Thursday, November 22, 2012

Goa & the Art of Self-discovery

The Old Goa with the beautiful churches for admirers of Portuguese architecture, beaches crowded with families looking for a good vacation, beach huts on secluded beaches with soft sand for ones looking to get away from it all or if hippie crowds and a bit of ‘heaven’ that you are looking for, Goa showcases herself in whatever manner you expect her to be, and more.

I have has been to Goa a few number of times, thinking of each visit is like deep diving into memories of various phases in my life.

There was the time during engineering days, we were a big bunch of students excited to be there under the pretense of an ‘Industrial Visit’. The trip majorly consisted of visiting and ticking off the list the major tourist attractions in Goa – the churches, old, big and beautiful, which never cease to bring me some kind of peace, the famous beaches –Baga, Calangute and a quick trip to the famous ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ point (I can see everyone of my generation who has been to Goa nodding along). For someone who had been pretty much the ugly duckling throughout her life, this was the phase during which my braces came off and to my embarrassment (and mostly secret high) a random not-creepy guy hitting on me.

Then there was the Goa visit during post-graduation times, the inner wild child stepping out and making up for the lost times. And of course, a walk along the beach, getting to know a certain someone which at this point seems to be turning into a life long journey J

From getting caught up in a traffic jam at 1 AM to having a cab driver tell us ‘Drugs try kiya hai? Ek dum mast hai! Sharab toh kuch bhi nahin’, I got to know Goa much deeper this time.


With great stay options in and around, Baga is the quintessential crowded beach lined with great shacks and fantastic water sports (protip: while bargaining always start at 50% of what they are saying). Calangute is the beach nearby similar to Baga with sports activities and great Goan style restaurants facing the sea (Souza Lobo is not to be missed!)

Sunset at Mandrem Beach
Arambol, in North Goa, is a good 30 minutes long drive from Baga/Calangute  the beach you go to if you want to peep into the hippie culture Goa once so lovingly embraced. It gets mostly foreigner backpacker crowds (one part of the beach is lined with basic amenity bamboo huts) and en-route you pass by a few small stretches of secluded beaches as well. During this journey is when we came across Mandrem beach, which pretty much turned out to be the discovery of our trip. With a sole restaurant named ‘End of the Universe restaurant’ (hat tip to Douglas Adams?) with good food and a few bamboo huts right on the beach, this is the ideal beach vacation we all dream about on Mondays.

A line of stalls at Saturday Night Market
Anjuna, near Baga, is best known for being host of the famous Saturday Night Baazaar (‘the world’s local market’ as they like to call themselves) is one of the must-do’s while in Goa. Having roots in the hippie flea market that arose near Anjuna during 60’s, this has become one big flea market party, colorful and vibrant and wonderfully weird.

Fort Aguada, near Vagator Beach, is a joy to be at during sunset. It is around 20 minutes drive from baga and is usually free from crowds. Sitting on the edge of the the broken fort, looking down at the Vagator beach, I remember thinking ‘This Life is not too bad at all’.
 View from Fort Aguada

The most recent trip was basically eloping from the corporate life into something that was familiar and fun. We stuck to blissfully doing nothing by the beaches and such simple joy it is, the Goan way of being laid back and taking things slow, our own ‘dolce far niente’.

Getting there: Goa is well connected by rail and road. By road, it is an overnight journey of close to 12 hours from Mumbai as well as Bangalore. While buses are frequently available, trains are not too many and one needs to plan well in advance and book tickets if planning to travel by train.
Where to stay: The most convenient location would be Baga or Calangute. You can find a lot of homestay options as well as hotels around here. 
Getting around: Best way would be to hire a bike (Rs 300-350/day) or a car (Rs 500/day) and explore Goa on your own.


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