Where: Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, USA When: First week of December
People might say that Las Vegas is a festival itself, as it’s a place where the lights never go out. However, if you opt for a December trip to Las Vegas, you’ ll have the chance to personally experience the 10-day National Finals Rodeo, a.k.a. Rodeo Superbowl. The festival involves, the top 15 rodeo cowboys who compete each other, claiming prizes up to $5.5 million!
Where: Guatemala City and Antigua, Guatemala When: December 7th
According to local tradition the Devil lurks in house corners, under every bed and in the garbage bins. Therefore, on 7th December of every year the locals clean their houses and streets, setting the garbage on fire at 6 o’clock in the evening. Usually, on top of the burning pile they also throw a figure of the Devil. Certainly an unusual addition to our list of December festivals.
Thanks to the lovely writer Rosalie Cruz, who spent the past few months in Goa, experiencing all that life had to offer there. You can find her online on Facebook.
The experience of arriving in Hampi in Karnataka State next to Goa, after a ten hour, slightly bumpy bus ride in the dead of night is one that you will likely never forget. I know I won’t. The bus journey itself was unremarkable. The group I was travelling with chose to go by sleeper bus for the convenience since taking a train would mean a costly taxi ride to the bus station and another rickshaw trip from the town of Hospet to Hampi since the latter does not have a train station. The bus would take us straight into Hampi. After ten hours, we had arrived and I was excited to see the Hampi my fellow travellers raved about.
A Firm No
I was the first one of our group to exit the bus. I wish I had been the last. Having that many men shout and pull at you in different directions trying to get you to hop on their rickshaw for a tour of the city or down to the river is an intimidating experience for even hardened travellers. I learnt that day that a firm “no” will go a long way in India. At the time, I was so overwhelmed I nearly missed the stunning scenery around me. Nearly.
The first thing you see as you step out of the bus and manage to get past the group of drivers is the police station. There’s nothing special about a police station or so you might think, but this one is housed in what appears to be very old ruins of a building that was once part of the city of Vijayanagara. The city was once the capital of an empire with the same name.
Up, close and personal with Hampi
Behind the police station, a range of tall hills constituted solely by massive boulders made a stunning visual. Hampi is nestled between the complex of ruins of what was once one of the greatest cities in the subcontinent (it’s said that in the 1500’s, more than 500 000 people lived there) and the ruin complex is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re looking for a landscape photographer’s dream destination, you’ll find it here.
After checking in and getting some breakfast (arrival was at about 7am), we rented some mopeds to explore all that there is to see in Hampi Island (also known as “across the river”). It was easy to see that there was no shortage of things to do on this side of the river.We had been told that the best place to stay in Hampi is across the river since there is very little happening in the town at night-time and the tiny boat that ferries people between the riversides stops at 6pm. So we made a booking for a guesthouse on the other side of the river. We made our way down to hop on the ferry only to realise that the distance from the bus stop to the river does not warrant a rickshaw ride at all. Since it was my first time on a rickshaw, I didn’t begrudge the driver the fifty rupees I paid him. On the way there, I caught a glimpse of the imposing Virupaksha Temple, a Hindu temple built in honour of Virupaksha, one of the many forms of Shiva. It became one of the ‘must-sees’ of this trip.
I particularly enjoyed the Anjaneya/Hanuman Temple. Although the 600 step climb up the hill to reach the monkey god’s temple (which I attempted in the blistering Hampi sun) is a somewhat less attractive prospect, the views of the valley as you make your way up will take your mind off the heat. The sunset here is also renowned to be worth the sacrifice. Surrounded by the wondrous beauty of the scenery and the mischief of a bunch of playful monkeys, it’ll be a memory to treasure.
