‘Vacation’ beginning of the financial year gives a kick to many corporate slaves! So did IT, to me like most of us who are wire driven in the lives of an IT organization as I was backpacking on a surprise ‘chotu’ vacation (as described by my manager – yes only 5 days!) on a long weekend in Mid-April.
The destination was very common and my guide (read – Sponsor, Host and Better Half! ) decided to unravel the city with me in a very uncommon way.
Flight on a Friday early noon was the best time to kickstart the chotu vacation and believe me it makes you feel all the more lazy and slowly you can feel slumbering into the mood. To the contrast of my mood of slumber, I was greeted with a blessed Mid-fifties-kitty party-all-punjabi-women-gang who were just raring to land in the sun and sand. And yes, here I was awake – seated just right behind and amidst their high adrenaline chatter trying to figure out if I really want to change my seat. All thanks to my Punjabi better half, I have to settle with the same and was told to enjoy the fever of GOA – and we still were on the soil of the Capital of India.
I could feel the GOA fever in the entire flight which was jampacked while the aviation industry is administering all types of hike in prices. This really pepped my spirits and my belief that its just ‘ONE life’ to enjoy and inflation doesn’t hold that purse! We took off with the pleasantry of the cabin crew and the non-audible pilot who was wanting to share his joy of flying us to Goa.
April supposedly is beginning of the Off-season in Goa and not considered to be the best time to visit the city. However, did we really care, no – stacked with all types of 70 SPF sunscreen lotions and lots of free spirit we landed in the land of sun and sand on time courtesy Indigo Airlines. I was just wishing that the Mid-Fifties gang doesn’t end up meeting me again in any of the beaches I wish to explore – fingers crossed!
The Goa airport – needs a mention in my list to share. For all those who are travelling first time to this city, the airport is a indeed a very small one and if you have a checked-in baggage then a happy 50 minutes wait for your belongings to reach you. To while away that wait period, I quickly hopped on to the customer care window where an elderly man greeted me in Konkani and was super quick to handover the GOA road map to me – too good at his job, he understood without even saying. So with the map in hand and comfortably seated on the trolly our trip began
My guide was confident of our start point – Calengute Beach and rest of the journey was to be unfolded together. A night before our travel, we have booked a resort just very near to the Calengute beach and hence to avoid waste of time in locating that resort we hired the Goa Tourism Taxi from the same elderly man at the Customer Care center. From the Airport which is situated at Dabolim, old goa side to reach the happening north Goa beaches, it takes around 45-50 minutes in the taxi with close to 1000 INR as travel expense in a non ac taxi. There are hoards of affordable accommodation available ranging from 1000 to 3000 INR per night stay(Breakfast can be exclusive at some places). One can choose from a homestay to a budget resort-hotel variety. We chose Santa Monica Resort which was some five minutes ride from the famous beach and had good reviews on many travel sites. Checked in, quickly changed and off to hit the beach. We just stepped out and right next lane was a board outside a house – RENT-A-BIKE. Bingo, that’s what my guide said – Lets go and pick it up and save you from walking down further. Bikes/Scooties are the best bet in Goan roads if you are a explorer category. Auto-ricks and Cabs are pretty expensive and cycle ricks are nowhere to be seen. Being with a sales-man as your guide, you often tend to get great bargains – we got one here too – Rs 200 per day was the rent for that Honda Activa.
Now we had our own roadmistress too alongside a detailed city map, water bottle snacked and yes not to forgot my camera! We hit off the road to reach the nearest petrol pump to refill our scooty. Plz ensure that you have enuf petrol to reach the refilling station as its only one in the entire area of Calengute and Baga.
Stop 1: Already 5pm. Calengute beach – Known as Queen of the Beaches, famous one from the Goan beaches and hence very much crowded. I started shooting my first Sunset of the city tour. This beach gives you a feeling of fun and adrenaline – all sorts of water sports are available and if you are possessing good negotiation skills – a bargain of Rs 1000 for 3-4 types of water sports for a couple is the best way to spend close to 2 hours to start with. We were already overdosed with water sports with our visit to Indonesia and hence we decided to just walk around in the sand and enjoy the sunset.
A nice evening stop with loads of snackers on the beach side and yes you can begin your Goan shopping from here. We picked up bandanas and beach shirts for a steal price. Also do grab the boiled peanuts and icecream lovers – hop on to Natural’s Ice cream parlour right on the beach entrance.
Post the beach walk, we grabbed a bit of quick early dinner with the veggie restra just near the entrance of the beach with some rice and dal fry and quickly made our way to the resort to change into the night gear for kickoff the party soul.
