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  • Aussie Eats: A Foodie's Bucket List Down Under

    Australia's vibrant culture extends far beyond its stunning landscapes. The food scene is a melting pot of flavours, fresh ingredients, and unique experiences that will tantalise your taste buds and leave you wanting more. So, grab your appetite and get ready to embark on a culinary adventure Down Under with these bucket-list Aussie food experiences: 1. Catch and Eat Your Own Seafood: From Ocean to Plate Australia boasts some of the world's most pristine coastlines, teeming with an abundance of fresh seafood. What better way to experience its bounty than by catching your own dinner? Join a fishing charter or head to a local jetty and cast a line. Reel in a glistening fish, fresh from the ocean, and then savour the fruits (or should we say, fins?) of your labour with a delicious meal prepared dockside or back at your accommodation. 2. Sip Our World-Famous Coffee: A Melbourne Must Melbourne is a haven for coffee aficionados, and no Aussie food adventure is complete without indulging in a cup of their world-renowned brew. Independent cafes line the streets, each offering a unique atmosphere and a meticulously crafted cup of coffee. Whether you're a latte lover or a cold brew connoisseur, Melbourne's cafes cater to every palate. So, find a cosy corner, sip your coffee, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of this coffee capital. 3. Enjoy an Evening of Fine Dining: Modern Takes on Local Produce Australia boasts a thriving fine dining scene, offering a chance to experience innovative culinary creations and impeccable service. From Sydney's harborside restaurants to hatted establishments in Melbourne, you'll find chefs transforming fresh, local ingredients into masterpieces on a plate. Expect unexpected flavour combinations, beautifully presented dishes, and a truly memorable dining experience. 4. Dine with an Icon: Aussie Legends and Local Favourites Australia isn't just about fancy restaurants. Sometimes, the best food experiences come in unexpected packages. Seek out iconic local favourites – a bakery famous for its fluffy lamingtons, a pub serving up the perfect steak, or a fish and chip shop known for its generations-old recipe. These places often hold a special place in the hearts of locals and offer a taste of true Aussie culture. 5. Throw Some Meat on the Barbie: A Backyard Bonanza No Australian food adventure is complete without a classic barbeque, or "barbie" as the locals call it. Gather your friends and family, fire up the barbie, and throw on some sizzling snags (sausages), juicy steaks, or fresh seafood. Don't forget the iconic Aussie sides - potato salad, coleslaw, and a dollop of beetroot. The barbie is more than just a meal; it's a social occasion, a celebration of laid-back Aussie culture, and a chance to connect with loved ones under the warm sunshine. From catching your own dinner to savouring world-class coffee and indulging in fine dining experiences, Australia offers a diverse culinary landscape for every taste bud. So, pack your bags, book your flights, and get ready to embark on a delicious Down Under adventure!

  • Unveiling the Heart of Australia: Discover Aboriginal Experiences with Local Guides

    Australia's rich tapestry is woven with stories that stretch back millennia. To truly understand the soul of this land, there's no better way than to embark on an immersive Aboriginal experience, led by the traditional custodians themselves. These unforgettable journeys go beyond tourist attractions, offering a glimpse into a vibrant culture, ancient traditions, and a profound connection to the land. Journey Through the World's Largest Coral Reef System: The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland Dive deep (figuratively) into the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef with an Aboriginal guide. Learn about the traditional knowledge and practices that have sustained this magnificent ecosystem for generations. Witness the vibrant coral gardens teeming with life through the eyes of the people who have revered them for centuries. This experience goes beyond snorkelling; it's a cultural immersion that fosters a deeper appreciation for the delicate balance of nature. Witness the Garma Festival: A Celebration of Culture in the Northern Territory Immerse yourself in the vibrant Garma Festival, a spectacular display of Aboriginal song, dance, and storytelling held in Arnhem Land. Witness the Yolngu people showcase their rich cultural heritage through traditional ceremonies, vibrant body art, and captivating performances. This festival offers a unique opportunity to connect with the ongoing cultural practices of Australia's Indigenous people. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park: A Spiritual Journey Guided by Ancestral Knowledge Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) are not just iconic landmarks; they are sacred sites deeply connected to Aboriginal creation stories and traditions. Embark on a guided tour with an Anangu guide and gain insights into the profound spiritual significance of these formations. Learn about the delicate balance between humans and the natural world, a philosophy that has sustained the Anangu people for millennia. Explore the Ancient Landscapes of Kakadu National Park Kakadu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a treasure trove of Aboriginal rock art and archaeological sites. Explore this breathtaking landscape with a local guide and learn about the stories etched onto the cliffs for generations. Discover the intricate relationship between the Aboriginal people and the land, and gain a deeper understanding of the park's rich biodiversity. Unveil the Enchantment of the Laura Quinkan Festival: Cape York Venture to the remote beauty of Cape York and experience the Laura Quinkan Festival, a vibrant celebration of Kuku Yalanji culture. Witness traditional dance performances, storytelling sessions, and demonstrations of ancient crafts. This captivating festival offers a window into the rich heritage of the Kuku Yalanji people and their deep connection to the land and sea. These are just a few of the many incredible Aboriginal experiences that await you in Australia. Each journey offers a unique perspective and a chance to connect with the heart and soul of this ancient land. So, go beyond the typical tourist path and embark on an unforgettable adventure guided by the wisdom of Australia's First Nations people.

