Life is sucking, job or business has become a headache, and there is nothing good to feel about - pack your bags and head to Goa.
So, we headed to Goa for a 3 weeks workcation. The plan was simple, experience as much (if not all) of Goa as we can.
Part 1 - North Goa
We started our Goan expedition with luxury - staying at an upscale resort in Candolim, North Goa - Whispering Palms Beach Resort. After checking into the resort by evening, we had 3 nights and 3 days (weekend) to explore the stretch between Chapora Fort and Aguada Fort.
On Day 1, we rented a scooter from outside our resort and drove towards Chapora Fort (yes, it's the place where 'Dil Chahta Hai' was shot - probably the only "attractive" thing about it). No matter wherever you looked, the view was breathtaking. As you climb the stairs, you could see the Chapora river. Once you enter the fort, you can see the beaches on either side along with a great ocean view.
Disclaimer: It's a 10 mins. hike from the parking lot to the fort. Highly advise to go during the sunset hours.
From there, we headed to one of the beach shacks lined up along the Princess Dream/Vagator beach and spent the whole day talking and chilling there. It was the sunset that made us realize how long we spent there, so we headed back to our resort to enjoy the evening.
The next day we had our breakfast, spent some time at the resort and then left for Aguada Fort. We did plan to go to the Kaurati's Cave but it was a 10 - 15 mins. trek and too hot in the day. So we went to the Taj instead. :P We walked around the Taj soaking in the view. It's a great property, btw!
Disclaimer: Trek in Goa only in the early morning or evening. Even if it is December!
Inspired by these view, we decided to have our lunch there itself. So, we ordered pizza and salad. :P
After lunch, we went to Aguada Fort. It is as good as a military fort can be, with a lighthouse inside. It has a large water storage tank in the middle. Prefer going in the evening. For all the photographers out there, the view of the Arabian Sea was great.
All this time in Goa, I came across many tattoo parlors. So while returning from Aguada, I stopped at one and got a tattoo which I had been planning since some time.
We headed back to our resort and rested for a bit before heading to the party beach of Goa - the Baga beach. We spent some time strolling around Tito's lane and the beach, listening to the loud music played by each beach shack and refusing the servers who were constantly calling us to have food at their respective shacks.
After strolling at the beach for about an hour, we decided to have dinner at the Tito's Club. The place was super busy. We had to shout a couple times to call our server. The food was great though. Upon finishing our dinner, we went back to the resort.
The next day was the time to leave this beautiful resort and head further North to spend 6 days in Arambol. We took a taxi to reach our Airbnb at Arambol (30 kms - 1 hour - Rs. 900). Our driver was a sweet, old man, who was a student during the Portuguese rule. We talked about how things were during the Portuguese rule till 1961 and how have they changed since. His stories were so intriguing that we didn't even realize, we reached our destination.
The moment you cross the Siolim bridge, it feels like you have stepped back in time. Old Goan houses with garden in front, lots of greenery and the classic Goan roof structure. It was amazing to see such contrast in just a few minutes.
So, we reached Arambol. We had booked an Airbnb hosted by a Portuguese owner. It was a 1 BK, with the kitchen in the balcony and a grocery store on the ground floor.
We spent these 6 days working during the day time, occasionally going to the beach in the morning before starting; exploring cafes and restaurants around Arambol along with renting a scooter for a day to explore the stretch between Morjim beach and Querim beach. If you have time (we went to Querim at the end of the day), you can take a ferry from Querim to cross into Maharashtra and visit the Tiracole fort.
Although we were in Goa during the sea turtle egg hatching season, we weren't able to see any turtles at the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Nesting site. On asking the people working there, we were told that sea turtles didn't even come to lay eggs this season and it was the first time that they have seen (or not seen) this happen.
Some of the restaurants/bars that we really liked:
Arcan bar & restaurant: This is a low key restaurant/bar in Arambol. This was our go to spot for dinner for the whole week while we stayed in Arambol. The service was very good. Food tasted amazing and the drinks were reasonably priced as well. Movie night, live music are all worth spending the time, while you sit down for a great dinner.
Garden of dreams: Another great place in Arambol, especially for vegans. A very chilled out place, with completely different vibes. There's live music and they have charging points as well, so you can work there and spend the day.
Laughing Buddha: It's a beach shack and also offers beach huts to stay in. Their food and drinks menu was quite extensive and the taste was amazing as well. A really good place if you want to just lie down and spend the day at the beach.
