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Out of Goa

Started: 2016-01-26 14:06:25

Submitted: 2016-01-26 04:24:23

Visibility: World-readable

30 December 2015: In which the intrepid narrator leaves Goa, visits a spice plantation, and heads back to BOM (again)

On our last day in Goa, we hired a taxi-van to take us to a few sites and eventually drop us off at the airport in time to catch our plane to Mumbai. I was not especially sad to leave our hotel in Goa behind, but I was at least a little worried about where we'd end up staying in Mumbai. Bethany and I decided we wouldn't preemptively mutiny against our hotel arrangements in Mumbai, despite being used to (and willing to pay for) a slightly higher class of accommodations than my mother had found for us in India.

Our first tourist site for the day was Shri Manguesh Temple, a Hindu temple some distance from town. According to our guidebooks, it survived the relatively-iconoclastic Catholic missionaries in colonial Goa by being further inland than the other temples that had been demolished and their worshipers forcibly converted to Catholicism. The hot tropical sun beat down us as soon as we left the air-conditioned van in the car park and wove our way through the gauntlet of vendors hawking food (both packaged and fresh; much of the fresh fruit looked inviting but I was too worried about the food-safety implication to partake), trinkets, sculptures, more trinkets, offerings, and just about everything imaginable. I kept an eye out for anything that looked especially interesting but nothing struck my fancy. (I was not sad to leave the hot tropical sun and the ninety-degree weather behind.)

Aside from its unique placement in Goa, the rest of the temple seemed fairly familiar: we took off our shoes at the gate and walked across the courtyard to the central hall, where worshipers performed devotions to a number of idols I only vaguely recognized.

Path through the jungle at the Tropical Spice Plantation
Path through the jungle at the Tropical Spice Plantation

We returned to the van and headed further inland to a tourist-friendly tropical spice plantation named, simply, Tropical Spice Plantation. Along the way, as we wound through narrow twisty mountain roads cut through the jungle hillsides, Calvin became motion-sick on Bethany's lap, and we quickly pulled over to try to clean up as best we could. Worried that this might be the beginning of something to come (possibly not merely motion sickness but a digestive ailment of some kind) I kept a bag handy for the rest of the day, but we did not end up needing it.

Willy, Mom, and Bethany at the Tropical Spice Plantation
Willy, Mom, and Bethany at the Tropical Spice Plantation

We arrived at the spice plantation, and after paying our admission fee and crossing a bridge across an attractive tropical lagoon, were immediately presented with flower leis and bindis, and were offered some sort of herbal tea to keep us occupied while they assembled the next tour group. Our tour group included a large contingent of Russians, who apparently liked visiting this particular tourist site because of the various upsell add-ons the site provided involving elephant rides and elephant baths, which apparently the Russians enjoy.

Calvin at the Tropical Spice Plantation
Calvin at the Tropical Spice Plantation

Our tour guide took us on a short walk into the jungle and pointed out the various tropical spices growing there: unripe peppercorns on the tree, vanilla vines climbing trees, betel nut, cinnamon, and a number of other spices whose identity escapes me. It was fascinating to see the epoch-defining and empire-building spices in something resembling their natural habitat, but I couldn't help but wonder if an actual productive plantation would look more regular and less random than the jungle we saw.

Peppercorns growing at the Tropical Spice Plantation
Peppercorns growing at the Tropical Spice Plantation

We ate lunch provided with our admission ticket, and looked at the small gift shop. I was a little underwhelmed by the gift shop, which sold exclusively small, poorly-labeled spices, but I did take the opportunity to buy some spices for Kiesa.

Calvin hugs a palm tree at the Tropical Spice Plantation
Calvin hugs a palm tree at the Tropical Spice Plantation

We headed back to our taxi-van and drove the rest of the way to the airport, with Calvin sitting in the middle seat with a good view of the road through the front window in hopes of warding off any future motion sickness -- which proved successful. We arrived at the airport and discovered that we had ended up on different flights to Mumbai. Dad was on an earlier flight, which was somewhat delayed but was sufficiently close to departure when he checked in that the agent escorted him straight to security to expedite his journey onto the plane -- leaving the rest of us to stand around wondering precisely what had happened and whether our hastily-arranged "I'll see you at baggage claim in Mumbai" would actually work.

