The Asian Circle

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KHTravels are working with The Asian Circle on a mission to support vulnerable women in India and South Asia. We are honoured to be assisting with their social media campaign raising awareness of the fantastic work that they carry out daily. Please help spread the word and follow them on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram!

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The Asian Circle is working together with Oxfam in the tribal Adivasi communities in North East India to challenge the social acceptance of sexual and domestic violence against women. Oxfam is helping the government, police and judiciary to apply the laws that protect women. This includes setting up support centres in police stations to provide shelter, legal advice, counselling and launching a state-wide campaign to raise awareness of and change attitudes towards violence against women.

Around the world, 35% of women and girls suffer physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a day dedicated to raise public awareness about this and other appalling statistics and that is what we’re doing!

The Asian Circle Summer Party 

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By popular demand, The Asian Circle are holding their 2nd Summer Party. They are delighted to be hosting the multiple award-winning Comedian and Columnist Shazia Mirza and other guest speakers. We would like to invite our fellow travellers, volunteers and friends to come and enjoy a fun-packed evening including a complimentary drink, canapes, prizes, guest speakers and an opportunity for you to network with some fantastic ladies. ‘The Asian Circle’s Summer Party’ is being held at the Bangalore Express. A special 20% discount has been arranged allowing you to enjoy the Asian culinary delights of Yogesh Datta the UK’s top Indian chef at a great price.

If you are interested in attending the party please get in touch for ticket details.

All ticket donations will go towards the Asian Circle current project supporting vulnerable women in South Asia.

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When not to Goa!

Goa was the perfect ending to our year travelling the world in 2015 so we thought what better pick-me-up after leaving the kids at Our Home than a few weeks of luxury back there. Unfortunately, it was a far cry from the seaside paradise we remembered from last time we visited.

Cavelossim

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Carrying on from where we left off last time we returned to Cavelossim to stay at Veeniola Guest House. Upon our arrival it all seemed a bit quiet as this place was full of travellers last time we visited but there was a spark missing this time around as we soon found out it was low season.

We never thought being in Goa during low season would be particularly bad as we quite enjoyed the thought of quiet evenings sipping pinocoladas on the beach front. What we didn’t expect that there would be nowhere left to get a pinocalada from! All the shops that were thriving from our last visit had been closed for weeks and the many beach shacks had been reduced down to one.

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Instead of relying on the local beach we hired a scooter and in the evenings rode into the local town for dinner and drinks with Mike’s Place being a particular favourite. We spent the days relaxing on the beach and going for long walks, but to be honest we were pretty bored and hoped we could find better elsewhere!

Agonda

Moving to Agonda we decided to treat ourselves to some nice accommodation as despite the friendly staff at Veeniola it didn’t exactly trigger that holiday feeling you hope for.

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We stayed in a beach shack at Jojolapap’s and it was a stark improvement. You get what you pay for and Veeniola was considerably cheaper but Jojolapa’s beach front setting enabled us to relax as we wanted to when first heading to Goa. Oh, they also have the cutest puppy pug you’ll ever meet, just don’t grow too attached as you can’t keep him.

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The beach was lovely and significantly better than Cavelossim which had deteriorated in the two years from our previous visit with a lot more litter scattered in the sand. The sea at Agonda was very wavy just as we like it, the beach was clean and we enjoyed walks up to the rocky area to watch the sunset over the cove.

If you’re in Agonda beach you have to visit Fatima’s for some of the best food you’ll encounter in India! Everything on the menu was exquisite and it costs between £3-£5 a meal! Although it was still very quiet and a lot of the little shops were closed, it still had a good atmosphere which is what we needed!

Cola Beach

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We hired a scooter at 300 rupees for the day and decided to visit Cola Beach. We had read reviews saying it was a hidden gem of a beach and when asking for directions we were told the journey is “a little rough” but how rough could it be?

After 20 minutes of smooth riding we came to a cross roads that directed us to a side road to Cola Beach. The problem was that this was no road it was just sand and boulders which has been slightly flattened. We muddled our way down the route and H got flung off the back of the bike one too many times but when reaching our destination we soon found it was all worth it.

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Climbing down the steps of a steep cliff we found the most incredible secluded beach with a fresh water lake to one side and 5 metre waves of sea on the other! This was something we’ve never experienced before and if you are ever in a position to visit Cola Beach this is one place you don’t want to miss! Make sure you pack yourself enough water to last however as you won’t find any beach shacks here!

The North

All good things come to an end and as we left Jojolapa we had hope that the north of Goa would be livelier than the south and having never visited the north before we were excited for what it had to offer. As we reached our next destination in Mandrem we were delighted to see that Fab Hotel actually reflected the pictures when booking the accommodation! The hotel had nice large, airy rooms, an on site bar and restaurant and swimming pool enclosed by arched palm trees! This bar was also where we were introduced to Bira beer which had now become K’s favourite Indian beer!

