In today’s guest blog, Lynsey will be taking you to India, specifically to Goa and its surrounded rural parts. If you are fascinated by Indian culture, their spiced infused flavours and curries are one of your favourite meals, keep on reading. Maybe it will encourage you to visit Goa in winter!
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I visited Goa in India at the end of February 2020 for two weeks with my favourite travel companion, my mum. Honestly, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from visiting Goa during the winter apart from the cost of living being extremely low! To our complete surprise, there was so much more to it than a cheap holiday! Here’s my experience of Goa, one of India’s best-kept secrets in my opinion.
We had a very nice bed and breakfast accommodation less than 100 meters from Candolim Beach which was basic, but very clean and full of helpful staff who genuinely wanted to give you a hand with everything, which made our holiday experience fantastic.
When you walk around or take a tuk-tuk to other areas of Goa, you soon realise that the low cost of ‘luxuries’ such as cosmetic dentistry and tattoo’s in this country is a big pull for many tourists. But if you look just past that, there are some fanciful skills, technique and abilities on show. The quality of the handmade jewellery, carpentry, tailors & textiles is out of this world and is well worth checking out.
Whilst Goa is definitely the Indian holiday destination of choice, with many Indians travelling long distances to spend the weekend on its fabulous long hot beaches and stunning seas, there is so much more to discover than just blazing sun, warm waters and cheap commodities.
Whilst Goa is definitely that Indian holiday destinations of choice, with many local people travelling long distances to spend their weekend on the fabulous long and hot beaches, visiting Goa in winter has so much more to offer than warm seas, blazing sun and cheap commodities.
India has a rich history of exotic wildlife, with tigers, peacocks, buffalos, Asian elephants and a cacophony of birdlife all in residence within this expansive country. It is also recognised worldwide for its railways – mainly for their busyness, and sometimes, dangerousness. With this said, we decided to make the most of our fortnight in India and combined the deepening of my tan and stocking up on excellent-value goods, with a trip to experience some of the other gems of India beyond its beaches and shops.
Visit Goa in winter: More than shops and beaches
We started our exploration at the local railway, which was the best place to see all the types of that typical Indian life. It was an extraordinary experience where you could get a real taste of local foods cooked fresh right there at the station.
There were also porters to-ing and fro-ing with luggage and cargo, people crossing the rails, wild dogs looking for scraps, smartly dressed commuters, women wearing beautiful sarees and tourists with huge backpacks. It was unforgettable.
We spent four hours riding the train to the neighbouring state of Karnataka, travelling through paddy fields outlined with brightly-coloured cloth material rather than fences, and overwide river mouths and lagoons full of wild buffalo drinking and bathing along its edges. We passed tall temples, brick-making factories and traditional colonial houses surrounded by roaming cows and playing children. It was surreal. It was, by far and away, the best way to experience the ‘real’ India and everything that makes it that diverse and unique country it is.
When we finally arrived at our destination, Udupi, we visited Sri Krishna Temple whilst there was a big Hindu celebration happening with marching parades, fireworks and colourful displays of dance and music telling the tales of the Hindu God.
The following day we experienced some of the best views the state had to offer from the Western Ghats, a mountain range that runs the length of the state. We went above the clouds and explored a small temple on top of the range that was tiny and, quite frankly, a feat of engineering!
The next stop on our exploration of the state was to see The Elephant Project the locals run (under the government funding) to feed and provide medicines to the local elephants in the jungle. They herd the elephants to a sanctuary each day for a couple of hours where they are fed and looked after if they are in need of medicine. They are then led back to their natural environment to be left alone to do whatever comes naturally to them.
After The Elephant Project, we then visited the Bandipur National Park Sanctuary where the state funds a breeding program to support the local wildlife, such as tigers, lions, and deer populations against poaching.
We were taken into each enclosure in a caged truck to experience each species in their own environment. They were such lovely animals and completely relaxed in their wide, open enclosures – it was such a treat to see them as close to their home as you could get.
The final stop on our 3-day Karnataka adventure was to the local jungle where we saw all the wildlife India has to offer. From hornbills to leopards, elephants, deer, boars, monkeys and everything else in between. It was a great honour to share their natural habitat with them and get to see them be free and truly wild! Such beauty and harmony right in front of us – simply amazing!
We then journeyed back to Goa via the incredible India railway to continue our beach holiday. But the adventures didn’t stop there…
.…No beach holiday is ever complete without a boat trip of some sort. The sea provides a living for many local communities and they are always, rightly so, proud of their way of life and the wildlife they share it with. Goa boasts an impressive array of dolphin species as well as a spectacular range of Portuguese architecture and a boat is most definitely the best way to experience both!
The local beaches and waters that are often kept from the tourists are truly stunning and full of playful wild dolphins. We were encouraged by the local boatmen to jump in and swim with the dolphins; they were curious but kept their safe distance. These water acrobats were more than happy to show us their impressive aqua-aerobic skills and it was even more impressive to witness it from the sea itself. It was truly amazing to see these fascinating animals so close.
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