It's called the Beach paradise of India, it's the "cool" destination to seek and it's the nightlife capital - but this trip revealed Goa is much more than what it is famous for.
A video blog takes your through Goa
We had been tripping well this year and have had some exciting journeys over the last couple of months. It was the birthday week for me and we had planned a couple of leaves to extend the first weekend of July to include the special day. Now when we had the time on our hand, it was obvious that we sought to move out of the city. We had been to a fortnight long visit to the hills last month and hence the human brain asked for variety. For a traveler seeking to unwind - the opposite of hills is beaches...isn't it! When you talk about beaches in India, what is the first name that strikes your mind? For us it is Goaaaa 🙂 and so the planning began. We finalized that we would slip away from the hustle of Delhi on the afternoon of Thursday, July 6th, 2017 and will be back by Sunday. Here is how the preparations ensued.
A video blog takes your through Goa
Preparing for the Goa Trip
As the preparations began, we set of finalizing the logistics !!
- Flights were the first thing that came to mind once our dates and destination were finalized and we began with the usual suspects to check on the fares. After some research and considering the benefits of redeeming our credit card points, we finally settled for HDFC's platform for Diners Club members. They have a tie-up with Cleartrip and use their APIs to offer the service. The booking was smooth and fares were reasonable but on the higher side considering that we were planning the trip in "off season". The other benefit we reaped was the waive-off of the convenience charges. We picked an Air Asia flight out of Delhi and a Spicejet flight for the return journey. So we had the tickets in our mailbox and next thing to consider was accommodation.
- When you stay in Goa, the first decision to make regarding accommodation is whether you want to stay in North or South part of Goa. Each area has its own charm and temptations - North is the party place while South Goa offers quiet and clean beaches. We opted for a decent resort in South Goa - right by the Colva beach. The season anyway offered very limited options from the party scene perspective so we chose to let this holiday be a time to unwind. We booked the room online and called in the resort to confirm the reservations.
- We had planned the trip to be a leisure excursion and were in the mood to let the itinerary be fluid. So while we researched some tourist attractions so that we could include them based on how it turns up, we did not fix an itinerary. However, one thing that needed to be booked was local transport. As most of our research indicated high rates for cabs which combined with availability issues, we had to find out a model that aligned with a fluid itinerary. Since Uber and Ola haven't yet found their way to Goa, we made our mind to hire a self-driven rental car for 3 days. Based on reviews on travel portals, we finalized a deal with Shamina from Zain Travels for a hatchback for 4 days at 1000 bucks per day.
- Last, but not the least, was packing up for the trip. We were planning to travel light and all you need for a beach holiday is a pair of flip flops and a couple of shorts. Rest is all history once you land there and that is what our luggage mostly comprised of. Of course, this was supplemented with usual suspects including our coffee-kit, camera, and tripod. All included we had a suitcase and a laptop bag that formed our luggage.
With this we were set for the trip and woke up on the 6th, rearing to go !!
The Journey Diary - From Delhi to Goa
We booked our cab for the airport at about noon and left home by 1 PM for our 3:30 PM flights. One may surely wonder why did we have to leave so early given the distance to the airport is only about half an hour long. However, those who follow us would know how we like to splurge and gorge in the airport lounges to kick-start our vacations. We reached the check-in counters of Air Asia by about quarter to 2 and experienced first customer interaction of this Airline - a relatively new name in the northern belt of the country. The airline has come up in India in collaboration with Tata Group which runs another premium airline - Air Vistara. However, the experience was nothing close to that. Right away the check in counter staff was rude and curt with no consideration for customer experience. They would assign seats of their choice and any requests (which are otherwise entertained by most airlines) were reverted with a number - the price tag for the request. Anyhow, we checked in and cleared the security to reach the first floor Plaza Premium Lounge at the Domestic Section of the Terminal 3. It was a welcome feeling like always and we streamed in flashing our Diners Club card which allowed us unlimited access to Airport Lounges. The lounge offered a decent meal and snacks menu along with non-alcoholic drinks and we used the time to stop before we leaped on the upcoming excitement. We boarded the flight about half an hour before scheduled departure and settled in our seats. Though they announced zone wide boarding but did not care to implement it. As we took off, we realized that all that the crew was interested in was selling stuff - anything from water to jewelry. Request for water was responded by a tea-cup full of water and an offer to purchase a bottle. Good that we had our own water bottles to sustain us!!
|Arabian Sea - Far and Wide|
We landed at Dabolim Airport of Goa right at quarter to 7 and proceeded to the conveyer belt to pick luggage. As the luggage arrived we talked to Shamina to inform her that we would be there in about half an hour and asked her to keep our car ready. We came out of the airport and took a prepaid taxi to Vasco - the place where we had to pick our car from. We realized how expensive the cabs actually are at the prepaid counter and were reaffirmed of our decision to pick a self-driven vehicle. The driver was courteous and fun and drove us to our destination. Shamina received us and completed the formalities - deposit, rental and identity card secured against the card and keys handed over after filming the vehicle for scratches and dents. We began the drive towards our resort in Colva and set our phone with the maps and positioned it over the dashboard. The drive was smooth and we parked at the resort by 8:30. The check-in was smooth and we quickly settled in our room. A nicely equipped first-floor suite with balcony overlooking the sea. The views were breathtaking from the go.