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Sadly the hotel was as good as it got in Mandrem and for the rest of north goa. We explored several of the local beaches and we were disappointed to see that they were full of rubbish, dog poo and just not a nice place to be. You could tell we were out of season as the whole area felt like no one cared anymore which is not how any environment should be treated. Overall we are certain that if we return to Goa we will be sticking to the south and avoiding the landfill like north.

We left Mandrem with the knowledge that the only good thing about the area was Fab Hotel and were by now just looking forward to our next trip to Sri Lanka. We thought four nights in Panjim would be too much before our flight so we booked at apartment for two nights in Arpora.

We booked to stay at Zeebo Suites and as soon as we pulled up to the hotel we felt like we had been let down again. However, you should never judge a book by its cover and this was exactly the case here! We were led to our top floor apartment overlooking the huge swimming pool and were absolutely delighted. We had a full private kitchen complete with gas stove and washing machine, a living room with premium HD which was replicated in the bedroom. We had sofas, two balconies, a huge fridge and it even had great wifi! This apartment was less than £20 a night for two people and we were debating moving in permanently!

We actually chose to visit Arpora for the night market but as with most of Goa it was closed but that didn’t bother us as it meant we could make the most of our new pad! (You can see how disappointed with Goa we must have been to be excited to stay in the apartment!)

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The best part was yet to come however as almost all the restaurants were closed we were wondering what we were going to eat. Then miraculously a leaflet was slipped under our door advertising The Pink Chilli. We don’t believe in religion but this was a sign from God to say “treat yourself, you deserve it!”

Pink Chilli was a 20 minute walk from the apartment but it was so worth it. Arriving at the restaurant you’re greeted with a pink tuc tuc and enter into a world of quirky Indian imagination. Bollywood posters from all eras are plastered on the walls, you’ll find the Indian version of the Mona Lisa and Michael Jackson in a turban! The food was fabulous as well, not the cheapest place to eat but it was worth every penny and you have to try the pulled chicken tikka burger!

After much deliberation we decided staying in our apartment was not better than flying to Sri Lanka so we moved to Panjim for two nights before our flight.

We stayed at Hospedaria homestay which is extremely highly rated on TripAdvisor. The accommodation was lovely and the room was one of the biggest we’ve seen at a homestay but we couldn’t justify exactly why it was so highly rated as we thought it was just a nice place to stay.

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We visited Panjim Church which was a nice building but we wouldn’t say you’d be missing out if you didn’t visit during your stay in Panjim. What we do recommend you do is find yourself a good local restaurant as try the fish thali! A mixture of battered, fried, grilled fish complete with clams and rice for under £2 means you can’t go wrong! We’d suggest you look for the busier ones to avoid a case of the Delhi belly but it’s definitely something you should try if you’re in Panjim.

If you’re after something more western then Route 66 is the place for you. This American diner is tucked away upstairs on the main street, near Panjim post office.

We can honestly say we have never had a better burger in India from a standalone restaurant! They also offer up some mean cocktails and do that wondrous Bira beer. Lionel is the manager there and he offers great hospitality, our #1 place to eat in Panjim.

Overall our experience of Goa was saved by Jojolapa, the Zeebo Suites apartments and some of the best food we’ve had in India at the Pink Chilli and Route 66. Not really what you expect from a blog on Goa where you imagine a beach paradise but that just wasn’t the case for us. Sri Lanka however, was a different story…

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The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

Luxury at its very finest in India. It was our second time in Mumbai, and although we had visited before, this time we were lucky enough to spend two nights at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

On arrival we were greeted with the warmest smiles, and of course we couldn’t possibly lift a finger! Our two backpacks, two suitcases and hand luggage were all swept away from us as we were guided into reception where we were seated and didn’t even need to check ourselves in! Welcomed with a lavender necklace, lychee juice, and a good luck ritual, our passports were collected and that was all that needed to be done! The best check-in we have ever experienced.

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We had the cheapest room in the hotel yet it was still beautiful with a bouquet of roses, heart shaped balloons and a chocolate cake waiting for us on arrival. It was very traditional but with all the mod cons you needed and would expect. We loved having enough space to be able to unpack comfortably, and walk around the room … or in our case, dance! The bathroom was super luxurious and bathing was pure heaven having not had one for so long! Would you believe there’s an option to order a custom made bath with chosen oils and scents by the Taj Hotel with the price ranging from 1200 – 5500 ruppees! This was just a little over the top for us and the classic shower gel under the tap worked wonders enough!

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The hotel is so grand, and whether you’re a guest there or not it is definitely worth visiting to have a little explore and grab some great photos. A little tip is that the Sea Lounge has an event every evening called sundowners where drinks are buy one get one free between 18:30 and 20:30, no reservation is necessary but it is on a first come first serve basis and you’re also given a selection of snacks free of charge which is always a bonus!

