Retirement planning – dynamics of time and activities

Of late, I have been doing a lot of reading on the topic of retirement planning. I must say that, while there has been a certain level of interest about retirement issues in India now, much of the good inputs come from the US, where this has been a topic of great interest over several decades. One of the areas most of the financial community there agree on is the need to structure your decades of retirement by activity levels. In this post I will try to suggest a framework, we can adopt to our context in India.

One of the important differences between US and India that we need to keep in mind is the age of retirement and life expectancy. Many people in the US work till the age of 65 and consider they will live till 90. In the Indian context, it will make sense to look at these figures at 55 and 85 respectively. Yes, I know many people retire at 60, but with the focus on shorter career spans along with many wanting to look at doing other things, 55 will be a good age to aim for. Moreover, with the passage of time, more people are going to have non-traditional careers where the working in regular jobs will have shorter life span. The other aspect is life expectancy – I feel with the current state of medical advances, it will be logical to take 85 as the figure. Again, it is possible to live beyond that and you must factor that into your plan. In the end however, a 30 year retirement period which you need to plan for and fund will probably do the trick.

Ok having established the above, let us now turn to a framework of the 3 decades. I will follow the terminology from an US blogger. He calls the first decade to be the Go-Go decade, where you are going to be quite active. This is the time to catch up on all the family visits, travel the world, organise your monetary and other affairs, spend time with your adult children and to indulge in the hobbies and interests for which you may not have had much time during your working life. The second decade is termed as the Slow-Go decade, where you still do much of the earlier stuff, health permitting, but there is a palpable slowing down in both the numbers and frequency of activities. The final decade is termed as the No-Go decade where you will mostly be indoors with limited activities.

If we adopt this framework to the Indian context, how will things look? I can think of the following for the first decade, in terms of the situation and the activities:-

  • You will still be actively engaged in some professional activities but not a regular job any more.
  • Your income will mainly come from passive category with some active income.
  • It is likely that your children are into their careers now or at least finishing up their post graduate education. 
  • They will also possibly get married in this decade of your life.
  • With time and hopefully money in your hands, you can look at travelling much more than you have done earlier.
  • You may want to replace some assets such as cars or white goods.
  • You can also indulge in your hobbies and interests in a more significant manner. If these are outdoor in nature, this is obviously the best decade to do so.
  • You will settle down in your home town or your place of retirement during this decade. Catching up with friends and family there will be a good part of leisure.

In the second decade, the professional activities will probably cease. Your outdoor aspects such as travel or any active sports will also taper off gradually. While you will still be healthy ( hopefully ), you will not be too inclined to venture out of home. This will probably be a time to view movies in home theatre as opposed to the cinemas and to order food in as opposed to driving out to a restaurant.

In the third decade when you are 75 plus, it is very unlikely that you will engage in a lot of activities that require a lot of physical exertion. Yes, it will still be important to do regular exercises, but your travels and other outings reduce drastically. Visits to the doctor are, unfortunately, going to increase in frequency. We can look at this decade as the winding down phase, where you should take care of your affairs, rest as much as you need to and hope that the passing away, when it happens, is a relatively smooth affair.

What happens if you live longer than you have estimated? We need to understand that this is possible, given that many people are living well into their 90’s nowadays. While you will either be almost inactive, if not in some long term care facility, there is clearly a need to plan for this financially. The last thing you need at this stage of life is to worry about money or being dependent on your children when you are at your most vulnerable. Any financial plan should include a final 5 years for you and your spouse.

Once you have chalked up your road map, we can start to put a financial dimension to it. This should be done in a bottom up manner, by understanding your lifestyle and then working out the relevant cash flows needed in the 3 decades. This is conceptually a little difficult and I will explain with a personal example in the next post.

Advertisements

Revisiting my life plan

The end of the year is normally a good time to assess how your life is going on and how is it likely to look in the future. In the last few days, I have given some thought to it and have decided that there may be a few changes to what I had considered 3 years back, when I had started in my Financially independent ( FI ) state. Let me share it in this post.

