3 Nights In Goa

18th Sep 2016

The flight - I took a morning flight to Goa and happened to choose Indigo. Why Indigo? Coz beggars are not choosers! It was simply the cheapest non stop flight to Goa between 9 am to 1 pm, the convenient time for me to fly.

I had done a web check-in, and so got to choose a window seat, although quite far behind (the front seats come with an extra charge these days).

After boarding- I reached my seat and found that people (a couple) were already seated there. The man asked me if I could go even further back than the 23rd row that I had booked to row number 26 coz he wanted to sit next to his GF who was in the seat next to the one I had booked. I reluctantly obliged, and just as I was trying to adjust into seat number 26 F, next to this very hairy sardar, who was with his equally healthy but thankfully well-waxed wife (both busy showing their thighs through their very short shorts), a man who looked to be some not-so-distant, but distinctly Punjabi cousin of Bappi Lahiri, came and told me it was his seat and that the gentleman who had sent me to 26 F was actually the occupant of 27 F(yes, even further back!) While I was still fighting with my seat belt (I had buckled myself already) to get up this guy says, "it's ok, I will sit on 27 F".

Later on, right before the take off, I heard him saying to his GF on phone, "ok we are done now, I'm blocking all your contacts, you're a free bird from today".

It was a smooth take off and almost on time. First I was busy watching the rapidly getting small in size houses and roads, then Yamuna river, then the fields, and then Yamuna again, coz the flight took a U turn (they all fly in same direction whether taking off or landing ever since the Saudi airlines - Kazakh airlines mid air collision in 1996)

After a while, I started watching the stored videos on my iPad, but most turned out to be p*** so couldn't really watch with the man right next to me ( what if he got horny ????)

When I was done with the few normal ones I had, I deleted them, so as to create some space (space is always a problem in economy class and also on a 16 GB apple device).

Now, after all this, I had nothing left to do and still more than an hour for the flight, so I drank some water and then set about taking some pictures of the clouds. I was satisfied after taking some, and I think few are actually good enough to make cover pics for my facebook ID.

Soon after, the descent started, and amid scenes from the aircraft of the sea and greenery in and around Goa, we made a safe and sound landing at Goa airport.

Goa airport- It is medium sized and not fancy like Delhi airport, but further away from the main city areas of North Goa than Delhi airport is from any place in and around NCR. There are no radio cabs in Goa due to the fact that local people create a problem for them (See this link - http://www.navhindtimes.in/radio-cabs-easy-and-efficient-transport-mode-for-goa/).

The government operated prepaid service is very costly and so is the private taxi service, and thus, to go anywhere in North Goa would cost you a minimum of Rs. 1000 one way!

First destination, Anjuna beach - It is one of the calmer beaches of Goa, located not too far away, nor too close to the central part of North Goa. The beach doesn't have too many shacks to disturb the natural surroundings, nor too much crowd. It does have Chapora fort nearby and on the way to the beach you will come across a lot of small shops selling garments and accessories as well as some groceries. There is also a flea market which leads to the beach.

Our first abode, FabHotel Anjuna Beachfront- It takes a while to locate the hotel because it's situated in almost a remote location, but with the help of GPS one can find it. In case you don't have a mobile phone, try asking locals for Cafe Lilliput (the hotel is right next to it) or Curlies Beach Shack, the most famous shack on Anjuna beach, which is not very far from the hotel too.

Once you reach, you will be pleased to find that the hotel is on the beach, I mean right next to the beach! Sadly though, there are no real beach facing rooms, except some on the first floor, which come at a premium. The rooms are decent enough to sleep in but not much to write home about. The room we stayed in was in need of some maintenance. I found some leakage in the bathroom as well as from the AC. Also, no dental kit was provided in the bathroom and it was too small for two people to take a bath together. ????

Wi-fi signals are not great and they were not reaching our room. Even the mobile connection is weak inside the rooms. However, I would take it as a blessing in disguise, coz if it gets too comfortable inside the room one is often tempted not to explore what's outside.

The receptionist and other staff are reasonably courteous, even if not very cordial and warm. Ritesh, however, is an exception. I don't know what is his duty at this hotel, but he goes out of his way to add a smile or two to your stay (if you know what I mean).

Now to the better part. The view from the restaurant area of the hotel (Janet and Jones restaurant), which is situated on the beach, is very refreshing, and so is the complimentary breakfast, whether it is the Aloo Paranthas or the Omlette. These are two things (the view and the breakfast) which are not to be missed when staying at FabHotel Anjuna Beachfront.