Again with the restaurants you don’t have to be a guest to dine. On our first night we ate at Masala Kraft and were given the best table in the house next to the live chefs. However the downside was that roti was the only thing they cooked there with everything else made in the kitchen. The meal was faultless and we thoroughly enjoyed the ambience this restaurant offered. We also booked a table at Souk, a middle eastern restaurant for our second night, which is perched on the top floor of the Taj tower and offers a great view of the Gateway to India … unfortunately for us this was the best bit. The service was slow, the food was average and very overpriced. We would recommend just going up for a drink instead to enjoy the view.

Breakfast was probably our best meal with an array of different tastes, smells and colours, we really didn’t know where to start. Eggs to order, smoked salmon, freshly baked cakes, croissants and of course plenty of Indian delicacies. Make sure you go down on an empty stomach and this is more than enough to see you through until dinner. One morning we were even seated privately in the champagne room, we don’t know why, but we certainly didn’t object!

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An exclusive for hotel guests only is full use of the pool facility, such a luxurious setting in the city heat, taking a dip in the cold pool couldn’t be more perfect. It was lovely to take some time out and relax, especially before heading to Our Home Community Orphanage!

We had a fantastic stay at the Taj, yes it was expensive, but it was worth every penny. However, it’s one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. We feel like we’ve seen and experienced it now, and it was amazing but we wouldn’t stay again. When you walk through the entrance it’s like you shut India out, a welcome break you may think, but we like to be in the thick of it when we’re staying in a new country. We want to feel like we’re in India, hear the traffic, the cows and get dusty feet! The Taj Palace Hotel could quite honestly have been anywhere in the world and we wouldn’t have known. Two days was the perfect amount of time for us to relax and take a break before setting off on our next Indian adventure!

Features

We love writing about our travels, whether that’s engaging our readers with tales of our adventures or helping out with travel advice from past experiences. Getting involved with other blog sites is something we’re hugely passionate about. Please see below a few blogs we have featured with:

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Goa … The perfect ending.

After an incredible journey starting on 4th February 2015 from London Heathrow we had reached the final destination of our yearlong travelling adventure. It’s impossible to sum up a million memories into a few words but Goa was perhaps the perfect way to complete our voyage of discovery.

The beach

goa-2Arriving in Goa we stayed at Veeniola Holiday Home, an idyllic setting offering exactly what you want as a backpacker. The rooms were clean and well furnished, the staff were great, especially the manager Charlie who helpfully answered all of our questions, and most importantly the wifi worked! We kept extending our stay at Veeniola which totalled around two weeks and although it wasn’t the fanciest of places or the most lavish, it gave you everything you needed and made us feel at home.

Most of our time in Goa was spent reflecting and relaxing as we prepared ourselves for the big return to the UK. We were a 10-minute walk from a dreamy white sand, clear blue sea beach and spent our days kicking back with beers, diving through the waves and walking for miles through the sands under a perfect cloud free sky.

We have been to many destinations where there are so many things to do that you never have enough time to do them all but Goa was exactly what we needed at exactly the right time. Cavelossim beach had the perfect balance of beach hut restaurants and natural beauty. Alex’s Beach Shack is a must if you’re in town but you won’t be disappointed in any of the shacks along the beach, each with something different to offer, from fresh fish nights to Karaoke parties.

FC Goa

goa-9Being without football for most of the year, K was desperate to see a live game so we bought tickets for FC Goa vs Northeast United. The Indian super league was in its second season and included some global stars including Roberto Carlos and Robert Pires. On show in our game was World Cup winner and Brazil legend Lucio as well as former Portugal international Simao Sabrosa.

In terms of footballing quality, the game was lacking although it was scattered with some elements of class, including Reinaldo’s equaliser, but the most incredible part were the fans. As with anything in India, people want to be entertained and everyone was in party mood. The football was like the music at a house party, you know it’s there and without it you wouldn’t have a party but you don’t really pay attention to it. The infamous vuvuzelas from the 2010 World Cup were handed out before the game as well as FC Goa flags and everyone was in high spirits. The match ended 1-1 but we doubt the majority of the fans knew or even cared about the score. Fireworks were set off and the stadium was over-crowded but like everything in India, it was so wrong it worked just right.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2898.Without a doubt Goa was our most relaxing stint in India despite the craziness of the Indian Super League! Our next biggest trip was going to the cinema to watch Spectre, as we’ve mentioned before we adored the cinemas in India, superb quality, cheap tickets and fab range of drinks and snacks, the ultimate movie experience!

Goa was complete and utter paradise, the longer we stayed the more we loved it. We’re intending on heading back in 2017 and perhaps this time we will see more of what this beautiful state has to offer. It might not be as traditional as the rest of India but sometimes we can all have a bit too much Indian, and to end a year of craziness, sleepless nights, long journeys and living out of a backpack, to do absolutely nothing was bliss!