Monday, March 31, 2014

Planning and Packing for a Goa India Adventure

As I recently wrote,  I have been invited to attend the Goa International Travel Mart (GITM) being held on India’s West coast April 1-4, 2014.  

Given a 12-day trip that includes nearly 70 hours of flight time, 5 nights in Goa followed by 3 nights in Mumbai, I am anticipating a mix of business meetings, a few semi-formal dinners, official ceremonies with my hosts, a dose of beach walking, sunrise explorations, open-air nightlife, and city tours in hot, humid and very crowded conditions.

Private home along the coast of South Goa; photo courtesy Wikimedia

Most of all, I am excited to return to one of my favorite countries, see how it’s changed, and dive back into a timeless culture that seemingly resists all attempts to homogenize it.  My India – their marketing slogan -- how magical is that?

Here’s how I am preparing for a trip I hope you will take one day, too.

Getting Ready for Goa 

For other women who travel on business, here’s my To Do List in preparation for this trip that combines long days in an air-conditioned convention center with nights outdoors at beachfront cafes, sightseeing in 100F degrees of humidity and hotel site inspections along the sand.

Packing with Me
  • Four pairs neat slacks (long, loose: 2 business, 1 evening, 1 jeans)
  • 1 pair Northface all-weather hiking slacks
  • 3 pairs shoes (sandals for night, Keen walking/watershoes, business flats)
  • 3 dressy tops (2 solid color silk, embroidered cotton)
  • 5 tops (Patagonia SPF 50 long sleeve hiking shirt, 2 business blouses, 2 cotton SPF 30 shirts from Uniqlo)
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 2 shorts (1 workout that can double as bathing suit bottom, one capri for sightseeing)
  • 2 sweaters (casual bamboo fiber ExOfficio black and white wrap, white crochet dressy sweater jacket)
  • 1 conservative cotton nightgown in case I have to flee hotel room in emergency

Never Forget Essentials for Any Weather Trip

  1. Good sunglasses
  2. Sunhat and sunbloxk
  3. Spare battery for my cellphone
  4. Chargers for my Flip and GoPro cameras
  5. Notebook
  6. Spare reading glasses
  7. Cheap jewelry to dress up any outfit.

Se de Santa Catarina Church, built by the Portuguese. Photo by Ondřej Žváček

Shopping for a few More Essentials

 I hate shopping, but I like to shop for an upcoming trip, usually finding one or two key things I will wear all the time. My goal when I got to T.J. Maxx was loose, conservative slacks to wear with the many long loose blouses I already own.  Then I found a white knit long sweater that I can roll up and keep in my bag... three great buys for under $60.

From Amazon, I ordered a new convertible backback/shoulder bag from Mountainsmith, with exterior waterbottle pockets and a tough ballistic nylon shell to withstand overhead compartments and floor storage. I love it because the tote straps adjust for backpack wear when I need to carry it (Macbook inside) for long distances.

Having learned that Air India accepts 22 kgs free for checked bags on international flights but only 15Kgs on domestic flights, I am pairing down the shoes to 3 pairs – those mules, my Keen watershoes with their super tread, and Pikolino leather flats for exploring the beach areas and hotel lobbies in comfort.

Getting an India Visa

 Americans who travel as tourists can now apply online for an India Tourist visa and pick it up electronically, on arrival, at any of the country’s gateway airports.  For business travelers, however, the process is more cumbersome.  My trip required a letter of invitation from my host, the Goa Tourism Ministry, plus many lengthy forms requiring extensive background information, a photo, a $100 fee, a personal interview and a week-long wait.  The intricacy of the process, the un-intuitive interface of the online forms, the gracious and measured pace of the consulate’s polite staff all served as an introduction to the new culture I will travel to explore.

Baga Beach, photo by

Choosing the Right Vaccines for an India Trip

 Eager to try the best in local prawn, mackerel, sardines, crab and lobster -– not to mention chat and India’s tasty street food snacks, I decide to have a Hepatitis A booster.  Given an a quick injection, this immunity-building vaccine comes in two doses about 6 months apart but even one dose is supposed to help.

Because malaria is endemic to the region, I take Malarone / Proguanil the anti-malarial that still works in a region that has developed resistance to some of the more popular malaria prophylactics.  A typhoid booster is in order claims my internist, especially if I want to eat street food that may be served on plates washed in unpurified water.  (A foodie friend suggests I bring paper plates to avoid this problem, and eat with impunity.)

What I know of Goa Now

 Combining my reading with anecdotal evidence, I know that Goa is considered by some to be the “Pearl of the Orient" and a beach paradise filled with waterways, nature reserves, Portuguese colonial-era architectural landmarks, and a huge expat population that is said to outnumber the native Indians.

Signs will be in Hindi, English and Hebrew to accommodate the thousands of young Israelis who spend the year between school and the Army on these sunny shores. I have heard about Goa Whisperers, professional Jewish conjurers who are sent to Goa to convince stoned-out kids to return for military service.

I have read about the Hindu temples, Catholic churches, and the fabulous Anjuna “Hippie” Flea Market where expats sell of their vintage items along this beach; open only on Wednesdays, it is the one day of the week we will not be in town.
Bride & Prejudice is a fun, fusion Soap Opera/Bollywood Musical based on Jane Austen's famous novel - fun for kids!

My Personal Goals for a Goa Getaway 

I have seen “Bride and Prejudice” and so know Calangute and Baga (party beaches) are where young Indian couples and full-moon party survivors go to dance the night away.  And where Bollywood musicals are shot.  These are a must-see.

My yoga studio has warned me there are no yoga studios in India for visitors; rather there are serious schools with the major yogi in attendance. However, the receptionist says, I should expect massages, hair braiding, tattoos and topless women doing downward facing dog poses on the beach. 

In fact, exploring the 96 kms of beach towns that comprise North Goa and South Goa, sampling seafood at many oceanfront grills and photographing palm trees bowed by the wind at every angle are my personal goals for this trip.

It’s always important to me to set personal goals – not to set them high – but to have a clear focus of how to be and live in a new place so when I leave, I know why I want to come back.  

I am sure Goa will supply many reasons.

1 comment:

  1. Have a fantastic trip, Kyle! I look forward to reading all about it!