Danny Breslin

How it is…

The Candolim cabbie

“You can call me Sam.” The aged man stood proudly next to his taxi, a smile sitting comfortably on a face that bore the wrinkles that told me that it was no stranger to that smile. “What is your pleasure sir? Where would you like to go?”

It was the day after we had arrived in Candolim, Goa. I already loved the place, a sort of 16-year-old kind of first love that makes you all giddy and giggly. I wanted to see more, I wanted to see everything. We had a guidebook and had chosen places that we definately wanted to visit, but on that first day out we just wanted to have a ride around locally, get the lie of the land so to speak. It is something we like to do wherever we go, the taxi drivers know the area, they know places that you might not find in the guidebook.

We went outside the hotel after breakfast where a small queue of Toyota Hiace vans had formed. Front of the line was Sam. I asked him how much it would be to just have a drive around the area for a couple of hours, he replied “Pay me what you want.” I was confused, “Sorry? Can’t you just give me a price?” The smile added to the warm morning sunshine, “My price is what it is worth to you.”

For the next four hours we drove around Candolim and the surrounding area, we saw so many things I can’t even relate them all. Sam’s English was excellent, something I  was grateful for because, although I could speak some Hindi it would be nowhere near enough and my knowledge of the local Konkani was non-existent.

When we got back to the hotel, I fished some notes out of my pocket. Sam told us that if we came out with him the next day he would show us some temples. We agreed to meet him after breakfast. I asked him again how much money he wanted. He shrugged and smiled, holding out his hand he told me to pay him whatever I decided to pay him, no more no less. I put some money in his hand and he stuffed it in his shirt pocket without counting it. I wasn’t sure if I’d given him enough; is this an English thing, this uptightness about money? I don’t like to haggle, just give me a price and if I agree it then I’ll buy, if not I won’t. Haggling is something I just can’t get comfortable with. I had a terrible time in the Tunisian souqs, as you can imagine. Yet somehow with Sam it was ok, it was like he didn’t mind how much you gave him because he was having a good time too.

Over the next two weeks we went out several times with Sam and he showed us jungles, rice paddies, beaches, churches and temples. What an amazing place.

We visited a temple where the local holy man spoke to me for 10 minutes about the history of the temple, I didn’t really understand what he was saying but thought it was rude to interrupt. When he was finished he held out his hand for payment, I thought he was just passing the time with me, a bit of an old chinwag, I didn’t realise he was on the clock. I wouldn’t have minded but I had spent the last 10 minutes dodging the spit balls that fired out of his mouth like tracer rounds. Marion had to walk away because she was laughing that much.

There are many Catholic churches in Goa, left over from when the Portuguese ran the show over there. Although I’m not a religious person, I was taken to mass as a child so I wanted to see what their mass was like. Sam drove us up a winding road into a village where it seemed everybody was headed for the church. The village appeared quite poor but the church stood tall, white and magnificent in the fading twilight.

Marion wasn’t bothered about going in so she stayed with Sam while I went inside and sat on a pew near the back. The service got underway and, although it was conducted in Konkani, the format is pretty standard all over the world so I had no problem following the service remembered from the days before I started misspending my youth. The children on the pew in front of me seemed to find my European presence quite amusing and were often admonished by their mother for turning around and laughing at me. I should charge for providing such great entertainment.

I left just as they were taking communion; as I hadn’t been to confession since I started working my way through the Ten Commandments it wouldn’t be proper to accept communion.

When I got outside Marion and Sam were just pulling up in his taxi, “Where have you been?” I asked her. Apparently they went swanning off to a local bar and left me. Charming! Marion told me that it was the village pub where no tourists ever visit, she had a lemonade while Sam introduced her to the locals.

The next day he came to pick us up from the hotel. By this time we had stopped asking to see places in the guidebook and left it entirely to him to decide where we were going. This time was different though, he drove us out into the countryside and down a rough track to the side of a large pond. “This is my house,” he announced with pride, “And you are very welcome inside, please come, meet my family.”

We followed the old man inside where we were greeted by his wife who sat us down and gave us a bowl of sweet noodles and tea flavoured with cardamon. He took me into another room and showed me his shrine dedicated to Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth. He waved a finger at me and told me it was important to pray. “Be grateful for what you have and thank who you owe it to.”

His son arrived, like his father he had an easy way about him that you couldn’t help but feel comfortable being around. He told us he was building another house next door that he would rent out to tourists. It was certainly in a beautiful spot. Sam’s granddaughter walked in then; a girl of about 17. Unfortunately she had been born blind, but that hadn’t prevented her from learning perfect English. She told me that she wished more than  anything that she could go to University and travel the world, I told her that I hoped she got her wish.

