So without any specific agenda, I reached Goa by flight from Bangalore.
A full scrumptious breakfast atop a beach shack, Baga Beach.
I knew I didn’t want to hang around at Baga this time but thought I’d spend the day lazing on the beach anyways and then figuring out where to go next.
Perfect for: Friends. Baga is the BEST beach for a fun time. Clubbing, eating out, shopping or just chilling out on the numerous beach shacks.
(Eventually this turned into an idea of exploring the entire North Goa coastline spread across 1 week + 4 days in 2 months!)
I took a bus from Calangute to Mapusa and switched to another from Mapusa to Arambol. I find it rather weird that Indian local tourists spend more on traveling within our own country (hired cars/bikes) as compared to foreigners – this is evident from the fact that a lot of folks on the bus were foreigners!
The journey from Calangute to Mapusa is nothing much to write home about – it’s mostly inland journey but the local experience is still a lot of fun. After passing through Siolim the ride does get more picturesque though! Just before reaching Arambol you see the beautiful Mandrem beach with it’s own village hut resort. Note to myself: Come back here for a relaxed holiday, perhaps with a lady friend sometime.
Aaaaahrambol. Aaraam-bol. Arambowled. Aah-rum-bowl! I’m sure the place was actually spelt as one of these. Because it was indeed a worthwhile journey. Just about enough 'crowd'– not as much as Baga (which is getting worse than Juhu Chowpatty) nor as less as marooned as the Southern beaches. Yet, truly a melting pot of cultures, great beach shacks, a looooong coastline, hilltop paragliding, a rocky hillside you can cross to go over to a secret little lake with a view of dolphins on early mornings – yes children – such a place does exist right here in India! And I’m not even done talking about it.
It was close to sundown by now so I went straight to the beach – What a pleasant surprise awaited me. A gorgeous sunset, no loud blaring music (but some great Prem Joshua instead), a lot of people doing yoga or tai-chi or aerobics and walking further down towards Mandrem – a flamboyant group of musicians who played some aweeeesome music.
Beach Musicians from Kaushal Karkhanis on Vimeo
Perfect for: Solo travelers, hilltop paragliders, light trekkers. The beach mood is 'laid back' and as slow as it gets. No party/clubbing scene
Doted by palm trees, you can’t help but stop by this place if you’re driving along. It’s a gorgeous sight and there’s a wonderful retreat here called ‘Riva Resort’. This is not an activity beach – just a place you can sit back and relax, maybe read a book or get a suntan or go swimming.
Perfect for: Idyllic vacations. Peace lovers. No adventure/clubbing here
Walking back from Mandrem to Arambol I sat down to soak in the sunset and noticed a young couple practicing yoga and having a lot of fun with it – they were literally all over each other in what can be best described as a mix of kiddish playfulness and subtle foreplay! The girl was as ravishingly gorgeous and athletic as the guy was handsome.
The duo was so magnetic and energetic that I couldn’t resist asking them if I could take pictures – they obliged, with a word of caution “Make sure you don’t get her face” the guy told me. “I’m her yoga teacher and her dad pays me for this!” All of us had a hearty laugh. I went back to my sunset and the lovebirds went back to their 'yoga'.
Such an incredible pair, I thought to myself.
The next day morning I changed my breakfast venue from 21 Coconuts Inn to what seemed like a cultural hangout and a favorite of most tourists – German Bakery. Good decision! The place had some delicious food, great coffee, brownies and above all – it was the de-facto meeting point and culture corner for the community. Highly recommended. Just a couple of shops towards the beach there was another restaurant which plays movies while you sip on some beer or enjoy a laid back dinner. Another fun place to hang out.
Old Goa / Velha Goa
I had 3 more days and too much relaxation is not my cup of tea - so I decided to leave Arambol and go inland to discover Old Goa by bus. So I returned to Hallmark Guesthouse in Baga and took a bus from Calangute to Velha Goa. Once again the journey was beautiful - the route flirting with the shoreline on-and-off with visions of houseboats, steamers and little boats making it look almost surreal.
The bus dropped me off near the Se Cathedral / Basilica of Bom Jesus. This is a magnificent structure which houses the relics of St. Francis Xavier's body till date. Just opposite is the Museum which was temporarily closed as they were spraying some anti-fungal and preservative gases all over the place. So after spending most of my time at the Cathedral, I took off for Baga beach by sundown and just strolled around the colourful marketplace. Speaking of markets - the Wednesday market at Anjuna was next day away and I wanted to experience it - made a mental note of that.
Perfect for: History lovers/art lovers
The Long Walk - Baga to Fort Aguada
Before I went of to sleep the previous night I had a crazy idea - I had seen Baga, Vagator, Anjuna, Palolem and now Arambol and Mandrem beaches. Why not traverse the entire length of the coast of Goa?! So the journey began...
Once the most popular beaches of Goa, this long beach has now become nothing short of a mela with uncles and aunties going for a swim wearing, well - everything!
Perfect for: Family holidays - fewer babes in bikinis or less!
Mostly a foreigners' haunt, I mentally bookmarked a quaint little place towards Sinquerim which was pretty much secluded and nice to walk around.
Perfect for: Couples. Not for a solo traveller.
I don't know what made me make a decision to walk from the inside road from Candolim to Sinquerim (perhaps the overbearing heat and fatigue) but it was a great decision - got to see Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Villa en route! It's so magnificent from the outside, I'm sure there are a million wow factors inside.
Perfect for: Couples. Not for a solo traveller.
By now my toes had boils but I was determined to reach my destination...
On both sides of this 17th century fort are 2 luxury properties - the Taj Village and Taj Fort Aguada. The view was beautiful - a 'U' shaped waterfront with the grand 'River Princess' boat bobbling in the ocean (this boat has been stranded here since 4-5 years apparently). Since it was Wednesday market at Anjuna beach today, the locals asked me if I was interested in a boat trip across to the market. I was tempted, but decided not to spend too much and do a boat trip some other time, maybe with friends.
Perfect for: Toursts for sight-seeing, business/luxury stay.
So I took a bus back from Aguada to Siolim and hired a car to reach Vagator beach first (the Anjuna market would still be open for a couple of hours more). I love Flickr coz it helps you find out more about places so easily through real people's photos. I'm referring to a photo taken by Anindo Ghosh which I had seen earlier - a rock carved out to look like the face of Lord Shiva! When I knew it was at Vagator beach I had to go there and see, click it myself.
Perfect for: Rave parties, sight-seeing. Not a favourite for local Indian tourists for stay.
My last halt of a looong, tiring yet incredibly fun day - the Anjuna market was a delight for the senses. Reached there on a hired bike just an hour into closing time. This 'flea market' was started years back when backpackers and 'hippies' would frequent Goa, fall in love with the place and spend all their money. To stay longer, they would sell off their belongings in this flea market. Today it is more of a commercial hub for all types of sellers - local, Indian locals, foreigners making a living to stay in Goa and local street food sellers. Try the mini-pizzas which an old lady sells here. Awesome! And herbal tea which a foreign couple serves in a cafe which seemed more like a melting pot of cultures. Overall I just loved the market experience here. The sunset by the rocky beach was the perfect way to end my splendid day and week-long solo tour of Goaaaah!
Perfect for:Shoppers. No wait, anyone who loves a cross-cultural experience :)
Goa - Perfect for anyone. Can't wait for the season to start again in October!
(I went back the next month with a friend for 3 days - completing the North Goa walks upto Morjim beach. More in my next post!)
My Goa Photos | View as Slideshow | Download HolidayIQ Goa Beach Guide