As you would have read in several posts, I am in an FI state, thereby not really needing any active income to take care of my expenditure. However, I have a Management Consultancy practice and earn active income out of it. Much of it currently goes into investments. While I can continue with my consultancy practice for the next few years, I am thinking of a few other areas where I can spend my time professionally. The first of these is a business venture, which I have thought of seriously over the last year. It is a fairly interesting concept and does not need too much funding. However, it needs a group of founding investors as anchor and I am thinking of some active work in this area from now on. It will probably take another 1-2 years to take off but the effort of getting the team together and kicking it off has to start. The second area is to invest actively in the stock market in a serious manner. Now, while my stock and MF portfolio is of fair value, I do not actively buy and sell in the market. With more time in my hands this is something I plan to look at. The third area will be to monetise the blog or write on topics which are of interest to me.

Depending on how the above things go, I am probably looking at being actively involved  in work, as we know it, for the next 5-7 years or so. Beyond that, my own estimate is that I will live for another 25 years, where I do not have any vocation, only my hobbies and interests to keep me busy. Not that I have ignored my hobbies or interests otherwise, in fact I have generally been happy about the work life balance I have been able to achieve.

One important factor to consider is where will we be living. As of now, we are in Hyderabad and there are really two options that I am considering. The first, is to continue being here for the next 2-3 years. The other option is to look at a shift to Kolkata in the next calendar year. The flip side to that may be the opportunities available for my consultancy, should I decide to continue it. Long term plan will be to shift to Kolkata anyway. Even though we have an apartment in Chennai, we do not plan to go there as the climate does not really suit us. Of course, another consideration in Kolkata will be whether we should own a place or rent it. More of this in another post, but if long term rent options are available, I will prefer it to buying a place.

All Indian families have their children as a key consideration and we are no different in this regard. Fortunately for us, both our children are well on their way to getting settled in life. My daughter Rinki is an Engineer from BITS Hyderabad and is presently pursuing her MBA from XLRI. She will complete her course in March 2018 and is likely to get a job of her liking in some company. My son Ronju is doing a dual degree course in Msc Maths and BE Computer Science from BITS Goa. He will complete his course work in May 2018, though there will be mandatory internships of 1 year. Of course, he may decide to do a PG course later on but that is a future issue. In the meantime, it is unlikely that our children will stay in the same city as us. As far as their marriages go, we will live it to them for deciding the time and partner. We will fund the wedding expenses and I am keeping a separate track of it.

What will be the key activities that we will engage in? Well, travel within and outside India is a passion that both Lipi and I share and in the next 10 years we will do that a lot. Our other interests in movies, cultural events, dining, sports etc are also likely to keep us busy in the first decade. Over the next decade, it is very likely that our going out will reduce considerably and we will have more indoor activities such as reading, tv and hopefully some family time with our children. Health is something we are reasonably all right with so far and hopefully we will not have any major mishaps along the way.

So far so good – what will be the cash inflows required to get these funded? Do I have the requisite financial assets to take care of this life plan? I will attempt to answer these questions in the next post.

 

Cash outflow in retirement is a function of lifestyle

Over the years I have planned my financial independence, where I would have no need for an active income. This entailed creating the 3 portfolios of Debt, MF and stocks. If you are interested you can search my blog to read about my financial planning, there are quite a few posts on it. The important thing to understand here is that for me and anyone else, the amount of money needed in retirement will be a function of the lifestyle you want to lead. 

For example, you can say that you just want to have a simple lifestyle in your home town without too many activities such as entertainment, dining out or travel. In this case, your expenses are likely to be reasonably controlled and maybe a figure of 6 lacs in current prices will suffice annually. On the other hand you may be a person who wants to have a vacation abroad every year, visit your children once in 6 months, have a car and driver to take you places etc. In such a scenario even 15 lacs per year may not be adequate.

So how do you go about estimating the kind of cash flows you would need in order to be able to have the lifestyle you want? One of the major assumptions I will make here is that your retirement period is 3 decades. Since most of the people retiring today are unlikely to do so before they reach 50 and almost many will look at 60 years or close by, this is a reasonable assumption. The mistake most people make is that they feel the expenses will be constant over the period of these 3 decades. In fact many people I know spend less initially as they are worried about inflation and their money running out.

If you look at this in a logical manner, you will probably do far more activities in the first of the three decades. Let us say you have retired at 55 years – now till you are 65, you will probably be in good health and therefore be in a great position to indulge in your hobbies and passions. The second decade will definitely see a reduction in the physical activities, for example your frequency of travel will reduce significantly. The third and final decade will probably see very little activity outside home.