The Vacation Begins - the First Experiences
Once we got in our Goa gear we checked the maps for eateries around the resort - we preferred trying out options outside the resort - and found an Udipi Joint near the place. We drove around the corner trying to look at available options and finally parked in front of a small place named Sagar Kinara. This was more like a tiffin place with a limited menu and we tried out a couple of dishes. The food wasn't really that good and we decided to look for other options for later. We know we needed to look towards the beach shacks but most of them close down during monsoons. We had our dinner and returned to the resort but chose to spend time on the beach rather than the room. We sat by the sea for about an hour before retiring for the night.
Next morning we started early in the excitement of experiencing the city and walked to the beach to welcome the day. The pristine morning sea with only a few revelers was a wonderful sight. We walked for a bit and then readied up to begin exploration. We had decided to visit the North Goa region which was quite a distance away from where we had put up. We planned to start with Fort Aguada and then move northwards until Fort Chapora. It was a lovely drive for over about an hour to the fort and we reached there by 10 AM. The fort is located on the top of a hill and the swirling road leads to the location. The Google Maps kept directing the way and we finally made it to the place. There is ample informal parking around the place and we moved to exploring the monument.
|Aguada Fort - Portuguese Inheritance|
The Aguada Fort is a relic of a formidable 17th-century fort located on Sinquerim Beach. The fort has a history of being impregnable and at no time was an enemy army able to gain hold of this Portuguese masterpiece. The Fort gains its name from the fresh water stream that used to quest sailors thirst who stopped by the fort. Built on the confluence of Mandovi River and the Arabian Sea, the realms of the fort offer breathtaking views of the sea - far and wide. Though the fort is just a little more than shambles, it is still one of the best maintained Portuguese forts in the country. There is a large 4-storeyed lighthouse located within the fort which stands tall with time and says the rich history of the fort. This oldest lighthouse of Asia dates back to the time when oil lamps acted as guiding masts for ships in deep seas and dominate the overall landscape of the fort. Though the lighthouse is now closed, there is another lighthouse that has come up a few meters uphill which is used to guide ships nowadays. The new lighthouse is opened to tourists for limited timings during winters. We spent about half an hour running from one end of the fort to another and enjoying the panoramic views around. We spent another half an hour exploring the entire area and driving to the new Lighthouse and then driving to the Aguada Jail, a few kilometers away. The jail is one of the largest in the state and has an important place in Goa's fight for freedom.
Next, we had a beach excursion on cards and thought of experiencing various beaches of North Goa which are famed for their party spirit and are a major attraction for tourists visiting the region. First on the list was the Calangute Beach. One of the biggest and most commercialized beaches of the belt, the Calangute Beach attracts tourists with its expanse and festive mood that the beats create during evenings. In this season, while most of the beach shacks go into hibernation, this beach still enjoys a couple of options for revelers. We sat by the beach at a permanent shack called The Flying Dolphin which allowed us to enjoy drinks and snacks along the sea waves. The freshly fried onion rings were nothing short of a huge buffet. We sat there for about an hour getting into the spirit of Goa. The weather did support our plans by rains taking a halt and the Sun taking a shade.
|Busy Beaches with Close Surveillence|
Next on our plan was the Baga Beach a little north of the Calangute. While this is generally quieter than the Calangute Beach but still pretty busy. This has historically been a go-to destination for young foreign tourists and hence a lot of bars and party places have come up around this. This is one beach which has a lot of permanent structures around it and hence becomes the center of activities even during monsoon season. It is also one beach where we found a paid parking which was an indication of the tourist inflow at this time. We strolled along the sea enjoying the look of people thronging the beach for a change. While the rush was mostly of Indian tourists, it was still a happening part of the city. This beach is also the location of weekly night markets that get good attention. We drove from there to Anjuna Beach, a further north from Baga. This is the freak capital of the world and attracts tourists looking for peace and silent waves. Every Wednesday morning, the shores of this beach become a riot of color and a method-less madness engulfs the sands. A weekly flea market on this beach is the place to pick anything under the sun - paper envelopes to souvenirs. Anjuna is also known for its full-moon (acid house) parties.
