Last day, woke up very early in the morning to visit Candolim, Sinquerim beach- Just to avoid scorching heat of sun. The shimmering sea stretches to the horizon. Spent some time to savour the view then headed to Fort Aguada. Fort Agauda crowns the rocky flattened headland at the end of the beach. Constructed in 1612 to protect the northern shores of Mandovi estuary from Dutch and Maratha raiders. It was a reference point for the vessels coming from Europe at that time. This old Portuguese fort stands on the beach south of Candolim, at the shore of the Mandovi river. Part of fort is now turned to Taj holiday village and another part to prison. Its worth a visit with superb view from top of the hill where four storey Portuguese lighthouse looks down over vast expanse of sea sand and palm trees. While descending the hill one can see River Nerul. Roads of this part of Goa are really nice and scenic. Enjoyed the ride as pillion rider. Undoubtedly, it is the picturesque palm-fringed beaches, scenic coves, sun-kissed sands and turquoise waters that make Goa one of the world's premier holiday destinations.
For lunch headed to another typical goan no-frill restaurant this time; ordered for chonok and rice which was enough for two as portion was big. Well recommended by guide book.
One more last time went to Baga beach to soak ourselves in turquoise water. Enjoyed thoroughly and headed to hotel for pack-up as we were leaving that night by bus from Mapusa; a new experience to travel with sleeper coach night bus.
The sleeper bus was smooth at beginning but later along the way we had two blowouts. Needless to say, we were late by 5 hours. Santanu was forced to work from home next day.
As we couldn’t enjoy much earlier day we decided to opt for rented bike and move around in our own pace. Rented a bike for 2 days for 400 Rupees. One thing which is very interesting about Goa’s motorcycle taxi locally known as pilots ideal for nipping between beaches or for short distances. Bonafide operators ride black bikes with yellow mudguards and white number plate. These vehicles transport a single pillion rider. (Photo credit: from GoaBlog.org)
As usual after breakfast we headed towards Anjuna beach. Anjuna is gorgeous with its rocky shore and mighty cliffs where you can hear of techno-thumping sounds and see hippies around. With morning sun and plenty of time at hand we made this special sign to remember Goa. Vagator, however, is the perfect hideaway spot with its few beach shacks and fishing boats off in the distance. Black lava rocks, the coconut palms, the lush green landscape, nature playing its own music, and the sea turning from aquamarine to emerald green with Chapora Fort at its background. The reminiscence of the old Portuguese times giving a splendid view of the sea and hills covered with coconut trees and rice fields. To reach middle and little Vagator one needs to walk but the calmness worth the effort as big Vagator gets bus loads of Indian whiskey drinking male tourist.
At noon, sun is really hard to tolerate but for lunch, we made sure to have exotic flavour of the Goan dishes at whatever cost. So, we searched hard to find one place called “Gabriel” recommended by our guidebook as an authentic goan cooking. It was really worth searching.
For most Goans three basic necessities – fish, curry and rice. Goan values their food as much as they do their daily siesta. In their daily meal, seafood always has a pride of place in some or other form. From fried fish to exotic concoctions; sea food is usually a must on the menu, except for the occasional break for some religious observance. Besides fresh seafood, dried and salted fish dishes are also highly prized by Goans.
We ordered Galinha com Coentro (chicken with fresh coriander leaves and vinegar) and prawn curry with rice. It was really fresh, home –made and scrumptious. Owner was friendly; had chit-chat with him. We figured out it was guest-house cum restaurant with lots of shady trees around and not far from sea. Sitting arrangement is in the garden under trees with fan. Since it was shady we spent 2 hours there and at last we were offered yummy chocolate (European one after a long time).
In the evening we prepared ourselves for soaking at Baga beach; smeared well with body-oil. As on day two we found that sand was very fine and it gets stick to the body like glue even after proper shower. So, smearing oneself helps as sand can’t stick to the body and washes off with each roaring waves.
At evening we went to Tibetian market right across our resort where Santanu bought one finger-ring for himself and then headed for dinner at Baga-Calangute road to one nice restaurant. Wanted to taste one goan dessert for last 3 days; since we were not left with an inch place in stomach we could not but today made sure to eat less so that we can taste it. For dessert best is “Infantaria Pastelaria” recommended again by our guidebook which was again right across our resort where we bought Bebinca – a layered pudding.
We opted for package tour with our hotel stay, so our hotel had arranged for two day sightseeing South Goa with river cruise and North Goa. We opted for South Goa to start with.
Left hotel around 9 at Indian Stretchable Time after breakfast in a non-AC bus accompanied by one local guide. The itinerary included Dona-Paula (bypass Miramar beach). Old Goa churches-Bom Jesus Basilica and se cathedral along with two temples Mangueshi and shantadurga dedicated to Shiva and shantadurga (goddess of Peace), visit to Ancestral Goa/old Portuguese house and Colva beach. To wrap it up there is river cruise at the end.
Actually, this kind of package are good way of getting around Goa in short-time. It seems they are more appealing to Indian tourists wishing to combine peek at all top sights with the whistle-stop tour. Sometimes they include certain places inland that you wouldn’t otherwise consider visiting.
Anywayz, Colva beach was not even attractive to us though it is an oldest and largest fishing beach. There were international tourists marinating in the sun and overcrowded domestic visitors paddling. Beach front is dismal as stench of drying fish waft from near-by village.
River cruise on Mandavi was one hour trip over crowed with mostly Indian tourists. Professional troupes perform the Dekni Temple Dance, the Fugdi Dance and the Corredinho Dance with live music. You can shake your leg too as it will tempt you to dance to their beats. They do try hard to entertain but no chance to glimpse the Sun as it sets in Arabian Sea. Its pity that this boat company makes sure you can not view the sun-set as there is a big backdrop on west to hide Sun from you. May be they do it on purpose to make sure everyone is seated and not leaning on side of the boat to take picture of golden ball as it goes down.