This left the rest of us with plenty of time to check in, make our way through security, and wait in the smoky waiting area for our flight to depart in a couple of hours. The crowded waiting area was officially non-smoking, but we ended up on the side of the waiting area next to the smoking lounge, which appeared to be built with a positive-pressure ventilation system in order to push noxious fumes into the rest of the waiting area. (I suppose I should have been upset with the fumes for Calvin's sake, but I was mostly interested in avoiding aggravating my cold, which I'd been fighting for most of the time I was in India.) As the flights departed, clearing out the passengers waiting for them, the waiting area emptied out and we were able to move to a less-oppressive part of the waiting area.

We ate supper at the small sit-down restaurant in the waiting area, and at some length our aircraft arrived and we were able to get on our delayed flight for Mumbai. The rest of our flight to Mumbai was entirely uneventful, and we found my father waiting (for the past three hours) right at baggage claim.

We booked a taxi to our hotel (which involved a bit of arguing about the proper price to pay -- it wasn't clear how much prices had inflated from the values in our guidebooks, and how much the taxi drivers were simply applying the foreigner family markup). Our route took us along the Bandra-Worli Sea Link bypass bridge, which was pretty neat (but involved an extra payment of Rs. 70 for the toll), and along Marine Drive on our way down the peninsula into the heart of the city. Along the way our driver decided to call our hotel to confirm our reservation, and there was some confusion that the hotel didn't have the reservation, which we agreed to address when we actually reached the hotel.

The hotel was on a side road around the corner from the Taj Palace Hotel (in daylight I could see the hotel's iconic dome framed in the narrow street, and I could even pick out a faint wifi signal from the hotel). There was some additional confusion about the name and address of the hotel -- our reservation said "ZO Rooms Gateway of India" but the hotel, though with the same address, had a different given name.

The confusion about our reservation continued at the front desk. It appeared that ZO Rooms was some sort of reseller/virtual hotel chain that bought up capacity at existing hotels, rebranded it, and and resold it. But there was something of a problem in that ZO Rooms was apparently in the process of being bought or sold or about to go bankrupt or something and they'd neglected to pay the hotels whose rooms the resold, and had also forgot to update their reservation system to actually pass on our reservations. So we had arrived, close to midnight, in the middle of Mumbai, at a tiny hotel that did not in fact have our reservations. We were not amused. Bethany had paid for her reservation in advance, but the rest of us had merely made the reservation without paying for it.

They did, as it turned out, actually have enough space for us for that night, though it sounded like they did not have enough rooms for later in the week. We said, sure, we'll take it tonight, and we'll find something else for tomorrow. I put Calvin to bed, in a tiny room behind the front desk, and returned to the front desk to complete the laborious check-in process, which involved them scanning our passports and entry stamps and cropping out our photos from the scans of our passports to plug into their database or something. Finally we were checked in, and Bethany and I grabbed the wifi key and set out to make our own reservations for the rest of our time in Mumbai.

Earlier in our trip I had been working on my list of requirements for a hotel in India, which included various key things like "hot water", "toilet paper", and "wifi", not all of which were easy to find at the hotels my mother had found. I had neglected to add "actually has my reservation" to that list, though I was at least relieved that Bethany and I could make our hotel mutiny with a totally-legitimate reason. I briefly considered, and rejected, the Taj Mahal Palace, and decided instead upon the somewhat-less-expensive hotel somewhat awkwardly named "Vivanta by Taj -- President", though eventually I figured out that everyone just called it "Taj President". Satisfied with our hotel arrangements for the rest of the trip, we called it a night, sometime after midnight, local time, and went to bed -- though I still felt compelled to talk to Kiesa to decompress before I could actually fall asleep.

For more photos from my last day in Goa, see Photos on 2015-12-30.