Incredible India: P.S. (Top 10 Lessons Learned)

When I took off from the Singapore Changi airport bound for my Indian adventure, by a strange coincidence one of my favourite movies was on in the aircraft. This was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The idea of the movie is that travelling and adventure are great teachers.

So it was for me during the 24 days spent in the marvelous Southern India. In addition to diverse and splendid sceneries seen, and to fantastic people met on the way, I was constantly confronted with life-learning situations. Here is the list of my top 10 that India had taught me.

  1. Don’t plan too much.
  2. Let your goals be indicators on the way, not “must-achieve-by-all-means” destinations.
  3. Trust the Universe. Everything is OK in the end.
  4. Be open and friendly. Openness attracts beautiful people and situations.
  5. Be a ‘yesman’ (yeswoman). Be open for new experiences.
  6. Be here and now. Life is a wonderful gift.
  7. Be flexible.
  8. Be tolerant.
  9. Smile.
  10. Relax.

Wish everyone find his lessons in incredible India!

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Incredible India: Panaji (Panjim), the Capital of Goa

Since my flight was bound at night, and the bus route to the airport passed via Panjim – the capital of Goa – I decided to stroll in the city centre for a couple of hours. Panaji is a very cute place with a a very string Portuguese influence. It is definitely worth a visit for a day or two. On my way I was lucky to meet a Goa-born Gurudas, an auto mechanic by occupation, who told me a few details about the capital.

Before visiting Panaji, I stopped by in the resort town of Calangute to fulfill an errand from my new and dear friend Tessa – pass over a letter to someone who’s been out of touch for twelve years. I had doubts if I’d find the person, but told myself I’d anything necessary to meet him. And here the magic happened again – I did meet the man, and it simply took asking three people in the street in less than ten minutes! The mission was accomplished, and I was happy.

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Calangute beach is mainly popular with Indians.

I am turning now to my photo impressions of the charming Panaji.

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Busy Kabamba bus terminal

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Bridge across the Mandovi river

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The influence of the Portuguese era can already be felt after crossing the river.

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Fantastic building of the post-office: “Office of the Post Master General”

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The Mandovi river

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Didn’t catch the name of the man here; according to Gurudas, this is a famous minister of Goa.

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What a beautiful building!

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Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

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The church was consecrated back in 1541 (!) Portuguese sailors used to stop here to pray and give thanks to God after crossing the sea.

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View from the church to the main street

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The air inside the church was cool, so I sat down for a while to rest a bit from the afternoon heat.

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Municipal Garden next to the church is another landmark of Goa’s capital.

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Great garden design

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A pavilion in the middle of the garden

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In the garden there is a 12-meter high column with four Asian lions on top.

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Here is what the links represent: power, courage, pride and confidence.

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Youth chilling out

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Another beautiful piece of colonial architecture: the office of “Indiatourism”

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Simply gorgeous

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I absolutely loved these stairs. I took a walk up of course.

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From top the Church could be seen from a different perspective: sinking in green.

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One of the little side streets in Fontainhas district

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How serene is this!

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Have never seen anyone put his name on the garage.

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Nice and quiet

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Wow!

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Panjim Inn in the 19-th century colonial mansion

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Inside the inn’s hall

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Final walk along the river. The footbridge can be seen ahead. 

Incredible India: Arambol (Day 7, lat one)

My last day in Arambol was calm, but not without bright emotions. It’s simply impossible in India. Also, somehow during this day I met most of the people that mattered for me during my stay in Arambol.

In the morning I did my exercises on the beach, swam both in the salty and sweet waters of course, had breakfast in the German Bakery, chatted for with Vova from the meditation camp, and read Tessa’s memoirs.

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Goodbye, my morning friends.

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Goodbye also, my beach friends

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Goodbye, Kalacha Beach and the Meditation Foundation people

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If you are looking for spiritual practices, come to Arambol; there are plenty of them here. The problem, however, is that it may be hard to find the real thing.

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My breakfast at the Germany bakery: French croissant, apple pie, and milk coffee.

In the afternoon I continued reading, sitting in a chair in front of my hut, enjoying the view of the Sweet Lake from top. Afterwards I took a nap, and met Nuri and Nora from the meditation camp to copy a song that I really liked in the New Year’s dancing playlist.

As I was heading for the main Arambol beach for the evening workout, I met Katya, a free artist from Kursk, Russia, who just arrived in the Cottage. I would see her selling her works later on the beach. I also met a girl who performed a beautiful dance the other day on the main beach under the accompaniment of several hand-pans. It turned out she lives in the Sweet Lake Cottage too.

As usual, Arambol beach was full of various people doing various activities – musicians, acrobats, yoga practitioners, artisans from all over the world selling their works, etc. I will miss this super mix of creative energy and diversity. In the crown i met Sasha, a karate master with whom we had trained the other day. We chatted and exchanged our contracts.