  • Beyond First Class: Luxury Travel Trends 2024 - Unforgettable Experiences Await

    Luxury travel in 2024 isn't just about five-star hotels and caviar dreams (although those can still be part of the picture!). Discerning travellers today crave experiences that go beyond the ordinary, journeys that resonate with their passions and leave them with memories that linger long after the tan fades. So, buckle up globetrotters, because we're diving into the hottest luxury travel trends of 2024, designed to make your wanderlust truly sing. 1. Curated Culinary Adventures: A Feast for the Senses Forget buffets and repetitive menus. Luxury travellers in 2024 are seeking bespoke culinary experiences that tantalise the taste buds and immerse them in local cultures. Think private cooking classes with renowned chefs, vineyard tours culminating in exclusive wine tastings, or foraging expeditions followed by open-fire meals prepared under a canopy of stars. It's all about creating a unique connection with the destination through its rich culinary tapestry. 2. Wellness Warriors: Rejuvenation Beyond the Spa Luxury travellers today are prioritising wellness, but with a twist. While a luxurious spa treatment is always a welcome indulgence, 2024 is all about holistic experiences that promote long-term well-being. Imagine private yoga retreats in breathtaking locales, personalised detox programs led by wellness experts, or transformative silent meditation journeys. Luxury travel is becoming a vehicle for self-discovery and lasting rejuvenation. 3. Off-the-Beaten-Path Escapes: Unveiling Hidden Gems The allure of exclusivity remains strong. Discerning travellers are seeking destinations that offer a sense of escape from the well-trodden tourist trail. Think private island retreats in the remote South Pacific, luxury glamping experiences in untouched wilderness areas, or exclusive access to rarely visited archaeological sites. Luxury travel is becoming a passport to hidden corners of the world, where authenticity reigns supreme. 4. Sustainable Sojourns: Treading Lightly, Travelling Deeply Eco-consciousness is no longer a niche concern; it's a core value for many luxury travellers. Sustainable practices are becoming a key differentiator, with travellers seeking accommodations that prioritise renewable energy, locally sourced ingredients, and responsible waste management. Luxury travel in 2024 is about leaving a positive footprint while experiencing the world in unparalleled comfort. 5. Hyper-Personalisation: Crafting Your Dream Journey Luxury travel is no longer a one-size-fits-all proposition. In 2024, it's about crafting itineraries that are as unique as the traveller themself. This means working with travel advisors who understand your passions, interests, and travel style. Imagine bespoke tours tailored to your hobbies, whether it's wildlife photography safaris in Africa or exclusive access to behind-the-scenes cultural events. Luxury travel is becoming an art form, a collaboration between you and your travel specialist to create an unforgettable journey. The World Awaits: Embrace the Extraordinary Luxury travel in 2024 is an invitation to push boundaries, discover hidden gems, and create memories that will last a lifetime. It's about more than just comfort and indulgence; it's about a profound connection with the world and a deeper understanding of oneself. So, pack your bags, embrace your sense of adventure, and get ready to experience the extraordinary. The world awaits!

  • Photography tour with Francisco de Souza.

