4th Jan, 2014
Weekend, bbq night with friends, couple of beers and a discussion that we lead such boring, monotonous and mundane lives. No leaves, Managers don’t approve, no $$ !!
Its been long since we went out somewhere, lets really plan for the upcoming long weekend. I was excited, really. The only outings we had last year were a couple of marriages and some flying visits to Bhopal and Delhi. The destination: Ooty, Conoor, Kodaikanal, Coorg, Mysore etc all were suggested, but were rejected due to lack of direct connectivity from Hyderabad. The only option was that we go to Bangalore, rent a cab and visit these places. But that seemed a waste of time, money and energy since we would end up travelling for roughly 2 days in the 4 day holiday, and the cabs charge as if they are running on Airplane fuel.
Anyway, the discussion continued, till someone said Goa. Well, I was smiling ear to ear.
Circa: May 2008:
Fresh out of college, joined 1st job in Nov 2007, and in May(Yes the hottest month of the year) friends suggested that lets do Goa. Who doesn’t want to goa. It is the poor man’s Vegas as they say. So, Bus tickets done: Hyderabad-Pune-Goa. Why Pune, because couple of friends were coming in from Bhopal, 1 from Pune and me from Hyderabad.
Did a lot of research, with whatever limited online resources we had at those times, and was surprised Goa has a lot of options of Flats, BNB’s and PG’s to stay instead of the hotels. Booked a 2 bedroom flat near Baga at Rs 700 per day and then started the countdown.
The journey from Hyd to Pune and then to Goa was uneventful, yet fun. The excitement of going out for the first time, making all arrangements on your own, spending your hard earned money and a great company of the bestest friends made it an unforgettable experience.
We were in Goa for 3 days and 2 Nights. Was amazed to see Activa’s been given out for rent and the helpful and trustworthy Goan ppl was bit of a sweet surprise for us. Made the most of it by roaming around Calangute and Baga. Tito’s/Mambos, The Dil Chahta Hai fort, went to Infantaria for breakfast and met with an accident with a local which was not so serious. This was a short, sweet and “we are cool we went to Goa” trip back then.
Fast Forward to May 2011
Engaged in April, to one of the friends from the Goa 2008 Trip :) May again, all the friends in Hyderabad, Pune, Bhopal, Lucknow plan for an epic trip to Goa again. This time the group consisted of 12-13 ppl. All set, we start from our respective origins, and the plan is to meet up in Goa. We reach Mapusa, check in to Colonia De Braganza Resort in Baga and get ready for the Real Goa trip.
The trip outline looked like this:
Arranged for an open top gypsy and an Activa so that we can roam around easily.
Note: The people who rent out cars/bikes are helpful and trustworthy. This is what I felt in my last 3-4 trips to Goa. All they ask is for 1 day advance of the vehicle and nothing else. Questions like Where are you staying, when will you go etc..Nothing !
The open Gypsy was an idea from Rumjhum (A Fellow Ghumakkar) as they had done the same in their Goan trip a couple of months back. Gypsy and activa rented, designated driver was me which meant that I could not indulge in heavenly pleasures of chilled beer in May heat. Well, with great power came great responsibility and like Spiderman I too hated it.
So back to Day 1 travel tails
Breakfast at Infantaria @Baga. It definitely serves great english breakfast in this part of the town, and 6 chilled pints at Rs 120/- Baga and calangute, since it provides all touristy things: Watersports, Foot massages bang on the beach, Live music, Good food at local shacks and obviously dirt cheap Beer. Back to resort after watersports, some beach hopping and all.
Got up early and off we went in search of the local goan/maharashtrian breakfast of Vada pav and Dabeli. After a full tummy, and a not so full wallet we went ahead to the Dil chahta hai Fort. Spent some time there, almost went down till Vagator Beach. This is a must thing for 1st time visitors, since it gives a splendid view of the Goan coastline. The area is calm, serene and very few people to disturb you.
One has to walk/climb a certain distance after parking so be ready to sweat a lot and carry some water/juices/drinks to keep yourself hydrated. If you are a small group, or alone with your better half, it may feel a little scary since there are not too many people there.
After their we went to vagator beach, had some delicious prawn maggi, desi pasta and calamari. Calamari in goa is as common as Butter Chicken in Delhi. Almost all the shacks serve good Calamari.
Went further to Aguada Fort and Jail, and it can be skipped. Nothing amazing about that place.
