This is a different Goa I am going to talk about. Like most people, this wasn’t my first trip to Goa. But something within told me- it was going to be different and yes it was! I didn’t pack my bag with the best outfits and I instinctively left those stilettos back on the rack. Just my old, withered flip-flops, my favorite jeans and a couple of t-shirts. With my favorite travel companion in tow (my husband) and a camera in my hand, the Goa we witnessed is something you can only experience. A story that will stay with you forever.
Rains have a sort of love affair with Goa. They come at a time when Goa is alone and they accentuate the stunning beauty of the place. Flushed in hues of green, the roads clean and free of clutter, the countryside is nothing less than a picture. Unlike popular advice, it is actually the best time to visit Goa. Although a lot of the well-known restaurants and shacks are closed, you will find no reason to complain as this is the best way to explore some lesser known places to hang out in.
We stayed at the newly opened Park hotel in Calangute. Tucked away in one of those narrow by lanes in North Goa, the 30-room boutique hotel is intimate and very chic. Dressed in stark white, the hotel has an edgy design sensibility with an inviting swimming pool that shimmers in purple mosaic. The hotel has an atmospheric bar called Peace, which is open-air and overlooks the ocean. They play some really cool Lounge music and it’s a great place to soak in the spirit. The resident DJ, Emmanuel keeps you totally engaged on Sunday mornings with a repertoire that boasts of over forty thousand numbers.
After a healthy debate on whether to hire a Vespa or a Jeep, we settled for the latter. A Red Jeep awaited us as we vroomed off towards South Goa. We decided not to use GPS but to find our way by asking the locals for directions. The idea of getting lost was kind of thrilling! A beautiful day beckoned us to explore. Mellow sunshine slowly made way for dark nimbus clouds that swarmed the skies, as the salty sea breeze caressed our faces. The drive from North, all the way to South Goa takes you through the beautiful countryside with paddy fields on either sides, stretching out into the horizon where the rolling ‘ghats’ cradle the landscape. Local Goan women sell handmade ‘gajras’ (flower garlands) on the roadsides, with modest wicker baskets by their side.
Some of them also sell large sized crabs and other catch of the day. Colorful Portuguese houses dot the village roads with cats sitting restfully in the ‘balkaos’ (the foyer and sit-out in Portuguese homes)and broods of country chicken flocking around in the garden. Buffaloes soak in the rice fields, ambling lazily as the afternoon progresses. As we drove, the Mandovi river looked spectacular, gushing with a blazing red water, escorted by the beautiful mangroves that made for a serene and magical picture.
We reached Betalbatim village well in time for a hearty meal at Martin’s Corner. The restaurant was quite busy. We quickly surfed through the menu and went for the Giant Seafood platter which came in a massive glass platter, stuffed with the most sinful seafood delicacies that can put any good five-star hotel to shame. Masala fried Calamari, Lobster Thermidor, Tiger Prawns in saffron sauce and Red Snapper in traditional peri-peri sauce.
Gluttony knows no bounds and we were happily stuffed till the brim. We headed back after a sumptuous lunch and stopped en-route at Panjim to stroll around for a bit. The old government buildings painted in powdery blues and muted yellows stood silently as the casino ships docked at the shoreline. The sky was turning into a brilliant ochre, heralding the advent of an unforgettable twilight.
As we headed back towards Calangute, we stopped by at the Reis Magos fort, perched on top of a steep slope of headland. Built in the year 1543 by the Portugese, the Reis Magos was built to curb enemy ships from crossing the Mandovi waters and stop the Dutch from coming in. It served as the first line of defense to the port town of Old Goa. The high walls of this fort have cylindrical watch turrets and cannons that were parked for emergency.
We got back to Calangute late in the evening. The evening was peaceful and breezy. We didn’t want the day to end so we walked over to the beach to feel the sand in our feet. The ocean was calm, the waves rhythmically lapping against the shore. As we walked along the shoreline, I looked up and saw a shy, full moon and said to myself- ‘This is a Goa I have never seen!’