Goa Travels – March 2010 Highlights

Summary of my visit to Mangeshi

So Dad’s taxi escaped the heat of Goa yesterday… We cut short our trip in Goa, as it became quite apparent that the heat would get the best of us (Me specifically).¬† We spent our last full day in Goa at the beach (I think it was Tito’s Beach).. Near Arpora.

Highlights of Goa:

  • Heat is unbearable, unless you like to deep fry on the beaches and while you tour
  • Goan Food/Seafood (fish, prawns, calamari, crab) is to die for.. You will not find such delicious food/seafood anywhere else in the world. Goan spices make the seafood just a treat!
  • When you order food, make sure u know what you are odering.. Pancakes can turn into crepes very easily.
  • When you order any “masala” dish, make sure you order Mild, unless you want to pay for it later.. we won’t go here.
  • Shopping Nirvana.. There is no such thing as a fix price. Everything is negotiated down from the asking price.
  • Go to the local market and learn the skill of haggling for a few rupees.. My best method: “Shake your head, and walk away”.
  • Look for Bargains and carry a calculator, you will easily pay more if you don’t know what is the value in your local currency!
  • Roads are narrow, and taxis are expensive! With the generous conversion rate from $ to Rupee, you still come out ahead.
  • Do not go to Goa in Summer.
  • The Goanese people are very friendly and helpful. Friendliest people you could ever meet. They are soo happy…
  • You must rent a scooter if you are staying at a resort. I didn’t do it as I was with my family and none of them wanted to ride with me.. hmm.. probably with my history of accidents on 2 and 3 wheeled vehicles gave them just cause. ūüôā
  • Be prepared to spend lots and lots of money..
  • If you are looking to buy a summer house, Goa is the place for you.. with construction going on.. you can pick and choose where you want to buy.. Be prepared to pay thru the nose….
  • European and Foreign Tourism is putting a lot of money into Goa.. Many foreigners now call Goa their 12 month home.

Overall, my trip to Goa was great. Incredible scenery.. Beaches, Food, Shopping, and great fun to be had.¬† My next trip will be during a cooler time, so I can visit some more churches and temples…

I will always consider to be one of my favorite places.. My special attachment to Mangeshi is the clincher for my reason as to  why I will come again and again to Goa!

My next posting will be about Pune.. Another one of my favorite cities..

Goa – week of March 18, 2010

Goa vacation in March of 2010 for Dad’s Taxi,

So Dad’s Taxi has been in Alpora Goa for a few days now and only a few words words can describe my stay here thus far… Sticky, Hot, Humid, and just overall very difficult. Even if I took a shower 2 to 3 times a day, I’d still be bathed in sweat as soon as I stepped outside my air condititioned Suite

The Royal Goan Resort is ok.. Nothing outstanding… The most memorable thing is paying for all the utilities during my stay and the huge walk up hill that takes your breath away whenever you have to go back to our room… Don’t look forward to that now either while carrying my laptop! ūüė¶

Goa is truly a tourist trap.. I have not been here for 20 years and no way I could recognize the Goa that I knew to what it is today. Today’s Goa is fast roads and cars and new construction everywhere for vacation properties that are being snatched up by everyone. If you got the cash and can stand the sloooow pace, this is the place for you.

The natives are really nice, even as they over charge you for the taxi rides. Rides that should cost 5 to 10 rupees cost 50 to 100 Rupees. God bless the all mighty dollar for the conversion rate.

Today we went to Mangeshi. This is the town where my Mom was born and raised and during my childhood, I always considered to be my second home. The Mangeshi Temple today is a  mecca for the tourists and visitors to Goa. To me it is still home.. Today when I visited the temple and the place where I spent many a summer vacation, I felt the pangs of recognition and the emotions raced through my mind as thoughts and images of my late mother  flashed through my memories.. I had to hold back many a tear as the pangs of these memories at times were overwhelming for me.

Seeing my Uncle and his family also was a joy.. So much has changed in 20 years.. I promised to myself that I would not wait another 20 years before I visit Mangeshi again.. Next time I will stay at my uncle’s house as this is truly where I belong..

