Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bohemian Goa

Goa is one of "those" places, where you end up so many times in your life (and if you have ever stayed in Mumbai, this number would be much higher!). This place is just so amazing that many times I wonder what it is that is so special about it. But its just so much fun and relaxing, I think can spend a long time there and still not have been able to explore all it has to offer...

Goa is mostly famous for its beaches and the night life at some of the popular beaches. Anyways have been to Goa a couple of times and each trip has been so different than the last one, that I always wonder, "What is the real Goa??"!! Not figured that out yet though but still working on it:).

Goa and its beaches are split between the north and south Goa beaches. The north Goa ones are the more crowded and hippie ones, the popular ones being Baga, Calangute, Arambol and Anjuna. They are famous for their beach parties, the night markets, the clubs and the crowds.

We stayed at Baga once, in the hotel next to the only Subway in Goa:). It was quite a happening and lively place and enough to keep you occupied for a long time! The beaches here are good with clean water. Some of the beaches are sandy while some are stony beaches but everywhere, you have a lot of crowd.You should also definitely buy some of those brightly coloured shirts and skirts available at the beach shops. They are so Goan, you would definitely want to be seen in those when in Goa. There are lot of places on the beaches itself to eat, where the tables and chairs are put on the beach itself during dinner time, while during the day you can eat at the makeshift straw-shacks on the beach itself.

Also nearby on North Goa itself is Fort Aguada, where the movie Dil Chahta Hai was shot. Its a popular place to watch the sunset from too.

South of these beaches comes Panjim, the capital of Goa. Compared to the rest of Goa, the city is very boring. Its like any other city, with offices and some small beaches which are not really impressive. It has two famous beaches, Miramar and Dona Paula. Dona Paula is a stony beach and has some water sports apparently.

From Panjim, you can also visit old Goa, which retains its Portuguese ancestry. People dress differently, the houses and architecture is different, the air is also completely different. There are two famous churches here itself, right opposite each other. They are a must visit for all.

And South of Panjim are what are called the South Goa beaches. They are white sand beaches and much less crowded than the north Goa beaches. In fact, a lot of the famous resorts are located in the south with a lot of them having their own private beaches.

My last trip to Goa, I finally went to South Goa and absolutely loved it. We took a train from Mumbai to Mudgaon and then onwards from there to Palolem Beach. The drive till Palolem is quite pretty, through heavily forested hills and twists and turns in the road. We stayed at Palolem itself and it was indeed my best stay in Goa!

Palolem beach has shacks running across the beach, but it is still not very crowded. There are not that many tourists visiting here, mostly people who are staying there itself. Its sparkling at night too, when its all lighted up. A good place to have meals is the Draupadi restaurant, it had such tasty food, it was heavenly...yummmm..

The water is very clean here, though very placid. Since the beach is curved inside, its surrounded by land on almost three sides and hence does not have too many waves. Its good for swimming and safe too as its quite shallow, but not good for body surfing.

We stayed at the Palolem Beach Resort which is right at the beach itself. Was a good place to stay, and given how much we paid for it, a steal!! The hotel had a restaurant right on the beach, so you can enjoy the sound of the waves while having your meals. The breakfast spread is amazing, anything you want was available!! The rooms were good too, had everything you need without any pretentions. The hotel also had a tree-house structure, where you can just sit and stare at the sea, especially during the afternoon when its too hot to go out. This was where we sat for hours and played cards and read and slept off too!

You can spend time doing a variety of things here: walk on the beach, run, cross over during low tide to the Sundowner, which is a resort slightly secluded on a hill, and approachable only sometimes during the day when the tide is low etc etc.

One of the days, we drove to Kolva beach which is the beach for watersports. We were just so shocked with the crowds there that decided not to move out of Palolem after that:))). Anyways they had para sailing, water jet scooter as well as the banana boats there. Para sailing was great, with you getting a view of the nearby beaches as well as the Vasco town. Jet scooter was a bit of a let down though, as they dont really let you drive the scooter yourself. But you can see that its got a lot of "fun" potential.

If you walk along the Kolva beach, there are a couple of shack restaurants later on which don't allow Indians at the restaurants, only foreigners are welcome!! Return of the British Raj, it sounds like, but its true!!! They allow you to eat there and use the sunbeds only if you have white skin and otherwise not. Quite a shocker it was. Anyways, otherwise Kolva was just a fine beach. Water was good, waves were good but the crowd wasn't. So not as much fun.

At Palolem itself, there are lot of things to do. Get a tattoo at one of the shops or from the traveling artists who approach you when you are sleeping on the sunbeds. Shop. You will notice foreigners being given preference here too, when shop keepers shoo you off on seeing a foreigner approach, asking you to give way to the new guests:))). You will also see service being given to them while the Indians being asked to "self-serve". Its very sad to see this happening, what should we do about it? Can we or can't we?

From Palolem, you can also take a boat ride to butterfly island, which you can see from the island. The boatsman takes you to 2-3 small beaches on the island and leaves you there to play in the water for sometime, and then comes and takes you to somewhere in the middle of the sea where you can get the see the sunset. Its a good couple of hours of fun. There are also lot of boatsmen offering to show you dolphins in the sea, but when I had tried it years ago, all you could ever see was the tail of some black fish while it was going down into the water. Definitely not worth it!!

Otherwise most of the things about Goa would be well known. You can hire bikes or cars and drive around from beach to beach yourself. Food especially sea food is great there. Feni is the popular locally brewed alcohol, apparently quite strong and tasty.

The menu at most of the shacks offers everything, from Indian to South Indian to Thai to Italian to Mexican to Middle Eastern! Though what they finally get for you would be very different from what you expected!! Banofie Pie is a popular dessert and not to be missed.

Service is very lax, everyone is as chilled out as you should be when near a beach:). Weather is hot most of the year round, winter of course being the best weather to visit. During monsoons, Goa is still pretty though the water is not as safe to go into. Goan music is very lively if you get a chance to hear it somewhere. Karaoke's are popular and fun too. Magnificent white churches are strewn everywhere you drive. The towns are small and old worldly type and the people completely relaxed and chilled out. There are some casinos also organised on ferries which go into international waters for you to play legally.There are also apparently some good wildlife parks there, which somehow no one seems to care about:) as well as some famous temples also.

All in all, a great place to relax and forget everything else.

1 comment:

  1. Nice! Here is another version with fewer pics :)