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Kundalini sunset yoga near the Sweet Lake

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Beautiful guitar and crystal ball performance at the Arambol beach

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Fire show

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Fire show: climax

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Musical instruments shops at the market street

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I had lived in hut no. 6 for 6 days. Coincidence?

After the workout I had a coffee milk and a lemon cake in the German (in fact, Nepalese) bakery (it became my favourite), and strolled through the night market. The last full day in Arambol was over. Tomorrow I am saying farewell to the place and getting back in the road to catch a return night flight from the Goa International Airport.

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Incredible India: Arambol (Day 6)

Intrigued by the meeting with Grisha (day 5), today I decided to explore a the jungle a bit. As the morning started, off I went along the forest train from my hut.

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Jungle trail

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Thus little stream forms the Sweet Lake

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Signs of people

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First human detected

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And here is the actual living space

Back from the jungle, I did my morning exercises and sat for mil coffee at Dolphin View, where I met Vova with who we hung out the previous night, as well as other people from the meditation camp. Vova and others were starting the 21-day-long Mystical Rose program today at the Meditation Foundation. For one week they laugh; for one week they would cry; and the last week they would meditate.

After breakfast I went to explore the Querim beach north of the Kalacha beach where I stayed.

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Sasha whom I met yesterday is training karate in the morning sun. We didn’t find each other for training today, so agreed on for training tomorrow.

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The rocks that close the Kalacha beach. To reach the Querim beach, I will need to walk for about 20 minutes through such rocks.

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Rocks viewed form the Querim side

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The beach can be seen ahead.

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Querim beach

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I took a mountain trail to get back. In the photo: view on the sea form the hill.

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My title of the photo: “Sister and two brothers”

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And here is my Kalacha beach seen from the top.

Upon return, I went to the market to do web-check in for my flight from Goa bound in 2 days. For lunch I had a tasty cinnamon roll and a mango pie from the German Bakery (run and owned by the Nepalese) together with fresh banana juice. The German bakery’s deserts are tasty and cheap.

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German bakery

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Amazing taste

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Prices are OK notwithstanding the resort

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Inside the bakery

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Juice centre not far from the bakery

As I was walking back along the Arambol beach, I saw a group of guys playing volleyball and joined them.

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I am about to join this volleyball match

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Cute Wi-Fi promotion

With one of the guys I literally crashed when both of us tried taking the ball. This is how I met Roma from Kiev, Ukraine (originally from Lisichansk, an industrial town in the Luhansk oblast’). Roma has travelled extensively throughout Goa, and before that he spent some time in Varanasi. This is one of the places I’d like to visit during some of my next visits to India.

Back to  the Kalacha beach, I had a swim in my favourite Sweet Lake, and relaxed in the hut afterwards. A Russian-speaking couple came over to look for a hut to find them all booked; so I directed them to the huts of the Meditation Foundation, since I had a similar situation.

Later in the afternoon I strolled along the market, an discovered a very tasty and cheap German bakery run by the Nepalese.

The time for the bar exercises came, and I headed to the Arambol beach to have my share. I planned to exercise and than head off for the big concert starting at 7.30 pm with musicians from different countries. It didn’t worked out exactly like this, however; it worked out even better.

At the exercise ground I met Dima, a programmer from Russia, and then Zheka, also a Russian-speaker. We had at least one thing in common – interest in physical work-out. We exercised, talked, and shared out knowledge and experience about working out, diet, different types of sports, and so on. And all this was accompanied by the bright starts and the sound of waves. I learned a great ab exercise. I realized I’d miss the concert, but it felt so good, that I didn’t care.

This night’s work-out experience led me to think about this. One of the things I find amazing about India is that if you are open to the world, you will attract the things and people you need. I mean this happens anywhere anyway, but somehow here this is much more intensive. Another such thing happened also with the concert.

After saying goodbye to the guys and a short swim, I was walking along the beach looking for a place to eat. Intuitively I picked up a place that I felt had a good atmosphere and people. After a great dinner I had no idea which direction to go for the concert, so I asked the staff. The concert was taking place … just behind the restaurant.

The idea of the concert was the following. Many musicians from many countries gathered in one place to improvise with one another. They worked in pairs. After a musician was called on the stage, he had to select a partner. I didn’t enter the concert hall as could hear everything perfectly well behind the bamboo fence; so there was no need to pay the entrance fee. I listened to three compositions. One was hand-pan so popular here and the violin; it was really good. The second was two hand-pans; it was so-so. The third one was the best: hand-pan, flute, and vocals.

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Fire next to the concert hall

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The stairs up to the Sweet Lake Cottage at night

I was back to my hut around 10 pm. What a fantastic day again. Tomorrow is my last one in Arambol.