Now, if we have to provide a framework for all the cost elements that are required to be funded in retirement, it will probably look like this :-

  • Accommodation : Most people having their own house or apartment will need to have maintenance costs. Even if you are having a property somewhere and can fund your accommodation expenses through it’s rent, you are in good shape. In case you need to rent that will prove progressively more expensive with each year and therefore need a fair amount of assets.
  • Running costs : These include daily living costs such as food, help expenses, utilities, maintenance, entertainment, clothing etc
  • Insurance : Term insurance should be junked in retirement and you need to have Medical and home insurance for as much as you can possibly afford.
  • Asset replacement : You will need to replace some furniture, quite possibly several white goods and also your car, once or more in these 3 decades. It is best to be prepared for it, very often we do not take it into account.
  • Children related : I hope the higher education of the children and maybe marriages are over by the time you retire. Even if they are not, you need to keep a separate fund for it. Do not mix it with your retirement goals or plans. Also, while it is perfectly all right to give gifts to children, in your retirement you r children should not be needing monetary support from you in any manner.
  • Travel : If you are a travel crazed person, like I am, you better estimate these expenses in a proper manner. Travel abroad is obviously expensive but even travel within India is getting there, especially if you account for the fact that at an advanced age you will need to travel in some comfort.
  • Hobbies : Whether it is Golf, attending live music shows or visiting literary or theatre festivals, hobbies can be expensive. However, at this stage of your life you do need to indulge in them and therefore you have to plan accordingly.
  • Health related : Even with health insurance, there is no guarantee that all mishaps will be covered adequately. As the decades go by, whatever you reduce in travel and hobbies should be kept for this purpose.

We can keep adding other categories but the above are good enough to arrive at a reasonable basis for our retirement expense calculations. How do you do it?

  • Take your running costs based on your current expenses at the time you retire. Let us say this is X.
  • Take other costs as a factor of X. For example if you are a frequent traveller then you may want to keep 0.5 X as your costs here for the first decade. Remember it is also a function of what X is. For example if you live frugally then X may be 4 lacs and you may need to keep 3 lacs for travel, especially if you are looking to travel outside India.
  • Some costs are not annual in nature. For example asset replacement may well cost you 5X BUT it will be only once in 10 years or so.

I hope you have understood the concept by now. Doing this for 3 decades will tell us what is the total cash flows that we need at current costs. You can then check as to whether you have adequate inflows either from your assets or other sources.

The proof of the pudding is always in the eating though, and I will explain this framework with my personal situation in the next post.

A passage to Konkan coast

We are just back from our Konkan travel and, all things considered, it was probably one of the best vacations we had in recent times. It had been a long cherished desire of mine to view beaches of the Arabian sea from all States and, over the years, I had covered Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Diu and Gujarat. As for Maharashtra, my forays were limited to the Mumbai beaches and I was very keen to visit beaches on the Konkan coast.

People who are interested in the travel planning can read about it here. Travel logistics are covered in this post. In the present post, I will cover the actual trip which started on 20th November early morning and ended on 25th November evening.

Our flight to Goa was at an unearthly hour of 5:40 AM, so we woke up at 2:30 AM and were in the car by 3 AM. In the morning hours drive on the ORR is a pleasure and we reached quite fast. Hyderabad airport was rather crowded even at that hour and it took us a fair time to get through security check. As is our practice nowadays, we headed to the airport lounge. It was way too early for breakfast but there were enough food items along with some decent coffee. Thankfully the flight was on time and we reached Goa in an uneventful manner, catching up on some lost sleep of the night before. Goa is like a second home to us, courtesy our Timeshare and our son Ronju studying there. This time we went to the Colva beach after picking up Ronju from BITS. Sitting at the beach shack, savouring some breakfast while watching the sea and catching up with Ronju was a great way to kick start the vacation.

Our train was from Madgaon at 12 noon but the winter timetable had changed it to 2:30 PM. Though it was a trifle bugging, as experienced travellers we take things in our stride and had a fairly interesting lunch in the station outlet Benjoes. The train ride was a short one, we reached Kudal at around 4:30 PM. Our first experience of the views from the train were quite favourable, especially the backwaters and the lush greenery of the western ghats. From Kudal the only viable option for Tarkarli travel is an auto rickshaw and having engaged one, we reached the MTDC resort around evening.