    Today I spent the morning at the Mapusa Market doing a photography tour, the afternoon wandering around Calungute doing some last minute shopping, last drinks at the Hard Rock Cafe with Anita and Geoffrey, and then off to the airport to go home. One of the highlights of this trip has been the photography tour I booked with Francisco de Souza. I was lucky enough to be able to book a one-on-one private tour for approx $AU75 which meant that I had a full three hours to wander the Mapusa Market with Francisco. We spent half an hour chatting and I was taught some handy photography tips before we ventured over to the bus station, and then through the market. It was a great experience, not just for the fun (and maybe even good) photographs I was able to take, but also for learning how to approach people to ask their permission to take a photo of them and what to do once you've taken the photo. Not only is Francisco a great photographer, but he is a man with a very kind heart - something that was very evident in his interactions with the many people we spoke to in and around the market. I would definitely recommend booking a tour with Francisco to anyone planning a visit to Goa. After the tour was done, I caught a taxi back to Calungute and spent the afternoon wandering the streets and doing some last minute shopping. The majority of the shops in the area are selling clothes, jewellery, spices, tattoos (yes, there were a lot of tattoo parlours there), and handicrafts. I picked up four paintings from Babaji fine art gallery and am looking forward to having them properly framed and up in my house soon. Whist wandering the streets, I ran into Anita and Geoffrey and we headed for the Hard Rock Cafe and were able to confirm for ourselves the positive feedback we had heard from others about it. One last drink together, and then we went back to our hotels to get organized to go home. Our driver arrived early and we headed off to the airport at 8pm. Unfortunately, not all of our bags would fit in the car, so Anita's had to go on top - a little bit of rope to tie it down and all was well, it made it over all of the speed humps and stop starts along the way (much to her relief). Our flight to KL was easy and I slept almost all of the way. The flight from KL to Melbourne was not so great, I was sick and the last three hours felt as long as the first six. I was very happy to land on solid ground, get through customs and get in my car and drive home. I had an amazing time in Goa and would definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn't been before.

  • Sustainable Luxury: Eco-Friendly Tourism Redefines Australian Travel

    Australia, a land renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and diverse wildlife, is undergoing a transformation in the luxury travel sector.  Gone are the days when luxury meant excess; today, discerning travellers seek experiences that blend exquisite comfort with environmental consciousness.  This is where sustainable luxury comes in, offering the perfect blend of opulence and eco-consciousness. Luxury with a Conscience:  Preserving Natural Wonders Australia is leading the charge in redefining luxury travel through the lens of sustainability.  For those who crave the finer things in life while minimising their environmental footprint, eco-friendly luxury destinations offer the best of both worlds.  Let's explore some of Australia's top spots where sustainability meets sophistication: -          The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland:  Experience the underwater majesty of the world's largest coral reef system with minimal environmental impact. Guided snorkelling tours and research contributions underscore their commitment to preserving this natural wonder. -          Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory: This luxurious haven boasts unparalleled views of Uluru, but its commitment goes beyond aesthetics.  Eco-friendly accommodations and immersive cultural experiences that respect the traditions of the Anangu people ensure a sustainable and respectful visit. -          The Kimberley, Western Australia: This luxury retreat serves as a gateway to breathtaking landscapes, while prioritising ecosystem protection.  Activities designed to foster a deeper appreciation for the environment ensure a responsible and enriching experience. -          Kangaroo Island, South Australia:  Often dubbed Australia's Galapagos, Kangaroo Island is a haven for native wildlife and pristine natural beauty.  Luxury eco-lodges like Southern Ocean Lodge offer sustainable tourism experiences, including wildlife conservation programs and eco-friendly accommodations. Beyond Sightseeing: Engaging with the Environment Sustainable travel in Australia goes beyond ticking sights off your list. It's about forging a deeper connection with the environment and ensuring its preservation for generations to come.  These premium eco-destinations offer more than just a luxurious escape; they present a unique opportunity to indulge in comfort while contributing to a sustainable future. So, if you're seeking an unforgettable Australian adventure that blends luxury with environmental responsibility, consider exploring these sustainable havens.  Embrace the beauty of Australia while leaving a positive impact – after all, responsible travel is the ultimate luxury.

  • Luxury Meets Fun: Unforgettable Family Adventures in Australia

    Creating lasting memories with your family doesn't have to mean sacrificing luxury.  Australia offers a unique blend of exhilarating adventures and five-star experiences, making it the perfect destination for a family vacation that's both exciting and unforgettable. Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef with Dreamtime Dive (Cairns, Queensland) Tick a bucket-list experience for the whole family with a snorkel adventure on the Great Barrier Reef. Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel take it a step further, combining the wonder of the reef with Australia's rich cultural heritage. Go on a Sand Dune Adventure with Family (Stockton Beach, NSW) Get your adrenaline boost while creating lasting memories on an unforgettable sandboarding adventure. Head to Stockton Beach, the most extensive dune system in the Southern Hemisphere, and join Sand Dune Adventures for an exhilarating ride. Explore the vast landscapes on a quad bike tour, perfect for those 16 and over, or cruise carefree with a parent on a sandboarding adventure. With the Worimi people calling this land home for millennia, you'll explore a place steeped in history while creating your family adventure. Connect with Aussie Wildlife @ Tower Hill (Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, Victoria) While exploring the iconic sights of the Great Ocean Road, take advantage of the chance to have a unique wildlife encounter at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve.  This dormant volcano is a haven for native Australian animals, from majestic kangaroos to cuddly koalas. Join a guided walk led by an Indigenous guide and discover the fascinating stories of these creatures in their natural habitat. And to top it off, end your tour with a chance to master the art of boomerang throwing – a skill that's sure to impress the whole family! So, ditch the ordinary and pack your sense of adventure!  Australia offers a world of possibilities for families, where luxury and excitement go hand-in-hand.  Get all set to create memories that will have you reminiscing for years to come.

