South Goa

Aroma of burnt firewood wafting through quaint villages, houses that are a gift of the Portuguese, bike rides through the long, meandering alley-ways, slower than slow laid-back life and food that’ll make you thank your Gods….Well, I can gab on and on.
South Goa is mesmerizing, although little bit conservative when compared with its Northern brother.

We reached our resort at 3.15 pm. Tiredness had totally consumed us. Freshening up and an hour of quick nap later we scooted out to reach before time for the Benaulim sunset.

Getting into into the skin of a true photog, I pulled out my DSLR, balanced myself on the rear seat of the bike and grabbed a quick click of the setting sun glaring through the palms. And boy! was it stunning!
Sunset

From Benaulim we vroomed to Colva. Its only 15 minutes ride away. Pristine white sands blanketed the beach.  The sky looked like an enormous canvas while the dissipating sun painted it pink and orange and all sorts of those dusky, twilighty colors before finally returning home. I ain’t that good with visual merchandising, so letting the picture speak…
Colva Beach

Within those few hours we’d done quiet a lot. A yummy dinner of Shark Amotik, Fried Fish and Rice at Martin’s Corner and we headed back home.

Day 2:
Day twos and threes are mostly the busiest days of our trips. There’s so much to do and see, factoring the limited time we have. If you really wanna get under the skin of the place, there’s nothing better than talking to the locals and becoming one of them. Many of whom eventually get added to your WhatsApp list 🙂

Mr. Marcus, a quirky Goan fella, was our driver for the day.
He drove us to the Dudhsagar Waterfalls. Number of stories were shared and number of cats were let out of the bag during that one hour drive. Some jaw-dropping revelations included smuggling of deer meat for Rs. 5000 a kilo, sold to some bigwigs. Are the Forest Officials listening?

Marcus dropped us at a particular spot. Further, we hired two bikers (Rs. 500 each) who rode us to the waterfalls. Jeeps were the other option, but we being the intrepid sorts, opted for the bikes. The ride is epic and seriously not for the fainthearted.

I’d piggybacked Deepak, the sole bread-earner of his family. His brother was a miner, who is now jobless since mining is banned in Goa. Talking to Deepak somehow diverted my mind off the scary, bumpy road…atleast for a while. Oniel had scarier tale to tell. His bike had dysfunctional brakes. His rider revealed this to us after we returned back safely from the falls.

Our efforts seemed rewarded after the first glimpse of the falls. We clambered and sat on one of those huge rounded rocks, resting our feet in the cold waters and glaring at the majestic milky white waters that came splashing down. The Madgaon Express cutting through the falls, brought back Oniel’s childhood memories and there was nostalgia all around.
Dudhsagar Falls

From waterfalls to spices… Marcus drove at an incredible speed to reach the Tropical Spice Plantation (www.tropicalspiceplantation.com) in time for lunch. I’d been to one of these in Kerala and also during one of my earlier trips to Goa. I’m always game to visit these precious little kitchen beauties in their natural habitat. But this time I was too famished to pay any attention to what the spice guide was speaking. All I could see was the exquisite Goan lunch that sat there in earthen pots in the open air restaurant.
Spice Plantations
This is how Goa’s beloved drink, Feni is brewed…
Feni Making

Elephant rides, bird watching in paddle or row boat are some of the other activities that can be done here.

It was 3, so we bid adieu to the spices and drove to the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, better known as the Bondla Zoo. Deer, Sambhar, Tiger, Lions, Leopards, Fox, Snakes are few of its wild inhabitants. The sanctuary also boasts of Deer Safari, Botanical Garden, Nature Education Centre and Nature Trails. There are also tourist cottages run by the Forest Department.
Bondla Zoo

After a hearty tour of the wild, in the wild, we returned home. The muscles were in revolution already. So we rewarded them with a spa so relaxing that we were almost lulled into stupor.
That was a perfect end to a perfect day!

Day 3:
All great journeys ought to begin with a hearty breakfast. That’s exactly what we did before herding our nerds to Old Goa… All by ourselves on the bike.