Other then this they took us to souvenir shop (where they get commission)- i.e., one souvenir at least visitor always carries home from his holidays in Goa are cashew nuts, spices and wine. Cashew trees abound the Goan hillsides. The flowering in January leads to luscious, brilliantly coloured fruit in March, April and early May. It is then plucked, while the apple is used in the process of producing "Feni" (Goan speciality) and the nuts are roasted for consumption. Here locally produced wines and beer are cheaper than anywhere in the country. Big percentage of tourist to Goa are men from other parts of India who come to Goa as an escape from moral confines of life at home.
Disadvantage of this kind of package trips are they don’t give enough time where they should actually give and secondly you cannot have taste of Goa or in other words you don’t have much choice for restaurants as they take tourists to such a remote part where only one restaurant will be there with awful food and you end up eating those as you don’t have alternative. In short, we are the people who want to explore more of the place, know about the culture, food, enjoy the serenity, nature’s landscape and all. So, this kind of packages are not meant for us. And we decided not to opt for the North Goa trip.
In Goa, traveling around by rented motorcycle or car is imperative if you want more than just sun, surf and sand. It gives lot of freedom but can be perilous at same time. On second day early morning we haggled at least with three owners for renting and lastly ended up with Activa for Rupees 250(it is better to rent for long durations to get good price). Another reason for renting was we wanted to go to Bicholim to visit Santanu’s maternal uncle for dinner. Normally, roads of Goa are as smooth as airport tarmacs except few parts.
After breakfast (bread, butter, jam and juice or tea) at hotel which was included in our package we rode on Calangute-Baga road and soon realised that hotel in which we are staying is at main spot at entrance of this road which leads to Baga beach.
This road to Baga Beach from Calangute is full of handcraft items, which are lucrative to foreign tourist (but not worth the money). Just opposite to our hotel was a nice Tibetan market which offers all kinds of gems and silverwork, wooden statues of the Buddha's and Hindu deities. Besides, Calangute and Baga have been swamped by Kashmiri traders putting up Kashmiri carpets, wooden crafts, embroidery and papier-mâché boxes for sale. Famous night clubs like Tito are on this road - vivacious with tourist and locals that mean shops are open till late while other parts of Goa goes to sleep.
Interesting nugget of information about the Baga beach is that there are a lot of touts asking for para-sailing, water-sports, dolphin boat-ride, and banana ride etc. hawking wares include skirts, tee-shirts, novels etc. You will be offered with cup of tea to ayurvedic massages as every one tries to sell their service or product. It means you can sip chilled beer while getting a temporary tattoo done or reading a novel. For these services you need to bargain -We were told they were offering good Indian price compared to foreign tourist .But in reality tourists are tourists and local try to milk them out as much they can - the bitter truth of vacation.
Well, we rented sun-beds at Rs 50 for few hrs took dip in the turquoise water which was really fun. Best part to see majority of Indian women clad in colourful saris stand up to their waist in the water while others wear shorts, bikinis and swimsuit. Pot-bellied Indian men in shorts or undergarments saving a buck or two for swimsuit. Though there are few smarties (women) who come prepared in Indian attire with swimsuit inside to take a dip and get quickly changed. Indian visitors flock to giggle at the tribes of dreadlocked white-skin on the vast white sandy beach.
Being famished we headed towards Plantain Leaf (only vegetarian) for udipi thali. Came back to hotel for afternoon siesta and left at evening for Bicholim After tanking up at Mapusa we rode via Fort Corjuem to Bicholim - it was a long ride but enjoyable.
Trip to Goa was long due may-be you can say from 2001 when I got opportunity as a teacher with my school children. But unfortunately, I couldn’t make as I was supposed to behave as good girl. Good unmarried Indian girls don’t go anywhere without an escort. To qualify as an escort there are lots of criteria to be checked and considered like friend’s brother, acquaintance from neighborhood etc. is a BIG NO. They never go out after dark alone. They never spent night at a female friend's place, especially if the friend had a brother no matter younger or elder.
Dialogues like “I am old enough to take care of myself” never worked with my parents - you can say kind of very conservative upbringing in certain matters. And it was normal for me to argue on all such matters though consequences were known to me. So, out of anger I told my parents “you will never go to GOA without me or unless I go there first”. They kept their words though they travel extensively within India.
On Satanu’s part he visited Goa for first time with his parents in 2002 summer. They went to visit their relatives. He detested the heat and did not found Goa as an attractive tourist destination. That was the time when we first met at Bombay after his Goa trip. After moving to India whenever Goa came in our discussion as destination fear of glazing sun hunted him.
As Santanu is blessed with long weekends (Indian holidays follow strict Sun or Moon Calendar) at work this year. We booked our flight with Spice-Jet which was only no-frill flight quoting less. Initially, we did booked our hotel with Hotel Mandavi at Panjim. But later came to know from various sources that if one wants to enjoy beaches then need to make choice between north and south Goa beach. We opted for north Goa at last minute and booked with TICLO resort at Calangute.
Different people had different views on Calangute which made us bit skeptical till last but I think we did made a right choice. Normally, hotels provide with “pick-up” service at Goa. On reaching Dabolim airport we realised our hotel haven’t sent any and they requested to use “Pre-paid service” which they will reimburse on reaching and they did stick to their words.
After being ushered to our room which was quite spacious we left for exploring Calangute. We soon figured out that we were not very far from beach so walked few meters along the beach at early evening then had pomfret and chicken in our dinner.