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By Shilpa Jamkhandikar, Reuters, India

PANAJI (Reuters Life!) – A small state on India’s Western coast, Goa boasts of quaint Portuguese colonial charm, sun-kissed beaches and great seafood.

Goa is also favourite haunt for domestic and international travellers, and Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a visit to this beach town.

FRIDAY

7 p.m. – Start off your holiday in Goa the way you are meant to — sipping a beer or cocktail, and watching the sun go down at Baga beach, one of the many beaches that dot the coastline. If you are the more adventurous sort, indulge in some water sports or para-gliding, popular activities on this particular stretch.

9 p.m. – Dine at Britto’s, one of the many shacks located right on Baga beach. Don’t be fooled, however, by the modest surrounds: Britto’s is not just a shack, it is more of a local institution. Try the pepper prawns and their trademark baked crabs and finish with their fabulous home-made desserts, especially bebinca, a traditional Goan sweet made of jaggery and coconut milk.

11 p.m. – Burn off those calories with a walk up to Tito’s, one of Goa’s most well-known — and packed — night clubs. Frequented by tourists and locals alike, the energy and buzz around this place more than make up for the claustrophobia you might experience amid the hordes that turn up every night. If you prefer something slightly more crowded, head over to the Butter Lounge, in nearby Candolim. It may not have as many people, but the music is equally good for dancing the night away.

SATURDAY

9 a.m. – The best, and cheapest, way to get around in Goa is to hire a motorbike. You can get them in most places, even in the smaller towns. Make sure you have a valid licence, put on lots of sunscreen and head out towards Old Goa, or Goa Velha as it is locally known. Visit St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Basilica of Bon Jesus on the other side of the road. The 16th century basilica, built by the Portuguese, who ruled Goa until as recently as 1961, houses the body of Goa’s patron saint St Francis Xavier. The body has been preserved for more than four centuries and devotees from all over the world flock there to pay their respects. This is one of the best places to get a sense of the Portuguese influence that pervades most aspects of Goan life.

12 p.m. – Take the opportunity and explore the countryside a little more. Goa’s beaches are its most well-known feature, but there is more to the place. Green fields dotted with coconut palms, quaint houses with red-tiled roofs, and winding roads make for a great ride. Stop at a local bakery and sample some “pao”, traditional Goan bread, and buy some locally made pottery.

2 p.m. – Head back towards Panaji, but not before you make a detour at Star Bar and Restaurant. Yes, it isn’t the most imaginatively named place, and nor does it have any ambience to speak of, but this place can boast of the best fresh shrimp in all of Goa. Order a full Goan meal and wash it down with the feni local liquor as you watch boats sail along the river.

4 p.m. – Panaji, Goa’s capital, is a charming town set on the banks of the river Mandovi and well worth exploring. Visit the Panjim Church, an imposing structure that looks down on the city, and old quarter of Fointanhas for some traditional Portuguese architecture.

7 p.m. – Goa is also home to off-shore casinos, so if you fancy your luck, try your hand at the slots.

9 p.m. – Have dinner at Fiesta, another North Goa institution, which serves up Mediterranean and continental fare. If that’s not your style, try The Republic of Noodles at Candolim. Located near the Taj Palace hotel, this restaurant boasts of great interiors and delicious South East Asian cuisine.

11 p.m. – If you still have any energy, rev up the motorbike and make your way to the Saturday Night Bazaar at Arpora. A huge, chaotic, throbbing market, this place comes to life past midnight. Expect to find everything from trinkets to clothes to watches and even luggage. There are also food and beer stalls. Don’t forget to bargain hard.

SUNDAY

9 a.m. – Start off your Sunday with a traditional Goan breakfast of pao-bhaji, bread and vegetables in gravy, at one of the many eateries that dot the Baga-Candolim stretch (or you can visit Infanteria which serves great breakfast on the calangute baga rd). Get on the motorbike and head towards South Goa, which has some of the best beaches on India’s Western Coast.

11 a.m. – Palolem beach is one of Goa’s most pristine beaches and is located at the southern tip of the state. Soak in the sun, do some swimming, read a book and just relax – that’s what most people come to Goa to do.

2 p.m. – If you can rouse yourself from your slumber, treat yourself with a Sunday buffet lunch at the Taj Exotica or the Park Hyatt, both in South Goa. If you prefer to do some celebrity spotting instead, ask for directions to Martin’s Corner, a small shack located in the village of Betalbatim. Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and actor Shah Rukh Khan are regulars to this family-run restaurant.

