I was in 2nd Grade when I first visited Goa with my family. I was too young to enjoy the Goan heat, tolerate the smell of sea food, understand why my relatives were going crazy over beaches when we had beaches in Mumbai already. We visited a lot of places- mostly religious and one thing that I remember very clearly is that the whole experience was very sleepy.
A decade later, during college days I heard of a bunch of friends visiting Goa and having the best time of their lives. Out of curiosity I googled about Goa and realized that it is a paradise for alcohol, weed, sea food lovers and hippies. It has some pristine beaches and the whole country dies to celebrate the new year here. Now I am not into booze, weed or sea food still there was something that made me crave to visit this place. I visited a lot of other places meanwhile.However, Goa was yet to be checked off my list. Little did I know that I may never be able to check it off my list.
Another decade passed. I was 26 and still dreamed of Goa. I was not alone. A couple of my close friends too were dying to go there. After a rigorous planning and last moment bookings, we finally made it for one of my friend’s spinsters party. It was a quick 3 days visit. All we did was to lie around, eat Italian food, swim, take walks and visit the hotel’s discotheque. Oh yes, we also met Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan (bollywood stars) when we dropped in one evening at our favorite Italian restaurant in our pajamas!
It turned out to be our best trip together!
That was in 2014. After that I made a trip in 2015 Easter and 2016 February. The very reason to go to Goa again and again is that it is a much cheaper option as compared to other destinations in India. It provides n number of options to do, eat and explore. Honestly, even after visiting the same side of Goa three times I still feel like I haven’t seen much.
I like doing budget trips. I don’t mind using public transport or walking a little extra. When we visited Goa in 2015, we took Janashatabdi express from Mumbai (Dadar) to Thivim. We preferred AC chair car as it was summer time and the heat was beyond our -tolerance level. As we got down at Thivim station after an 8 hours journey, we asked for a cab/ Auto which was charging a bomb for mere 20 Km journey. We decided to check out more options from the main road. Fortunately, a local bus was waiting right there which took us to Mhapusa bus depot. Mhapusa is a big city and one can catch a bus to any damn town in Goa from here. The moment we got down from our bus, we caught another one to Candolim. The whole journey from Thivim to Candolim cost us Rs 30 per person. This is so economic as compared to a taxi/ Auto service which would have cost Rs 420 -500 for a ride. As there were just two of us with minimal luggage bus was the best option for us.
Local transport is actually an excellent way to explore local lifestyle, people and culture. I enjoyed our rides in Goan buses. They were full of character – some old ladies with empty fish baskets, some kids with banana chips, loud bollywood music from 90s and a conductor that knew all the local passengers by names. It was a small closely knit world and I suddenly felt like a part of it.
We followed same modes of transport during our next visit. This time I decided to observe more… feel more… smell more…click more. We hired a bike for 3 -4 days and drove around the villages in North Goa right from Sinquerim till Vagator. All these small villages have a different aura around them. Some of these are more populated, full of tourists and happening where as some come to life only after dusk. The reason I don’t want to mention which are which is because one should explore them on their own. The experience is very enthralling.
There is no reason to not visit Goa. One should visit Goa. Even the vegetarians. Yes, I am one and I never -not even once starved for good veg food. There are plenty of good options.
Below is a list of things that I love to do:
- Eat at Tuscany Gardens and Stone House. Both of these restaurants serve excellent food. Stone house particularly is cheaper than a lot of places in Candolim yet serves good food with a company of good live music every evening.
- Visit Anjuna and Vagator beaches. These beaches are a little different from other north Goa beaches. They are a bit shady (literally) however have some great looking cafes etc by the beach. The restaurants provide excellent view of the Arabian sea as these cafes are at some height. We loved having a cold coffee and out of the world carrot cake at Eva cafe, Anjuna beach. These beaches are rocky and the sea waves are more intense here giving excellent opportunity for great seascapes.
- Visiting Old Goa and Fontainhas. These are around Panjim (Capital of Goa). If you are interested in architecture and history, you should not miss visiting these places. The monuments are Portuguese and maintained very well. Fontainhas is a little town with colorful houses and buildings that will make you feel like you are travelling somewhere in Portugal.
- Doing nothing. This is one place which gives you full liberty to do nothing. Afternoons are super hot so if you have had a sumptuous lunch, you better not do anything and just take a nice nap. Guiltless naps! Ah, this is a paradise for all sleepyheads!
- Though I am not a water baby my husband is. He loves to swim. We spent a lot of time by the swimming pool. He enjoyed his swims, I enjoyed my naps and mock tails.
- A lot of interesting events are hosted in Goa these days. During our last trip there was a bike show organized for Harley Davidson bikes. It was quite a view seeing all those monsters roaring around. There were riders all dressed up, bikes decorated and riding in groups. We couldn’t pay a visit to the show as it was for pass holders only but we enjoyed its glimpses on the roads. Keep looking for events in Goa.
- Visit fort Chapora. This is an old fort overlooking the northern coastline of north Goa. This monument is now in ruins and unattended. But people visit it for the view that it offers. It shot to fame particularly after a famous scene of the Bollywood movie ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ was shot here. We visited this around 3-4 PM when the sun was little high in the sky. But as the sun was setting the place became super breezy and pleasant. The view of course was breathtaking. Some of the people had climbed down from the other side of the fort which was going towards a more secluded side of Vagator beach. We were running out of time so we couldn’t climb down. It is definitely on my list for next visit.
We haven’t been to south Goa yet so that is on my next ‘Goa’ list. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t feel like I would ever get Goa off my list. There is a lot more to explore. One has to visit the place, spend a good amount of time to connect and feel at home. In Goa we always feel like at home even when it is not at all like Mumbai. That’s the connect this place has with many of us and there are very few who would visit it just once in their lifetime.