We were now in Southern India and more on the well-travelled trail of backpackers. Attitudes were less traditional, more progressive and the locals were acclimatised to seeing white people – so we could sit on a bus without being the main attraction.
Our first stop was Hampi, a tiny town of temples, inland and south from Mumbai. Temperatures soared to 40•C and we’d stupidly gone for a non-AC room to save a precious £4. Avoiding the worst of the midday heat, we walked around the grounds of the Lotus Mahal; hiked up Matanga Hill to receive a sunrise blessing from the Shiva priest; and felt like Indiana Jones exploring Achyutaraya Temple all by ourselves. The landscape was a wonderful blend of rocky outcrops, fertile green and stone temples at every corner. It felt like the kind of place Jurassic Park could have been set. I loved it.
My first glance of the Arabian Sea was last week in Mumbai, and with all the sewage and plastic it was easy to turn down a dip. However the beaches in Goa were much more inviting. In Arambol, we walked around the bay to Sweet Lake Beach, where we spent many a day and sunset. Everything was quieter here than the rest of Arambol, and the food was delicious too. Despite being ‘off season’, Happy Panda Hostel was still fairly busy, and our little group (including Frankie from Reading, with who I have many mutual friends) enjoyed beers in the hostel, late night street food walks and brunches at Garden of Dreams.
Our experience further south in Goa was equally dreamy. When Hannah and I first (re)met, she told me of her time in a paradisiacal hotel that she had stayed at in India, and she returned with me in tow for her second visit. Vivenda dos Palhacas is owned by Simon and Charlotte and is simply fantastic. We stayed in the ‘tent’ in the garden, but it was the height of glamping with air-conditioning, a Victorian bathroom and a four poster bed tucked away under the canvas sheets.
(Hannah’s always popping up in my panoramas)
It was hard to tear ourselves away from the pool and amazing restaurant set up (all the guests eat together en familie at a huge dining table), but we spent a little time at Majorda beach and the highly recommended Zeebop seafood restaurant. It was harder still to leave our life of luxury entirely, but there was another state, Kerala, for us to explore before we flew to Sri Lanka.
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