Despite all the wonderful things we saw on the island, Hampi town and the ruins of the Vijayanagar city is where the culture and architecture fan in you will truly feel like you’ve arrived. The many ruins of the city are spread across a 25 km radius and are best seen by renting a bike or motorcycle. Walking is also possible but with the hot a dry climate and distances of 5km dividing some of the structures, not to mention the climb required to see some of the buildings, I found the motorbike option to be the best one. A close second favourite is Sanapur Lake, a large body of water surrounded by beautiful rock formations of piled up boulders. At some point, the crowd that is drawn to the area will congregate here for diving off the boulders into the cooling waters of the lake (rumour is that there are crocodiles but I couldn’t see any and they haven’t scared off the tourists) and chill out with other travellers with the same idea. The sunset here is the most magical I have ever seen. On that side of the river, you’ll also find a small waterfall, a handful of temples spread across the countryside and the Pampa Sarovar, a Hindu sacred pond filled with lotus leaves.
In Hampi town and around the ruins of Vijayanagara, there are quite a few ‘must-stops.’ Hampi bazaar is the heart of the town and is dominated by the Virupaksha Temple (also known as the Pampapathi temple). With its 160-foot (49m) high tower entrance, statues of Shiva and shrines with of the erotica statues, this is place where you could easily spend half a day. The bazaar is a great place to shop for textiles, jewellery and fill up on delicious street food.
Perhaps one of the most impressive monuments of Hampi, Vithala Temple is bound to remain on its visitor’s minds. It is a thoroughly sculpted building with, ornate pillars and breathtaking carvings. The structure is also renowned for its musical pillars. The group of 56 pillars carved in stone produce an echo of a note when tapped. The back lawn of the temple displays an impressive stone carved chariot with rotating wheels.
Capital of a rich empire
No doubt Hampi is known for its many beautiful temples but it’s impossible to forget that this was once the capital of a rich empire. Kings and Queens lived lavish lifestyles here and as a memento of those times, there are still a handful of buildings that remain, telling stories of greatness. To call out a few: The Elephant stables (a majestic structure with 11 domed chambers for the royal elephants), the Queen’s bath, swimming pool to the royal family (part of the Royal Enclosure, the rectangular building with a veranda inside wrapped around a square tank 6 feet deep) and the Zenana Enclosure (four buildings – the queen’s palace, two watchtowers through which the ladies of the court kept an eye on the outside world and the Lotus palace, a two storied palace that resembles a lotus flower and served as the meeting place for the royal females).
I left Hampi four days after arriving, feeling that I had not seen or explored half the secrets and treasures of this magical place. The city is beckoning me to return and I think that you Purple Travellers out there should add Hampi to your travel wishlist.
Read more about Rosalie’s Insider Guide to Goa here. All images via @ Rosalie Cruz
This is a post by writer Rosalie Cruz, who spent the past few months in Goa, experiencing all that life had to offer there. Read her insider’s travel guide to Goa and find her online on Facebook.
India has always held a certain magical appeal to westerners. The reasons for that are more than we can list; maybe it’s the spirituality or perhaps it’s the amazing diversity of cultures, spice, food, colour that floods your senses at every turn but the truth is, there isn’t much you can’t find in India. From beautiful palaces tucked away in the deserts of Rajasthan, ageless rituals and the mysticism of Varanasi, the massive city sprawl of Mumbai or Delhi where anything can happen, the beauty of Kerala, the quaintness of Pondicherry. And then there is Goa, playground for Indians and the rest of the world alike.
Goa is quickly becoming the place to be if you’re looking for an amazing holiday at a relatively purse friendly rate. With its peaceful warm waters, stretches of fine sand surrounded by jungle and coconut tree forests, every beach in Goa could make it on a postcard. If you’re not so much into beaches, there is always the thrill of bargaining for handcrafted souvenirs in the many flea markets that dot the area or driving around on a spiffy little Vespa, snapping shot after shot of the architectural gems that remain from colonial days.
But if a beach holiday is what you crave, then Goa has much to offer. Some of my favourite beaches in North Goa are Morgim, Mandrem and Aswen. The three beaches are all part of the same large stretch of fine white sands, quiet warm waters and beach shacks and huts. If water based sports are your thing or you just need something to occupy yourself when you have decided to give yourself a break from tanning, this is the place to be. Surf lessons, para sailing, kite surfing. You name it, they’ll have it.
