Monday, September 29, 2008

Lodgings: The Villa Ludovici

One of the benefits of traveling in India is the fact that the value of the dollar hovers around 40 rupees. If you can avoid the tourist traps and indiscriminate extravagances, you can travel and stay for a bargain.

The Villa Ludovici in Goa is the perfect example of excellent service with low costs.

When I stayed there with a friend of mine in December of 2007, five nights - with omelets, papayas and toast for breakfast each morning included - the stay only set us back $100.

We arrived in Goa at the middle of a long day that started when the sun was rising and involved a four-hour taxi ride (where our driver got cited for speeding) and a flight, with the necessity of arriving at the airport two hours early so we could hop on a flight that lasted less than two hours.

Not having researched Goa very much – at all, to be honest – we didn’t really know where to stay. We asked a bunch of travelers in the airport, and settled on the Siquerim Beach area, since it was close enough to the entertainment at Baga Beach to the north and the capital, Panjim, to the south.

Cruising through the Lonely Planet guidebook, I selected Villa Ludovici for its economy listing. A quick phone call settled the rates and reserved a room, then it was a 45-minute taxi ride through beautiful tropical scenery juxtaposed with poverty-stricken villages to arrive at our home for the next five nights.

We were greeted by the friendly owner of what turned out to be not a hotel, but a house. It was actually the first house built on that section of the coast a few centuries earlier. The plaster walls, elegant wood doorways and interlocking clay tiles on the roof all attested to its age. The antiquated electrical work running through the interior struck me as having been original to the 1940s or so.

After dropping off our bags, Deon and I decided it was time to hit Goa’s legendary beaches. As “our” house was right across the street from the beach, it should have been a short walk.

Only it wasn’t.

Not sure about trespassing laws, we hunted and hunted for public beach access until we decided it didn’t exist, and we just walked through a neighborhood, past a construction site and alongside a trash heap to reach the strand.

Turning around, of course, we saw an easy access route we’d somehow missed, but would have allowed us to avoid the hassle we’d just gone through.

After filling up on 85-cent beers and a dinner of fried prawns for a few bucks at a beach shack run by British expats, we headed back to the room for bed.

The mattress was nice and firm, and the blankets were light enough to cover up with and not get too hot in the absence of air conditioning. That’s right, there was no air conditioning. I wasn’t worried about that, as I’ve stayed in condos in Hawaii without AC, and it never proved necessary. The same was true for Goa.

Breakfast the next morning was excellent. I’d slept like a rock, and with absolutely nothing planned for the day except gorging on prawns and tossing back several bottles of Kingfisher beer, I was in seventh heaven.

Deon, on the other hand, was suffering from a plethora of mosquito bites. I made fun of him, and incurred some bad karma that ended with my lily-white skin turning a distinctly reddish hue after the SPF 20 sunscreen utterly failed me during the day (Seriously, it’s all they seem to sell over there. If you need your extra protection, bring your own).

Not wanting to end up with an army of insects feasting on my already-abused body, we asked for, and got, mosquito netting. By the next morning, Deon’s bites were in recession and my sunburn was healing.

That night, it poured. I groaned, lamenting the fact that I’d remembered being able to see sunlight through the roof tiles during the day. Sitting on the patio reading a novel, I knew I was in for a rough night.

And I was completely wrong.

Somehow, the tiles from generations earlier kept the rain out entirely. The restaurant I worked in at home in California had been built seven years earlier, and leaked like a sieve. This house proved far better at withstanding the tropical rain it sees so often.

For the next few days, while eating breakfast, Bessie the holy cow stopped by the gate, always mooing to get in. Cows are sacred in the Hindu religion, and traffic will stop for them if they lie down in the road, but their sanctity doesn’t guarantee their admittance to breakfast. Each morning, after several minutes of gawking, Bessie left.

Paying the bill at the end of our stay, I still couldn’t believe it had cost us each a measly $10 per night. Part of me felt guilty at getting off so cheap, but my rational side won out, reminding me that if it wasn’t profitable, they wouldn’t be in business.

For great value, a decent location and friendly proprietors, I couldn’t have been happier with the Villa Ludovici.

1 comment:

VC said...

Great travelogue (if I may call it that). Well written :)