I would suggest this hotel only if you can't find a better one on Anjuna beach, and if you need to stay far from people, internet, mobiles and a proper marketplace, coz the nearest market is at Mapusa which is almost 10 km from the hotel.

I paid Rs. 1200 for our couple stay inclusive of the delicious breakfast and the non working wi-fi, but this was during off season. During season (Nov- Feb) I've heard the prices are simply double or even triple. All said and done, season or no season, I wouldn't recommend this hotel for more than Rs. 2000

The rent-a-bike service - As described earlier, this hotel is far from a lot of markets and places from where one could buy stuff, so when we wanted to rent a bike we had to choose between two shops only, and out of those two too, only one had a motorbike. It is more prevalent to use scooters in Goa, probably coz it's easier to ride with no gears to change manually and coz the fuel economy is better than most bikes available on rent. Nevertheless, I find bikes safer and more comfortable coz of their bigger wheels. But then it's a personal choice.

The bike, however, didn't come with any choice, as there was only one, a blue Avenger, which Tilo (the owner) was not ready to give for less than Rs. 500 per day at any cost. Later on we found that it wasn't really a bad deal coz bikes are not available any which way for less than Rs. 400 per day. I say, not a bad deal coz if we had not taken it from him then we would have probably spent another 500 rupees trying to find a shop which would give us a bike on lesser rent.

Nearby attractions:-

Cafe Lilliput - It's right on Anjuna beach and most proximate cafe (less than 50 meters away) to FabHotel Beachfront. There is not much to write about this shack though, except for the view of the beach and sea, which, sadly, is visible to and enjoyed by only the ones occupying the few front row seats (about 15).

Apart from that the seating arrangement is not very good, at most average, and the staff isn't really friendly unless you take the initiative to talk to them, quite contrary to what one expects as a guest at a restaurant. This is a problem which one should be ready to face being an Indian more or less all over Goa. They don't really seem to relish having guests who don't tip in Dollars, Pounds or Roubles it seems!

The food is ok and the beer is not really cheap except for Draught beer, which they serve in small mugs and is really not worth it even at as less as Rs. 100 per mug.

Overall, not a memorable experience and I wouldn't recommend visiting this shack/cafe.

Curlies Beach Shack - A MUST VISIT shack when on Anjuna beach. The setting, the seating, the ambience, the music, all are good. However, one has to wait for the best seats, the ones on the first floor balcony overlooking the sand and the sea. The good thing is that even while waiting you can relax inside on the floor sitting arrangement, where one has the liberty to spread and (might be) even fall asleep! Who knows you might get so comfortable and cozy inside that you might not even go out on the balcony. Haha!

All said and done, I would highly recommend the beach facing balcony seats, except when it's raining, coz they don't really put umbrellas.

Now for the bad part. Well, there isn't any thankfully. Food, though, is average. Hukka is good and fairly priced. The staff was busy coz of the weekend rush when we visited, still friendly enough for Indians (as much as we can expect in Goa). The head of the waiters, Raman, was a great help and served us with a smile all the way.

Overall, a pleasant experience. I would recommend drink and be merry at Curlies and eat on the stalls selling snacks right in front (they sell Maggi as well as eggs made to order).

Chapora fort - why would one want to climb so high when there is nothing much to see from up there. Sheer waste of time and energy as far as I'm concerned. In case you must go then make sure you're wearing comfortable and strong shoes with a good gripping sole, as the climb to and way back from the fort is quite steep and tricky. It looks easy but as they say looks are deceptive. Specially dangerous for those who are not into much physical activity.

Day 2

Location 2- De Baga Deck - From the outside it looks like a very average and small hotel located in a very busy street. However, the good things unravel once you enter it.

First, the location. As I said, it is located on the busiest street of this part of Goa and so all major shops are nearby. Whether u need to go to a bank, an ATM, grocery, garment shop, spa, restaurant, rent a bike or whatever else you're looking for, all are nearby and in such a good number that you will be spoilt for choice.

Now, let's enter the hotel. The property is new (only made in Jan 2016, so I was told) and so most things look fairly neat and clean inside. We got a friendly reception by Ankita, who was at the front desk, although no welcome drink.

Moving to the room, it was quite similar to that of any small 3 star hotel anywhere in India, with the added feature of quite a nice and big balcony. The size of the room was large enough too and all other amenities were provided, including a locker, but excluding (once again) a dental kit.

The room service and food served inside the is available round the clock, and that gives a lot of mental peace to one when on vacation.

Two other things that we explored at the hotel during our stay were the swimming pool and the restaurant.