Stop2: 9pm. Baga Beach and the bylanes – Known for the nightlife and TiTo’s. The entire road on both ends is filled with Pubs, open air Bards and it seems as if food fiesta is on till the wee hours in the morning. We wanted to try out TiTo – Mambo’s revamped place so ended up there at 9.30pm – which is a free entry time, post 10.30pm its 1500 INR couple entry. This place plays house and hip hop only so don’t expect Chammak Challo ones. The crowd present is hip-hop and house lovers, while I really liked the food and the ambience and to top it all the IPL match screen was the icing on the cake as we were few souls in that area till 11.30pm. The real party started at 12am onwards while it was only dance-drinks and dance. Mambo’s has a live counter for variety of Dosa’s, idliys, parathas as well in the wee hours you can hog on. Yes, its not moderately priced. The clock struck 2am and we stepped out to try another places in the lane.
Stop3: Subway, Baga Beach – Open till 2am in the morning and the best healthy & light on purse tip off after the entire night of partying in Mambos. If you are not lucky ones and the clock is 3am, then hit the small dhabha at the exact T-Point on the Calengute junction. You can spot this dhaba – serves freshly made Dal-Chawal and any veggie-non veg stuff with 15 minutes wait time. Moderately priced and seems to be hygienic. The Day Zero ended with our crashlanding in the resort at 4am to charge us up with some sleep.
It was a exploration day as decided by my guide. The map, bottles, camera and sunscreen are the essentials stuffed into a small shoulder bag. We decided to start early and left post breakfast to hit the highway leading to Aguada Fort and other places on that way.
Stop4: Aguada Fort – the very famous – ‘Dil Chahta hai’ Fort. It’s a common visiting place – one would enjoy the smooth ride up-hill and the entire stretch of some 9-10 kms from Calengute to Aguada fort is well earmarked with clear direction posts. We reached in flat 20 minutes with few stops en-route. It was pretty sunny and humid and en-route our shopping of hats helped us some shade in the trek. Yes, the ususal click-tamasha on the DCH walls overseeing the huge sea – a good frame for a poster picture. Post the modeling part we took a walk around the fort – checked out its water reservoir which can store gallons of water and this has got the fort – its name – Aguada means –
And hunger pangs, much of walk in the fort left me realy hungry and hence quickly hopped onto the bike to search for a nearby food joint. Way back we explored couple of more places around – names not in the map, yet quite landscapes.
Stop5: We also drove downhill to the Aguada Jail – still functional and while you are reaching the jail, enroute you can spot the Mumbai Diamond Merchant villa. It’s a 100 acres property and I was amazed to see how well planned it was.
Hunger pangs struck me again and we spotted two old ladies selling the Goan Pao with Chutney, Soda and Soft drinks on one of the beaches in sinquierim beach. One can take a dolphin show ride from here for 200 INR per person, while we decided to move further to meet our next agenda. Explore the rest of the beaches and the next one was Sinquerim. Serene and the backdrop of Taj Vivanta property..I must tell you – next time you are on the fully sponspered trip, stay on for a night in Vivanta only!
Stop6: 1pm – Lunch time as the Pao was digested with the entire mid noon exploration, so we decided to reach Punjabi dhaba at the Calengute beach which my guide spotted yesterday. I must say, the choice was really good, the food was very good – pure Punjabi tadka stuff – whether you order Dal makhni, Shahi paneer or Chicken Mughlai with freshly made Tandoor Rotis. And from here we hit back to the resort as the sun was not too gentle and we were really wanting a break from the heat.
Relaxed in the resort till 5pm and with the evening setting up, got back again on our ladybird to set on exploring the rest of the beaches – googled places in our list.
Stop7: Anjuna Beach – very famous, rocky beach known for being one of the hub of trance parties or full moon parties for the revelers. Our interests were different and with the sunset nearby, we picked up our lens and strolled down the coastline, parking our ladybird near one of the shacks. I must say, for anyone who wants to shoot a sunset with plams,rocks and sand – Anjuna beach is the place to be. We got our shotsv done, found another couple trying to click each other – we broke the monotony and clicked few couple pictures for them, and guess what – Indian hospitality – they offered to click us together!
Stop8: Vagator Beach – And we moved on to our next stop of the evening – Vagator beach. The ride from Anjuna to Vagator beach was very smooth and a mix of uphill and downhill and extremely solaced. The sun was walking down with us and we reach the beach – this time we didn’t leave our lady bird alone, drove her till the waters and back to on road to reach the very famous and our tonite’s party place – The SATURDAY EVENING NITE MARKET! Guys, if you are going to North Goa – plan up a Saturday and this night flea market is the place to be. Right mix of live music, international musicians,singers,cuisines,free flowing beer and yes, international crowd too.