 

Incredible India: Arambol (Day 5)

The day was so full of events that it feels like a week now. Some of my wishes materialized again today.

In the morning I decided to exercise on the main beach instead of the Kalacha one where I stay. I found many people doing sports there.

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Sunrise at Arambol beach

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Kids are playing cricket.

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Some people are jogging.

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Some are doing yoga.

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And some are practicing boxing.

While I was practicing taekwon-do kicks, a sporty man came up to me and asked whether I was a kick-boxer. The man was Sasha from St. Petersburg, and he turned out to be a karate master. I had wanted for some time to meet a martial artist here. And voila! What talked for a while about the differences and similarities of taekwon-do and karate, and then did light sparring on the sand. All I can say it’s an enormous pleasure to train with an accomplished martial artist and exchange experience! We agreed to have a full training together the next day.

So another wish came true. But this was not the end. I asked Sasha if he saw an exercise bar somewhere on the beach, and voila again! He told me it’s not too far from where we were, and I found it in a short while. The bar turned out to be shaky a bit, so I couldn’t do muscle ups, but for pull ups it was great. There were other pieces of equipment also.

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Yessssssss!

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Love Temple – a place for numerous meditations and practices on the main beach.

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Me too.

After having a short a swim. I headed for breakfast to the town to have a tasty 50-rupee masala dosa. On the road I met Lakshmi from Manali (born in Varanasi) who recommended me a good cafe. I dropped by there after breakfast, and it turned out to be amazing. I spent some time there listening to music, reading a very interesting “The Life of the Cosmos” by Lee Smolin, talking with Lakshmi and Ram.

Best things are usually hidden. If you happen to be in Arambol, do search for the roof-top Om Shanti Cafe that is off the main tourist path. Here you will get a chill-out atmosphere, live music, and tons of interesting people.

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School girls playing

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Cozy Om Shanti Cafe on the roof-top

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Music lesson in progress

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Lakshmi playing chess with Ram – a guitarist, pianist, and historian from Australia

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I found this book in the cafe. It is very special as I read it back in 2005, and it sparked my interest in yoga.

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Another hidden treasure of Arambol – Hindu Giroba temple off the main beach road.

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View from the top

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Next to the temple

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Interesting sculpture

I returned to the Kalachi Beach around 2.30 pm, had a swim in the lovely and fresh Sweet Lake, and had some fruit followed by a nap.

In the evening I headed back to the main beach to enjoy again the newly-found exercise bar. On the way I met Grisha who lived in the jungle. Here is one of the dialogues we had:

– Are there snakes in the jungle?
– Of course.
– What do you do?
– Nothing. I don’t eat them, they don’t eat me.
– Something like Maugli’s “we have the same blood”?
– Yes. If you have pure thoughts and don’t intend to harm anyone, you’ll be safe.

I am sure this applies not only in the jungle.

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This is the spot where I met Grisha who lives in the jungle near the Sweet Lake.

On the way to the sports sport I met a guitarist whom I saw the previous day. Alan was practicing a Scottish country song ‘Jolie’ with the vocalist Olaine. Alan has ten guitars here in Arambol 🙂

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This man has ten guitars.

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Sand art

At the exercise ground I met another interesting person – Johannes from Munich. He looked very athletic, and I found out he’s a sports coach in Munch. Now he was travelling with his girlfriend in India, trying different body practices (physical exercises, yoga, massage, etc); upon return he’d incorporate this into his training programme. Then back in India for new knowledge and back to Munich. So this cycle would go on. I found this pretty remarkable.

I asked Johannes to explain the technique behind the shoulder stand he was doing so well, and he showed me the main preparation exercise – half-stand – which I could make at first try. I was really happy because I’d wanted to learn it for a while.

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Sunrise at Arambol beach

After enjoying the warm ocean I walked back through the beach, which at this sunset hour turned its face from a touristic resort to a vibrant place with many musicians, acrobats, yoga practitioners, and so on. I had my dinner and went again to Om Shanti Cafe, where every Monday there are live concerts. The concert was amazing. There were three hand-pan players and one guitarist. I also met Vova from Russia whom I got to know at the Meditation Foundation, and two of his friend. Actually the only language I could hear in the cafe was Russian 🙂

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Acroyoga – yoga and acrobatics.

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Girl performing a beautiful dance under the sound of handpans

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Evening concert at Om Shanti Cafe

We went back together with Vova as both of us live near the Sweat Lake. On the way we stopped by his friends’ cafe and played one game of table football, which was really fun. Then we walked through the still open market street, talked a lot, and finally reached our destination around 10 pm.

Falling asleep tired and happy.

Incredible India: Arambol (Day 4)

This was a wonderful day full of animals and music. The photos below give some more details of today’s highlights.