The swimming pool is good and clean, but not made for real swimmers as the depth is only 6 ft at it's deepest point. Good for us though, coz we just wanted to relax and take some good pics! The lifeguard, Vijay, is very friendly and might even help you learn a bit of swimming in case you are interested. However, they don't keep a floating tube, and that might be a deterrent for kids who want to enjoy in the pool but don't know how to swim. You also need to bring your own costume. Good thing is you can pick one from any shop near the hotel for as less as Rs. 100 for men's trunks and Rs. 300 for women's.

Food and drinks are served poolside by the ever smiling and courteous Prakash. (I forgot to tip him, so please do on my behalf too when you go there. Haha!)

The restaurant is built like a ranch of some Wild West American movie (or is it on the lines of a ship deck?!!). Whatever it is, it didn't attract me much. As for the food, well, honestly speaking we didn't have much to eat there so can't really comment on it. But then who would eat at the same place where he or she is staying when there are so many options with a km?!! Yes! There are almost 20 restaurants in the vicinity of this hotel so you too might try them before coming back to the safety of De Baga Deck.

Overall, a good and comfortable experience and highly recommended for those who want availability of all products and services at a stone's throw and the option to choose from among many shops too. Also, for those who don't want too much seclusion from the world and want to stay in a downtown area.

We got a real bargain (which I won't disclose), but the hotel and it's service is at par with any small 3 star hotel.

P.S. Don't forget to meet the shopkeeper selling garments and accessories right opposite the hotel entrance. He is a friendly chap and you might want to buy something from him. Don't forget to bargain though.

Lunch at O Patio - it's hard to differentiate this restaurant from the many that are on Baga road, but we chose it over others for lunch solely based on the facts that it looked decently neat and had some patrons even during the afternoon hours, a time when most shops and establishments are closed (1-4 pm) or don't have any guests, during off season. It turned out to be a good choice though, for the food was delicious and the beer was as cheap as it can get anywhere else in Goa. We had ordered North Indian food and when that was so tasty one can safely say that other items wouldn't be bad to taste either. The waiter was very energetic and friendly and it's a pity I forgot his name. All I can remember is that he was from Dehradun. We chose to sit outside in the semi open area as a part of our soaking in the atmosphere regime, and I was pleased to realise that the ceiling fans were properly positioned to give just the right amount of air to create a comfortable environment. The chairs, however, were not very comfortable and I presume designed only for lunch purpose and not to spend a long time there. One thing I would like to bring to your notice is, when in Goa don't order Chapatis (Roti), as it's very costly everywhere. The least we paid was here, which is Rs. 30 (slightly less than half a USD) per Roti!

Baga beach - It feels more like a village carnival than a beach. No tranquility, no peace, just a lot of people trying to soak in the atmosphere and lots of shacks to cater to all these people.

We started to walk from one end of the beach to the other, which is a distance of less than 1 km, and were greeted with a pungent odour right at the beginning where the famed St. Anthony's Karaoke restaurant is situated. I don't really know how is it considered too different from the other shacks at this beach, except that it is a bit larger and right where the entry to the beach is. However, I didn't really spend too much time there to rate it fairly.

Anyways, coming back to the beach, you can keep walking and keep crossing hoards of people and many shacks, all having some servicemen luring you to their shack with words or gestures. I'm not a racist but somehow I've noticed a lot of Bengali (perhaps Bangladeshi) people serving people in shacks here. Some might even come up close to you and ask "what do you need?", a feeling with which people who have been to Palika Bazaar in CP, New Delhi, are not unaware with.

Too many shacks too many people. Classic case of quantity but not much quality.

In short this beach is just the opposite of Anjuna or Ashvem or for that matter any peaceful and clean beach.

However, if you want "special" services or love overcrowded places, then this is the place for you.

P.S. We went in the so called off season (imagine the scenario during peak season)!!

St. Anthony's Karaoke Restaurant - It is situated right at the beginning of the point from where Baga beach starts when you enter it after parking your vehicle. I don't really know how or why is it so famous (or even how is it different from the other shacks at this beach), except that it is a bit larger than the rest and has the advantage of location. It might be good for people who like to sing along though, coz of the Karaoke thing there. However, I didn't really spend too much time there to rate it fairly.

Day 3

3rd day, third home - Rococco @ ashvem - This hotel (or you might call it a resort) is situated very far away from anywhere in Goa, perhaps the farthest northern point in Goa, approximately 65 km from the airport. However, as they say, good things don't come easy, the long drive to Ashvem was actually worth it.

