Friday, February 27, 2009

Go Goa!

Lush countryside, dustless road drives, coconut palm trees that sway their head suggestively in the breeze, sinful sea food and lovely sun kissed beaches. In more ways, Goa can easily be mistaken for its striking similarity with god’s own country – Kerala. Only that there are relatively lesser number of firangs who whizz or strut around, as the case may be, basking in the sunshine in bare minimum clothes either lying in the beach or riding in the countryside on their rented bikes.

Goa’s beaches are inviting. Seductive, in fact, with their calm emerald blue water with relatively less tide bordered with coconut palm trees, super silky sand and above all clean. While few of North Goa beaches are frequented by local and foreign tourists alike, most of them are devoid any tourist attention, well almost. These beaches are unhindered paradises for swimming although tourists trickle in negligible numbers every now and then. That’s probably the advantage of visiting Goa during the initial times of the tourist season, relatively less crowd. Talking of which, the best time to visit Goa is from November to March.

Old Goa’s quaint churches have an unmistakable charm and the old houses, built in European style architecture, are a treat to the eyes.

Staying in Panjim is a good idea if you are planning to do a trip to the North Goa beaches, but if you want to visit the famous ones like Palolem in the South, you have to camp at Madgaon. In North, while Sinquerim, Baga and Anjuna are haven for foreign tourists who soak up some sun blissfully, Vagator beach is relatively crowd free.

Renting a bike is the best available option for getting around. Goa’s roads are equipped with road signs that are tourist friendly and it’s convenient to reach the beaches even without a map. In few places, like Anjuna, where there are both rocky and sandy beaches guidance from the local nimbu-pani seller comes handy for directions. The flea market in Anjuna that boasts of cheap clothes, junk jewellery and wooden knick-knacks is a haunt for white tourists but of less use for Indians. The shopkeepers don’t pay attention if you are an Indian and, in all probabilities, ask for an exorbitant price even for a silly silver ring.

Apart from the beaches, the lip-smacking Goan cuisine is a must try when in Goa – especially the Fish and Chicken Vindaloos. There are countless restaurants and beach shacks that serve fresh sea-food. There are also a few very good restaurants that serve fusion-cuisine, like the Goan-Portugese food. The availability of plenty of booze could be tempting, and there is the strong local delight Feni – brewed from cashew fruit.

There’s a weekly train from Chennai to Vasco and back which is on time, most of the times. It snakes through the picturesque Konkan stretch and is peppered with tunnels and the Doodh Saagar waterfalls. The journey takes a whole 24 hours, so if you are travelling on a stringent budget and have no time constraints the train helps save a lot of money. Goa’s only airport that sports a rather rundown look is located in Dabolim.