Being from a family the ancestors of which apparently drifted from Goa during the Portugese invasion and thereafter seeking a living down south, we have always had a special place in our hearts for Goa. It is the only state where Konkani is the language of the parliament and State. Though heavily influenced by Portugese and has a twang to the kind we speak, it still has the musical notes to it. After many many years, lyricists have continued to add a few lines in Konkani to their songs for the Bollywood movies. ( Remember Bobby? )
Our affair with Goa started in 1974 with a few families – mainly a pilgrimage trip to all temples . This was an awesome train (steam engine – mind you) ride we have never forgotten. The picture of beautiful landscape, occasional fire when coal from the train is thrown on dry grass along the tracks, the sunsets, the delicious nick-nacks from hawkers in the train, the songs, dances, card games amidst the dhadak-dhadak of the train.
Thereafter, we must have visited a couple of times to see family and of course visit temples.
During my engineering days at BMS, we went on an educational tour to various places and industries. Goa stop being one for pleasure, and the rest of them for academic delight we shall say.
I almost took up a job there after graduation. I was actually quite looking forward to it. For whatever reasons I never got to see that realize. Looking back it is a mixed feeling. The company did not do well and would have given a rather bumpy start after all to my career.
Each time the place has extended different flavors and culture to us. Last time we went to Goa was in 2006 and spent a few quality days at a resort in south Goa with family. Despite heavy rains and being indoor, we enjoyed all aspects of Goa. I have always tried to capture the essence of the land, history, culture, tradition, food, festivals etc.,
I found this piece in The Economist. I like the choices, the suggestions and the highlights. Hope you do too.
From hippy to hip: this former Portuguese enclave is no longer the exclusive preserve of the backpacker set
“There’s one thing I know, Lord above/I ain’t goin’ to Goa.” So sang the Alabama 3, a London band famous for singing the theme song for “The Sopranos” television series. “There ain’t nothing worse than some fool lying on some third world beach wearing spandex, psychedelic trousers, smoking damn dope pretending he’s gettin’ consciousness expansion.”
This about sums up a typical view of Goa, once a Portuguese colony situated about 400km down the Arabian Sea coast south of Mumbai, and long popular with hippy-styled Western backpackers. Sure, Goa still lures budget travellers with a yen for trance music and full-moon beach parties, but India’s most laid-back state, also one of its smallest, has also become a hip destination for Mumbaikars seeking a beach-lined reprieve from the city. Returning visitors may be surprised to discover quite a few new boutique hotels, restaurants and bars.
This relatively new demand has helped fuel India’s boom in budget airlines. The best way to get to Goa however is a train ride thru Pune OR try the road via the Karwar coast.
With its relaxed pace of life, unique culture, breathtaking landscape, fabulous white-sand beaches and friendly locals, Goa is the perfect weekend antidote to Mumbai. The mountain range of the Western Ghats cuts Goa off from the rest of India; this natural barrier has let the area develop along different economic and cultural lines.
For centuries, Goa was an important trading centre. The presence of the Portuguese (from the early 16th century to 1961, when India annexed the territory) profoundly influenced the state’s hybrid Indo-European culture, affecting local attitudes about everything from food to religion. Catholics form a 30% minority, concentrated mainly along the coast and so remain highly visible to tourists. But most Goans are Hindu, and both religions co-exist peacefully.
Today, Goa is India’s wealthiest state per capita. Although not free from hardship (and battles over development—see this website for details), most residents live in relative comfort. The ideal time to visit is between November and February, well after the monsoon season of June to September.
Goa is easy to navigate, and relatively traffic-free. On a weekend break, eschew public transport and hire taxis (the ubiquitous white Maruti mini-van), which are inexpensive, but be sure to negotiate prices, as there are no meters. Hiring a taxi for a whole day is also common, and ensures that you do not waste precious time getting lost.
