Short Breaks

THERE IS MORE TO THIS IN­DIAN DES­TI­NA­TION THAN SANDY BEACHES AND FISH CURRY

World Travel Magazine - - Contents - BY AM­RITA DAS

Ex­plor­ing Goan Susegad, a laid-back life­style. There is much more to this In­dian des­ti­na­tion that its sandy beaches and fish curry. Won­der away into the roads of Goa.

In the au­tumn of 2011, Goa and I met for the first time. Since then I have re­turned many times to strengthen our bond. Like me, trav­ellers go back to the small­est state of In­dia to ex­pe­ri­ence it dif­fer­ently each time. The his­tory of Goa is as di­verse as the peo­ple who flock to this des­ti­na­tion.

In the third cen­tury BC, Goa was a part of the Mau­ryan Em­pire. Fol­low­ing a se­ries of an­nex­a­tions, the Por­tuguese es­tab­lished a per­ma­nent set­tle­ment in 1510. They made Velha Goa (or Old Goa) their cap­i­tal and con­verted a ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple to Chris­tian­ity. The Bri­tish colonised Goa in 1812 and af­ter a few years, in 1843, Pan­jim was made the cap­i­tal. It was fi­nally in 1987 when Goa be­came the 25th state of In­dia.

In my nu­mer­ous vis­its I dis­cov­ered a dif­fer­ent ethos of the state. Some­times it im­pressed with its quiet beaches of South Goa, some­times the colour­ful lanes in Panaji, and other times it was the Mon­soon soaked forests. Ev­ery time there was some­thing new to ex­plore and ex­pe­ri­ence.

When I moved to Goa to live there, I felt like my ex­plo­ration was com­plete. For six months, I lived in a 100-year old Por­tuguese re­stored her­itage villa in a sleepy vil­lage of South Goa. Turiya Villa and Spa is a per­fect place for tourists to ex­pe­ri­ence the susegad (a Goan con­cept mean­ing laid-back) life­style. And for me, it was a great op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore the state like a lo­cal. So I wan­dered away, into the roads of Goa.

Cap­i­tal Ex­pe­ri­ences

My cu­rios­ity first took me to Panaji. Fondly called Pan­jim, this cap­i­tal city is a vi­brant mix of arts, cul­ture, food and his­tory. A walk­ing trail around the Fon­tain­has or Latin Quar­ter is a vis­ual treat. The streets in this neigh­bour­hood are flanked by colour­ful houses, where the last names ap­pear on Azulejo tiles at their doors - Afonso, Botelho, Vaz. This is a clear re­flec­tion of Goa’s Por­tuguese past.

While walk­ing around Fon­tain­has, I al­ways stop at my favourite store, Velha Goa Ga­le­ria, a cu­rio shop sell­ing high-end Azule­jode­signed ceram­ics, ex­quis­ite show­pieces and can­dles. Marcou Ar­ti­facts, only a few me­tres away, also sells Goan sou­venirs and hand­crafted tiles at af­ford­able prices. For ap­parel, I headed to Sacha’s Shop on Swami Vivekananda Road. This store houses fash­ion­able wear along with books, ac­ces­sories and col­lecta­bles.

Fur­ther in Cam­pal, the renowned In­dian fash­ion de­signer, Wen­dell Ro­dricks, has opened his flag­ship store. The store re­tails up­scale de­signer wear and wo­ven linen for the house. It also dou­bles up as a cafe.

But for me, Goa is Mario Mi­randa’s art. An il­lus­tri­ous In­dian car­toon­ist, Mi­randa was a res­i­dent of Goa, who passed on in 2011. His work has been seen in many pub­li­ca­tions and now are pro­duced on many mer­chan­dise. These in­clude t-shirts, cups, books, posters, post­cards, among oth­ers. These are avail­able in Mario Gallery in Pan­jim, Por­vorim, Calangute and Mar­gao.

My first brush with Goa’s art, how­ever, was at Su­na­paranta-goa Cen­tre for the Arts at Alt­inho, the af­flu­ent hill­top in Pan­jim. This blue Por­tuguese bun­ga­low is an art gallery and space for work­shops and lec­tures, with res­i­dency rooms. The open court­yard serves as Cafe Al Fresco by Cantina Bodega. Apart from en­cour­ag­ing con­ver­sa­tions about arts, pol­i­tics and cul­ture, this cafe serves an ar­ray of scrump­tious cof­fee and quick bites.

