decent hostel, Old Quarter by thehostelcrowd.

A couple of days in the state’s capital was followed by sickness, poor food and scams but thehostelcrowd delivered once again. Lottie was struck with Delhi Belly on the day we left for Vagator and left her bed-ridden for a few days before I was struck down in the same fashion. We finally arose from Jungle hostel for the final few days to discover an average beach and a lack of decent food.

Anjuna beach
Anjuna beach

The one day we really enjoyed was hiring a scooter to explore the northern town of Aramabol. It was great to make my scooter debut, drive through the streets weaving around cows, dogs and erratic drivers was enjoyable in itself but the Arambol market was a highlight of Goa. Even a good day wasn’t free of frustration as we were stopped by local ‘police’ three times – fined 300 rupees and argued our way out of the two other dubious infractions – and the petrol station attendant tried to charge us 50 per cent more than the actual price.

What happens after a day on the scooter!
What happens after a day on the scooter!
Arambol beach
Arambol beach

Madgaon, well what can I say? We arrived late in the afternoon ready to catch a train to Hampi early the following morning but even for that short time I feel comfortable to advise anybody to avoid it. Dirty, chaotic and it took us ages to find food that was as good as average.

An eight-hour train ride in sleeper class wasn’t as bad as expected but there were still a few unexpected sights. Venders passed selling chai tea, samosas, onion bhajis, water and an array of treats and they were joined by a few beggars. That was all expected but seeing women walk through clapping in mens’ faces and grabbing their pockets in an attempt to get money admittedly threw me – thankfully they seem to avoid tourists.

I left Goa ready to knock the trip on its head and fly early to Malaysia but I’m so glad I held on. Hampi was what I’d come to India looking for; culture, temples, welcoming locals, rice fields and great grub.

We stayed three nights at Gopi Guest House which wasn’t lavish but still a nice room and a great location. Their food was brilliant and their roof top overlooked the Virupaksha Temple (we affectionately called it Big V after we kept forgetting its full name). The Temple’s elephant washing in the lake at 8.30ish each morning, a 500-rupee rickshaw tour around all the temples, an amazing sunset point next to Big V and a scooter drive around Hippie Island was a rejuvenating change from Goa and my sparked hope that my Indian trip would be great after all.

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