From as far back in time as I can remember, I have always wanted to have my honeymoon in Goa. As a child, we lived a couple of driving hours away from the beautiful State and having spent many impromptu family weekends there, it was one place I always felt at home and could never get bored of. The honeymoon, of course, happened elsewhere, but I always yearned to go back and earlier this month, we packed off for Goa. As in all our vacations, with all our excitement we planned months ahead, dry-wringed the Lonely Planet to dig out interesting places and charted out an entire itinerary and threw it outside the window once we reached there. We realised with the unpredictable weather, it would be difficult to be in control with our itinerary. So we ended up going with the flow and succumbed to the ‘sussegado’ pace of life that’s pretty much the norm in Goa. Sussegado is Goan for everything that suggests lazy, laidback, chill-man, enjoy at your own place… you get the drift. In fact, this trait is so infectious, it rubs on to you so bad that by the end of the trip you hate the idea of going back to a fast-paced timebound life.
The most important thing, as we have learnt from all our trips together, is to figure out the transport. We picked up a rental bike of our man’s liking for our entire trip duration – this was important to keep him motivated since he was my ride around Goa. We had booked a resort at Baga, right in the middle of the bustle and eluding the public eye, offering the much wanted privacy and tranquility we all miss while living in a metro. Beachwise, however, I prefer Candolim on other end of that North Goa seaside stretch since it is less crowded and yet in the middle of action. We stayed at a lovely resort called Alidia run by a Goan couple Alirio and Lidia – the place consists of a cluster of buildings surrounded by beautifully landscaped garden, a swimming pool and a backgate leading directly to the Baga beach, all this while the tranquil resort stays carefully hidden both from the noisy roadside and and the beach front itself. I have to credit my friend Tapo for discovering this place long back during one of our road trips when we had a great time there.
Unlike my other times in Goa when we have largely been busy driving corner to corner to cover as much as we could during our vacations, this time it was different. We chose to be laid back and just explore the north side where we were staying, and leave South Goa for another dedicated trip. In fact, given that rains are unpredictable in Goa, there is little choice one has but to improvise and make the most of what life gives. Which is why moments after we landed on the beach on our first day, we spotted dark mysterious clouds looming over the horizon, in a way we had never seen them before. We decided it was time to head back to one of the shacks to take refuge from the deluge that poured moments later; spending the next couple of hours watching people merrily dancing away in the rain, getting drenched, running for shelter, all over puffs of hookah.
Our morning rides were largely unplanned, randomly choosing lefts or rights and driving down to see where it took us. We found ourselves in Mapusa one such morning, and headed to the famous Mapusa market. Hungry by then, we had breakfast at one of the few places there that was serving idlis for breakfast. The sambar was more Maharashtrian than Udipi. But these mildly sweet aniseed flavored local breads that they called ‘buns’ caught my fancy.
But of course, these unplanned rides took us to places that would probably never be part of a planned itinerary, and yet stopping at these random spots of beauty, a chapel here, a pretty house there, seemed to give us much more joy. Like they say about the journey being better than the destination. Here are some glimpses
A vacation in Goa does not end without a trip to Old Goa, no matter how hot or exhausting it can get. A bike ride along the river makes it totally worth.
Eating out: I must admit Goa has gotten expensive in the past few years when it comes to food. Irrespective of the quality and authenticity, everybody seemed to be charging a premium when it came to seafood despite the supply being aplenty. Cribs aside, we figured if we were to be paying the premium prices, we’d rather visit the tried and tested institutions of food in Goa – Infantaria and Britto’s are two such places on the list you would not regret splurging at. And while all my meals at the former ended with their decadent bebinca (the famous layered Goan dessert made of flour, coconut milk and ghee), the latter was the preferred choice for a candle-lit dinner of Goan delicacies like the cafreal and the goan local bread called Sannas.
Another favorite hangout for us was the River’s Cafe set in serene surroundings alongside the Baga river. Partly owned and run by French Chef Jerome Cousin who also happens to own the Rara Avis in Delhi, River’s Cafe serves great food, offers hookah at reasonable prices, has free wifi, and a silent view overlooking the creek.
Alidia itself does not serve too bad food either. In fact, their Goan specialties seemed straight out of their home kitchen – their house being adjoining to the resort, we totally flipped on their spicy sausage curry and rawa fried mackerel lunch.
Other than that, the vindaloos, sorpotels, and curries are omnipresent, oft accompanied by the dried shrimp chutney called kismur.
Being their on a Wednesday meant heading out to the Anjuna flea market, taking a leisurely stroll around, bargaining and ending up not buying anything, and then heading out for a walk on the beach. The overtly perfumed flavored teas they sell might seem fake, but the fun was real.
Shopping: Cashewnuts, Feni, Goan sausages, Bebinca (now that it is commercially available, I picked up a Costa’s) are some of the things one must bring back. You could also pick up locally grown spices, tees and souvenirs that would remind you of happy times spent in Goa.
Travel tips for Goa:
- Ensure the vehicle is in proper condition before you pick up the keys. Rental guys there are infamous for fleecing tourists by implicating them of damages.
- In case of bike rentals, insist on two helmets. Apart from safety purposes, helmets are legally mandatory especially if you plan to venture into Panjim.
- Avoid buying fuel from roadside sellers. Fuel is subsidised in Goa and since the number of petrol pumps are sparse, you will find several roadside sellers selling petrol in bottles. Refrain from buying it from them, they will charge you a premium (at least 20 bucks more for every litre). Instead locate the nearest petrol pump and get a fill for your entire duration. The nearest petrol pump from Baga is on the Calangute-Panaji road.
- Carry sunscreen and mosquito repellent lotions since you may need copious amounts every time you go out, for you never know where you might be heading to.