I think that thanks to Sam that fortnight in Goa was made all the more special. On the final day, as we were about to have breakfast at the hotel before heading to the airport, Sam turned up to say goodbye. He handed us a small package wrapped in newspaper, “For your journey,” he said. He got a bit choked up as he hugged Marion and shook my hand. He told us that he had had such a nice couple of weeks with us and assured us that if we ever came back he would be happy to drive us again. When he left we opened the bundle we found he had bought us some bananas. They were small and sweet and I think the best bananas I have ever tasted.



October 12, 2012 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. Your trip sounds amazing..you are right..you didn’t do it justice the first time!

    Comment by originalapplejunkie | October 12, 2012 | Reply

    • It was pretty special. Don’t worry there’s more to come about our visit to Goa, I just wanted to give Sam a shout out because he was such a sweet old guy and he really looked after us well.

      Comment by Danny Breslin | October 12, 2012 | Reply

  2. It’s always lovely to hear stories of such hospitality. They humble you and make you want to be a better person. Thanks for this!

    Comment by Yaz | October 12, 2012 | Reply

    • You’re welcome. I could certainly do with being made a better person. I must admit I was a bit jealous, he was so comfortable with himself and the world around him, I wished at the time I could be that happy. I think now I’m starting to get there and perhaps some of it may be due to him and others I’ve met along the way.

      Comment by Danny Breslin | October 13, 2012 | Reply

  3. These are the travel memories I love best. The ones where you connect with people, not just landmarks, and where relationship and friendship is created. What a neat guy and to have seen Goa through his eyes with all the places he showed you – that’s the way to travel!

    Comment by Audrey | October 12, 2012 | Reply

    • Absolutely, what is the point of me going to a resort where they are all British, spend all the time getting drunk with fellow Brits and dancing to music from the British charts? I might as well stay home and go down the pub every night.

      Comment by Danny Breslin | October 13, 2012 | Reply

  4. Goa is a great place and meeting a man like Sam is special. Did you have any ‘feni’?

    Comment by flyingbubbles | October 13, 2012 | Reply

    • I think so, if it was that coconut stuff a barman forced on me then yes – I’m not a huge fan! Goa is amazing though.

      Comment by Danny Breslin | October 13, 2012 | Reply

  5. Enjoyed that, Unc, sounds like a special couple of weeks.

    Comment by Jamie | October 13, 2012 | Reply

  6. How very interesting!!! 🙂 Sounds like a great book coming.. 🙂

    Comment by colliesofthemeadow | October 14, 2012 | Reply

    • No pressure then? lol. I just hope I can live up to expectations.

      Comment by Danny Breslin | October 16, 2012 | Reply

  7. I’m glad you met such a nice person in Goa. There was a good chance of meeting someone who might have given you an unpleasant memory of your trip. The thing I liked best in your story here is that Sam was comfortable with himself. THAT is commendable, in anyone, anyplace. I find that amazing.
    Hmmm… perhaps, it’s a good time to refresh your India (and Goa) plans. 🙂

    Comment by mj | April 17, 2013 | Reply

    • If I wasn’t spending all my money on fixing up my house I’d be on the plane back to India tomorrow, I loved it there. You might regret inviting me when I come knocking on your door asking for a glass of lassi and settling down to watch cricket with your husband. lol

      Comment by Danny Breslin | April 17, 2013 | Reply

      • Lassi… yes, the lassi season has begun here. The mangoes will follow… and no, you are most welcome. Not a problem at all!

        And you will also be happy to know that both my son and hubby are more football fans than cricket. I’m constantly hearing the names – Man U, Chelsea…. lol!

        Comment by mj | April 18, 2013

  8. Ah MJ that is so sweet of you. Your husband and son obviously have taste is they prefer football over cricket. Do they watch boxing too?

    Comment by Danny Breslin | April 18, 2013 | Reply

  9. […] that happened in Germany (my favourite story ever), France and Belgium, special memories from India and almost causing a bloodbath in Tunisia. And if you’ve read Me & Gus on the Roof of […]

    Pingback by Bogged down « Danny Breslin | November 15, 2013 | Reply

  10. Amazing experience 🙂
    Goa is a beautiful place..I hope to go in the next few years.. 🙂

    Comment by mirrorsndreams | November 23, 2013 | Reply

    • If you see Sam tell him I said hi?

      Comment by Danny Breslin | November 26, 2013 | Reply

      • You can count on me! 🙂

        Comment by mirrorsndreams | November 28, 2013

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