The Bird and the Bat Monday, 13 April, 2009Posted by ~uh~™ in Travel.
Tags: Bacardy, Beach, Candolim, Goa, Kingfisher, Martin's Corner, River princess, Senquirim, Souza Lobo, St. Cajetano, Whispering Palms
Revisiting a place is always a different experience. It particularly becomes very interesting to re-visit with family after that scrumptious first visit as bachelor!
An unprecedented 4 days holiday last Diwali, so we wanted to treat as an oasis than a mirage. My wife wanted to extend my leave and go to Rajasthan. Pondering over the fact that we have to manage two devil’s representatives (my sons) throughout, I persuaded for Goa. We were classmates, when visited both the places in early 90’s in college excursions. Bombay to Goa, simpliflied?
Peak tourist season in Goa is Oct- Mar. So, the first thing to do was book a hotel, knowing there’s going to be a mad rush. Little bit browsing, and we got a special deal through yatra.com (yes, the same one, much defamed in MS). 4 nites, 4 days- 4500 bucks for AC bed & breakfast! We booked at the Whispering Palms Beach Resort located at Candolim beach at North Goa. The resort is worth a separate review. I will recommend it with a 3* rating for families like mine.
After realizing that we couldn’t reach Goa by train, as Mumbai-Goa tickets get full in the first 20 seconds of opening, that also 90 days before the travel date. With two kids, (one still in diapers) bus was ruled out. Just for information, it’s Rs. 600 for a reclining seat Volvo, but the journey longs grueling 13 hrs. Thus, we had to take the last resort, beloved (by 50% MS members) sky queen Air Deccan. However, 14 grands return airfare for Mumbai-Goa for a family of four is a good deal. That added 26 hrs Goa-ing !
What to do in Goa (other than drinking)
All good beaches and famous places in Goa can easily found from numerous websites. I would share my experiences, which might be useful for people planning a trip this season.
Cars are available on hire- with or without driver. Bike hiring is popular too. Probably Goa is the only Indian state where we have official Bike Taxis!
The charges for North and South Goa trips may vary between 1200-1800, depending on vehicle type. I was lucky to get Raju as our driver-cum-guide. Raju deserves special mention because he drives Bollywood film stars when they visit Goa for shooting. His list includes SRK, Ash, Ajay Devgan, Anil Kapoor, Uday Chpora, Circuit and many more. He has driven the Dilip Chhabria “Tarzan” car. His personal photo album with the stars could be any Bollywood fan’s wildest fantasy! Among other useful info I knew about the stars, one was that Sanjay Dutt prefers to drive his own Land cruiser in Goa, but needs an escort car to guide him.
Candolim, Sinquerim, Baga are the beaches for you if you love serene. There’s an old, huge, stranded misplaced ship called “River Princess” on Candolim. Someone should tell the river prince where she could be found!! The ship actually looks very romantic at first glance, but slowly it expands to block the view of setting sun. Bagator & Aguida is fabulous, but being popular destinations, are crowded. Incidentally, one can start walking from Candolim and reach Calangute, as these beaches are connected. Cocoa beach offers a motorboat ride @ 300/ adult, which is refundable if Dolphins do not show-up. But be sure you reach there by 11, as by noon Dolphins go for a siesta.
I avoid Colva, Calangute, and Miramar just because of the crowd. I have enough crowds in Mumbai. In case you are interested in parasailing or a water scooter ride, get in the crowd there.
It’s not advisable to eat meals in Whispering Palms, as food is just terrible and very high priced. I will strongly recommend Souza Lobo on Calangute and Martin’s Corner at Betalbatim (Salcete) to non-veggie and seafood lovers. Both the restaurants deserve dedicated reviews on MS. I will rate 5* to Martins Corner on food quality, ambience, price and service quality. The food’s amazingly delicious!! Souza Lobo is located dot on the beach, so the view may compensate the poor service. There’s a good joint called Bon Apetit in Sinquerim, which I missed. For odd hour meals Cinnabar at Acron Plaza, Candolim is suggested. Churches
Out of numerous churches in Goa, Bom Jesus is the most popular tourist destination. Pit also has reserved carcass of St. Francis Xaviers. However, if exquisite Architecture attracts you, don’t miss the astounding St. Cajetano in old Goa, near Se cathedral. This is one of the greatest examples of amalgamation of Greek orders externally and late Renaissance & Baroque influence on intricate interiors. The Church has 6 magnificent handcrafted wooden alters over the grand main one, beautifully encapsulated by huge domes and skylight. It’s the oldest Church in Goa built in 1960s and is a replica of St. Peters, Rome. Remember this place is not in the general tourist list, and you have to insist for it.
Alcohol is free of excise duty & Tax in Goa. So, you can collect your much-revered scotch in 50% of price in your state. Like all coastal areas, Cashew nut is grown abundantly and sold everywhere. Panjim has some good shops for wine and cashew. Goan Cashew Fenny is famous; discovered Palm liquor has good potential too.
Contrary to popular belief, you can actually carry unlimited bottled of alcohol if you are flying out of Goa. Unlimited. If you are traveling by road/ rail- the limit is two bottles per adult, and the excise permits need to be carried. I carried 6 bottles back home. So far I have opened the Magic blue (Vodka+ blue Curacao), ingredients of a cocktail known as Blue Monday! Recommended- hic!
My wife found good Goan cottage industry stuff, shell-craft, lounge wear etc in Panjim, Margaon and Calangute.
Other places (we have not gone)
The list is long but Mandovi river boat ride, the one & only casino of India (on a luxury cruise floating on Mandovi), Trip to spice garden can be mentioned. I avoided the spice garden because Raju told me that they make you walk for 2 hours in the spice plantation and then make you eat heavily spiced “anal fury” food. And to make that package attractive they charge 300 as entry fee, calling the lunch “free”. The major miss out was “Big foot”- the ancestral Goan museum at Loutolim.
To end, I wanted to list some do’s and don’ts. Frankly, I could not find anything worth mentioning. If you have a map, a pair of beach sandal, loads of cash, good appetite and thirst, Goa will treat you like a king.
My elder son asked my “why there’s picture of Kingfisher and the bat everywhere?” This question never came to my mind when I was bachelor. It’s simply Beer and Barcardi for me.
Everyone should go to Goa, and should revisit with kids.