Gorkana & Arpora

We’ve decided we quite like an overnight train, yes getting up and down from the top bunk is slightly awkward for someone of my size and clumsiness but it’s doable and I slept for almost all of the train journey to Mangalore. 

We arrived mid-morning but we didn’t have anything planned to do here and our next onward train was in 6hrs, so we paid to store our backpacks in the left luggage at the station (think it was about 50rps for 24hrs) and went off to find breakfast, have a look about that then hole up somewhere cooler until our train. Fortunately for us we found an AC pub in a shopping mall which suited our needs exactly. I feel a bit bad that we didn't explore much at all, but on the surface it looks like any other busy city and I wasn't feeling 100% so wasn't up for a frantic tour to see the sights.

Gorkana was our next stop for a few days as we’d heard the nearby Om Beach was a bit like old Goa before it became popular, we also had a friend staying there that we’d met in Sri Lanka last year, so a few nights near a non Goan beach sounded good. There isn’t much online accommodation for Om Beach or the neighbouring Kudle Beach, at least not within our budget with A/C, so we opted to stay at Shanti Krishna which was nearer the main town but still within walking distance of Kudle Beach, the pictures of the hotel didn’t look inspiring, but it was only for 3 nights so how bad could it be!

Hmm quite bad is the answer to that! The room was filthy, none of the windows shut properly, cockroaches ran about the bathroom and the décor was more jail cell than comfort, the Wi-Fi was non-existent, and in general the place was run down and once again run by a group of young lads that honestly didn’t seem to know what they were doing. I know I sound like I’m getting too old for this traveling malarky but when you think about what you get for your money in all the other places we’d been to this really was lacking, for ref the price was £25 a night which is our top budget normally. We did have a sea view, sorry forgot about that...I think you can see it in the photo below, might need to zoom in. 😉

I think the main attraction for some of the small local beaches like Kudle and Om is that they have no direct road access so all people, luggage, goods, food etc must go down the steps from the top road or brought in by boat. It makes them much quieter and more peaceful and I must say Om beach with its twin white sandy coves sandwiched between the tranquil sea and lush green jungle is absolutely stunning. Our friend Liz had a very cute fan cooled room set back in the jungle and it was lovely to catch up and chat over cold Lime Sodas from the family café.

Gorkana beach down by the main town is much larger and because it has decent road access there are a few more restaurants and shacks here, but due to the cost of alcohol being much higher in this state compared to Goa it doesn’t have the same sort of vibe that we’re used to. All in all I’m not sure I’d come back but I am pleased to have visited.

Our next stop was going to be a long one as both of us needed to dental work in North Goa but seeing as we didn’t like how chaotic Calangute or Candolim is we’d decided to stay in nearby Arpora. It’s another place that friends we’d met in Sri Lanka stay in and as it was only about 10 mins on the bus to the dental surgery and seemed to have good bars and restaurants so ticked a lot of boxes.

We’d actually been here once before 5 years ago but we’d stayed in the nearby Anjuna and walked to Arpora for their famous Saturday night market, this time as we were going to be here for just over a month, we wanted to find a nice 1 bedroomed place with full kitchen, washing machine etc and maybe a pool. I’d already done a bit of research and we had a short list of 3 places to see, we booked one of the 3 places for the first 4 nights and hoped that chatting to locals once there would open up more possibilities if we needed it.

We got an uneventful train from Gorkana Road station back to Tivum and then a taxi the half an hour to Arpora. First apartment was called Treebo and was in a gated complex up the top end of town, it sounded like it had everything we needed and there was even a pool but on arrival it was clear this wasn’t quite what we were looking for as the kitchen wasn’t fully functioning and the pool was dirty. We still had 2 others to see the next day and nothing beats asking locals so we got busy with the networking, which meant finding the bars and asking the staff or other customers if they knew anywhere, whilst partaking in a few drinks and nibbles obviously. 

As it turned out we didn’t need to use any of our network finds as the place I’d lined up to view the next day ticked all the boxes and I started to get quite excited about a longer stay in one place. The flat was slightly further out that we wanted but it was just off the busy main road that I was sure buses ran on and only 15mins walk from the middle of town. It was a 1 bedroomed, large ground floor flat with open kitchen, 2 gas hobs, fridge / freezer, microwave, washing machine, Wi-Fi and a large balcony area, it was set in a residential block with security on the entrance and it even had a large clean pool. We confirmed our interest and secured it at a cost of £22 a night for 45 nights. Perfect! We went out to celebrate of course.

The next 6.5 weeks were a mixture of discovering what we had round about us and really enjoying not having to leave the flat for anything. We figured out how to get shopping delivered because the nearest bigger supermarket was a 20min walk, and you really don’t want to be carrying dairy, meat, ice-cream etc in this heat for 20 mins but we shopped local for everyday items like bread, milk, eggs and drinks. 

Turns out the buses didn’t really run this far up in town, which was a bit of a bummer as it meant a 15min walk to the busier intersection, doesn’t sound too bad but in 35 degree heat the last thing you want to do is walk far. Once you did get on the bus it was only 10rps to the nearby Calangute which is only10p and they seemed to run every 10 mins or so.

Aside from the standard nights out, nights in, TV binges and in Pauls case some very extreme dental work we didn’t really get up to much else, we also both had quite in-depth Level 5 Crowd Safety projects to complete a quiet place to knuckle down with good Wi-Fi was much appreciated.

Highlights from our stay have to be some of the food places we found, an awesome Punjabi place literally on our doorstep, a Nicks restaurant that did equally top notch Indian and western food with a homemade Baileys Cheesecake to die for and we discovered the Swiggy home delivery app (just like Uber Eats) for the places we couldn’t reach on foot. 

I loved how we made friends with all the local shop owners and they’d wave and smile each day, plus we got to experience a couple of festivals Holi and Ugadi here which were great fun with drumming, chanting and processions up the street. I didn’t get involved with the dried paint throwing for Holi as I’ve heard the cheaper powder most buy is quite toxic and stains everything it touches and I didn’t bring that many clothes but we saw a lot of people covered in it. 

We did go to the night market but to be honest it’s a very tacky affair these days, all the stalls sell the same woven dream catchers or beach style shirts and the beers is warm and overpriced. What was a lovely surprise when we went was the addition of a 2nd music stage which seemed to be dedicated to dance music although I was drawn to the main stage where a very folky Irish band called the Tantric Monkeys were commanding a cheerfully jigging crowd and the Fire Poi show after them was amazing!

Time passes so quickly and before we knew it we were saying goodbye to our fav establishments, having to remember how to pack our backpacks and think about booking a taxi to the train station. I really liked Arpora, it’s probably my favourite of the northern Goa places we’ve stayed, like with every town it has a less attractive side but on the whole I would return here…….in fact I think we’re already planning it for next year when Paul will continue his dental adventure but knowing what we know we’ll find somewhere a bit closer to the centre of town.


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