Monday, March 26, 2007

If there's paradise on Earth, it's here, it's here, it's here!

New Year is probably the worst time to travel. New Year is probably also the one time you must travel. It is this duality, that drives millions to Goa every year. We were two of that million. Stuck on the airport for hours because of the fog and the delayed flights, we reached Goa tired and a little out of the New Year spirit. But then Chttai happened. Amidst the quintessential Goan village setting, Chattai was home within seconds. We arrived days after our reservations, but inspite of the heavy demand, they were nice enough to keep our bookings. What's more, they never charged us for the days we had to cancel because of our delayed flights.

That was just the start. The owners are two of the most wondeful people you will ever meet. And the staff is just as nice. Avinesh and Charlie did everything to make us feel at home. Warm and welcoming, they treated us like family. From booking a car for us to arranging for a bike, from booking us on a Dolphin tour to making sure we get up on time to spot them, they made sure we have the most memorable trip ever.

We spotted atleast 50 dolphins and i give all the credit to Avinesh. After trying for two days, he made sure we get up on time on our last day there. He literally banged our hut down, trying to wake us up. Gave us a hurried glas of juice and promised to keep a massive breakfast ready when we get back. Just so we would get on the boat before the sun came up. He even made a deal for us with boat man to show us some lesser known, secret islands. On emerald green waters, we expored some of the most beautiful places.

There are some things that get stuck in your mind, almost like a photograph. One such picture in my head is of a morning, when i sat nursing my mug of coffee. A rooster pecked happily away near me and some piglets played in the courtyard. I will never forget that scene. I never felt more at peace or more in touch with nature. There is just something about waking up to a rooster call. Something so tranquil and almost hypnotising about watching tiny pigs go about their business. Something so assuring about friendly dogs accompanying you on a walk through the village flea market. It's almost romantic.

What I loved most about it was the ambience. And the washroom. It was like showering in the open. With a portion of the washroom having no ceiling for natural lighting and fresh air, the experience was amazing. Cold water mingled with sea breaze to create quite a novel bath experience. They were nice enough to provide you with hot water if you requested for it, but it was cold showers all the way for me.

The room was cozy with a snug little bed that was perfect for two. It had a functional mosquito net (there weren't many mosquitoes that time of the year though) which gave the room such a romantic feel. The huts are made of Chattai as the name suggests. In fact, everything about the place is au Naturale. Just makes you feel healthier.

We were living in a split level cottage with a little terrace sit out on the top. With white curtains to allow just enough privacy, we would sit late into the night listening to the waves crash againts the shore and watching the candlelight cast a warm, mellow glow on everything. In the distance, you could hear music. Assuring you that there was still some place you could party at. If you'd rather. The terrace was also perfect to enjoy a morning smoke, as we planned out the rest of our day. Which was always easy enough.

We'd wake up to a leisurely coffee and massive breakfast, walk over to the beach two steps away and spend the rest of the day vegetating at one of the several beach shacks. Chattai is at the quiet end of Palolem, near some of the best shacks and a lovely restaurant at a rock jutting into the sea. Very conveniently located to stumble into bed after getting smashed out of your head. And still far enough to provide you your privacy and keep you from having banging music spoil it, if you have plans for a quite night. What's more, it ensures that only guests come to that area. Which means, it's not a thorough fare. There's a guard that keeps watch at night. Not that there is anything to be worried about. But it's just nicer to know that people who have no business there are not lurking around in the still of the night.

We rented a bike which Charlie arranged for us. Petrol pumps are few and far between in Goa. But they have a rather innovative solution to it. A few meters from Chattai is a little grocery store that also stores petrol. They have Bilseri bottles full of fuel that you can just buy. We went into town one day to look for an ATM. That's about all we left the beach for. Everything else was available right there.

Unfortunately during our stay, I managed to catch a cold. It got so bad one night that I could hardly lay down. They were so comforting, so sweet. They made me Ginger and Honey Tea, in the middle of the night. As I sat sipping it in the open air restaurant, just outside my hut, they kept me company, telling us stories about locals and places that we must visit. Not for a moment did they let me feel sorry for myself. Instead, they pampered me back to health. That was one of my nicest experiences of staying at Chattai.

They have many games and books to keep you company. I played table tennis after years. But mostly I just realxed. And soaked in the ambience. Chattai will be one of my best finds in Goa. The trip ended way too soon. And we came back with huge withdrwal syptoms. But I am going back soon. Once you get a taste of it, it's hard not to.

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