Disclaimer: It was after living in Arambol for a week, hopping from one beach shack to another, that we realized that most of the beach shacks use the same oil in which they fry fish, to fry other items like fritters, french fries, as well. So, if you are a vegetarian or someone who doesn't like fishy taste, make sure to ask them if they use the same oil and if they could fry it in fresh oil for you (spoiler alert - they'll kindly refuse and ask you to order something else).
Part 2 - South Goa
After spending over a week in North Goa, it was time to head to South Goa. So we packed our bags, hired a cab and headed to Palolem - where we had booked an Airbnb 1BK beach house hosted by a Canadian couple. We were the first guest of the season for them, since they had gone back to Canada a little late (due to Covid restrictions) during the off season.
We had a big room, a well equipped kitchen, a washing machine (which we used quite extensively :P ) and a patio with swing. It was so good staying there, we could hear the waves crashing at the beach early in the morning and the calm surroundings. We even went out for morning swims into the ocean, during our week long stay there.
We rented out a scooter for couple days to explore the stretch between Cabo de Rama fort and Polem beach.
The Cabo de Rama fort is just another ruined Portuguese fort in Goa, from the 18th century - with a chapel inside. However, if you hike down (3-5 mins.) from one side of the fort, you'll reach the Pebbles beach and that is worth going to. As the name suggests, it's a rock and pebbles beach. It is very peaceful there and a great spot to view the sunset.
On the way, we stopped at Agonda beach as well, for lunch and to spend some time so that we don't repeat the mistake of going to a fort mid day. It was probably the most deserted beach I have seen in Goa, irrespective of the time of day.
We celebrated New Year's night at the Palolem beach itself. It was too crowded and people were littering everywhere on the beach so we just spent some 10 - 15 mins. on the beach and came back to our beach house.
We also went for a boat ride on one of the days expecting to see dolphins, but couldn't due to high sea. We did ride around the Palolem Island Reserve, to the Turtle rock, honeymoon beach and butterfly beach.
Some special mentions in South Goa:
Baba's Little Italy: A great and cozy place to dine at, near the Palolem beach. Consider booking a table beforehand. The food is delicious and service is prompt. Don't miss out on the Tiramisu cake!
Zest Cafe: Another great place in Palolem. It's a beautiful cafe with very kind staff. Amazing ambience. They serve delicious food. It's a must visit, specially for vegetarians and vegans.
Part 3 - City Life
After spending the week in South Goa, it was time to experience the city life. So, we booked a 1BK on Airbnb. It was an apartment in the Taleigao area of Panaji/Panjim.
We rented a scooter here as well for the 4 days we had to stay in the city. While in the city, we visited the St. Augustine Tower - a 4 storeyed tower which used to be a part of the church built in early 17th century, but collapsed as time passed by. We also went to the Se Cathedral and the Basilica of Bom Jesus which contains the tomb of Saint Francis Xavier. We also walked around the famous Fontainhas area which is very colorful and has houses built in classic Portuguese style.
Now, what's a trip to Goa without a night at the Casino. So, we zeroed in on the best Casino there is, the Deltin Royale. Once you reach their onshore office, they check you in and show you the way to the dock. A ferry comes and picks you up to take you to the casino which is on a ship in the Mandovi river. We planned to go to the casino during sunset so that we could see the sunset while on the ferry. The ship had 5 decks. The lower (1st) and the 3rd deck had casino and card rooms while the 2nd and 5th (open air) decks were restaurants. The 4th deck had suites where you could book and stay as well. The food tasted decent. The evening snacks were on order (very slow service), while the dinner was buffet. There was live music and performances as well. We really enjoyed the 6+ hours we spent there; and no, it wasn't just because we won as much as we had spent in the 4 days at Panjim (including the stay, food and tickets to the casino)!
For our last 2 days in Goa, we decided to move back to the beaches. This time we booked our stay at Bogamallo beach, right behind the airport. We were so glad that we decided to cancel our other stay and book where we booked. It was not only a great stay with spacious room and a balcony, but also the most beautiful looking and innovative food and drinks were served in their restaurant below. Moreover, we couldn't find even a single flaw in the taste of food we ate.
We also visited the Indian Naval Aviation museum which was at a walking distance from our place.
In conclusion, the 21 days that I spent in Goa were one of my most favorite experience. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Although, we couldn't explore the whole of Goa. One big miss from our itinerary were the Dudhsagar Falls. We did plan to go there when we started this "expedition", but considering the time it would take and balancing our day jobs with it proved to be a blocker.
Anyway, this trip made me realize how kind, fun and laid back Goans are. We came across so many people throughout this trip, be it at restaurants or at beaches or just wandering down the roads and not a single person was unkind or rude. They were also ready to help with a smile. With all these memories and experiences in mind, thank you Goa! :)