Then there is Arambol, also to the North. Home to hippies, yogis and free spirits in general, this beach is the place to be if you’re looking for some serious chill out time with all mod cons. I recommend you stay for sunset and the drum circle that happens at the beach every night.
As you make your way further south, be sure to visit Anjuna. If you’re looking for a party (a trance party I should say) this is definitely the place to be. There is always a party going on in any of the many shacks on the beach. Curlie’s is an institution when it comes to partying in Anjuna but Hippies, Shiva Valley and Café Lilliput should be on your to do list as well. Days here are all about lazing by the beach, spending a Wednesday bargaining at the massive flea market and getting some food before heading out to party all over again.
Vagator, the smaller town neighbouring Anjuna, is said to be the birthplace of Goan Trance and has a much different vibe. Here you’ll end up rubbing shoulders with the people who fell in love with Goa back in the 60’s and have been unable to ever truly leave. All you have to do is pull up a stool at the Mango Tree (renowned for its bad service but still a favourite in the area); I promise you’ll leave with a story to tell. For some trance, try Hilltop or Nine Bar.
Baga and Calangute could well be the places for you if things get a bit too quiet while you bum around in North Goa. Tito’s Lane in Baga will definitely have a bar that suits you down to a T. It’s a great place to mingle and meet some locals. If you time your stay well you’ll be around for Sunburn, a music festival that caters for those who enjoy dance, house and trance music and renowned as one of the best festivals in the world.
Before you leave, make sure you spend a Saturday night in the Arpora Saturday Night Market. Amazing stalls with local crafts as well as clothing and jewellery; designers from all over the world come here to sell their beautiful wares. It’s impossible to resist the urge to shop here, even if you dread the thought of shopping.
Before you leave North Goa, hop on a taxi and head to Old Goa, the district that was once the heart of Portuguese Goa. Beautiful churches and old colonial homes are the most evident remains of the colonial occupation. There is a stunning multi-dimensional feel to the whole state but Old Goa is where it is more evident and best preserved. It’s well worth spending an afternoon walking around with your camera in hand.
Once you hit South Goa, life slows down a bit more. The white sand beaches and warm waters of the Arabian Sea create the ideal place to see life go by. Away from the partying of North Goa, the key word here is “chill.” Palolem Beach, also known as paradise beach is definitely a must during a visit to Goa. And we assure you they don’t call it paradise beach for nothing. Sunset here is like nothing you have ever seen before. Spending the last few days of your holiday here will leave you invigorated and happy.
If after all the beachcombing you still have the time and energy, take a trip to Hampi in the state of Karnataka or Kerala but we’ll tell you all about that in another post.
Like the country itself, Goa food is a mix of east meets west, being both spicy and flavoursome. Its strong history has influenced its food dramatically, meaning dishes are frequently divided into two groups: Goan Hindu cuisine and Goan Catholic cuisine.
Hindu cuisine is less spicy, less oily and centres around ingredients such as lentils, gourd, pumpkins, shoots, bamboo and root vegetables. Goan Catholic cuisine on the other hand, is highly influenced by Konkani, South Indian, Portuguese (who colonised the area in the 18th and 19th centuries), British and Saraswat cuisines, focusing mainly on onion or garlic flavours, with plenty of seafood and meat. However both cuisine types share a reputation for taste and freshness, with presentation being paramount as Goans often share their food with neighbours.
While the techniques and recipes of Goan cuisine have changed several times over the years, the primary ingredients have remained the same. Coconut features heavily in many of the dishes, along with more unusual ingredients such as breadfruit and papaya, which give a distinctive flavour. In general, Goans have a very diverse serving of food types ranging from prawns to sausages, chicken to beef, and numerous vegetarian dishes.