So first let me tell you a bit about the drive. Firstly, it is advisable to move across Goa, and particularly towards Ashvem, on a full tank, or at least half a tank full ALWAYS, coz there is just one petrol pump on the way, and although there are stalls selling bottled petrol at every few meters or so, one can't really trust the quality of fuel they sell. Needless to say they charge a premium of 20-25 percent on the market price.

As I have told before, we had hired a motorbike for our stay in Goa, and even on a bike we found the roads to be a bit on the narrower side compared to what we are used to in modern day metro cities we live in. While we drove through the serpentine narrow roads that took us towards our destination we realised that it was kinda tricky to find it. First we reached Morjim beach instead of Ashvem, not for any fault of ours except that we trusted the mobile GPS, which, for some strange reason, conveniently chose not to show some small but vital turns on the way. When technology fails then the human touch comes to the fore but this too has a catch. Rococco sounds not very different from Coco, and, believe it or not, there is one resort called Coco on Morjim beach, not very far from Rococco@ashvem!! Unaware of this, and with the help of the innocent misleading by the locals first we reached Coco and then finally took the right turn (which was actually a left turn) to Rococco@ashvem.

Once there, we could sense right from the outside that we were up for something different. Firstly, the path that leads into the resort is serene but short, and laden with trees and plants on both sides, giving a bit of a feel of walking into a forest. Once at the reception, we were greeted by the ever smiling and friendly Viola, who is originally from Mangalore (so I found on conversing with her). She was kind enough to give us a beach facing room without asking for any extra charge over the price of the regular room that we had booked, although this liberty she could only afford to take (probably) coz the room we had booked was apparently under some maintenance and also coz due to off season most of the resort was empty.

The room, as expected, was awesome. Simple, yet elegant, with a sofa cum bed and a king size bed in it as well as a jacuzzi inside the huge bathroom. But then who wants to spend time in a room when the sea and the beach is visible right outside?!!

One can walk right outside the room and almost directly onto the beach. It's almost like a private beach out there with hardly any shacks to disturb the peace, and quite a few rocks, strategically placed by Mother Nature to make it a picture perfect location. One can walk for about a km or so on this neat and clean beach and enjoy there. A few locals too come there regularly it seems.

Once back to the hotel we realised that the wi-fi signals are bad even here and so is the mobile network. This seems to be a common problem all over Goa, specially in hotels and resorts which are situated on beaches. However, this seemed to be the only bad part of our stay at Rococco@ashvem apart from the extra soft mattress on the bed we slept in. But then, that differs from person to person. Some people like a soft bed whereas I like one which is hard and firm.

The good things are in plenty there. The service by Dipankar (yes, he's Bengali too, just like the many other people in the service industry in Goa) is top class. He really makes you feels special. The food is good too and I specially liked the happy hours of their bar which are on from 1-7 pm. The sad part was that due to off season they didn't have many of the drinks which are mentioned in the menu. Nevertheless, I would advice you to Avoid (yes, with a capital A) any other shacks on this beach, specially L amore. They don't know how to cook anything, and I mean anything! We tried asking them for different food items but each was not prepared properly, including our hukka, which we had to intervene and actually teach them how to prepare!! Arnab (pronounced Or-nub for obvious reasons), though, is a very friendly, patient and helpful host at L Amore, but he's not on the food menu so you can't eat him. Haha!

One more thing about the beach. Right next to Rococco@ashvem is the stall of Sanjana who sells artificial jewellery. She's hardly eleven years old but a very smart salesgirl. I'm from the media so didn't fall for her sad story, but you might, so beware. Jokes apart, there is no harm in buying some nick-knacks from such shops, even though they charge you twice of what is the going rate in any flea market of Delhi. I say this coz (believe me) it'll all become worth it, when, after a few years, you'll look at her innocent smile in the photographs you took with her.

Day 4

The fourth day was spent in a final visit to the beach, a late breakfast, and then returning the bike to Tilo and taking the cab back to the airport. We had planned in such a way that our first destination (from near where we took the bike) was on our way back from our last stay to the airport. This helped us save on not only some time and effort, but also on taxi fare, as the distance from Ashvem beach to airport is more than 60 km, whereas from Anjuna beach, where we gave the bike back, was 45 km. I suggest you do the same, or go a step further by trying to locate a place near the Goa airport (in case you travel to Goa by air) from where you can rent a bike, so that while going to the city and back to airport, you don't have to pay those needless 3000 rupees that we did for taxi fare to and from the airport. However, let me tell you that you should be travelling with light backpacks (like us) in case you want to commute around town on a two-wheeler.

That's all from me from this trip. Will write to you from some other location at some other time in life. Au revoir ..