Serendipity. That’s the word. That’s what keeps bringing me back to this place. In all probability, even you’ve been there, done that. And each time you went, you decided not to come back. Enough of beaches, shacks and casinos, you told yourself. All in vain though. Next season, you’re back. If you live in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore or have simply visited it multiple times, you know I’m talking about Goa. Frankly, I don’t even know why I have been to Goa as many times, each time deciding not to come back. The only reason that I can think of, as I write this, trying hard to look for one, is this whole ‘Serendipity’ thing. You know, when you go to a place and find something altogether unexpected ? Something awesome, which perhaps makes the entire trip & its experience come alive. Even after decades of wooing Indian (& of course Russian) tourists, Goa retains the ability to deliver this ‘thing’ each time you visit it. Goa, my friend, is only as old as the traveller in you.
And so, here I list down some of the more interesting (or delicious) ways of experiencing Goa that I came across on some of my last visits. Let’s see if these have featured in your umpteen trips to Goa. :)
A.) Slept There? – How about sleeping (if at all you do that in Goa!) at a youth hostel?
Now, this whole thing about youth hostels is hardly as much a phenomenon in India as say Europe or South America. But off late, we do see some brave & enterprising souls taking the plunge. The Asterix hostel in Vagator represented one such beginning. Clean, inexpensive and above all, a good place to meet other travellers. In the two days I stayed there, I met an Argentinian, an Australian, an American and, needless to say, a few Indians. Thing is, I can’t find it online now! A bit of google search seems to tell me, it’s now replaced by the Prison Hostel. (I haven’t yet been there but it seems to be run by the same guy as Asterix). Now that the hostel culture is finally catching up in India, why not try it once? It can be a whole new way of exploring Goa than the beach side shacks you may anyways have stayed at countless number of times.
B.) Woke up There? – How about waking up with a Breakfast at Cafe Inn?
By all means, my favourite beach in Goa remains Palolem, even after all these visits. Apart from the secluded location, scenic vistas, and clean waters, it is the presence of some really good eateries in the vicinity that draws me back. Most of all, Cafe Inn, just after the final left turn to the beach, serves a wonderful breakfast. I’ve been visiting them ever since they were a modest establishment and even now, when the cafe has expanded into far larger seating area, they continue serve one thing best – their Peanut butter croissant, the freshest I’ve ever had.
Where? – Palolem Beach Main Road. Go straight instead of taking the left for the beach.
C.) Shopped in Anjuna?? – How about spending an evening at the Arpora Flea Market?
I haven’t understood this. People have talked so much about the Anjuna flea market. Truth is, the Arpora flea market is the big daddy of all flea markets I’ve seen. It’s full of – I don’t have a word to describe it – lets just say, arbitrary stuff. From absolute junk, that’d force you to invent a use for it before buying, to musical instruments, to cuisines of the world ranging from Bulgarian to Belgian to Punjabi, the market has almost everything to ensure that you’d rather party here than at an expensive club elsewhere. And, there are live music performances too. It’s probably the one place where local tribes and the firang hippies of Goa come together as an enterprise. You have to be there to know it.
What – The Saturday Night Flea Market
Where – Arpora, North Goa. Be prepared for traffic jams on the road. (& in Goa, they happen after midnight!)
D.) Ate there? – How about eating to your stomach – no – heart’s content at La Plage?
The La Plage at Aswem is like going to a good friend’s big fat wedding. It has all the ingredients, a huge setting in vivid colours, an exotic menu, a caring crew, the peace to sit around & have a wonderful conversation with friends, except that the food isn’t free (not even inexpensive). But then, if you are at Aswem, I’d assume that you weren’t looking for cheap stuff anyways in the first place. A hearty meal at La Plage followed by a walk on the clean beach just beyond the restaurant is one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had in Goa. I suggested it to my food-blogger friend from Beingdesh and this is what he had to say after being there – Am I at Sea?.
Follow this up with a dessert at Cafe Nu in Mandrem. Though the menu has a lot of gastronomic delights to offer, but I can vouch for at least the Chocolate Ganache that I had. Their gooey chocolate filled in extremely thin phyllo dough rolls served with scoops of ice-cream will simply melt in your mouth. It is probably the best dessert I’ve had in a long time (And this comes from someone who has raved about the desserts of multiple countries on this blog several times earlier) (Read : Veg-tripping around Turkey & Of Sweetness That Travels : Dubai )
La Plage in Aswem
Café Nu, Mandrem. Keep an eye out for the sign boards for Café Nu on the road to Mandrem beach.
E.) Swam there? – How about swimming in a lake & paragliding at Arambol?
Yes & no, respectively. Yup, I tried the paragliding and came back with a close to surreal experience. But only later did I realise that I hadn’t asked my pilot if he had any certification, not even for experience for that matter. Was it a registered company? I don’t know. Frankly, I’d suggest against it. Unless you’ve ensured that the company you are flying with has convincing credentials & you are willing to risk it. Do go around the ghetto-esque setting of Arambol though, towards the north, to discover a tiny fresh water lake behind its hills & maybe take a dip or two. Goa is all about discoveries anyways. Isn’t it?
Happy Rediscovering! What are your Goa Secrets?