Technique is equally important to producing the famous taste of Goa food; if you visit any rural area, the locals can be seen cooking in the clay pots on firewood – the source of the smoky flavour of many Goan dishes. Over time, cooking methods have been blended together and allowed to simmer, producing an authentic selection of delicacies. Here are our pick of the six best Goan dishes:
This pork-based dish is perfect if you like your food to be spicy. Pieces of boneless pork are first parboiled, then finely diced, before being cooked in a sauce infused with two types of chilli, turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic, peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, vinegar and onion. You’ll typically find sorpotel served with sanna, a rice and coconut cake that often accompanies Goan meals instead of bread. Sorpotel usually tastes better on the 2nd and 3rd day, after it has had time to mature.
As you might expect from its coastal location on the Arabian Sea, seafood is a staple part of the Goan diet. You’ll find all manner of fish curries on the menu, with many featuring a coconut milk sauce. Xitt coddi is a yellowish-red curry, due to the presence of chillies and turmeric in its sauce, while Ambot Tik can be served with either fish or prawns, and has a sweet and sour flavour.
Chicken cafreal consists of fried or grilled chicken in a spicy coating, often served with a green salad or some plain rice. This specialty is heavily influenced by the Portuguese, with the marinade used on the meat strongly resembling peri-peri sauce. This sauce is made from coriander, lime, green chillies, peppercorns and mint.
This is a mixed vegetable curry, featuring carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and French beans in a sweet and sour curry sauce. A vegetarian’s favourite – this dish is a hotpot of rich flavours.Enjoy Khatkhatem with steamed rice to allow the various spices to come through as you enjoy your meal.
One of Goa’s most famous desserts, bibinca first appears to be a layered cake, but when you take a closer look, you’ll discover its layers are thick pancakes made from egg, coconut milk, sugar and ghee. Cooking a perfect bebinca is considered an art form and a huge amount of patience is needed to prepare it correctly. The next layer can only be added once the previous layer has been cooked in the oven until it has a light fudge consistency. Bibinca can be eaten hot or cold and is traditionally served at Christmas.
Feni is a kind of liqueur made from either the juice of a cashew fruit or the sap from a coconut palm. The best-quality feni is distilled at least two, and normally three, times, making it quite strong, but don’t worry, you don’t have to drink it neat, it’s often served with a mixer like tonic or lemonade. The word ‘feni’ derives from the word ‘fenn’, which means froth. In fact, a good feni, when poured in a glass produces a little froth, which is an indication of the superior quality of the product.
The home of vibrant markets, stunning scenery, spectacular sunsets and erm… cow beaches? Here’s our insider guide to Goa, the perfect winter sunshine holiday destination.
This is the Purple Travel cheat sheet for Goa, it’s right on the western edge of India and known under many guises, including ‘Pearl of the Orient’ and ‘Tourist Paradise’. A former Portuguese colony, it’s home to soaring temples, endless beaches and an eclectic mix of Indian and Portuguese traditions, architecture and food. As you can imagine, holidays in Goa are more than just about beaches and sunshine (although they are near perfect!) they are also about indulging in the unique history and rich culture of this beautiful part of India.
Once a hotspot for hippies in the 60s, Goa’s glorious beaches and wonderful atmosphere has seen it become a firm holiday favourite, with over 2.5 million people visiting every year. Towards the end of September, monsoon season finishes up, leaving lush greenery, around ten hours a day of warm sunshine with little humidity, temperatures averaging 27 degrees and endless sandy beaches to perfect your tan. This carries on through to early March, meaning it’s a great choice for Christmas or New Years too. Throw in great prices, you’ll get a decent dinner for two with some local wine for about a tenner, while there are more budget friendly hotels and apartments than you can shake a stick at. Trust us the ten hour flight from the UK will be worth it. Find out all about this amazing country in our Goa Destination guide.
Goa’s loosely separated into two parts: North and South. The general rule is that it’s a bit busier in the north, maybe because it’s where the capital Panaji is. Plus it was the first part to be developed, when hippies arrived in the early 70s. The Southern part of the country is known as a more relaxed, laidback holiday destination.