Stop9: Saturday Nite – Flea Market – The market is flea market with Indians and International shopkeepers and you could get good bargains too. But we got few classics shots for our Goan Album, had fun with the live music playing in the backdrop and the clock struck 1am! Time to move on to hotel, change and get to a happening Bollywood Disc which I finally figured out.
Stop10: HYPE – Enroute to Mambo’s – one can easily miss out this awesome night party place – ‘HYPE’. It’s the only – or could be one of the only discs which plays my fav-Bollywood music post 1am. So we were there and I could let myself loose with two very awesome DJs playing that night.
And we concluded our North exploration with Hype at around 4am, rushed to hotel to catch few dreams and then get ready for down south part!
Hangover of the last night and thrill of the new day aren’t best friends!
Bidding goodbye to our ladybird was emotional for a second but excitement to explore down south was upbeat in my heart. And as a contrary, my guide kept upto his promise – SURPRISES! We weren’t going by the car – he decided to trek close to 100 Kms by road – not in a car but in local transport – bus, hitch hike and we finally reached out destination in a very economical yet thrilling. For travelers like me who love to bond on the way local transport travel is a bliss, one gets to meet so many people, so many different linguals,beliefs and one get to make friends from the land.
Route we choose: Bus from Calengute till Panaji, change the bus till Madagaon. From Madagaon a two hour journey straight to Palolem Beach. Yes – our new destination!
Sun was acting too harsh on us, but the bus was so king enough to drop us straight at Palolem beach and another surprise for me was awaiting on reaching Palolem – my guide HAD to search for the beach hut. It struck me like a lighting in that full Sunday! With a smile, I made myself comfortable in a beach shack chair with lime soda and slept off. Guide came back with a good news, we have a hut to sleep in and broke my dream of spending the night on the beach like a mermaid.
Check in: Café Del Mar – beach hut right in the middle of Palolem beach and as I walked in to spot our hut – the bamboo pillar has framed certification of right choice – Café Del Mar has been thrice awarded as the BEST BEACH SHACK of SOUTH GOA by Times Food and Times Nightlife.
Elated to the fact that atleast food will be good here, I entered the hut – took the flight of the wooden bamboo stairs straight into the room – believing my eyes was difficult – WOW! A beautiful bed layered in white net, a balcony to remind me of Mr. India dialgoue – Ghar-ghar ke aage balcony- balcony ke aage Samundar!
And I knew, if one abandons me here, I can live in ecstasy all lifelong. The surroundings made my poet soul live and kicking and the camera took a backseat. Serenity in the true sense and gladly I retired in the bed.
From here on, you will not see any Stop 1,2 or 3 as we got struck and awesomely struck with Palolem Beach and its surroundings. Our agenda was clear – Water, Sun and Sand with lots of good food and sleep.
This beach is one of the rare beaches of Goa where the footfall is very selective – in the three days that spent – I could actually remember all the couples, few small groups around us. Primarily most of the foreign visitors were staying in for almost more than a month and acted very much like locales.
Let me take you through our few blissful days where my vocab has got Alzheimers’. Day Zero evening was all about food,wine and music, yes right on the beach with sea water kissing my feet and my guide strumming the right beats with the sky full of night bulbs and the waves dancing to the tunes of silence.
We had a different schedule in South Goa – we rose early mornings all three days – to catch all the early morning buzz of the beach, went on Dolphin spotting and caught three of them in a row, got marooned on the honeymoon beach and awestruck with Butterfly island trip. Got to know the lives of fisherman, met a local neta (politician who owned the small wineshop) and made friend with Goan Dogs. They are damn good swimmers and give you company when you sit all by yourself near the waters.
Nights were all about Bar-be-que stands, silence night party, candle night lamps, English-Spanish-Hebrew chit chats, Football maniacs with beer pints shouting at every missed penalty, soothing music at the background, romance oozing out of the waves. Another best part about Palolem beach was that you can choose to have your breakfast at one shack, lunch at another and dine at any barbeque decorated outside the listed shacks. Many types of different cuisines, options a bit limited for Veggies though.
We had the best of both worlds of Goan life – partied hard in North and relaxed every bit of our partied muscles in sun and sand of South.
And its time to bid goodbye to the Goan serendipity was not very tough as we made a promise to tred another destination very soon – on a route untreaded!
Await that post very soon!
Dev Borem Korum, Goa for the lovely written pages in my life.
-The Wanderer and her Guide.