Riding parallel to the river, lush green grasses swaying by, while the cool breeze rustles through every strand of your hair… its a mesmerizing experience altogether. You just have to sit back, close your eyes and soak it all in… while the rider concentrates on the road 🙂

Old Goa! Whispers of the past grandeur linger in this place… in those beautiful ancient houses which the Portuguese left behind for us. Many of them are in a dilapidated state and leave you teary-eyed. Those are the heritage that need a healing touch. Else, we’ll never realize when they fade into oblivion.
Old Houses
Se Cathedral:
one of the oldest and most celebrated religious buildings in Goa with a typical Portuguese architecture.

Se Cathedral
Basilica Of Bom Jesus:
the UNESCO World Heritage site which also has the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. The body is on exposition once in a decade and millions of pilgrims from all over the world throng to get a glimpse of this great disciple of Christ.

Basilica of Bom Jesus
While scouting the place, we stumbled upon this hidden treasure, a Church that even the locals dint know existed, but has featured in many of the Bollywood movies. Mr. Rohit Shetty, we got u! 🙂

Hidden Church
Our Lady Of Immaculate Conception Church:
this pristine looking church in Panjim has been in existence since 15th century.

Immaculate Conception Church
Mangeshi Temple:
Eponymous with the revered musical family of Mangeshkars, this beautiful temple is a must visit.
Mangeshi


Beach Activities:
Of the various beaches in South Goa, Benaulim, Colva and Palolem are most active of the lot. By active, I mean the beach activities, nightlife and food.

There are numerous water-sports that you can try your hands on like parasailing, jet ski and speed boat rides. Or just take a leisure walk on the golden sands by the sea. We did parasailing in Colva and it was mindblowing.
Parasailing

At Palolem beach you can try your luck at spotting a dolphin or two. Whereas, the lesser known Galjibag beach is a breeding ground for Olive Ridley Turtles.

Where To Stay:
There’s a whole lot of options to explore and suiting all pockets.
We stayed at Raj Resorts located just a kilometer away from Bogmalo beach (http://www.rajresorts-goa.com/).
Check out the “Hotel Reviews” section to read more about our experience.

Soul Vacation, a boutique resort is few minutes away from Colva beach. Great rooms, food and hospitality (www.soulvacation.in)

Where To Eat:
The list is endless.
Beach Shacks: strewn around beckon you to take a bite or two. The sea-food you just cannot resist. There’s cut-throat competition which only benefits us tourists. The food is lip-smacking in any shack you go.
We visited Sam’s Goan Beach Shack (Majorda Beach). Its pushed farther from its original place. You can dial Sam and he’ll guide you to it. Speaking to him we understood that it was the competition-turned-jealousy-turned-ugly legal matters that made him shift. We loved their Fried Red Snapper and the service.
Calamari Beach Shack (Dando Beach) and Sasha Restaurant (Varka Beach) are great dining options too.

Restaurants: 1. Martin’s Corner (Betalbatim) – a famous and snazzy joint peppered with bit of glamour. Mind your dress code here.
2. Sheela Bar And Restaurant (Vasco) – They don’t have a menu. Chicken Rosemary, their specialty dish, is a tribute to the owner’s mommy who invented this recipe in her home kitchen. Her name is Maria Rose!
ChaickenMariaRose
3. Chef Fernando’s Nostalgia (Madgaon) – famous for its Sorpotel, Sannas and Stuffed Crabs.
4. The Upper House (Panjim) – their Fish Thali is a must-have. I’m slobbering just remembering it

Upperdeck thali5. Fisherman’s Wharf (Cavelossim) – try their fried King Fish and Crabs. Finger-licking good!
6. O’ Coqueiro (Bardez) – Charles Shobraj, the infamous gangster was arrested while dining here one evening. They even have a figurine of him sitting in the balcony.

