Bruised knees and happy hearts.

Let’s roll back for a moment to June 25th 2015, shall we? En route to Salerno, a beautiful quaint sea shore in Italy. The weather was just perfect, clear blue sky, crystal blue water, a golden tan was a sure shot.

“Let’s take a break from each other for some time and relax, ok?” says T

“Why can’t you just act mature, since you are 3 years elder to me?” replied S

“I am acting matured which is why I am quite and suggest we take some time away from each other”

T gets a cold angry stare from S.

Sounds like a lovers spat? Not quite. We were two female friends, both straight, travelling together for the last 336 hours. Spending every minute, well almost every minute of our time together! Fast forward to 30th June 2017 we are still travel buddies trying to take some time off our work and hang on to those travel goals.

They say the best stories are found between the pages of a passport. Well true that! But I believe who you travel with is also important. Your travel partner and you are in charge of making the journey a snore or a score! So this season to bring in my birthday I decided to gift myself a trip to Goa with my long time travel buddy Sheena who I also proudly call my soul sister. In life as we grow older we find some of our friendships growing stronger than ever and many of them fading away. And friends who stand the test of time and travel are meant to be kept forever! So this trip to Goa with Sheens as many lovingly call her was long overdue.

Goa during the monsoons is frowned upon by many. As suggestions go, Goa during July –September is like a dead city, but to our luck we found quite the opposite! We started our trip by staying in this cute little Hostel in Candolim called Backpacker Panda. Monsoons turned out to be lucky for us and the only double bed room in the hostel was available for us. You must check  this place out for yourself and book your stay in advance through Make My Trip to get some thrifty online offers. We also got some amazing hangover cure breakfast of coffee, Nutella toast and Masala Maggi for the 2 of us at just about Rs.250. How cool is that during the troubled GST times of 2017?! But let’s not jump guns here!

The night before, after landing and checking in to the hostel in Goa we headed straight to 10 Downing Street   a friendly pub with live music, good food and sturdy brown furniture that makes me very nostalgic for some reason. I keep finding myself coming back to this place, may be because it reminds me of my weekend visits to Granny’s house and how the house used to be full of laughter with us cousins making mischief together while our “DIDA” as we lovingly called granny would try to keep us from jumping on the bed.

However my birthday night was young and we brought it in at SinQ Beach Club, where the name of the club is derived from Sinquerim in its vicinity in North Goa. The night had already started! But not before the rain gods had to smile upon us just few minutes before reaching the club and thus drenching us from head to toe, trying to ruin our makeup but instead leaving us with that soft dewy glow that one gets, post a rigorous session at the gym. Not to miss the stupid bike skid on the wet red muddy grounds right outside the club. This left me the birthday girl with bruised knees and blood running down both my legs making me feel like a 13 year old who got her first period in the middle of her co-ed classmates.

The time was 11:55pm, 5 mins till the clock struck 12.

I had my Cinderella moment, alright! However we are no damsel in distress. Oh no no. We walked in to the club after having paid an entry fee, fruitlessly trying to explain to the bouncer that he should let Sheena and I enter for free as it was my birthday (my Pan card was proof) but he meant business. Helped a group of friends get their stag friend in (who promised to buy us drinks later, but never did) got ourselves a strong rum and coke only to apply the same rum on my bruised knees hoping that would make the bleeding stop. It actually did. Hah!

It’s funny how drunken people react to when you tell them it’s your birthday.

We had strangers request birthday songs, a couple buying 4 brownies and lighting up a candle and asking for the club security to let us use one of the “reserved” sections for few minutes so I could cut my cake in a more luxurious and grand way, just because they thought it was not special enough to cut the cake in the middle of the dance floor or next to the bar. Another couple who was staying at the hotel that hosted the club invited us to a spa date the next day and a bunch of friendly girls from Delhi ended up being our “Girls Gang” for the rest of the night till we club hopped to this new joint called “Showbar Excgange” in Candolim. Only to realize the next day that we do not remember their names or their where about in Goa. (So girls if you are reading this, holler at me right now!)

Now if you know me well, you would also know as much as I am up for the backpacker life and messy adventures, I am also a sucker for the luxuries that life has to offer. I am talking private beach, gourmet meals, spa by the pool, champagne, dark chocolate on my pillow. The works! The next 3 days at The Park Hotel Goa Calangute was the ultimate relaxation that we were looking forward to. Our time went somewhat like this – sleep – swim – spa – eat – drink – party – repeat.

Now if that doesn’t make one happy, I don’t know what will!

Out of all the places we visited, the most memorable was Love Passion Karma at the waterfront, the place is popular for its décor and the way its build making very good use of the vast acres of land which is a rare sight in any metro city in India, leave alone a night club. In Mumbai we are used to the shady club entries next to a McDonald’s or a flea market only to find out that the spanking new club in town actually serves some mean drinks and killer music. Anyhow, if you plan to visit LPK, do it for the place and the food. Not for the crowd. Make sure you have your car or bike with its tank at least half full; chances are your petrol will be stolen at the middle of the night by the locals (yes it happened to us!) even when we were staying in a 5 star hotel with 24 x 7 security. That’s Goa for you my friend 🙂

If sea food is your thing, then a visit to this traditional restaurant in Panjim, The Fisherman’s Wharf  is a must. Although I must mention the quality of food did make up for the lousy service we received that night. My benevolent birthday weekend mood was almost about to be spoiled until we decided to make a quick trip to the casino post dinner.

Lining up the Panjim port jetty area you will see an array of Casinos to choose from. Deltin Royale, Casino Pride and Deltin Jaqk are the most popular ones among tourists. One has to be dressed in smart casuals to enter the casino, no shorts, sleeveless shirts, or flip-flops/chappals allowed inside. The types of games include Baccarat, Blackjack, Roulette, Texas Hold’em Poker, 3 Card Poker, 5 Card Poker, Mini Flush, Casino War, Pontoon, Money Wheel, Sic Bo, and slot machines. However I like to stick to what I enjoy the most, Roulette!

 

Our last day in Goa was a series of spur of the moment decisions none of which included alcohol (to our surprise) and my friendship with Sheena took a new turn when we finally decided to get the same tattoos etched on to our skin for life!  After a few hours of random search on Google, making a few phone calls, our last dip in the oh so marvelous swimming pool overlooking the beach, and our last 5 star meal it was time to visit Laksh Tattoo in Calangute, where we found the tattoo artist and now my friend Mahesh who did Sheena’s first tattoo, almost 5 years back. Mahesh turned out to be an awesome guy who had just given birth to a baby girl and was in a very generous mood. Not only did he recognize Sheena but also gifted us a free tattoo each on the occasion of my birthday. Not before complaining that tiny tattoos are not his thing and we have to come back to get something more “meaty” designed by him in the coming years. By the time we were done with our tattoos (I got 3 and Sheena got 2!) we realized we were late for our flight. Mahesh came to our rescue and called his friend who had his own car hire service who helped us pick up our luggage from the hotel and dropped us at the airport just in time to make it to our flights. I parted ways with the driver by paying him for his last minute serving that saved us from missing our flights home and also offering him half a bottle of Old Monk to which he replied “ I am going to have  a good night’s sleep today” .

When I got off the flight in Santacruz Domestic Airport, Mumbai, my body was hurting in multiple places from 3 tattoos, both the bruised knees and a neck spasm thanks to my overly enthusiastic masseur. However my soul was happier than ever and if my heart had a face I bet it was grinning ear to ear!

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