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My training partner on the morning beach

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When I returned to the hut from the beach, I discovered someone else had moved into my room.

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I tried to chase the kitty out of the room.

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She pretended to calm down.

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But then squeezed under the door into the room again and occupied the bathroom. I let her stay there. 

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Rocks at Kalacha beach in the morning.

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Went out for a walk in town. In the photo: the main strain of Arambol.

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Fruit stall with very tasty fruit

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Snack shop with cute graffiti

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St Carmel Church

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St Carmel High School

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Money, money, money. A queue of foreign tourists at the ATM. 

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“Where is the seller? I need to buy stuff!”

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After a walk in town I returned to the main beach and headed southwards. The beach is very long in this direction.

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Beach yoga

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There are many Russian-speaking tourists in Arambol. Many restaurants and shops along the beach use Russian language.

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Today I finally met someone playing the guitar. This is Raman from Belarus. He is a guitarist, a professional paraglider, and he lives in the jungle nearby. There are two funny parts about this nice semi-acoustic guitar: it has first string missing; and it is a Givson (with ‘v’), and Indian remake of the famous Gibson brand. Raman told many many musicians go out to ply on the main beach at sunset.

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I’ve been desperately looking for a bar to do pull-ups. This is the only I saw, though this is a tourist attraction. The idea is if you can hang for 2 minutes, you get 1000 rupees. If you fail, you pay 100. A very smart game :). I haven’t seen anyone win. I think it’s almost impossible as the bar is not fixed, it’s rotating.

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There were indeed lots of musicians south off the main beach. I was surprised how the mainstream tourist beach in the daytime transformed into a variety of musical sounds at night. In the photo: man playing a headpan with a very melodical sound.

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This guitar had one string missing too 🙂

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Looks like disco, right? Every evening there are drummers here who play their instruments, and people dance.

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People are playing and singing together.

Incredible India: Arambol (Day 3)

Great day in the idyllic Arambol.

I woke up at 6.30 and went down to the beach. At this hour it was empty. I worked on the blog post for the previous and then proceeded with morning exercises. An amazing feeling to see the sun rising up the hill and feeling its warmth and energy. After taking a short swim in the sea I had another one in the Sweet Lake, I now have a tradition: bathing in the salty water is followed by the fresh one. I really enjoy it.

At the Sweet Lake there was a group of people doing sophisticated yoga postures, like head stands and others. I talked to some of them and discovered that most of them were yoga teachers. No wonder they could perform those complicated asanas with grace and ease.

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On the beach after waking up. Nobody is here except me and the dog.

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Some people play football.
Some people throw darts.
As for me, I prefer martial arts.

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Another dog came buy and lay in the sun.

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Sweet Lake in the morning

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Yoga teachers are having fun.

I went down for breakfast to the Dolphin View cafe and met Kumar there, a fengshui master that I met yesterday. He’s a very interesting and educated man. We had a great conversation about meditation, yoga, fengshui, magic and the like. I the meantime Nora from the meditation camp came along and asked if I wanted to join for a group tantra meditation. I planned to go out to the fruit market, but decided to join as was curious.

The experience can be described as strange. We worked in pairs. There were instructions and music was played along. We tried one technique followed by meditation. I will not describe the experience here. It was nothing like anything else, but after it I didn’t fee like joining again. I thanked Nora for the new experience anyway. During the session I also met a woman named Devim (meaning Divine), a disciple of Osho. That was rather interesting.

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Paragliding is a popular tourist activity in Arambol.

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Beach graffiti: I think this is Shiva.

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

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And another one. All of them can be found on the path between the main Arambol beach and Kalacha beach.

In the afternoon  met some new neighbours from Iran and Russia, and went out to the beach road to get some fruit which I ate upon return. Then I dedicated some time reading the manuscript of Tessa’s book which is fascinating. Towards the evening I walked along the beach at took some photos. I was a bit bewildered to see many people drinking beer and smoking, even though expected this. Many of those were Russian girls.

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Rocks between the two beaches

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A typical view behind the main Arambol beach: guest houses, arrow street, and many scooters that are popular for rent here.

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Main Arambol beach in the peak hour.

At sunset was back on the beach to do evening exercises. Practicing and watching the pink sun sinking into the sea is a stunning feeling. I will miss this when I go.

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And these beautiful rocks can be found at the more scenic Kalacha beach. 

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A lonely girl named Vika

Having concluded my evening practice with swimming in both salty and sweet waters, I returned to “uncle Sasha’s cabin” and relaxed. As I was reading Tessa’s book at the veranda, a cat showed up and sneezed under the entrance door into my room. I chased her or him away. Then a dog appeared and hung around with me for a while, barking at something in the dark. I went down for a dinner to complete the day.

Thank you, Arambol, for another piece of paradise.

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Sunset at the rocks