  • Beyond the Guidebook: Unveiling australias secreat escapes

    Australia. It is a land of iconic landmarks, dazzling beaches, and a laid-back charm that entices travellers from all corners of the globe. But what if you crave an experience beyond the guidebook's well-worn pages? What if you seek hidden gems, places that whisper tales of untouched beauty and unique adventures? Well, pack your bags, adventurer, because we're diving into Australia's secret escapes! UnescoWonderland: Paradise Found on Lord Howe Island Forget the fight for the perfect beach selfie. Lord Howe Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers an escape unlike any other. This volcanic speck in the Tasman Sea boasts soaring peaks begging to be hiked, coral reefs teeming with life waiting to be snorkelled, and endemic wildlife, unlike anything you've ever encountered. Imagine waking up to the call of rare seabirds, spending your days exploring hidden coves, and basking in the tranquillity of this island paradise. WildlifeEncounter: Kangaroo Island's Unforgettable Encounters Kangaroo Island might not be a secret, but its magic lies in the unforgettable wildlife encounters it offers.  Spot playful koalas basking in eucalyptus trees, witness majestic sea lions lounging on pristine beaches, and come face-to-face with the island's namesake – the curious kangaroo.  Beyond the iconic fauna, Kangaroo Island boasts diverse landscapes, from rugged coastlines to lush rainforests, promising an adventure for every nature lover. NaturalWonders: A Journey to the Pinnacles, WA The Pinnacles National Park in Western Australia is a landscape straight out of a dream. Imagine a vast golden desert dotted with thousands of limestone pillars, weathered by time into an otherworldly spectacle.  Explore this lunar-like landscape on foot, marvelling at the geological formations, and soak in the breathtaking sunsets that paint the sky in fiery hues. This is Just the Beginning... australias secreat escapes extend far beyond these three gems.  From the turquoise waters of the Whitsunday Islands to the ancient Aboriginal rock art of Kakadu National Park, adventure awaits around every corner. So, ditch the guidebook, embrace the unknown, and embark on a journey to discover Australia's hidden treasures.

  • Getting into Goan Groove...!