The next destination was Mandrem beach, a little known beach next to the touristy Arambol beach in North Goa. The drive to this place is beautiful. Narrow, twisty and uphill roads, a fresh water lake in between, green pastuers and lot of trees. Once @ Mandrem, you need to park the car on the road, climb down and cross a garden. There is a old rickety foot bridge that you need to cross to reach the bridge. By far this is the best beach I have been to. White sands, couple of shacks, free beach beds and calm water. A group of goans were playing football, and we did try our hand (or leg?) at that too.
There is nothing to do at this place, just sit, lie down order some food and stare at the beautiful view in front of you. We spent close to 3-4 hours there and felt rejuvenated.
Back to resort after the downhill beautiful drive. The roads, signs in goa are very simple and self explanatory, you dont need a GPS here as the local people are more than happy to help. Every shop in goa, and I mean every, sells petrol/diesel in 1 litre bottles. So if you are out of fuel don’t worry, walk down a couple of steps and you will find it.
It was a friends birthday so we moved to calangute for dinner. The venue: Suaza Lobo famous for its goan sea food. The food was great to say the least and since you sit literally on the beach the ambience feels good too. After a late night dinner and birthday bumps on the beach we went back to our resort at around 2 AM.
After a late in house party and a night out, we went at 5 AM to catch the sunrise at calangute. The view was breathtaking. There were no or very few people on the beach. Had some tea, vada pavs and back to resort for a trip to Old Goa.
The drive from North to Old goa is good. One crosses through Panaji which is like any other city, full of shops, apartments etc. We also crossed a beautiful church which was shot in movie Josh. In old goa our destination was one church: Basilica of Bom Jesus and a museum next to it. The kind of peace, calmness and serenity experienced in any of the religious places is infectious. The church is huge, beautiful and has a good feel to it. You can buy some candles, light those at the end of your tour and click some photos. There is also relics of Father Xavier preserved in the church.
The drive to old goa was scenic, with abundant greenery and colorful, no very colorful houses. We passed the Kingfisher Villa and hoped if King of Good times would invite us over to have a sneak peek at the Making of Kingfisher Calendar but.. I would recommend people to go to old goa just for a drive with no specific destination in mind. The old portuguese architecture, the rustic feel is all worth a long drive. The houses, roads look like you have visited a film set. Everything looks made up, yet natural and amazing.
Back in the evening and got decked up for a customary visit to Tito’s/Mambo’s. These are two very popular discs in Goa, @Baga. The entry charges are roughly in 1000-1500 per couple/stag which include DJ(Bollywood and Hip Hop), unlimited drinks and some starters. Finally Tito’s was the lucky one to have us. We danced the night away and were dead tired around 3 AM and came back. On the way we packed some food from a 24*7 food court at calangute.
Tito’s/Mambos are now overrated, and one should try Club Cubana (@Arpora) or LPK (@Candolim). Have not visited these, but have heard great reviews from friends.
Got up late, ordered breakfast and went to the pool to beat the heat. Had lunch too at the resort and then went out to Curlies @Anjuna. Curlies is a shack, before Anjuna beach. One has to park their vehicles and walk a bit to reach there. Its not famos for the food, or service. Its known for its late night trance parties and the great view it has to offer. It just has a patch of sort of private small beach. Climb up to first floor, make yourself comfortable order a hooka, sea food pizza, grilled masala fish and Kings beer and just stare at the endless sea.
A lot of firangs(read russians) visit this place and its quite a good spot for singles to get lucky if they want to. By late evening you get bhurji pao, maggi etc at the beach, and many makeshift shops that sell every brand of ciggarette and cigars there.
This was the day we would leave goa. Tired and rejeuvenated we got up late, went to the pool had lunch and then left for Mapusa for our respective destinations. All in all a great trip that helped us relax and showed us the real Goa.
Married for a year now, 1st anniversary approaching way faster than we expected and we (Me and wifey) plan for another Goa trip. This was a short and sweet trip where we relaxed, roamed around a bit of north goa and did some shopping.
Stayed at Lagoa Azul Resort(@Arpora, Baga) at an uncle’s flat. The resort is good, with all ameneties and quite close to the touristy baga/calangute. We did the curlies, arambol, ashwem, mandrem circuit. Ate at Nick’s Place(worth mentioning) at little baga on our anniversary date and relaxed a lot near the pool side. We did spend a good quality time together and came back to our normal lives in 3 days.
Back to Jan 2014.
so the plan is final, we (2 couples) will go to goa, stay at Lagoa Azul at Uncle’s place and be back in 4 days.