Tarkarli is a nice place, though a little desolate and the MTDC resort has great location. The Konkani cottage which we had booked, overlooked the sea and you could just take a 50 meter walk to reach it. Service at the resort is quite good and prompt, though the room could have done with better upkeep. The restaurant has been let out to a private party and we got friendly with the Chef there. Food was generally good to taste and the fish/prawns were great though a trifle on the dearer side. These places are all about experiences though and we had our fill of it in the 3 days we were there. Sitting in the Gazebo and having dinner while listening to the sea, wading through the sea waves along a long and isolated beach, lying on a hammock with the sea breeze rustling the tree leaves – you can take your pick, I liked all of these.

Tarkarli has two main activities and we did those in the two days we were there. First is seeing some nearby beaches and the Sindhudurg fort which you need to reach via a ferry. While the beaches were nice the fort was spectacular. I was glad of my fitness levels as it takes a fair bit to climb the fort walls, in order to get views of the sea. However, such efforts were greatly rewarded by the absolutely glorious views of the Sea which you get to see. Shivaji had great foresight with building this fort and it was one of the main reasons why the Marathas were able to hold on to their own against the naval threat from the colonial powers. There is also a beautiful Rock garden worth visiting, mainly due to the sea views again, though the landscaping here is brilliantly done too.

When in Tarkarli, one must do the boating in Karli river and see the notable points namely Dolphin point, sangam where the river meets the sea and Tsunami island. The ride through the river and the sea in a fairly rickety boat was quite an adventure and the sights of the villages and the various moods of the sea made the exercise worthwhile. We engaged in some water sports activities available in the Tsunami island. The speed boat and water scooter were predictable but the Bumper boat ride, where you sit on an inflated rubber sofa and are dragged at great speeds by a speed boat was definitely adrenaline pumping and hair raising. In the evening I also tried para motoring where a jeep pulls you hanging from a parachute. Quite an experience !!

Ganapatipule is about 200 Kms from Tarkarli and we hired a car to take us there. Even though this was a bit on the expensive side, the coastal route was replete with temples, beaches, backwater stretches and lush greenery. The combination is rather unique and I doubt whether we will have something similar elsewhere in India. We had our lunch in Ratnagiri – once again the ubiquitous fish thali, which we were getting rather used to. The drive from Ratnagiri to Ganapatipule is a very nice one with great sea views again from a height.

Ganapatipule beach is really the best beach I have seen. It is a white sand beach, stretching across a long way and as it can be only accessed easily from the MTDC resort, it also gives you a splendid sense of isolation. Lipi and I took long walks on the beach, watched two glorious sunsets and marvelled at the myriad hues of the sea. Our room was on the first floor and the balcony provided magnificent sea views. If you are too lazy for activities, just sitting on a chair and watching the sea waves will be an excellent idea. The in-house restaurant, Tarang, is run very well and has great food selections. 

Right next to the beach is the famous Ganesh temple, visited by countless devotees all over the year. If you are a religious person you will be deeply moved by the reverence showed by the worshippers there. Even otherwise, the location of the temple as well as the idol of the deity’s Mount makes it a very unique shrine. Do not miss out on the laddu which is given as prasadam here. In addition to the temple, an open air museum named Prachin Konkan, depicting how people lived in a typical Konkan village in early times is worth a visit. We also went to a new wax house, having some wax figures created by an American sculptor. It is a novel attempt though you can be excused if you think that the similarity to real life is not a great one. 

It is possible to visit the Jaigad fort and a couple of other beaches but with limited time at our disposal, we wanted to maximise our experience of the beach. Soon it was time to bid adieu to the place and, once again, the journey to the Ratnagiri station offered us great views of the Konkan coast. The vastness as well as the beauty of the Arabian sea has no better viewing point than this journey. We boarded the Jan Shatabdi train in the Vistadome coach – it is one having large windows and glass all around for maximum viewing surface. Despite the high cost of tickets, it is absolutely worth it and allows you to view the western ghats as no other mode of transport will do. Through this travel one can appreciate how tough it must have been to build Konkan Railway and how significant it has been for the lives of the people in this region.

All too soon, the train journey ended and we were back in Madgaon. A taxi ride to the Goa airport, an Air Asia flight to Hyderabad and finally another taxi ride saw us back home on Saturday evening. It was a matter of only 6 days but the experience was for a lifetime. Konkan coast can be addictive and I am sure we will be back in the near future, there is so much to see yet.