For those staying only one night, the surprisingly uncrowded beach at Bogmalo is just ten minutes’ drive from Dabolim, Goa’s airport (tel: +91 (0)832 254 0806). The Bogmallo Beach Resort (website) is decent, and all rooms have a picturesque sea view. There are some peaceful beachfront cafés, such as Sea Cuisine (tel: +91 (0)832 255 5969), where you can enjoy the Arabian Sea at sunset, less than four hours after stepping out the door in Mumbai.
If you are in Goa for two nights, you must head either north or south; the coastline is too long and varied to cover both. The more developed—and more crowded—north is the easier option. A good base is the charming boutique Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel (tel: +91 (0)236 622 7631, website), at Querim, Goa’s northernmost beach. Housed inside an old Portuguese fort, it has incredible sea views, well worth the 90-minute drive from the airport. It has only a handful of rooms, so be sure to book in advance. For something more upmarket, the nearby hilltop Nilaya Hermitage (website), Fort Tiracol’s sister, is one of India’s most exclusive addresses and a fine destination for an evening drink or meal.
It is possible to swim at Tiracol, but there can be a strong undertow towards the estuary. A better option is nearby Ashwem beach, where a sandbar ensures that the water remains clear and shallow. Even in peak season, Ashwem is peaceful, and its southern tip is a great place to watch the sun set.
The best examples of north Goa’s lively culinary and nightlife scenes are at Candolim and Baga beaches. At Candolim, Club 21 is the archetypal Goan beach shack, serving the usual naans and curries, as well as delicious fresh sandwiches, fruit juices and cocktails. It also has a weekly barbecue and friendly local staff. Sweet Chilli (off the Taj Fort Aguada junction at Sinquerim, tel: +91 (0)236 247 9446), is a cheerful outdoor restaurant, with great food and regular themed nights. Or head to Ingo’s Saturday Night Bazaar at Arpora, a fun spot with no cover-charge, open from 4.30pm until midnight. Besides an expansive open-air flea market, there is outdoor entertainment such as fire-eating and live bands, and plenty of international food stalls.
At Baga, Mambo’s bar (Tito’s Lane, Saunta Vaddo, tel: +91 (0)236 227 5028/9895), in the open air on the palm-fringed beach, has a casual atmosphere and good music for lounging or dancing. Next door, Tito’s (website) is very exclusive, a touch pretentious and popular with the Bollywood set. For something quieter, simply cross the lane to Baga beach itself, where the Pyramid beach shack has candlelit tables on the shore, and the stillness is more than a little revitalising.
To get in touch with Goa’s rich history, head inland to Panjim (also known as Panaji), the state’s charming capital, on the banks of the Mandovi river. Expect an unhurried Mediterranean feel and characteristic Portuguese architecture, particularly in the old quarter of Fontainhas, where you might even hear a snippet of Portuguese spoken.
Stock up on Goan cashew nuts (Zantye’s is an excellent brand) and delicious pastries on 18th June Road. Mr Baker (tel: +91 (0)832 222 4622, on Dr RS Road, opposite the Municipal Gardens) offers succulent lamb, chicken or vegetable Goan patties. Try some bebinca, a Portuguese-style cake made with egg yolks, and take home a pot of mango jam: this is what many Goan families eat for breakfast on the Portuguese-style breads of pao or poee. A sunset cruise on the Mandovi river is an excellent way to wind up an afternoon.
East of Panjim lies Old Goa, the region’s former capital. It is no longer a town in the formal sense, more the site of some beautiful, slowly decaying Catholic cathedrals and churches. The Church of Bom Jesus houses the remains of St Francis of Xavier (minus a toe, bitten from the corpse by an over-zealous devotee) and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (see website). Both this and the Sé Cathedral opposite, the largest church in Asia, are landmarks in Indian Christianity.
With more time, the beaches of south Goa, the spice plantations at Ponda and even the Dudhsagar waterfalls inland are all worth visiting. A weekend in Goa though, is best spent doing what the Goans do: enjoying life at an unhurried, most un-Mumbai pace.