4 p.m. – If Goan food has intrigued your palate, perhaps a visit to a spice farm (www.sahakarifarms.com) might be appropriate. Spices play a vital role in Goan and Indian cuisine and an insight into what it takes to cultivate these spices is a good start towards understanding the local food.

8 p.m. – End your holiday with some drinks and people watching at the Taj Aguada Resort, one of Goa’s best luxury hotels. Watch the sunset, breathe in the ocean air and start planning your trip back.

Source: http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/idINIndia-44827520091218?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

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Last week we got an opportunity to use one of them hotel vouchers in North Goa.. who can resist any opportunity to visit this lovely state. So with our backpacks we boarded a private Volvo bus which eventually left town around 10pm after a small pooja since it was a brand new bus. This driver was so careful that we reached Panjim two hours late at around 12noon, but can’t blame him completely cos parts of this road is practically non existent due to the heavy monsoon.

Not wasting any more time, we quickly grabbed a cab to Baga-Arpora (Rs 300 one way) and checked into our posh cute resort (Sun Village) which is about 2 kms from Baga. After having a very sad lunch (at the resort) we hired a Honda Activa scooter  (Rs200 per day) for the next three days and headed straight to Baga Beach – north end (where the backwaters begin) to catch the sunset. September being off season, most of the shacks are shut so our first exotic dinner was at Suza Lobo’s at Calangute which is known for its live music and tasty seafood.

Day 2 began early with a quick breakfast at the hotel (complimentary) after which we started to shop along the Baga and Calangute rd for people back home. From here we decided to travel all the way to south goa just to eat at the very famous Martins Corner. It was a good 1.5hr bike ride to this restaurant which is neatly tucked away from the main road very close to Majorda Beach (Pls get proper directions before you venture out looking for this restaurant). After having satisfied our appetite for goan food, we decided to chill at the Majorda beach which is free from people or hawkers. The weather was just perfect with mild rains every now and then, but the rain gods took mercy on us especially when we were out riding.

Another hour and half later we were back at our resort to freshen up and out before you know it. Time is of the essence and no point stayin indoors when u have this beautiful landscape all around you. Dinner was a bit different at one of the only 2 beach shacks that were open. We had a wonderful time interacting with the owner and cook of this shack until late at nite.
Our third and final day started with a positive note as we indulged in a full fledged breakfast at the resort followed by a quick dip in the pool (Be advised, its not safe to enter the pool right after consuming food). Must say that the pool was very well maintained even during off season. After exploring our resort from end to end (very few visitors do that) we headed out for some more last min shopping (wine, cashews) and for our last goan meal at Brittos. Sitting right at the beach sipping on breezers & munching on roasted prawns & fish fingers was the most relaxing moment and totally worth the trip.
Soon it was time for us to head back to the grind and our KSRTC volvo ride back was not exactly comfortable. The entire front end was rattling every time our bus went over a ditch and with the present road condition, our entire journey was sleepless. However, true to its track record we reached Bangalore bang on time regardless of the passenger comfort. This was the only sore point in our entire journey. Overall, a wonderful break especially during the monsoon.
Our 2N/3D trip cost us about 9000 Rs excluding hotel accommodation which would be worth another Rs 8000 or more for this duration.
ur escapist
ATTENTION!
This post is almost one and half yrs old and a lot has changed in GOA since. We are hearing stories of women being attacked, raped and teased on the once popular beaches of goa. Its sad to state that, this attractive holiday destination is not save for tourists anymore especially for women and young girls.
Pls read this news about a 9 yr old girl being raped by an Indian tourist here and the subsequent travel advisory by the Russian government here.
During one of our recent visit to Calangute & Baga beaches in North Goa, we observed a large influx of young males from certain central and northern states whose behavior was out of line. We saw them staring at women (foreign and indian) and hooting at them. Some even approached these women asking if they’d like to join them and tried to hold their hands.  Though we did intervene, the sheer number in their groups gave them the courage to rebel us.
The worst part was that not a single cop was in sight especially after 8pm while the beach is open all nite.
These incidences are happening more often but the government is still not waking up to this menace. Hope they get their act in place before its too late. Till then, let us all be careful when we travel to this state and always stay in groups.
Pls share your experiences here if any.

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