Where To Shop:
Shop for clothes, shoes, bags, souvenirs, etc. at one of the many roadside stalls strewn around whichever beach you visit. All you gotta have is Negotiation de Excellence and a whole lot of cash. Seriously! You’ll shop till you drop….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Market: Madgaon Market is a shopper’s haven.
Spices: Did you know it was the Portuguese who introduced Goa and even India to chillies? The aroma is enough for the spices to land in your shopping bags. Buy the Reshado Masala, Shakuti (Xacuti) Masala, Ambotik Paste and Vindaloo Paste so you don’t miss these flavors back home.

Jaggery: The dark brown colored jaggery is made from the coconut palm juice. Its healthy and an excellent substitute for sugar. Oniel substitutes this for chocolates 🙂

Sausages: How can you forget the dark, red, bursting-with-flavors Goan or Churiso Sausages! They are hung in huge clusters and are very much homemade. Try the elusive Sausage Pulao or devour them fried with chilled beer.
Sausages1
Pickles: Don’t you dare forget to buy the famous spicy, tangy seafood pickles. Molho (pickeled prawns), Para (dried mackerel), Bombil pickle (dried Bombay Duck) and the Tendli pickle(Ivy Gourd). I love the Para and the Tendli ones.

Dried Fish: Go for the sun-dried Bombay Duck (Bombil), Mackerel (Bangda), Prawns, etc… but only if you can bear the smell. They can be cooked in many many ways and taste delicious.
Bombay Duck
Feni: The liquor exclusively produced in Goa is made either of Coconut or Cashews. Yep. It ain’t sold elsewhere apart from Goa.

To be in Goa, you really need to have a voracious and a monstrous appetite. An appetite for places, people and food. You can’t have Goa in just one bite. You need to come here again and again and again and yet there’ll always be something new to be discovered.

For me, there’s no other place in this world which makes me feel so much at home…

Prawns Curry – Goan Style

While in Goa, do as the Goans do! And that’s exactly what I did last month on my visit to Goa. Gorged on heaps of classic, authentic Goan food.
Prawn Curry with Rice is a comfort food, local culinary specialty and a must-have dish on practically every restaurant menu in Goa.
Nothing tedious, nothing fancy and on-your-shelf ingredients, this curry is incredibly easy to make.

Goan Prawn Curry
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
For Curry:

  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 250 gms Peeled Prawns
  • 3 tbsp Tamarind pulp/ 1 raw mango chopped length wise into 4 pieces
  • ½ Onion chopped
  • 5-6 Curry leaves
  • 2 Cups Coconut Milk (I use the ready tetrapack one. Its thick, creamy and saves time 🙂 )
  • Coriander leaves chopped
  • Salt as per taste
For paste:

  • ½ inch Ginger
  • 4 – 5 Garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp Coriander seeds
  • 7 dry Kashmiri Red Chilies (these are’t pungent. Add more if you want it spicy)
  • 16 Black Peppercorns
  • 1 cup Fresh Grated Coconut
  • ½ Onion chopped
  • 1 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 cup Water

Method:

  1. Marinate the prawns with little salt and leave aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Blitz the Paste ingredients with a cup of water. Grind to a fine and smooth paste.
  3. Heat oil in a pan. Add curry leaves and stir for a bit till they release the aroma. Don’t let them burn.
  4. Add half chopped onion and saute until translucent.
  5. Add the ground paste and saute for a minute.
  6. Add raw mango or tamarind paste, salt, green chilies and prawns.
  7. Cook for 2-3 mins or until the prawns are cooked and tender.
  8. Now add coconut milk and simmer for 2-3 mins on low flame and switch the gas off.
  9. Don’t over cook else the coconut milk might curdle.
  10. Garnish with coriander leaves.

P.S.: Serve with steamed rice, fried fish and traditional Goan stuffed mango pickle called Miskut.
Or just dunk in any of the traditional Indian breads – Chapati or Paav.
Use Kokam as a substitute for Tamarind pulp.