In Old Goa we saw the Basilica of Bom Jesus (A world Heritiage Site). I felt at peace when I saw this shrine  for St. Xavier. I could have spent the whole day in this church and listened to the tour guides for this site. If in Goa, you must visit this site!

As I sit under this roaring fan, I’m still sweating profusely and I realize that I could go on and on about the beauty of Goa.. To see Goa is to really appreciate it. We are staying in a European tourist ridden area named Aspora by the Portugese, and this is a beach town!

The variety of Sea food in this area is just beyond belief!

Where we are staying is great, but the biggest annoyance is carrying my laptop down to the registration area for Wi-Fi Access. Don’t know why this is the case that Wi-Fi is only in this small area, but there must be a business reason behind it.. I just don’t think it’s convenient to the guests. I took down 2 stars for this nuisance.. My teenage daughter does not seem to mind as she’s been uploading our trip pictures to her Facebook account and keeping in touch with her friends in the US.

As I take prepare for the trek up the hill to my room, let me leave with this thought.. Goa is a beauty of a place to visit. You should absolutely put it on your list of cities in India that you must see!

Oki! Now back to my kike up the huge slope to our room..

Dad’s Taxi – Sweating it out in Goa!

Diary – Mumbai – 3/19/2010

Dad’s taxi is in Mumbai this week on vacation.. see his travel diary..

We came to Mumbai on the 15th of March and we quickly realized what Indian Summer truly is.. The heat is on! We’ve been here a few days now and I gotta tell you, the blistering daytime heat just drains you of all your energy. You are constantly bathed in sweat (not a pretty picture) and feeling exhaustion. Fortunately for us, my cousin in Mumbai has an amazing house with Air conditioning and the works.. Thank god for my dear Ravi!

When we are at Ravi’s house, we are truly home.. all the conveniences of home, plus all the love and affection that anyone could want. At times, we just don’t even want to leave the house in Mahim. His building is centrally located in Mumbai with easy access to both downtown and uptown parts of Mumbai..

We had planned to do some sightseeing, but due to the heat, we have just spent the last few days Shopping!

My younger daughter is really suffering from the heat. She just refuses to go outside, unless she gets bribed.. oh well nothing new here.

From the last time I visited Mumbai ( 2 years ago), you can see the infrastructure changes that have taken place. Similar to Delhi, there are many more flyovers (bridges) in place to alleviate the traffic congestion. These flyovers do this purpose, but the traffic getting to these flyover’s is just unbearable. Especially if you are sitting in an non air conditioned Fiat taxi..

FYI: The rule of driving in Mumbai: There are none! Do not look sideways or backwards, only look forwards.. I have to commend the drivers of Mumbai, they certainly would feel at home driving in Manhattan.  Blaring horns and heavy traffic at every turn. Even with the price of gas hovering at about $5 a gallon, it has not discouraged the mubaiites from buying cars.. Cars are smaller of course, but they are quite comfortabe.

Due the enormous influx of money..many families are living the good life, with cars, drivers to drive their car, and over 200 channels of satellite TV!

As a passenger in a car the front, try not to look anywhere but straight forward as this alleviates the anxiety that you will feel when you are in the car. Fortunately, the speed of the cars is only about 25 to 30 mph on the roads. The number of cars, taxis, buses, trucks, pedestrians all sharing the road in unbelievable. Rush hour is 24 hours. You may get better results if you try to travel in Mumbai during early morning hours or after 9:00 PM, otherwise, good luck.

Mumbai is a tale of two cities. The “Haves” and the “Have Not’s.”

In order to survive in this city you have to have Money and lots of it. If you don’t have the lots of the Rupee you will be in serious jeopardy of survival.¬† Fortunately for me, I’m here spending in converted $ and let me tell you something, the value that you get for the $ here¬† is excellent due to the 1 to 45 conversion ratio.

If I were to earn in Rupee, it would be difficult for me to spend 2 to 3 Thousand (yes I said thousand)¬† the way I am right now. Of course this amount only includes the taxi’s, food and miscellenous expenses that you incur on a day to day basis.

If you are coming to India, I recommend you pad your bank account and bring an ATM card… You will hit the bank over and over again. Remember that you will get the highest rate when you do your conversions at the ATM machine and face fees from both the local and your bank. Be careful and don’t take small amounts out.. take larger amounts out?