Anjuna with a weekly flea market, regular Saturday night bazaars and an alternative feel, Anjuna Beach has got plenty on offer. At sunset the beach is filled with entertainers from jugglers to fire-eaters, a great place to start your night out.
Candolim One of the quieter beaches in the Northern part of Goa, Candolim is not exactly empty, but tends to be on the quieter side. There are plenty of restaurants and bars nearby to keep your energy levels up for all the sunbathing.
Calangute is known as the queen of Goa’s beaches. It’s a really busy, bustling beach with lots of people. You’ll find plenty of children happily plotting sandcastles, while the surrounding bars and beach clubs mean it’s a great place to relax after a heavy night out.
Vagator The cliffside beach is split in two, between Big and Little Vagator Beaches and these are home to some of the best beach parties you’ll find in all of Goa, from trance to techno, hippies and backpackers, it’s a spot for all walks of life and certainly a place to make some new friends as you dance the night away.
Agonda Beach Regularly topping the best beach in Goa lists, Agonda is clean and out of the way. It’s beautiful and secluded so it’s ideal for couples looking for a quiet day relaxing on sand. There aren’t so many food options around, so a sunset picnic sounds like a gorgeous option to us.
Cansaulim offers a really relaxed atmosphere. It’s a quiet, clean stretch close to two airports, so it’s perfect if you want to escape to the sun last minute. The sleepy villages nearby combined with the hotels and resorts mean you’ll never be short of options.
Betalbatim Great value on the shacks that edge the beach, while the peace and quiet is only interrupted by the odd bird or dolphin. Betalbatim has a friendly atmosphere that gets people returning year after year.
Colva A perfect mix of sun, sea and sand, Colva is known for its natural beauty. The 20-odd mile stretch of white sand and sparkling ocean leaves plenty of room to grab a lounger, a good book and take advantage of the sunshine.
Cow beach well, we couldn’t talk about Goa with talking about Cow beach. Bikini clad tourist happily mingle with bulls and heifers. As you do.
Things to do
Family break Many of the hotels dotted along the coast of the Arabian Sea are fully kitted out to make sure you and your little ones get the most out of it. Every conceivable activity is on offer, from Kid’s Clubs, crocodile watching, waterslides, swimming pools, beaches, GoKarting, or cruises. Sounds like a handful for your little handful.
Grownups getaway If you’re after a more grownup approach to your holiday, then a spa break is a pretty decadent way of doing it. Ayurvedic therapies will reunite your mind and body harmony. Failing that, you’ll at least find yourself feeling more relaxed than when you arrived.
Silent discosThe Silent Noise headphone parties in the south of Goa, see clubbers dance the night away – without disturbing any of the neighbours. It’s also some of the best fun you’ll ever have. Two or three DJs play the night away and each clubber has their own headphones so you can tune to whichever song suits your mood. It might sound weird, but when you make eye contact with someone dancing to your song, you’ll know you’re in the right place.
Goan Carnival A yearly procession of colours and costumes, the Goan Carnival lasts for three or four days every year and we’re talking night and day. The legendary King Momo comes to life and takes over to create a riot of music and dance. It’s perfect timing if you’re planning ahead, the 2013 carnival kicks off on February 9th.
Dudhsagar Falls a tiered waterfall just a couple of miles from the capital Panaji, it’s known as one of the most beautiful in India. Surrounded by legend, the story goes that a beautiful princess used to live nearby and enjoyed bathing in her birthday suit, drinking ‘sweetened milk’ from a ‘golden jug,’ honestly, this is how it goes. One day she found herself being watched by a prince. To cover her modesty, threw herself under the jug of milk. It’s said it is that sweetened milk that pours down the mountain today.
Eat in Goa Goa is, naturally enough famous for its seafood. Fish based curries and rice are the staples. Add a dash of coconut and some local spices and you’ll find the intense flavours and delicious aromatic dishes Goa prides itself on.