Goa has been in my bucket list forever. And it was time to put a tick on the checklist! Nestled in the Western Ghats by the Arabian Sea, this small Indian state is the most popular beach getaway in India. Interestingly Goa is mentioned in the epic Mahabharata as Goparashtra or Govarashtra, meaning “a nation of cowherds”. It had served as the base for the Portuguese in India in the 19th and the 20th centuries and hence the place is an incredible blend of the Portuguese and the Indian cultures.
Having arrived in Panjim in the morning, we hired a bike and set out for our hotel at Bogmalo. It was noon when we hit the road for Cavelossim. It is over 30 KM from Bogmalo. It took us an hour to get to the beach of Mobor. A laid back beach (by Goa standards), its ideal if you want to spend some time in tranquility! Running short of time, we kept off tranquility for another day and got our adrenaline rushing with a water-sports package with folks who called themselves “The Prince of Sal” that included jet-ski, Ringo-ride, banana ride and parasailing.
Close to 3, heavily starved with the water activity, we reached The Fisherman’s Wharf by the river Sal for lunch. The place is gorgeous. The boats docked at the riverside, the cannot-be-ignored fishy smell, the live singing (made even livelier with some of the guests joining in to shake a leg) and the well-made “Fish in Salt n Pepper” and “Chicken Xachuti with steamed rice” made the afternoon special.
It was close to 4 PM when we took our leave and headed back to Bogmalo. On the way back, we checked out a few more beaches – Cavelossim, Betalbatim and Colva. After a point, all the beaches start to look the same. We watched the sky turn from orange to pink to red to dark blue and then it was time to head back to the hotel.
Finally it was time to head to the best beaches of South Goa – Agonda and Palolem. After a looked forward to breakfast of hot “Aloo de Paronthe” with Mango pickle, we set off at 8:30 in the morning. A long drive off the NH-17B brought us to Agonda at 10 AM. The beach turned out to be spectacular. The light brown sands, the blue sea, the hills around covered with green forests and the colorful beach huts acted like the ingredients of a potion for calmness and joy! We spent an hour and a half walking on the beach and clicking photographs. The sun was beating down by this time and we headed to a beach shack to have a cold drink. We met the beach shack owner – a friendly guy who also rents out beach huts. The beach huts were priced at 3500 bucks a night. My husband and I both agreed that we should have a quiet beach holiday sometime again where we rent a hut and stay on the beach for a couple of days. There were bikes (cycles) that could be hired to go hiking around the place. The crowd at Agonda consisted of mostly foreigners who knew how to have fun at the beach. Swimming out in the ocean, surfing, playing water games, sun bathing, beach cricket, kids trying their hands at making sand castles with shovels and mini buckets – the place was full of life (much more than the “desi” crowd at the Colva)!
It was here where it struck me that “when you get to a place and don’t want to leave, that’s when you know you’ve arrived”. I really didn’t want to leave. If there’s one thing that I have to choose of the whole Goa trip that’s going to stay with me, it’s got to be these hour and a half spent on the Aguanda beach. Beautiful place. Highly recommended!
Palolem was even more colorful with small shops selling curios and beach wear and other miscellaneous stuff. We bought a couple of hats as the sun showed no mercy. We hired a long tail motor boat to see the place around. First we went dolphin watching into the sea following by a ride by a few nearby islands. We got down at the Butterfly beach and clicked a few photographs. The place reminded me of Krabi. Palolem is known for its kayaking and we met quite a few enthusiasts kayaking their way away in merry – majority of them being foreigners. The beach looks very colorful from the seas – the multi-colored shacks, the coconut grooves in the background, the bright colored boats going around and the cute cottages on the hill sides added to the beauty of the complete picture. The Bengali in me broke out into “Tomar ache danga, amaar ache jal; Tomar boshe thaka, amaar cholachol”! (You have land to rest on, depth of water for me; You have time to relax, stirring is for me.) We paid the boat guy 1800 bucks and then headed back to exploring the shops outside the beach.
It was 2:30 PM when we started back for Bogmalo. I dozed off on my husband’s shoulders for most of the journey. We made our way to Claudie’s Corner at around 3:30 for lunch. We were starving. Chicken Tikka, Pomphret Masala, Chicken Vindaloo and fried rice went down in a jiffy. The service was casual but the place was quite lively. It was after 4 when we had finished.
We checked out the Bogmalo beach before heading back to the hotel for some rest. 6 o’clk saw us back on the beach again; this time for a dip in the ocean. The sun had already gone down and soon it got dark. The waves got stronger and the Sea Guards shooed us away from the water. Eventually it was time to head to the beach side Joet’s for dinner. It turned out to be an excellent place – being run by a couple one of them being Joet. The lady is a foreigner and the guy Goanese. The place was lively, the live music was good, the guests were having a good time singing along Goanese songs and the ocean roared in the background – an apt place to be able to play the onlooker!
We woke up still feeling exhausted. Both of us felt that it would have been ideal if we could just laze around at the hotel and watch the ongoing cricket test match. But both of us knew that with such a short trip, we could not afford to lose out on one whole day. Post a breakfast of toast and omelet, we bid goodbye to Raj Resorts and set off for Panjim. We drove by the Mandovi river to reach Old Goa to find that it was choc-a-blocked with people as the Exposition of St. Francis Xavier’s Relics were on display at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi attached to the famous Se Cathedral. The Basilica of Bom Jesus was overflowing with people too as it was the Sunday Mass. Instead we headed for the Church of St. Cajetan that is inspired by the St. Peter’s Church in Rome, passing by the lonely Church of St. Catherine.
Our next destination was Fontainhas, an old Latin Quarter in the city of Panaji. It has maintained to this day its Portuguese influence, the narrow streets, old villas and buildings painted in lively colors. The quarter shows how Panaji was during the Portuguese rule of Goa.
All the walking in the sun had made us extremely tired. And all we wanted to do was head to a cool place and take a breather. We made our way to The Black Sheep Bistro where we had a light lunch of Pasta and Quesadilla accompanied by chilled mock tails. The service was extremely good. It was close to 4 when we made our way to the village of Reis Magos, located on the northern bank of the Mandovi River in Bardez, Goa, opposite the capital city of Panjim. The village is famous for two of Goa’s famous structures; the Reis Magos Fort and the Reis Magos Church. Reis Magos is the Portuguese name for the Three Wise Men from the Bible.
The fort built in the sixteen century has seen a lot of history in its lifetime starting from the arrival of the Portuguese on the Indian shores to the multiple attacks by the internal rulers to the arrival of the English and the Mughals to the formation of the East India Company to the start of the Indian rebellion followed by the Indian freedom struggle. The view from the top of the fort of the setting sun over the Mandovi River was enchanting. The fort houses a small museum of the paintings by the famous Mario de Miranda. The cartoons are mind-blowing.
And thus culminated our epic trip to Goa! A lot to be taken in. A lot to be chewed upon. A lot to savor. I have heard Goa enthusiasts say that it takes multiple trips to get to know the place and I cannot agree more. An enchanting place with a lot of history and culture! A place where life comes alive! Here’s hoping that there’ll definitely be another time… Till then, let’s live with the many incredible memories that Goa has gifted this Christmas!