In the meantime, I will plan for other travels – it is the elixir of good living that keeps me motivated to carry on the other parts well. 

Travel to the Konkan coast – the logistics

In the last post I had outlined the way I arrived at the plan and the route for our Konkan vacation. Once this phase is over, the next tasks are to look at the bookings. In general you will need to book for transportation and accommodation. Of course, there is the issue about local conveyance as well but we normally deal with that when we reach our destinations – it is easier this way as you have greater options.

As I said in the previous post we were fine with the dates and did not need a fixed itinerary. As such I started with the air bookings. Let me take you through a step by step process so that others would be able to follow it easily:-

  • I started by checking any 6 day range where the morning flight to Goa and an evening flight back to Hyderabad were reasonably priced. You can do this through many websites. http://www.makemytrip.com  and http://www.easemytrip.com are normally the ones I choose to look at.
  • In the first one you have a convenience fee of 300 Rs per ticket which is not there in the other one. However, the first App lets me get some cashback on the tickets as long as the charges are 6000 Rs plus.
  • In this case the cashback was not working out so I booked the EaseMyTrip deal.
  • We got a really early flight to Goa which will leave us enough time for reaching Madgaon station. Similarly, we got an evening flight from Goa.
  • Ideally one should book about 60 days in advance to get the best rates but we started plans a little late for this trip. Even then the overall cost for the two of us came to about 10000 Rs which was reasonable.

Before booking the ticket I had checked the accommodation availability for those dates – 3 nights in Tarkarli and 2 nights in Ganpatipule. I chose the Maharashtra tourism properties as they had the best location and normally these places are tourist friendly. You can do only booking at the Maharashtra tourism website. This proved to be quite a bit expensive based on what rooms we chose. Unfortunately, the GST rate reduction had not happened by then so that was a double whammy. The total accommodation costs came to about 16500 Rs. Of course there were cheaper options in these properties and you can also look at other staying alternatives. However, these places and the rooms were aligned well to what we were looking for in a vacation, so it was all right.

The final part was the train bookings. We booked a chair car from Madgaon to Kudal and a Vistadome coach seats from Ratnagiri to Madgaon. I had again checked the availability before the other bookings and had been relieved to see that there were enough seats. The First journey was 670 Rs but the other one was rather expensive at 2520 Rs. However, travelling by the Konkan railway has been a long cherished desire and we definitely wanted to try out the Vistadome coach.

What are the other costs that will be associated with the trip. There are quite a few, but the ones I can think of right now are as follows:-

  • Food – both of us love food and we are looking forward to sampling both Maharashtrian and Konkani cuisine. 
  • Transportation from home to airport, Goa airport to Madgaon station and back.
  • Local transportation from Kudal to Tarkarli, sightseeing in Tarkarli, travel to Ganapatipule, sightseeing in Ganpatipule / Ratnagiri etc.
  • Backwater and sea cruises + other water sports.
  • Buying some souvenirs from these places.

While I do not really know what will be the costs here it will be safe to assume a figure of 20000 Rs or so. That will bring the overall expenses to the trip at 50000 Rs or so. Is is a tad excessive? Well, it can be done a lot cheaper but that depends on you.

For me, this is an amount I am willing to spend and am looking forward to our trip with great anticipation. I’m almost definite it will be well worth it and will update the readers through a travelogue once we are done.

A travel plan for Konkan beaches – the conception

People who know me, either personally or through my blog, will be aware that I am an aficionado for travel. Seeing new places and the whole exercise of conceiving and planning for travel really gets me excited. The actual travel is rejuvenating but even the anticipation which starts with the plan is great. Many people have asked me as to how I plan for my travels and in this blog post let me talk about the trip we are planning to undertake in the near future.

While there are several great places to see in India, beaches have always held a great interest for me. India is blessed with a really long coastline, three glorious seas and countless beaches to choose from. Over the years we have covered a lot of beaches starting from Kanyakumari to Digha on the east coast and to Mandvi on the west coast. On the western coast we have done Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and even Diu/Gujarat beaches but not the ones on the Konkan coast. Maharashtra beaches are less visited but they are very highly talked about and I have wanted to go there for a long time. As our anniversary is in late November, it seemed as good a time as any to plan this out.