    This morning started with a failed attempt at hot air ballooning. On the way back to the Ramada we made a quick stop and I was able to visit a clinic where polio vaccinations were being administered which was great to see. We returned to Ramada for breakfast and showers, and I ended my part of the FAM trip there. I was picked up at 12:30 and driven to Calungute where I stayed for the rest of the trip. I met up with Geoffrey and Anita in the evening, we went to St Anthony's on Baga Beach for dinner, and then headed to LPK nightclub to finish off the night. A failed attempt at hot air ballooning After four hours sleep we had to be up early to go hot air ballooning, leaving the resort at 6am. After a 40minute drive, and then about the same time waiting at a church where we were supposed to be meeting someone who would take us to the balloon. A car arrived, and we followed it for some time until we came to a road block. The driver of the car removed the road block sign and continued to drive, a couple of local ladies advised us not to follow so we waited. Unsurprisingly, the car came back to tell us we couldn't continue in that direction. More driving and spotting of the balloon in the air followed. We soon realised that what we were doing was chasing the balloon so that we could get in it once it had landed. It was all a bit strange. We waited in a field for a while, and impatience got the better of us and we opened the bottle of wine we had brought for a post flight celebration. Once we found the balloon and talked to Trish the pilot we had the option of following her, and waiting for her to set the balloon up in a different location to do a tethered ride. Collectively we decided against it, but had the option of trying again tomorrow. Goa Tourism offered to come and pick those of us who were travelling north up from our hotels so we agreed and crossed our fingers that it would work out the second time around! Polio vaccinations Sanjeev went and spoke to the nurses giving polio vaccines and asked if I could come inside to talk to them and take some pictures. They are currently running a campaign to vaccinate all children against polio and have administered over 160 vaccines since November. Calungute I arrived in Calungute at about 2pm and checked in to the Calungute Grande, a 3-star hotel about five minutes walk from the main street in Calungute. It was clean and had everything I needed for the next couple of nights. The only downfall was that I had to go downstairs to the restaurant to access the free wi-fi, but that's not really a big deal. After checking in, I went downstairs to the restaurant and had a beer and made use of the wi-fi. Then I went for a walk to explore Calungute on my own a bit. It was busy and dusty and fun. I managed to find a chemist, a shop to buy a card reader, and get some cash out so all of my jobs for the day were done nice and easily. As I expected the shop owners are all very keen for you to come and spend money in their stores. I learnt quickly that avoiding eye contact is the best way to avoid it if that's what you want. Dinner at St Anthony's on Baga Beach I caught a taxi from Calungute to Baga Beach to meet up with Anita and Geoffrey for dinner. We gave our calves a good workout along the beach as we rejected the many offers from staff working at the bars and restaurants trying to persuade us to eat at their place. Eventually we found what we were looking for and had a great dinner and beers by candlelight on the beach. The beach was busy and well lit up with many restaurants to choose from. I can see why many people say that this part of Goa is where the tourists flock for the nightlife. LPK nightclub After dinner we headed for LPK (Love Passion Karma) where we had been given names to drop (thanks again to Sanjeev) for VIP entry and treatment. We were able to skip the long line and get straight in. We found a table and paid for a drink each but after some discussion, went back to the bar and showed the barman the text message we had received. In a few minutes, we were greeted by two men who showed us to our reserved table, collected the money we had paid for our drinks for us, brought us two plates of finger food, and advised the bar staff to provide whatever we asked for. Anita and I hit the dancefloor for a bit and had a great time. Despite there being a much larger proportion of men to women, I found that people generally stuck to themselves, and it didn't appear that the few women in the room were being hassled (unlike the clubs I've been to back home) so that was good. Knowing that we had to be up early we left at about 1, got home at 1:30 and was up again at 3:30 to be picked up for our second attempt at hot air ballooning. It was a very cool venue with interesting architecture. I would go back there again, and more than likely stay longer than I did this time around.

  • Knowing more about Goa...

