An Indian Dream: GOA
Goa... the hippie paradise on earth, dream of wild party and exotic holidays lovers... It was my dream destination just like any travel enthusiast in the world. Luckily I fulfilled my dream December 2013 on highest season of this dream destination. And I have to tell you that it was just the doctor ordered; fun, peace and tranquility.
Goa in a Nutshell
Goa is described as long grass in ancient Indian language (Sansktrit) and named as Gomanta, Gomanchala, Gopakapattam, Gopakapuri, Govapuri, Govem and Gomantak throughout history. The name made more sense to mw when my planes was descending... It was because of the fact that the city has heavy vegetation and bio-diversity, it's announced as one of the centers for biological diversity in the world.
In addition to its natural beauty, Goa is considered to be the richest state of India with its strong economy and GDP per capita. According to Goans, the key reason is entrepreneurialism which inherited from Portugal's colonial empire.
You may easily detect tracks of Portugueses who took over after 1510s. Portuguese works and architecture of the city in Old Goa can be observed so readily. Moreover, you can feel like you're in sort of exotic Portugal.
South Goa or North Goa? (Where to stay in Goa)
In december and january, tourists from all around the world go to North Goa for crazy parties. South Goa is prefered by vacationers to blow off steam with south's white beach and clear water. I would highly suggest you to go to North Goa if you are looking for crazy party destinations. However, if you are looking for natural beauty, a relaxing vacation, you'd better stay in a hotel by South Goa beach.
North Goa and Its Beaches
While I was making my reservation, I could not decide whether to go to North Goa or South Goa. However, I chose Calangute which is quite close to the center of North Goa. Calangute is very close to Anjune, Baga and Calangute beaches which is famous for crazy parties. Unfortunately, Baga and Calangute beaches have their share of wild tourism. These two beaches are both crowded and have quite dirty sea.
Anjune beach which is in the northern part of Goa is a better option compared to Baga and Calangute since it is a lot cleaner. It also hosts many popular beach shacks . According to Goans, Cafe Liliput has been the most famous place of Anjune beach for years. If you happen to visit Anjune beach, I would suggest you to taste fresh seafood in Cafe Liliput... It is amazing !
If you are staying in a central place of North Goa but want to enjoy less crowded beach, you'd better pay a visit to Morjim and Ashwem beaches which are located in the end of North Goa. In these beaches, you can enjoy clear water, not get annoyed by beach hawkers and avoid hearing laud music.
Footnote for festival seekers: Asia's largest festival Sundance Festival is organized in Southern Goa beaches by the end of december.
South Goa and Its Beaches
If you are looking for some peace and natural beauty, you should choose South Goa without doubt. Agonda and Palolem beaches which are located in south, are favorites of Goans. If you ask native Goans, they'll probably tell you that they do not like North Goa and Agonda or Palolim beaches are the best.
Fortunately, favorites of Goans, southern beaches are not invaded by tourists. Therefore, there are less tourism establishments and restaurants. They are not superior than one another, all are the same. Especially in South Goa wherever you go, you can taste surprisingly good sea food for pennies on the dollar.
Goa cuisine consists of sea food, coconuts, tropical fruits, rice and spices. If you don't like spicy food, I would suggest 'Okra' traditional food of Goa. It is mix of cooked various sea foods and gombos with curry sauce, served with steamed rice. Do not have any prejudgements of Okra because of what you see and read, it's really delicious. If you are not much of Indian food fan, you can find very cheap and good sea foods all over Goa. If you order a big dish full of sea foods, it will only cost 600 Rupees ($8). I'm sure you will be as surprised as I was when you see the bill.
Well, if you are looking for different tastes, you can visit J&A's Little Italy for delicious and low cost Italian food. It is best to describe this place as Italian Food with Goan touch :)
I saved the best for the last of course. Chef Soumyen's Kitchen is flagship restaurant of Goa. Chef Soumyen had decided to open his own restaurant after his former job as a chief in world wide known Taj Mahal Hotel located in Mumbai. Judging by restaurant's appearance, you're having second thoughts about this several award winning restaurant. However, when you just go inside and taste these delicious meals, your suspicions goes away. Best-Food-I-had-in-India
The most interesting thing for me was that Chef Soumyen went all over tables and asked if they liked the food. It only costed around ($16).
Food of Body and Soul: The Ayurvedic Massage Clinics at Goa
After spending couple of fine days and eating very delicious foods, the most relaxing thing to do is to go to an Ayurveda clinic and get some rest for every single cell of yours.
You can see a doctor for a check up to have some idea about your general state of health or try a relaxing Ayurveda massage, it's up to you.
My favorite is traditional Indian Shirodhara massage. In this massage, liquids poured gently over your forehead for thirty minutes. In first five minutes, I thought that this massage is no different than torture. However, after five minutes I entered amazing zen-like state, I don't even remember how the times passed in next 25 minutes. All the stress and worries in my head was blown off !
Just Be Careful about One Thing !
Goa is a very safe part of India compared to other cities. I say this as solo-female-traveler. Therefore, it's a vacation destination to be chosen without any doubts. The only thing you should be careful about Goa is taxi drivers.
Since taxi drivers know that december-january period is the most profitable time thanks to influx of tourists, they demand outrages prices (for the rest of India) for taxi service. For instance, you are to pay 100 Rupees per 5 kms in other parts of India whereas taxi drivers demand at least 800 Rupees for the same drive in Goa. You'd better rent a motorcycle or a vehicle if you are going to stay one week or more.