 

 

 

Raj Resorts, Bogmalo Beach, Goa

“Here the welcome is warmer than the weather”…well, it indeed is! This is the tagline engraved at the entrance of Raj Resorts. For us it was a home away from home, a countryside place we city-rats crave for.
Gate

Situated at a distance of only 15 minutes walk from the crowd-spared Bogmalo beach, 10 minutes drive from Dabolim Airport and around 20 minutes drive from Panjim, Goa’s capital city, Raj Resorts offers you the perfect peace and tranquility amidst nature.
Exterior
Reception: You are guaranteed a warmest welcome here. Its this place where you leave all your worries and queries behind…thanks to Mr. Vivek Gupta, the owner and the manager of this property.

Reception
Accommodation: Room categories include the Superior, Premium, Terrace and the Studio Apartments.
We’d booked the Premium Room for 2 nights. The room is basic but quiet spacious, ample of natural light and comes with a balcony facing the road. Elaborately furnished and has facilities like AC, Telephone, Tea/Coffee maker, Refrigerator, Wi Fi, Wardrobe and an Electronic Safe.

Room 1
The pint-sized old-age TV sitting atop the fridge cabinet specially caught my attention…reminiscent of my childhood Bush TV days 🙂
Room2
Toilet: Spacious but dimly lit. Hot/cold water is available throughout the day.

Toilet2All the bath products like shampoo, soap, etc. are provided.
Toilet1
View From The Room:

Room view
Dining: the resort has a multi-cuisine restaurant cum bar overlooking the swimming pool. We had most of our meals outside except a light dinner of Veg Hakka Noodles and Potato Cutlets, which were delectable.
Restaurant

Breakfast menu is limited. We had a choice of ordering the breakfast in our room, so we did. We specially loved the local made guava jam.

Amenities: Swimming pool, steam and sauna, restaurant with bar, room service, laundry, indoor games, 24 hours hot/cold water, generator backup, doctor on call, Wi-Fi availability, money changing, car/scooter arrangement and sight-seeing arrangement.

Swimming Pool: Its a small, clean, cutesy pool that looks up to the Mango tree standing close by.
Pool
Commuting: The resort can arrange for scooter/car, even sight-seeing and fishing trips…and at a reasonable cost. One day rent of a scooter is Rs. 350/-. Cost of petrol is to be borne by you. Rent of a car with driver- Rs. 1500/-. Self-driven car – Rs. 1200/-.

Our purpose for this visit was to attend the Goa River Marathon which was to start at 6.30 am from Baina beach in Vasco. We were pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Vivek (2 days before our check-in) stating that the resort had arranged a bus for the marathoners till the venue which would leave at 5.15 am… so well before time.

Service: Raj Resorts pampers you with a personal touch…and a professional too. Ring a 9 and you are attended to within no time. Mr. Mahesh Goyal, the care-taker is immensely helpful and on his toes all day.
I liked the way the resort guidelines/rules were mentioned on the last page of the in-room menu. Makes life so much easier for everyone 🙂

Special thanks to Mr. Vivek Gupta:
After hectic 15 hours in the bus and being completely exhausted, it was Vivek who bailed us out. He ensured that we were ensconced to our room first, leaving the check-in formalities for later. Although it was quiet past the lunch time, he arranged to feed our famished guts.
The man is immensely resourceful, a thorough professional with an experience of over 27 years behind him. This baby called “Raj Resorts” is his heart and soul. Festooned with lighting bulbs and lanterns, he has made the resort stand out and pour life into the otherwise hushed surroundings.
Lighting
How To Get There:
By Air –  
Dabolim Airport is less than 10 minutes drive from the resort. The resort provides complementary airport pickup and drop.
By Train –
Madgaon Railway Station is around 25 kms from the resort. Hail a cab and reach within 30 minutes.
By Bus – Get down at Panjim and hail a cab.Its a 25 minutes drive to the resort. Frequent public transport is also available.

My Say: Rooms, Amenities, Entertainment, Service…all fabulous. But its the hospitality here that’s laudable. No wonder its has its loyalists in India and abroad coming back for the past 15 years…or even more.

It was a pleasure staying here and being pampered. Absolute tranquility is just a weekend away.

Thank you Vivek, for all the pleasant memories we brought back home 🙂