For the past few days we have been seeing a few of my cousins in Mumbai and doing quite a bit of clothes shopping for the girls. Best thing about shopping in India is that when they know you are spending money, you will be offered soft drinks as soon as you sit down. You are treated like royalty at the mega malls. Of course we are flagged as “foreigners” as we are wearing shorts and have our famous “American Accent”.

The city on the whole is huge bustling metropolis with business and residential towers being built everywhere. The roads are under construction which contributes to the traffic jams!

The construction of tall towers, residential (unaffordable) towers, is just unbelievable. The common man (middle class) will be priced out of most of the housing that’s being built.. In one of my prior blogs, I talked about the slums… Well from what I’m seeing, these slums are being torn down one by one and being replaced with high rise buildings… The rules have gotten stricter so the lower class slum dwellers are now getting new housing and are being forced to utilize them for a period of 5 years. In the past I heard that these slum dwellers, took the money and just relocated. Now these slum dwellers are actually living in the government towers being built. This is great progress.

Don’t misunderstand me, the poverty is still here.. It just seems to be more controlled. I look around and I see a lot less beggers. Perhaps I’m not looking close enough? When I was in the upscale part of Mumbai (by the Taj and the Gateway of¬† India), the beggers were out in full force.

Everyone here tells me that the difference between lower to middle to upper class has gotten wider.. I do tend to agree, but opportunities abound everywhere. If you want a job, a job is there in the multiple mega malls that continue to spring up all across Mumbai. I went to one yesterday in Mumbai. The Phoenix is a mega mall with food court, Staples, Supermarket, restaurants, Best Buy Type electronic store, Movie Theaters. As you will quickly see, the trend to having a super mall is all over Mumbai. The security and the choice of one-stop-shop is exemplified in these Malls. Every suburb in Mumbai has at least one mall! Oh goodie, more places for me to spend.

These super malls are not driving the local markets out of business. The malls provide an upscale shopping environment. The local markets are a sight to see as well. Fruit stalls, vegetable vendors, small stores.. it is a crazy sight that you have to see to believe!

High Street Phoenix is spread across three zones ‚ÄĒ Skyzone, Courtyard and Main Street Boulevard. While the leading national and international retail outlets feature in Sky zone, Courtyard represents various eating joints, The Bowling Co and Big Bazaar outlet. MainStreet Boulevard houses formal and casual clothes, premium accessories and jewellery brands.

These types of malls are seen all over Mumbai and they are truly a joy to shop in with every possible product you may want to purchase. Some of the prices do compare to the US, yet others (electronics) are easily double.

Tip: Make sure you bring along a calculator to convert from Rupees to Dolllars. You could easily destroy any resembence of a budget by not doing the proper conversions.

Today we just came back from the Colaba Causeway. We did quite a bit of shopping from the street vendors and the exclusive boutiques.. Negotiating with the street vendors is an art..

Tip: Walking away is the best way to get a best price.. Never ever pay the asking price. The boutiques are all fixed price..

Tomorrow we are off to Goa! It is one of the vacation paradises in India.. Beaches and sun! To me Goa is my ancestral home. I have quite a bit of family in this seaside city which is South of  Mumbai.. More heat, yeah!

Leaving Mumbai with this thought: Within the next few years, Mumbai will become wealthier than any city in the US. Technology, wealth, infrastructure and the business’s that call Mumbai home will grow exponentially. I am really overwhelmed by what I see here and hope to come back and spend more time in the city where I was born the next time I visit.

PS: I forgot.. the food.. the food is to die for. You can get any type of food within any locale. Where we stay in Mahim, you only have to about 500 yards  and you have a choice of  vegetarian, non-veg, chinese, goanese and South Indian cuisine.. Oh yeah.. I forgot the pizza joint!  The quality of food is amazing! I can easily gain 10 to 15 pounds if I stay here for more than a few days..

There is so much more I can write about this city.. I am just totally overwhelmed by my visit this time.. I’m not only proud to call myself an ex-pat from this great city, but an admirer of the abilities of the residents of this great metropolis.. You know how they say about NY: “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere..”, Mumbai can easily step into NY’s shoes and say the same thing..

