Friday, March 5, 2010

Day 2 – Driving Around – there’s Russian everywhere

Driving is a pleasure in Goa, the roads are narrow, but they are rarely overcrowded. You would see a white male trying to balance himself on a bike every 20 meters and an odd gal riding a heavy Enfield comfortably. We got a Honda scooter outside the hotel for Rs 200 per day and went to Calungute market looking out for all the restaurants we wanted to eat at. Most of them were closed at 2 PM in the afternoon, Goans are smart and lazy people - Why work 12 hours when you can work 6 ?


We found Infantaria – an all day dining restaurant. Ordered golden fried prawns, and their special pasta. The desert was Bebinca - a 7 layered Goan specialty, which was served with ice cream(thanks Manu for the recommendation). Yummy!



Ate dinner at Kim Faa, a Chinese restaurant – there were loads of Chinese here, which seemed like a good sign. We ate special pepper prawn and Hunan Prawn with gravy and rice. The prawns looked pretty fresh, and the Hunan gravy was spicy, hot and went very well with the rice. Ate desert at East Meets West, a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet – Lemon Meringue Pie and Sherry Trifle (Sponge, Strawberries Custard and cream).  



One of the things we’ve noticed is all the shops have Russian translation, strange for a city that recently seems to be hating the Russian tourists. Russian’s are pretty stingy I’ve read, bringing their own shrimps and drinks to the restaurant. They have had fights with locals, and lot of them land up here thinking people here know Russian. Some Russians are driving taxies taking business away from the locals.  I also read a story about a BJP leader being angry that Russians are ruining Indian moral’s by dressing in skimpy/no clothes!

However, seems like their business is pretty important for the locals, as they have promptly put up Russian translation signs everywhere. I read in the local newspaper that a local Russian newspaper is doing the rounds too. DSC00235


Shopping was a delight again - I loved a shopkeeper who told us to come back, and that he’d be ready to lower the price of everything. When I smiled, he explained that if he keeps a fixed price, people are not that happy, as they are, when they have negotiated a good price!

Day 1 – Shop all night long in Goa

The day began early with the 6 AM Shatabdi which really makes me proud. The breakfast was ‘Wow’ - Paneer Cutlets, Parantha, Wada Sambhar, Boiled eggs, Omelets, corn flakes and baked vegetables. You don’t realize when you get to Delhi, in between the various courses.

We took the flight to Goa, but another day, I would love to take the train. Have heard great things about the scenery. The flight was uneventful, other than 4 babies aboard the flight, all of whom synced to produce the highest frequency baby cries I have ever heard.

I called the hotel to ask for a pickup earlier in the day and they asked for Rs 1800, which seemed high. We got the pre-paid taxi from the airport for Rs 900.

The drive to the hotel, Lazy Lagoon in Arpora (near the Baga beach), was delightful. Made me ecstatic, and brought that awesome happy feeling that comes when you see less traffic, lots of trees and beautiful roads. Rubal got the mapmyindia GPS working, and we confirmed the route suggested by it, with the route that the driver was taking us on. We plan to use this as we drive around to the extreme north and the extreme south.


The Hotel had a very inviting swimming pool , considering the 32 degrees temp outside, and we jumped in as soon as we dropped the luggage. We rested the rest of the evening, and debated going out vs. ordering room service at around 9 PM. We decided to go for a walk and the next 3 hours were outstanding!


The small road to Baga beach is surrounded by restaurants with innovative lights, shops that sell everything from books, to magic tricks and of course bags and clothes. There are kashmiris, Tibitians, Rajisthani .. I had read a lot about this being the off season but all the restaurants were full of people and there were quite a few restaurants.


We saw Britto’s while walking, and as was in our list to check out, we stepped into the sand to the beach side restaurant. Britto’s isn’t your extremely posh restaurant, but its worth checking out. We drank the watermelon juice, which was definitely the best we had every had (update : Over the next couple of days – we have concluded that all beach shacks have great fresh juices, the restaurants in the city, not so much). The Sea food platter was decent – the baked crab , and prawn cocktail delicious. The Chicken cafreal wasn’t anything to write about, other than the fact that it made a good dip for the chips.


We went down to the beach from Britto’s and saw about a hundred shacks and restaurants lining the beach. There were quite a few people, and it didn’t seem like it was 11.30 PM. There were many quiet spots on the beach though and Rubal had a good time playing with the waves – getting scared, and scaring it.



We walked for a long time, noticing the different beach shacks – one of them had lamps made of beautiful bottles, and was called Bottles Shack!

We browsed through a few shops, and Rubal pointed out how, retail therapy goes on so late in the late in Goa. You never have to worry about shops closing at 8 PM. We took a taxi back, at around mid night, and it felt strange going back, looking at people still moving around as if it was 7 PM in the evening. I felt I was going to sleep early, something which never happens when I am in Chandigarh.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Goa Vacation - Day 0 ( Preparing for my longest vacation)

As I take my first vacation longer than a couple of days in 7 years, I have been going crazy planning (as per my friends). I have been reading loads of travel books, my bedside is stacked with travel magazines, and I have been researching everything I can find about Goa on Tripadvisor, and other newspapers.