The di­verse in­flu­ence on Goa is also seen in its cui­sine. The Catholic Goan cui­sine com­prises dishes like Xa­cuti (curry with poppy seeds and co­conut), Vin­daloo (fiery, spicy curry) and Chorizo (pork sausage). My favourite has been the Pom­fret Rec­heado at Ritz Clas­sic. This restau­rant dates back to 1976, which was started with an in­tent of serv­ing tra­di­tional Goan food - fish curry and rice. The

large in­flux of loyal cus­tomers in­clude res­i­dents. The Fish Thali is a com­plete taster for those who want to sam­ple au­then­tic flavours of Goa. This comes with seven va­ri­eties of fish and a bowl of rice. This is also where I tried my first glass of Feni, a lo­cal spirit dis­tilled from cashew fruit.

North Goan Trail

For a dif­fer­ent food ex­pe­ri­ence, I rode along the gen­tle turns of An­juna in North Goa, to­wards As­sagao. Gun­pow­der, serv­ing food from In­dia’s Penin­su­lar re­gion, has con­sis­tently de­lighted its pa­trons. Ap­pam with Stew and Ker­ala Beef Chilli Fry make it to the top of my list. Whisked with fresh spices, each dish per­fects the art of cook­ing. Their kitchen isn’t the only place where the magic hap­pens. With con­coc­tions like the New York Sour (bour­bon, lime and red wine), the bar is a close com­pe­ti­tion.

An­juna and its neigh­bour­ing lo­cal­ity, Ar­pora, be­come tourist hotspots from Novem­ber to Fe­bru­ary, ow­ing to the weekly flea mar­kets. The An­juna flea mar­ket takes place on a Wed­nes­day evening whereas the Saturday Night Mar­ket crowds Ar­pora. This venue is de­signed like a spi­ral es­ca­lat­ing on a mound, where the wind­ing path­way cross nu­mer­ous stalls. The Bo­hemian mar­ket is a vi­brant mix of live mu­sic, food kiosks, quirky and fash­ion­able clothes, decor items and jew­ellery, and many other ex­pe­ri­ences.

For an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence, I rode to­wards Salvador do Mundo in Por­vorim, to the ar­chi­tec­tural won­der, Mu­seum Houses of Goa. In the shape of a ship, this mu­seum has been con­cep­tu­alised by Ger­ard da Cunha, an em­i­nent ar­chi­tect. It houses all the as­pects that are unique to the Goan house, like doors, win­dows, rare hat stand, old French doors, pho­to­graphs and post­cards, and maps and ar­chi­tec­tural draw­ings.

A con­trast­ing, Mu­seum of Goa (MOG), is a re­cent ini­tia­tive to make art ac­ces­si­ble to the peo­ple. Founded by artist, Dr Su­bodh Kekar, this space holds ex­hi­bi­tions, work­shops and art classes. MOG is an in­sight­ful place to glimpse at the Goan art scene.

I have oc­ca­sion­ally been in­ter­ested in the cook­ing class of­fered in the state. Rita’s Gourmet Goa has many choices for the trav­eller who want to try their hand at cook­ing. The best pick is prob­a­bly the 3-hour cook­ing class, where guests are wel­comed to cook ei­ther an In­dian or Goan course fol­lowed by a meal to­gether.

South­ern Tales

Ini­tially it was dif­fi­cult to sur­pass and move be­yond the pris­tine beaches of South Goa. The en­tire stretch from Cola, Agonda, Palolem, Pat­nem and fi­nally Galjibag took me some time to dis­cover— each bet­ter than the other. Agonda’s seam­less coast­line was in­com­pa­ra­ble to the se­cluded rocky ter­rain of Cola. Pat­nem was a quiet re­treat to the bustling and friendly Palolem. And Galjibag, clean­est of them all, ra­di­ates the glow of the Goan sands and is rich in fishes.