    ​​I am writing this sitting on my balcony, spiced rum and coke by my side and the sound of the ocean not far away. It is incredibly relaxing. Today started with a fabulous breakfast, I had a young man make me an omelette to order and it was super yummy! The waffles with mango sauce were a special breakfast treat – I’m going to have to go on a diet when I get back, the food here is hard to say no to! This resort is amazing, my room has everything I could need and is so nice that I could simply stay here for a relaxing holiday and not go anywhere else. But, I want to experience all that I can in Goa and today was an excellent start to that. We visited temples, and I think that anyone visiting these temples should consider going with a guide because it definitely added to the experience having somebody explain the deity’s and the way that the temples are used. The view was excellent too! A school group were also there and the children instigated the taking of many photos, they seemed pretty excited to have their pictures taken with us which kind of surprised me. I have always thought that is was tourists that prompted such photos but in this case, that was certainly not how it happened. One of the highlights for me was seeing monkeys jumping through the trees, there were a lot of them and they bounced around from branch to branch, with the younger ones looking like they were in training – clumsy and awkward, but still making it work. We ate at three different places and the food everywhere is fantastic. I must admit that eating in hotels is not my preference, and although the food is good, I would still rather be trying actual restaurants and local eateries. Today’s highlight was seeing the monkeys in their habitat, and hearing that we’re going hot air ballooning on our last day! I also really enjoyed the short time we got to walk along the street tonight and to go to the chemist. Everything seems quite cheap here as well, and the mini bar drinks are cheaper than buying drinks at the bar. It’s a shame this place doesn’t have free wifi in the rooms and that it’s expensive. As a result I’ve decided to just use the wifi in the lobby. It works well and is all I really need. Sri Chandranath Temple After breakfast we got on the bus, which by now we had nicknamed ‘Gus’. There were a few phone calls exchanged by Sanjeez (the excellent Goan historian who was our guide for the trip), who was organising for a man to help a couple of the group members out with Indian sim cards. That happened as we left the temple. It was pretty funny to see how someone could just get on our bus and sort it out, that would never happen at home! We learnt that you have to have a visa that is longer than 30 days to get a sim card which is helpful information for anyone planning to travel. Although it would have been helpful, on such a short trip I managed by using wifi when I had access which was fine. On the way to the temple we stopped once and while we waited for Sanjeez to copy our itinerary we took lots of photos. One thing that we noticed was how many men are around, it was basically only men, except for one woman I saw on a balcony, and two others that we saw in the street. I noticed (and took a photo) of the front page of the paper today that said ‘20% of Goan married women are childless’, I wish I’d taken the time to read it – it looked interesting! The temple was pretty cool. Sanjeez is giving us lots of time explaining things, which I am forgetting quickly. We first walked down to one building and took photos – and lit a firecracker we found on the ground. It didn’t go off, so we assumed it was a dud, until about a minute later we heard it go off and gave most of us a good scare! Then as we began walking up the stairs to the temple, there were a couple of school groups, the kids were super keen to have their photos taken with us. I felt kind of weird about it, I’ve always had a bit of a response to photos of people on holiday with kids from the country they are in. Now that I’ve experienced it, it feels less exploitative than it looks – these kids instigated the photos and were very excited and happy about doing it. The temple was interesting, something about it being built around meteorites, although there is some question as to whether or not they are really meteorites – it’s never been proven. Either way, it was a nice place. There are enormous trees in many of the places we have been. And it was hot! A good walk for us given all of the food we’ve been consuming. And we got to see monkeys on the side of the road as we were leaving. Lunch at the Raddison Blu This looked like a nice place to stay, I particularly like the look of the villas. There was a wedding on but we didn’t see anything (except a sign for the same couple at another place we went for dinner-evidence of the long and multiple events involved in an Indian wedding!) Lunch was very nice, so much food, including a very elaborate dessert table. I’m sure I’ll go home about 10kg heavier at this rate, I feel like all I’m doing is eating sometimes! Festival preparations After lunch we went to the preparations of a festival at another temple. We wandered around and looked at the different stalls being set up. We tried some food – roasted chickpeas and an orange dessert like thing that I liked. There were also dogs and cows on the roads which was something I hadn’t expected. Hotel visits Royal Haathi Mahal and the Byke Cavellosim We returned to our hotel to freshen up before heading back out for a drink at Royal Haathi Mahal and then dinner at Byke Cavellosim. At the Royal Haathi Mahal we inspected a room which was very spacious but had a damp/stale cigarette smell. We were told that they don’t have any non-smoking rooms at all and all of the rooms ‘smell like this’. The bar on the other hand was great, it was well set up and the drinks and food we were offered were excellent. We later realised that we should have eaten more of the snacks we were offered because where we went for dinner was pretty bad! We arrived at the Byke Cavellosim and were given a drink that tasted like strawberry quik. Nobody wanted it, and it didn’t help that we’d all been drinking – the thought of milk didn’t seem to sit well with anyone. We were shown a few rooms, with the ‘deluxe’ room coming first. It wasn’t very nice at all. The next rooms were ok, but nothing special. Others commented that even if the rooms were free they wouldn’t be recommending it to their clients. Once we’d seen the rooms we moved on to the restaurant for dinner. They didn’t seem at all ready for us, and eventually when we sat down, the tablecloths were dirty. It was all a bit unclean looking. The food was actually not bad though, it was all vegetarian and I tried everything that we were given and nothing was awful. Still, I don’t think I would bother going back there. We also found out this morning that we’ll be going hot air ballooning on the last day!!!!!!! I’m super excited about that as I had it on my ‘to do list’ for myself.

  • Today was so busy!