For making a travel plan, I first read up to gain knowledge about the area in order to decide on the places to visit as well as the activities to engage in. There were some good travel blogs available for Konkan travel as well as great websites with a wealth of information. The Konkan coast stretches from Mumbai to Goa and there are several great beaches along it. However, two major ones are Ganapatipule and Tarkarli and with the time at our disposal being a maximum of 5-6 days, I decided to stick to these two. Based on the blogs I viewed it seemed that 2 nights both in Tarkarli and Ganapatipule would be adequate to cover what we would want to see there.

One the broad plan is there, the next step is to figure out how to reach there and which route to follow. Here again, the blogs and the road maps of Maharashtra were a great help. As trains to those parts from Hyderabad are few and take too much time we were able to rule out that option. The bus was also rejected for the same reason as the journey to Kolhapur by an overnight bus would be an exhausting one. I was quite keen on going by our car as I like driving and we have not gone on a long drive for ages. However, my wife Lipi was not keen on a 9 hour drive to Kolhapur and further to the Konkan coast. It would take 2 days to get there and back and 2 nights stay in Kolhapur too. Also, I saw that the new Vistadome coach has started on Konkan railways and we were keen to try that out. We had a great experience recently in a similar coach when we went from Vizag to Araku valley. Read about the details in this post if you are interested.

For Tarkarli it is convenient to go through Goa, from where you can take a train or car. As the Vistadome was not available easily on the days we searched and the timing was not good, we finalised on the following route:-

  • Travel by air from Hyderabad to Goa on Day 1.
  • Take a train from Madgaon to Kudal on Day 1.
  • Reach Tarkarli from Kudal by car/auto on Day 1.
  • Stay at Tarkarli and do activities / excursions on Day 2 and Day 3.
  • Reach Ganapatipule through Ratnagiri on Day 4 afternoon.
  • Stay at Ganapatipule on Day 4 and Day 5 nights.
  • Travel between Ratnagiri and Madgaon on Day 6 morning in the Vistadome coach.
  • Catch the evening flight from Goa to Hyderabad on Day 6 evening.

The above plan would accomplish all that we had in mind, though it would be a little expensive due to air travel etc. However as it was not a priority issue for us we were able to fix on this plan. Note that the dates were not fixed as they would depend on the bookings etc. Fortunately, I am rather flexible with my time nowadays, so it does not really matter when we start the trip.

We had to take care of the actual travel logistics next in terms of the transport and hotel bookings. Let me write about it in the next post.

A Goan sojourn

Travel is really what keeps me going and my family likes it too. Of late, with college going children, it is somewhat difficult to plan family vacations but we do what we can. On the other hand, it does give Lipi and me enough flexibility to plan our travels. We have been going to Goa every year since 2014 and have just come back over the weekend from another trip which was both relaxing and rejuvenating.

Why do we go to Goa so often? Well, for starters, it is a great place for visits and we have a Timeshare with Karma Royal who have most of their resorts in Goa. Since 2014 an incremental motivation is our son Ronju being there for his college in BITS Pilani, Goa campus. It has made sense for us to take our week in Goa so that we get to meet him briefly as an added bonus. Karma has 4 resorts in Goa, so we can rotate these as desired.

This year, we went to Goa between 5th and 12th August. As is my wont, I planned the trip way back in February and this resulted in us getting a good unit in Royal Palms as well as getting air tickets at very decent rates. In fact our total air fare came to less than 9000 Rs. The unit was practically free, though we have to pay a great deal of maintenance on it for having this ownership. As Ronju would stay with us for a couple of days, we took a one bedroom unit this time. It was spacious with a separate sitting area, kitchen, bedroom and washroom, apart from the two balconies. The resort is near Benaulim beach and is landscaped quite well, with a nice swimming pool, restaurant and bar.

Coming back to the actual trip then – we started on 5th and spent some time in the Plaza Premium Lounge before boarding our flight. Our credit cards allow us to do this and it helps us to avoid having overpriced and often, not so good, meals at airports. In this instance we had a pretty decent late breakfast which was still being served there. The flight only took an hour and we were soon in Goa airport. We booked a pre-paid taxi, picked up Ronju who had come there and were soon on our way. It was a good ride and I always find the localities in Goa quite interesting, especially that most of them have a lot of greenery. The check in was smooth, us being members and all, and we settled into our unit which was to be our home for the next 7 days.