We also visited the Vagator Beach before proceeding to the Chapora Fort. The Fort overlooks the Chapora river and hence its name. However, there is a more interesting name given to this Fort i.e. ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ Fort. The name literally translates to ‘the heart yearns’ and the reason for this quirky name is that a Bollywood film with this title (Dil Chahta Hai) was shot back here in 2001. When the movie became a blockbuster, a sweeping hit, striking a chord with the young generation, people started identifying this fort with the name of the movie only. It was already evening by the time we climbed down the fort and we decided to head back to the resort - to reach in time to catch the sunset at our private Colva beach. It was another hour and a half long drive through the smooth National Highway. We spent the evening lazying on the beach by the resort and enjoyed the sunset over coffee at the shack named Boomerang. Later we enjoyed a good birthday dinner date at the Garden Restaurant nearby. It was a nicely set-up place with great ambiance and good food.
|Sunsets are another charm - Colva Beach|
The Journey Continues - South and Old Goa
Next day we enjoyed a relaxed evening taking our own time in getting out of bed and enjoyed our morning tea in the balcony viewing morning views of the sea and sand with birds chirping to welcome the new morning. Later we spent the morning on the beaches of South Goa. We started with the Betul Beach which is like the southern most tip of the main Goa coast. The beach is secluded and to some extent boring given the lack of anything around. However, the drive in the morning freshness, just after a night-long rain was definitely a treat. We loved curving with narrow roads with lush green surroundings. This drive made us believe that getting a car was the best decision we took on the trip. We gradually moved northwards and spent time on Mobor Beach - the private beach for Leela, Varca Beach - private for Club Mahindra Resort and Benaulim Beach. The last one was actually a touristic beach with a couple of permanent shacks. We stopped by Johncy's for quick snacks. We enjoyed veg fried rice and one of the best brownies with ice cream. What we loved about Goa was the friendly nature of people and availability of lifeguards on every beach - however secluded one may be. Obviously, beaches in South Goa are more scenic and clean given lesser tourists make up to there and efforts by resorts to keep them clean.
|Basilica of Bom Jesus|
|Se Cathedral - Old Goa|
After lunch, we decided to experience the Old Goa region and drove through the city as it originally was. This is the perfect place to immerse in southern European splendor. From the early 16th century, during the evangelization of Asia, this land endured one of the most violent crusades ever witnessed in India. We visited the Basilica of Bom Jesus and Se Cathedral Church. The former is the most famous church of Goa and is known for preserving the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier, the so-called Apostle of the Indies. The huge church with unplastered walls is a landmark in itself. THere is also a museum of Archaeological Survey of India nearby which showcases some interesting artifacts. We spent some time at the church and then proceeded to Panjim, the capital city. We enjoyed an evening sunset cruise on the Mandovi river. The cruise had a cultural program bringing out the local Goan performances. We also enjoyed the views and sunset from the hour-long cruise. After the cruise, we visited the Dona Paula View Point before returning to the resort to enjoy a lazy evening.
Next day, we were greeted by rains - ones which decided not to check themselves. It continued raining and we decided to enjoy this aspect of Goa in monsoons in our own style. We packed a few sandwiches and biryani and stuffed the car. We then ventured out in the rains enjoying the drive in the raw natural environment. We headed to a sweet spot we had identified the last day - Mobor Beach by the Leela. Though this is in practice private beach by the resort, however, there is technically no such thing as a private beach - legally. There are just creations by putting up informal restrictions making it difficult for tourists to reach these spots. For Mobor, there is a narrow service road by the resort ending right at the beach. The small landing at the end of the road was the perfect place to park the car surrounded by beach sand everywhere and the waves of the sea coming towards you. We enjoyed the sandwiches and coke across the calm waters of the Arabian Sea lapping softly on the shore. After about a couple of hours of lying lazily there and enjoying nature, we came back to the resort.
|Another Sunset - This time from a Cruise|
|Sand, Beaches, and Waves - Goa for You|
Time to be Back Home - Return Journey
We checked out of the room by about 4 and reached the airport after dropping the car in Vasco. The return of car was smooth and we got our security and identity card back after a quick survey of the car for major damages.
The Dabolim International Airport at Goa is a relatively small airport when compared to the mammoth establishment in Delhi. This is run and managed by Airport Authority of India and we had expected an experience similar to one in Bagdogra from our recent North East trip. However, we were pleasantly surprised by how well it was set up. The front exterior elevation was glass clad giving it a chic look. Once we were inside, it had decent interiors for a government run airport and we explored it a bit. We had to have our check-in bags screened ourselves, before checking in at the flight counter. The process was smooth and fast and we soon checked in. Unlike Air Asia, the staff was courteous and happily accommodated our seating requests. We cleared security and entered the security hold or departure area. It was one huge hall that accommodated 10-12 boarding gates with aero bridges (yes this airport had them). We found an airport lounge - Port Lounge - which fortunately was covered as part of our credit card lounge. We had quick snacks and the staff their packed some dinner for us. The set up allows a voucher per entry for which you get a set menu. Our unlimited access allowed us to pick two vouchers each and staff obliged.
We boarded the flight by 8 and settled in. Inflight services were good and pleasantly different from our trip to Goa. we landed in Delhi ahead of time and picked our luggage.We returned home by 11 PM on July 9th and ended the trip with happy memories and lovely experiences.
What do you feel about the article? Does this tempt you to plan a trip? Have you been here already? Do express all that you want to and we would respect both appreciation and criticism equally !! And yeah we appreciate all shares and like and comments. So please keep them coming 🙂