    On the itinerary was a trip to Panaji to watch a presentation about Goa and then a meet and greet session with various hoteliers and others in the tourism industry. After that was lunch at the Mandovi hotel, tea and dessert at a Chinese restaurant, a bakery visit and then back on the bus to see the Calungute Beach. Following the beach trip we headed back to Panaji to go to a handicraft market, and then dinner and gambling on a casino boat. It was a big day. Panaji - primary school visit Whilst the travel agents met with potential contacts, I was able to visit a primary school. Sanjeev's wife is a headmistress and she came and picked me up and took me back to visit her school. I stayed for an hour while she showed me the classrooms and we talked about the differences in education between India and Australia. It was great to hear about the things that she does at her school, and I particularly liked her buddy system of getting students to support each other with their difficulties. She liked the idea I gave her about calling students parents once a week to tell them something good that they have done. Then it felt like we ate for about three hours – we went to the Mandovi Hotel, a very old hotel with quite a grand restaurant (including a lady playing the piano). The hotel would be convenient for anyone wanting to go to the casino, the rooms were not elaborate, but contained all one would need for accommodation that is central to the casinos. We then went to a Chinese restaurant for tea and dessert, and then a bakery where we were all given a basket of goodies. Calungute Beach After all of our eating ventures, we got back on the bus and went to Calungute. We visited the beach, which is renowned for being the best beach in Goa. Whilst it was nice, I felt like Colva beach and the beach at the Ramada resort were nicer and had less rubbish around. One of the things I felt was quite different between the beaches in Goa and Australia was how people make use of them. In Goa, it seems that there are more people standing and watching the water than are actually in the water. I am told that this is because a lot of people (including us) visit the beach as a tourist destination so come and look, but don’t necessarily come for a whole day trip to enjoy the beach. There were people in the water, and they seemed to be having a good time. There were also lots of boats, one of which was set up for parasailing – that looked like lots of fun! Having seen the beach today, I don’t think that I will plan for a day of relaxing on the beach when I come back, I might see what else there is to do in Calungute instead. Handicraft Market – Kala Academy The handicraft market at the Kala Academy was something most of us had been looking forward to since the start of the trip. Sanjeev had told us that there were over 500 stalls there and he wasn’t wrong. We had lots of fun wandering around, bartering with stall holders and picking up some great bargains to bring home. After an hour and a half, we headed back to the bus. I believe that this is an annual market so if you are in Panaji in January definitely check it out! Deltin Royale Casino Boat By the time we left the market I was exhausted and not overly enthusiastic about spending the rest of the night in a casino. It was a five-storey boat that is situated just off the land, along with four or five other casinos doing the same thing. For some people I’m sure this would be fun, but gambling doesn’t interest me and so I spent most of the time there in the bar with a couple of other group members and we had a good time listening to the music and chatting. Others went off and tried their luck at the tables for a couple of hours.

  • Clapping Sound to get some water "Bubbles"...