With all books and the reading ... today I surprised myself, when I started singing a supposedly Goan song -  "Naam hai mera Fonseca, baby humein tum nahi Jaanta"  :)

We'll be spending 24 nights - 10 in North Goa , 10 in South Goa, 2 in Panjim (Central Goa) and a couple in Chorla Ghat, east Goa. 

Initially, we went to a host of travel agents in Chandigarh, as a ready made package made sense considering the very little time we had. However, all of them, told us that it was too long a duration to spend in a small place like Goa. They suggested adding a few places, or going abroad. Rubal and I, however, wanted to spend time with each other, and knew we wouldn't get bored even if there wasn't much to do.

After a couple of weekends of research, we believe, after 24 nights we'll come back wanting to go back and explore Goa some more. Here are some of the things I am looking forward to.

1. Walking through the villages, the old city, the scenic beauty. 

Take a trek to Chapora ("The ride to Chapora felt like straight out of a movie. Verdant hills, lush fields, clouds turning from white to grey as we raced them, and even a double rainbow")

See the outlook traveller article for more 10 Great Walks in Goa

2. Try all the Goan Foods -

Goan fish curry
Garlic Prawns
Chicken Xacuti, curry with lots of coconut.
Pork Vindaloo
Benebica - Desert

Just writing that list has made me hungry (More details below)

3. Explore the still tranquil North beaches (Mandrem, Aswem) and the quiet South beaches (Patnem, Polem)

We plan to stay in one of the quiet beach shacks in the last week and we'll review and finalize it during the first couple of weeks.

One of the places we really like is Dwarka


4. Wildernest Nature Resort Chorla Ghat

Rubal's recommendation. This is the side of Goa off the beaten track. A nature resort with waterfall treks, and extremely eco-friendly. They supposedly have a stunning infinity pool. This resort has great story, and is off the beaten track.

tn_infinity pool 3

5. Stay in cruise boat for the night - watch the sunrise, and the sunset

6. Go Snorkeling to Grand Island

7. See the Silent Parties at Palolem Beach

8. Visit the Butterfly Conservatory Of Goa near tropical spice garden, Ponda

There are a million other things, in a list that Rubal and I are updating every couple of hours. I'll put that in a separate post. 

For now here's a photo of Rubal just after she finished packing today





Here are all the restaurants we are interested in eating at (Comments from Travel books and TripAdvisor) -

Aswem -
Lunch at La Plage before sunset

Baga -
Eat at Britto's , East meets West, Nick's Place, Anthony's
Mackie's at Baga /Ingo's Saturday Night Bazaar at Arpora

Calungute -
Eat at After Eight's(or Sevens), Soup & Momos Tibetian Kitchen (Rubal's interested in this), Aggie's Cafe (Prawn Chilli Fry at Aggies Beach Shack with a garlic cheese nan), Le Jardin , Souza Lobo (Great review on TA, long wait but great sea food. Try king fish and pomfret ), Claudinas shack (Entertainment night on Thursday), prawn sizzlers served at at Boscos.

Candolim -
Eat at Shining Star Beach Resort, Republic of Noodles (One of the top 20 restaurants in Asia as per the Miele Guide - crunchy prawn chips , Bangkok Style Pahd Thai flat noodles ), A Reverie, Victor's , Claudinas Shack , Shivers near Kingfisher villa , Lloyd's (Pork Vindaloo, Sorpotel and Sausage Pau. Just the way your granny would have made them had she been Goan. )

Eat at Taj Holiday Village ( The Banyan Tree at the Taj serves fiery Thai cuisine. )


Eat at-
Viva Panjim(sausage rice, fish curry, xacuti, vindaloo and cafreal. ), Cafe Chocolatti, Jorges restaurant /horse shoe/ hotel venite, Deli Darbar, Panjim city
Mum’s Kitchen in Miramar in Panjim—they do an excellent crab in coconut gravy called crab xec-xec.
In Alto de Porvorim, is O’Coquerio where the squid masala and the prawn stuffed papaads are as much of a draw as the table where the infamous Charles Sobraj was arrested.
Dinner on Noah's Arc

For a traditional Goan breakfast at Longuinhos in Margao te chorizo sausage-and-eggs with pao bread is a must. These air dried and smoked sausages are cooked into a thick hot sauce with onion, potatoes and tomatoes—scrumptious.

Eat at Joets (Grilled garlic prawns )

Check out Zeebop on the sea (with great sea food) - Highly recommended by Outlook Traveller and Times Food Guide

Martin’s Corner in Betalbatim which also is in South Goa, is the most happening restaurant—the seafood is ocean fresh

Tandoori Kingfish, Madhu Shack, Agonda Beach

Eat at - Mackeral spiced and fried in Semolina. Served at the Annapurna restaurant or Hira bar in and around Palolem.

Patnem -
Eat at Anant's , try Gazpacho at Home Beachfront, Patnem

Rubal suggested that we check our Body Mass Index (BMI) on the Wii before and after the trip, so here are a couple of pictures for the record. Lets see how things pan out after 24 days !