Goa, Jan,2013- A Travelogue
My endearing Goan tan to last a lifetime.
I am not sure how much time elapsed as I sat there mesmerized by the sound of tides crashing on the shores under a star-studded sky, I was snapped out of my daydreaming, or evening dreaming or whatever, not before Mr.H squealed for the third time perhaps, what will you have? The sun was already setting when we landed in Goa last Sunday on our weeklong trip, by the time we checked into our hotel, got rid of our Delhi winter clothes and hit the sea shore it was already dark. We chose the quietest of all the glittering shacks on the Candolim beach front and settled down to Country playing softly at the backdrop with a pint of the cheapest beer, no kidding here, I mean it quite literally for in Goa you get alcohol much cheaper than anywhere else in the country.
Back on the terra firma I seriously wondered what it is about this place that I can’t have enough of it. There are, of course, many reasons why people go to Goa once and then never stop going back. The obvious ones could be the beaches, parties, tan, sea food, yoga/meditation, cheap alcohol or all of them perhaps. But these can’t be enough for Goa’s overpowering pull, there’s something much surreal about this city that attracts. It’s the way that life flows in a happy monologue through its air, the sense of calm that its serene beaches offer, the aroma of fresh grilled seafood or a spicy Goan curry filling our nostrils, the sharp loud thumping of the waves on the shore, the coy smile on the friendly café owner’s face, the untold saga of a wrinkled Portuguese mansion, the glitterati laden flea shops sprawling across the sidewalks, a cosy English café nestled in some wilderness serving the season’s freshest bounties, the free flying spirits riding pillion on rented bikes, the maddening crazy night life. The spirit of this happy city as a whole is perhaps what brings me back and still manages to surprise me with its yet another hidden nugget.
This year we were, yet again, held captive to a new Goan experience, this trip had nothing except our return tickets and a hotel stay pre-booked, and judging by the way our trip went, I’d say the best you can have of Goa is when you come here unplanned. With no specific agenda or thing on mind we just kept moving in the wayward wind’s direction and enjoyed better than last year’s five starish -private beach, fine dining experience. Our hotel was just a comfortable walk away from Candolim beach front, so most of our mornings (which never was before the sun reached overhead) was about picking up the sunscreen, a beach towel, sunglasses and heading to the beach. Unlike the loud hustle of other public beaches, say the famous Baga or Calangute, Candolim is vividly quiet, pleasantly clean and mostly spanked by quiet sun-bathing foreign tourists, apart from occasional junk jewellery sellers you’d not experience any intrusion. The shacks here served decent snacks and juices or drinks as fuel while we enjoyed the sun, the sand and the sea. The food isn’t good at most of the shacks, you may get lucky with one or two dishes at times though. If you decide to stay longer you’ll be spellbound by a beautiful sunset as the sun sinks deeper into the sea’s cove. And soon the music grows louder and grills across the shacks come to life and slowly, gradually the entire surrounding will slip into a full-swing party mood. Although, it is not the best night life destination for the shacks here mostly shut shop by midnight, a few however operate till late if they are lucky to have enough guests that can keep business running.
In our quest for a high adrenaline rushing night life experience we did end up at Casino Royale, not the one James Bond went to of course, instead just Goa’s inspiration from the Bond flick I guess. Although, a visit to the famous clubs like Curlies on Anjuna, or Titos at Baga or the newest happening party destination Club Cabana on Arpora would have been the most obvious picks for night out, but we instead went aboard the cruise Casino Royale. It was a new experience nonetheless, food was just okay and unlimited drinks had limited options but the star attraction was of course the Casino gaming area. It’s not a place I can recommend unless you can keep all your temptations under check. I mean it’s fun as long as you are on a winning spree but turns into a disaster if you get into the vicious trap, so go there and keep reminding yourself that it’s just a game, you are here just for fun, you are not gonna be tempted to bet (read loose)more than you decided before entering the Casino. Ha , I know that’s how any other casino experience would be but it was my first and I’d rather not go there again for I lost all my bets but Mr. H wouldn’t mind a trip back for his was a winning spree. To each his own for I particularly haven’t been lucky in game of chances ever.
A must is a trip to the bustling Anjuna flea market if you happen to be there on a Wednesday, it’s spread across the Anjuna coastline with sellers from across the country. The folklore says that this market first went on show in 1975 and has ever since attracted tourists from all fare. A market that started as a tradition of selling old junkies by hippies on barter might appear to be no different from the Saturday night bazaars across the town. The market still has enough to attract many, the Indian Spice vendors were my first pull, obviously. I spoke to two of them and they were both from Gujrat and sold a variety of spices ranging from cinnamon sticks or basic turmeric powder to a ready mix biryani masala or the goan curry masala or Indian tikka masala, I bought small quantities of two goan flavour spices after much contemplation though. Bargain is high at every counter here, if you are good at it you can actually get the stuff at almost 1/3rd the quoted price at most stalls. Hard to leave unnoticed are the Tibetan curio and trinket stalls, a variety of beaded and metal jewellery to brass utensils with turquoise carvings did hold my attention quite strongly. I couldn’t resist buying a brass pot and plate with the intricate turquoise carving; it did however take a lot of pushy effort to bring the rate down to 1/3rd here. The enchanting colours of this rustic street market kept us intrigued as we walked further down looking at colourful clothes, birthstones, handicrafts, puppets, wooden masks, electronics, watches, bags, sunglasses, jewellery, and footwear to anything one could think of under the sun. Just before dusk the mini-truck loaders honked their way through the stingy streets and we knew it was wrap up time for the market. On our way out I did stop at a stall selling flavoured tea just in time as the vendor had just began to wrap up and after contemplating for a while I walked away to the exit for I doubted at the way the teas were kept in open they’d have lost the aroma already. I do repent not having picked a little anyway, sometimes its better not to act smart and think too much.
Other days were mostly spent relaxing on the beach, except one when we tamed the mighty waves with the speed of our jet-ski and for once didn’t feel like an elf in front of the sea’s might. A few evenings went in exploring menus across small cafes and eateries, most not quite noteworthy though, but for this good North-Indian grills at one La Shack in Baga, and Grilled Kingfish at an unnamed shack in Candolim waterfront. A food trip through this imposing land is due on my next visit for this one we shared with vegetarian friends, who did have a bit of a struggle finding vegetarian food and were mostly left to the resort of salads or Rice and dal fry. Now that I’ve finally found my reason to go back again soon, I’ll leave you to browse through some memories of our Goan experience 2013 captured in my amateur shots.