Day 1: We reach late, really late post lunch since our bus driver followed the “slow and steady wins the race” saying literally. We order some food, get ready and goto Baga for the usual. Night we went to the Saturday Night Market @Arpora. You get everything here that you Goa is famous for.
Tea, coffee, spices, Cashews. We bought ourselves couple of cheap “Ray Bay” shades, while the wives shopped for some goan dresses. Had dinner of HUGE shwarma, prepared by a Firang. There was live music, chilled beer and a dance floor too.
Day 2: Baga again. Watersports done, Lunch @ Brittos. A famos shack at baga. Must order: Apple cinnamon cheesecake, Beef chilly fry, Chicken vindaloo/xacuti with Poi, a local descendant of Pao.
Evening we went to Curlies and Mandrem, but as luck would have it 1 of the Activa’s broke down on the way, and it took us roughly 2-3 hours to get it fixed. Came back without visiting any of the places, back to the resort and arranged for a nice pool side party for ourselves for the night.
Day 3: Visted Panjim. Uncle had suggested a restaurant “Viva Panjim” for authentic goan food. It was a little tough for us to find it since its not a very fancy restaurant.
Its an old bungalow of a british lady who stayed back here and started this. It has won some 4-5 back to back times city food awards. The ambience was gorgeous to say the least. You are literally sitting in a lane adjacent to the colourful bungalow. Feels like a very old european setting.
The food is to die for. What not to order: Pork chilly fry. Apart from that, everything in the menu was amazing, and the food was dirt cheap.
We 4 ppl ordered almost all Prawn and fish dishes in the menu, washed them down with couple of drinks and the total bill was somewhere less than Rs. 1500. Immediately a message was sent out to people who were visiting goa in next few months to try it out at any cost. Rumjhum and Swapnil(Fellow Ghumakkars) can, and should vouch for it.
After a (very) heavy meal off we went to Mandrem. The calmness and serenity reminded me of the earlier trips I have made. At Night we went to La Calypso, a casino at Baga to have a feel about how it actually feels to win a lot of money. Came back without that experience, for more details check with the Casino owner on how to make money ;) For people intrested in casinos, would recommend to visit casinos at Panjim. they have better deals, good casinos and better amenities(like creche for children etc) over there.
Last day in goa again :( Off we went to the pool, and post lunch checked out and went to Mapusa to catch our bus. One can also buy different goan masalas, cashew, Liquor (with permit which costs 20 odd bucks), Goan dessert delicacy(Bebinca) at Mapusa bus stand.
Again a good, crisp and a fun trip to the poor people’s Vegas.Let me mention things to do or avoid in Goa if you are on a vacation. this contains the list of places to eat/visit too:
Places to eat:
Viva Panjim: The best Goan food ever. Period
Brittos: Amazing desserts.
Nick’s Place: Baga
Curlies: Anjuna: Sea food wood fired pizza, Hookah’s and Grilled Fish.
Suaza Loboz: Calangute: Good sea and Goan food.
Infantaria: Baga: For breakfast. Sandwitches and Pan cakes are worth the money spent.
A small desi joint just before Baga beach: For breakfast of stuffed paratha’s, masala omellete and tea/coffee.
Food court near calangute: For 24*7 Multicuisine food. Not bad, not good.
Places to Visit/Things to do:
Baga for a touristy feel, and watersports. Watersports are quite affordable here, and you can get a package deal of Parasailing, Jet ski, bumper, banana rides for rougly Rs 12-1500 per person.
Mandrem: For calm, quite and relaxation.
Curlies: Tip, go post lunch as by evening theres a lot of rush which everyone might not like.
Arambol/Ashwem: For a firang goan feel.
Old Goa: Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old portuguese colonies.
Chapora/Dil Chahta hai Fort.
Any of the casinos in Panjim.
LPK @Candolim or Club Cubana @Arpora for discs.
Manchester United Cafe @Baga if you are into sports and follow the team.
Places to avoid:
South goa, if you are staying in north goa. Extremely far, and you can find good virgin beaches in north too.
Some of the Russian restaurants in and near Baga, which treat Indians racially.
Goa has always been a great destination for me. You can have fun, goto clubs, do watersports casinos etc, and can also have a lazy holiday if you want too. Locals give you enough space to enjoy, wear what you want, do what you want to. If I get a chance to visit their once every year, I probably will.
I am more than happy to help people who are planning their 1st or 2nd Goan trip to give them pointers on where to stay, what to do etc.
See you all soon with my next travelogue, till then have fun and keep traveling !