    ​​I am writing this sitting on my balcony, spiced rum and coke by my side and the sound of the ocean not far away. It is incredibly relaxing. Today started with a fabulous breakfast, I had a young man make me an omelette to order and it was super yummy! The waffles with mango sauce were a special breakfast treat – I’m going to have to go on a diet when I get back, the food here is hard to say no to! This resort is amazing, my room has everything I could need and is so nice that I could simply stay here for a relaxing holiday and not go anywhere else. But, I want to experience all that I can in Goa and today was an excellent start to that. We visited temples, and I think that anyone visiting these temples should consider going with a guide because it definitely added to the experience having somebody explain the deity’s and the way that the temples are used. The view was excellent too! A school group were also there and the children instigated the taking of many photos, they seemed pretty excited to have their pictures taken with us which kind of surprised me. I have always thought that is was tourists that prompted such photos but in this case, that was certainly not how it happened. One of the highlights for me was seeing monkeys jumping through the trees, there were a lot of them and they bounced around from branch to branch, with the younger ones looking like they were in training – clumsy and awkward, but still making it work. We ate at three different places and the food everywhere is fantastic. I must admit that eating in hotels is not my preference, and although the food is good, I would still rather be trying actual restaurants and local eateries. Today’s highlight was seeing the monkeys in their habitat, and hearing that we’re going hot air ballooning on our last day! I also really enjoyed the short time we got to walk along the street tonight and to go to the chemist. Everything seems quite cheap here as well, and the mini bar drinks are cheaper than buying drinks at the bar. It’s a shame this place doesn’t have free wifi in the rooms and that it’s expensive. As a result I’ve decided to just use the wifi in the lobby. It works well and is all I really need. Sri Chandranath Temple After breakfast we got on the bus, which by now we had nicknamed ‘Gus’. There were a few phone calls exchanged by Sanjeez (the excellent Goan historian who was our guide for the trip), who was organising for a man to help a couple of the group members out with Indian sim cards. That happened as we left the temple. It was pretty funny to see how someone could just get on our bus and sort it out, that would never happen at home! We learnt that you have to have a visa that is longer than 30 days to get a sim card which is helpful information for anyone planning to travel. Although it would have been helpful, on such a short trip I managed by using wifi when I had access which was fine. On the way to the temple we stopped once and while we waited for Sanjeez to copy our itinerary we took lots of photos. One thing that we noticed was how many men are around, it was basically only men, except for one woman I saw on a balcony, and two others that we saw in the street. I noticed (and took a photo) of the front page of the paper today that said ‘20% of Goan married women are childless’, I wish I’d taken the time to read it – it looked interesting! The temple was pretty cool. Sanjeez is giving us lots of time explaining things, which I am forgetting quickly. We first walked down to one building and took photos – and lit a firecracker we found on the ground. It didn’t go off, so we assumed it was a dud, until about a minute later we heard it go off and gave most of us a good scare! Then as we began walking up the stairs to the temple, there were a couple of school groups, the kids were super keen to have their photos taken with us. I felt kind of weird about it, I’ve always had a bit of a response to photos of people on holiday with kids from the country they are in. Now that I’ve experienced it, it feels less exploitative than it looks – these kids instigated the photos and were very excited and happy about doing it. The temple was interesting, something about it being built around meteorites, although there is some question as to whether or not they are really meteorites – it’s never been proven. Either way, it was a nice place. There are enormous trees in many of the places we have been. And it was hot! A good walk for us given all of the food we’ve been consuming. And we got to see monkeys on the side of the road as we were leaving. Lunch at the Raddison Blu This looked like a nice place to stay, I particularly like the look of the villas. There was a wedding on but we didn’t see anything (except a sign for the same couple at another place we went for dinner-evidence of the long and multiple events involved in an Indian wedding!) Lunch was very nice, so much food, including a very elaborate dessert table. I’m sure I’ll go home about 10kg heavier at this rate, I feel like all I’m doing is eating sometimes! Festival preparations After lunch we went to the preparations of a festival at another temple. We wandered around and looked at the different stalls being set up. We tried some food – roasted chickpeas and an orange dessert like thing that I liked. There were also dogs and cows on the roads which was something I hadn’t expected. Hotel visits Royal Haathi Mahal and the Byke Cavellosim We returned to our hotel to freshen up before heading back out for a drink at Royal Haathi Mahal and then dinner at Byke Cavellosim. At the Royal Haathi Mahal we inspected a room which was very spacious but had a damp/stale cigarette smell. We were told that they don’t have any non-smoking rooms at all and all of the rooms ‘smell like this’. The bar on the other hand was great, it was well set up and the drinks and food we were offered were excellent. We later realised that we should have eaten more of the snacks we were offered because where we went for dinner was pretty bad! We arrived at the Byke Cavellosim and were given a drink that tasted like strawberry quik. Nobody wanted it, and it didn’t help that we’d all been drinking – the thought of milk didn’t seem to sit well with anyone. We were shown a few rooms, with the ‘deluxe’ room coming first. It wasn’t very nice at all. The next rooms were ok, but nothing special. Others commented that even if the rooms were free they wouldn’t be recommending it to their clients. Once we’d seen the rooms we moved on to the restaurant for dinner. They didn’t seem at all ready for us, and eventually when we sat down, the tablecloths were dirty. It was all a bit unclean looking. The food was actually not bad though, it was all vegetarian and I tried everything that we were given and nothing was awful. Still, I don’t think I would bother going back there. We also found out this morning that we’ll be going hot air ballooning on the last day!!!!!!! I’m super excited about that as I had it on my ‘to do list’ for myself.

  • Eight Days in Goa...

    In October 2015 I attended an event coordinated by Travel and Taste and sponsored by Goa Tourism to showcase Goa, India. Along with six other attendees (four who came on this trip with me), I was fortunate in winning the prize to visit Goa for five days for a FAM trip. I extended this trip by two days to have some time on my own and explore the northern part of Goa myself. This blog provides a summary of the things that we did and saw over that time. I am a 33 year old female student/academic so this blog is written from my perspective and not that of a travel agent or experienced traveller . Overall, I really enjoyed Goa, this was my first trip to India and I can see that there is a lot more to see and do, which I hope to get to in the future! I am writing this post after being awake for over 24hrs (with a bit of sleep on the plane) so this will be short and sweet. After much confusion with our Air Asia flights, everything worked out well and I arrived in Goa without any problems. We were met at the airport by delegates from Goa tourism and got on the bus to go to our accommodation at the Ramada Caravela Beach Resort Goa. I have a room to myself and it is fantastic. I think I could actually just stay here for a week and be happy. I’ve got the cutest little balcony outside my room (I’m on the third floor) and it looks out over the crystal blu e pool and palm trees. Everyone is very polite, and there appear to be multiple security systems in place (including guards, a big gate at the front, and a guard who checks under the bus as you enter). My first impressions of Goa (being mindful that all I’ve done is drive from the airport to the hotel in the dark) is that there are a lot of religious shrines, wild (I assume) dogs, people on motorbikes, and very cool little shack shop like things. I guess I expected that it would be more city like but so far it’s not, and I like that it’s not what I expected.

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