(Aug 10 – Aug 13, 2017)
Narrow roads with rice paddies swaying on either side, the rustling of palm trees, chirping of birds and hornbills flying in pairs, stretch of backwaters with men fishing around, some on bicycles selling poi and pao from house to house, women hanging outside their homes in their nighties and saris, old abandoned Portuguese style houses,where peacocks dance in open meadows in the rains, locals gather at neighbourhood churches to pray and socialise, a light drizzle on your faces, a nip in the air, warm sunlight pouring through the dark clouds. That feeling of being in Goa.
It was early morning. Savio (My Goan host at Aldona, a hamlet in North Goa) and I were sitting beside the swimming pool, looking across the backwaters trying to find the hornbills when he said, “But why would I need more money? I have a roof to sleep under, enough food for the family, enough to have a vacation once a year, my kids are studying well, great neighbors who grow with us and then I have people like you who come over to stay with us. Life is good.” My stay with Savio and Pirkko made Goa complete for me. We did kayaking, fishing, ate together, spot the hornbills flying in pairs and watched the sunset. In between beautiful conversations about life, our cultures, our dreams and passions, I found my home in Goa.
Recommendations: Stay at the Olaulim Backyards or at the Cancio’s house to experience Aldona.
2. Music & Dance:
As I enter the club, I see beautiful yellow lights spread across the area, covering the green plants and lighting up the white walls. As I move in, I see a group of around 30 beautifully dressed women in gowns and men in smart casuals tapping their feet together on a song (watch the small video clips below to tap your feet too). The ‘tap-tap-tap’ sound and the beautifully lit smiles were enough to make me jump on the floor. A band of old musicians were playing the classics. That moment, while trying to match my feet with the rest, and going 1-2-left and a 1-2-right, I didn’t realize when 3 hours passed away. I was there, at that very moment; and it was beautiful!
You know what was beautiful about the locals? The ease they were carrying, the confidence with which they would make everyone comfortable around themselves, ask people for a dance and have a sheer fun time! I took back a lot of freedom and simplicity that evening. Learning bachata has definitely gone up in my learning list 😀
As flavourful as Goa as a state is, the food here is equally flavourful! Most of the local food is primarily dependent of flavourful curries, beautiful in look and burst into multiple tastes. You talk about Xacutti, Cafreal, Tonak or Uddamethi, one bite and your mouth till head is full of different flavours. Trust me, it’s heavenly!
Recommendations: Gunpowder (My favourite), Voltaire, Sanil’s for the best Goan thali and Andron Restaurant for fantastic curries and goan food
At the same time, Goa is also full of small cafes and bakeries which hold multiple stories untold. It was raining when we picked up our thar and began the drive. Driving through the narrow roads and crossing Aldona, we reached a beautiful yellow building which we could not resist climbing up. Benches and tables were spread in the verandah, with a view of hills, rain and a wind chime adding to the sound of the rain. We were welcomed by a dog who took us around and got us to our seat. That’s when Mritika came in. Whispering cafe is a small boutique cafe at the top of a hill near Mapusa, run by Mritika who moved from Mumbai a few ago, enticed by what Goa holds. Next few hours were spent talking about the 2 extreme world existing together in Goa (of alcohol and parties to the a peaceful unexplored Goa), of learning how to pronounce the places in Goa correctly and just getting present to another human being’s world. What a beautiful evening!
4. Sunsets and all things beautiful:
As far as you can see at the horizon, sky changing it’s color from orange to a hundred shades of pink to a dark navy blue, sun-rays dancing over the water, it’s mesmerizing. Times like these makes one realize of the little things that matter.
Other than the standard beach sunsets, my favourite is the drive from Panjim to Pomburpa. Rolling green meadows, stretch of backwaters on one side and old portugese houses on the other, local men selling poi and tea shops around. It’s a beautiful stretch if you take the inner route from Mapusa. Also, drive towards the Aguada fort from Candolim and stop anywhere in between. The view of a beautiful sunset will remain with you forever; like shades of red, orange, yellow and pink infusing into each other with time.
Recommendation: Here is my favourite route from Panjim to Pomburpa. It’s going to be worth it, I bet!
5. A heritage walk to Portugal
By the late 15th century, upon the discovery of a new route to India by the bank of Portuguese adventurers, including Vasco de Gama, Goa became the ideal base for the seafaring Portuguese who determined to overcome the manipulation of the spice route from the East. Fontainhas (or Bairro das Fontainhas, in Portuguese) is an old Latin Quarter in Panjim, capital city of the state of Goa. It maintains its Portuguese influence, particularly through its architecture, which includes narrow and picturesque winding streets as found in many European cities, old villas and buildings with projecting balconies painted in the traditional tones of pale yellow, green, or blue, and roofs made of red coloured tiles. Fontainhas’ heritage ambience represents the traditional Portuguese influence in the area
I stayed at Mateus’. Mateus is a restored 1879 old Portuguese mansion within the boutique and restaurant lined area of Fontainhas. The moment you enter the house, the warmth of the space and the smell of flowers and beaten earth will take you on the journey back to the world of colors, warmth and everything old and beautiful.
Recommendation: Meet Raj at Mateus, the one who takes care of the place. One conversation with him and you will feel home, I promise!