The thick, lus­trous forests of South Goa are en­tic­ing. Coti­gao Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary, in Cana­cona, in­tro­duced me to the rich wildlife har­bour­ing here. On an early morn­ing sum­mer visit, I saw the Mal­abar tro­gon, black-rumped flame­back and nu­mer­ous rep­tiles.

Another way of ex­plor­ing the hin­ter­lands of Goa is tak­ing a guided walk of the spice plan­ta­tions. The Sa­hakari Spice Farm, in Ponda, in­tro­duced me to the var­i­ous lo­cally grown spices. This in­cluded pep­per, car­damom, curry leaves, cin­na­mon, chilli and con­cluded in an au­then­tic Goan meal. I quickly bought a few spices for my own kitchen, as I left.

On a cool afternoon, the forested roads of South Goa took me to Chan­dor. Here I vis­ited the Menezes Bra­ganza Pereira House. Built in the 1500s, the west wing of this colo­nial her­itage house

is open to vis­i­tors. The large Bel­gian chan­de­liers, a fine col­lec­tion of Chi­nese porce­lain, the rose­wood fur­ni­ture and the clear mar­ble floors add to its royal char­ac­ter. Af­ter con­tribut­ing a small do­na­tion to­wards its main­te­nance, I walked away to see the re­flec­tion of the house upon the Goan sky.

Evening Ex­plo­rations

Goan evenings are en­chant­ing. On days when I wanted ad­ven­ture, I put on a life jacket and pulled my solo kayak onto the sea. With low tide and set­ting sun as my com­pan­ions, I pad­dled leisurely above the small waves of Palolem beach.

On evenings when I craved for jazz, I at­tended gigs by Her­itage Jazz. They per­form at mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions, though my gear-less scooter nav­i­gated to Gon­salves Man­sion. Filled with char­ac­ter, the Por­tuguese-styled veran­dah has hosted many mu­si­cal nights.

For in­dul­gent ex­pe­ri­ences, Goa spoils its vis­i­tors with choices. The sun­set cruise on The Solita, a lux­ury yacht, is par­tic­u­larly mag­i­cal. This yacht has a to­tal ca­pac­ity of 27 and is de­signed with teak­wood. The chang­ing colours of the sky at dusk are best ex­pe­ri­enced from the rear or front decks. The quiet sur­round­ings and mel­low cock­tails add a unique hue to the evening.

How­ever, my favourite evenings have been at the Reis Ma­gos Fort. Af­ter a five-year restora­tion process, the fort re­opened in 2012. The fort is held by strong la­t­erite walls and served as a de­fence to the port of Old Goa. Hugged by River Man­dovi, my favourite part of this fort is the citadel, from where I have wit­nessed many sun­sets.

I spent the last few min­utes, be­fore the Fort’s clo­sure, ad­mir­ing at the panorama of Pan­jim. I could see shiny casino cruises, a lengthy prom­e­nade, a sil­hou­ette of the Three Kings Church, minute crowds, quiet river banks and dark­ened co­conut trees by the sea.

It made me re­alise how Goa has not changed much in its pur­pose. It con­tin­ues to wel­come di­verse groups, as it has through his­tory.

Other Places to Stay

Park Hy­att Ho­tel Goa Pou­sada-style gue­strooms, a lake-style pool and 45 acres of land­scaped gar­dens await at this five-star ho­tel perched on Arossim’s pris­tine sand beaches.

The Leela Goa A rare com­bi­na­tion of op­u­lence and warm hos­pi­tal­ity, in­dulge in lux­u­ri­ous ex­pe­ri­ences at the spa, golf course, pri­vate ac­cess beach, restau­rants and lounges.

Alila Goa Rem­i­nis­cent of a stay on Bali, fea­tur­ing for­ever panoramic views of lush green­ery, a five-star fam­ily friendly ho­tel and close to the beach.

W Goa A Bol­ly­wood celebrity es­cape to the whim­si­cal and play­ful on Va­ga­tor Beach, where lux­ury doesn’t stay in the lines and cel­e­brates lo­cal ar­ti­sans.

Taj Ex­ot­ica Re­sort & Spa Goa Close to Be­naulim’s sandy beach, lux­ury and peace­ful charm in­vites you to ex­plore 56 acres of trop­i­cal gar­dens, a tea lounge and tran­quil pool.

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