The first evening we went to the Benaulim beach which is our favourite haunt. The beach has two good restaurant, namely Johncy’s and Pedro’s. We normally prefer Johncy’s as it is closer to the beach and offers both great food and views. After an early dinner, we went to the local superstore to stock up provisions for breakfast etc. The final stop for me was a liquor shop, every locality of Goa is dotted with these. The rates are great there, was able to buy 500 Ml Kingfisher cans for 50 Rs and a bottle of Blenders Pride for 475 Rs.

Ronju was to go off on Sunday evening so we made a trip to Kolva beach on that day. Unlike Benaulim, where the crowd is less, Kolva is a pretty happening beach with multiple shops and water sports options. We were unable to catch the sunset courtesy the dark clouds but it was a good way to spend the evening. Later on we went for a longish walk towards Margao and had dinner at a local Goan Cafe. A great thing in Goa is that the food is almost universally good, whether you eat at a high end restaurants or in a beach shack. Also, almost any restaurant worth it’s ilk is automatically a bar too.

Once Lipi and I were on our own, life settled into a rhythm for the next 5 days. I would wake up early and go for a morning walk along the beach while Lipi luxuriated in the knowledge that there was no real need to get up if one did not want to !! I always find walking along the beach, listening to the sound of the relentless waves rather relaxing and there are few better ways to spend time. We would normally have breakfast in our unit though one day we broke the routine and went to Pedro’s for brunch. The Spanish omelette there with Ham, potatoes and onion is simply divine though their Hot Chocolate could do with a lot of improvement, greater quantities of chocolate being one of them.

After breakfast we normally went out for some sightseeing or just relaxed in the resort. One day we hired a car and went off to Agonda and Palolem beaches which are about 40 Kms from the resort. These are probably the best beaches in Goa, especially Palolem which extends over a large area. The restaurant called Silver Sands is placed quite strategically and we had great views of the sea while sampling Golden Fried prawns and Goan fish curry for lunch. Apart from the beaches, the journey itself was a memorable one, long winding roads through Goan villages, forests and some hilly terrain too. This was a case of both the journey and the destination being equally worthwhile.

Another day we went to the Bigfoot museum which is a must see for anyone visiting Goa. This is an open air museum having a model of a typical Goa village with life size statues. You get to see the various facets of their daily lives and the commentary is both crisp and lucid. We probably learnt more about life in Goa from the museum than we ever would by reading books etc. Most importantly, it is really something one can enjoy and completely challenges the drab way in which most of our museums are presented. The Old Portuguese Mansion, next to this museum is also worth seeing. You will get to know a great deal about how Portuguese noblemen lived in Goa. The distinction with how the Britishers  lived is quite evident. Interestingly, many such houses dotted all over Goa are still lying empty as their owners neither stay in them nor have they disposed off these. We rounded off our museum visit with lunch at Nostalgia, a speciality Goan restaurant.

Among other activities at the resort, I introduced Lipi to playing Pool one day. She acquitted herself rather well and will get better with practice !! The wi-fi in the resort was good so we could post all our pictures rather easily on Facebook and I also got to do some work. Lipi too was able to order some stocks when the market fell precipitously over the week we were there. At other times I may have got worked up about my portfolio declining badly, but when you are in Goa you tend to take a relatively laid back look at such things. I did manage to catch some cricket and the hyper debates on TV too.

All too soon, the week came to an end and we were to travel back to Hyderabad on Saturday. As our flight was only in the afternoon, we combined a trip to the Bogmalo beach and Naval Aviation museum with the airport drop. Bogmalo beach is relatively less known but quite nice, we saw it for the first time in this trip. We had Kingfisher strong, Watermelon juice accompanied by vegetable pakodas as we watched the sea for the last time in this trip. It could have been rather poignant but we will be back soon.

The Naval Aviation museum is one of it’s kind in Asia and outlines our Naval history in a great manner. The aircraft  shown are real ones and have a glorious history, especially with relevance to the 1971 war, where the Navy played a decisive role. If you are in Goa do not miss this and be sure to look at the photographs and the models too.

Our return was good and uneventful and we were back on a Saturday afternoon to Hyderabad. This was a really good trip with all the ingredients in a great cocktail of experience – family time, good food, great beaches, culture, history etc. We will now wait for the next travel.