This past weekend marked my first ever trip to Goa – making moves on that bucket list. Goa, a former Portuguese colony, is the smallest state in India, known for its 80+ kilometers of beaches.
Some minimal planning occurred pre-trip. When I say planning, we really we just had to decide North Goa vs. South Goa and book hotel accordingly (it is possible to do both in a single trip but it requires longer than a weekend to do well). South Goa’s beaches are more beautiful, celebrities have homes there, it’s quieter, etc. North Goa is a bit more tourtisty and thus has more of a night-life and shopping scene. Initially a number of coworkers had expressed interest in the trip, but ultimately, due to the threat of rain and laziness (I presume), only four of us took the plunge. Despite that, we had about ten people involved in an in-office debate about which district was the better weekend-choice. Totes professional. The North won (turns out Goa is similar to California in that way).
Well, right on cue, the Thursday before our Friday afternoon departure, monsoon rains begin in Goa (they are always expected to arrive the first week of June). At this point we’re definitely going and just hoping to enjoy some beach time sans rain.
Friday evening we arrive in Goa and take a car down to our hotel just off of Anjuna beach. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Goa, look into the Casa Boutique Hotels. They’re off the beaten path so you’ll require a driver or scooter to get around but they’re full of character and really comfortable. Their Anjuna hotel has a classic charm in terms of decor. It could have been a converted Portuguese Villa. The rooms are all slightly different so when we arrived we were able to look at five different rooms before choosing the one that we wanted. Hot water, cozy bedding, a balcony and a view made it the perfect getaway.
Night one involved dinner and dancing at Baga beach. First we went to Britto’s, a Baga beach staple, for dinner. It’s large shack sitting directly on the beach and has a pretty vast and tasty selection of food items. Actually 99% of restaurants that I’ve been to in India thus far have a Cheesecake Factory style menu – i.e., there are too many options spread across at least four different cuisines. Following Britto’s we walked along the beach toward Tito’s another popular beach shack restaurant/bar, and danced the night away. Actually Tito’s was the last place we ended up after a bar-hopping series but it was the most fun. There was a trance room, an open air area for the smokers and then a Bollywood room. As I’m sure you had already inferred, we filmy-danced the night away. There was even some dancing in the rain involved. I did a one-person rendition of Lagaan’s, “Ghanan Ghanan” (but the rain actually arrived in my version). I’m so sorry you missed it.
Tito’s, I realized later, does some extensive advertising in Goa (they’re involved in tours and travel planning as well). There are billboards and signs on every street corner that say “Tito’s, where else?” Quite the slogan.
Rainfall on Saturday morning gave us a little extra time to recover from Friday night. We then proceeded to spend the day sitting at Curlie’s on Anjuna beach. I’m talking ten hours at the same place, eating, drinking, making friends, looking out at the ocean, strolling the beach, playing in the water, eating, drinking… Curlie’s is this large two story beach shack with nothing else around it. I’ve heard that Curlie’s can get crowded but probably because we picked the least enticing weekend to go to Goa there weren’t too many people, making it all the more enjoyable. The crowd in Goa definitely includes a lot of foreigners – at least when compared to Mumbai. A lot of foreigners enveloped in a cloud of smoke, with very tan almost leathery skin and a beer in hand – they seemed quite accustomed to life in Goa. Curlie’s seemed to be regular destination for these locals. What I love about Curlie’s is how shallow the beach in front of it is. Baga beach shacks are a decent distance from the start of the Arabian Sea but at Anjuna beach, Curlie’s feels like it’s situated right on the water. If I lived in Goa, I’d make it my spot too for that reason alone.
Sunday we visited a third beach, Calangute, which was easily the most busy of the lot. Markets, street shopping and water sports are among Calangute’s specialties. Calangute, after the other two more desolate beaches, just wasn’t as pretty or tranquil. Instead of more beach time, we voted to spend our Sunday morning shopping! Purses, jewelry, dresses, tchotchkes (Kevin was a trooper).
Our last meal in Goa was at the famed Souza Lobo, a Goan restaurant on the beach, where we closed out our trip with fresh juices + delicious Indian food. In actuality the real end to our trip was a frighteningly speedy car ride from our hotel to the airport that involved our left side mirror grazing a bull on the street (he remained upright so we’ll assume he is fine). My eyes were closed for the rest of that trip.