If someone can make it with success in this city, they can succeed any where!

Ok folks.. will write some more when I get to Goa!

Blogging from India

Blogging from my trip to India upcoming!

Dad’s Taxi is taking a road trip to India for the next few weeks. All my posts will be from there. I’ll be giving my unique perspective on my travels as I make my way through the land where I was hatched.

This blog entries will be interesting in that I will be reporting the trip from the eyes of my 10 yr old child.. I will ask her to give me some feedback on what she observes on her trip. NM has been to India only once and I know her fresh eyes will truly observe and report back on the trip from a wide eyed innocence of youth.¬† One of her assignments from school is to keep a daily diary of her trip.. hopefully she’ll share this with us!

First stop will be the nation’s capital New Delhi. The field hockey world championship is currently going on, I’m going to try to get tickets to see at least one game, but I won’t hold up high hopes of that happening.

My better half is already there and she already has experienced first hand the smog and dirt which has caused her to head to the doctors with a throat infection.

We get a daily blow by blow activity of her  (mis) adventures as we speak to her every night. Thank god for Vonage.

Kids are so excited for their trip. I’m just queasy and kind of leery of the whole trip. Went there few years¬† ago and was both impressed/unimpressed with progress in India. No doubt technology is everywhere, but the infrastructure to support the technology still has gaps.¬† Inflation and corruption is rampant.. Yes the outsourcing has made the country wealthier, yet the gap between classes has gotten wider. I could go on and on.. but I won’t as this article will turn more negative than shine on the accomplishments of the “World’s largest democracy”.

Where else can you go to where the beggers can afford cell phones,  yet still live in cities within cities.

To get a true picture of life in India for the lower class a must see movie is¬† Slumdog Millionaire. It depicts the life of the lower class (hut dwellers) of Mumbai in it’s harshest of realities. Many Mumbaites will disagree with what is depicted in this movie, but what you see is reality.

If you want to get an really good view of the diversity and the Indian diaspora, you should visit our sister site BharatBeat, where we share insights on Bollywood and various links related to the India.

India Links

India Links Site launched on Dad’s Taxi

India

India Links on Dad’s Taxi

Today, I launched a sub-site for all things India Related.  Now you are probably asking why did I do this?

A few days ago, I was planning my trip to India I started researching sites which would help in planning this trip. Of course being the way I am, I quickly realized that this was going to be  a huge task and I wanted to develop a centralized location for all India related sites.  This quickly led to  information overload..

So today I created a site which will provide links for sites that will provide sites that I will utilize to plan my trip. Additionally, the sites I list on this page are excellent sites for anyone that wants to learn more about India.

Hope you find my finding useful.

BharatBeat – Intro

Introduction of BharatBeat – A Complete Indian Portal

Hi everyone.. Haven’t blogged for a few weeks as I was on vacation since mid December.¬† Well it was great for the past few weeks, time marches forward and Dad’s taxi is ready for 2010.

Alas the new year is upon us and the End of Year Revelry is behind us.. Even though I typically utilize my end of year (annual) vacation to rest and rejuvenate, this year was anything but that, but that’s for another day.

I hope everyone had a great holiday and I wish everyone a Happy and Healthy 2010!

I want to share with everyone a new site that I’m collaborating on with a good friend of mine.¬† He also happens to be decent tennis player.. which is a bonus.

Bharatbeat.com РThis South Asian portal  is a collaboration with a friend of mine and we will be re-launching in a few weeks.  For the South Asian Community, this will be a one stop shop for everything that is from the Indian Subcontinent.

Our goal is to be the Net-Guide for the Indian Community. In addition to providing forums for a two way communication with our members, we will offer RSS feeds from news sites related to the Indian Sub-Continent.

On this site we will have links galore, as well as administered forums for real time questions and comments.  We will also have  News, Entertainment, Blog Rolls, Forums and of course the ability to search using both Bing and Google.

Dad’s taxi and BharatBeat will be¬† tightly linked. You will have access to the links site from Dad’s Taxi on the BharatBeat Site.

Today we re-launched BharatBeat! Do stop by the site and take a look around..