Goa, the #innsider’s way
How many of India’s 28 states can you name? Few are as evocative or instantly recognisable as Goa. What it lacks in size – geographically it is India’s smallest state – it makes up for in reputation. Popularised, to the Western world at least, during the 1960s and 70s by the Hippie Trail, the former Portuguese colony has remained a popular location for travellers and tourists in search of a winter sun destination with an alternative vibe.
Beaches and winter sun aside, you’ll find jungles and waterfalls, temples and forts, colorful markets and colorful characters (the village of Anjuna was once the epicenter of the hippie scene and the movement lives on across the state).
From a culinary perspective, as you’d expect from a coastal region, fish is a popular item on the menu. Although curry lovers will not be left disappointed, many restaurants and cafes in the more popular destinations cater for a more international audience, so the curry is less authentically Indian than other parts of the country.
Here are a few of our #innsider tips.
Beats Per Minute
Goa’s nightlife is legendary and the region has developed a reputation for a party scene synonymous with dance music and its associated sub-culture. So popular is the music scene that, by the 1990s, it had developed its own musical genre: Goa Trance.
Goa Trance evolved from a hippie-inspired hypnotic, shamanic-style rhythm – an aide for dancers to experience a state of transcendence – to a more acid house, techno-based sound, although the mind-expanding, hallucinogenic mantra has not been lost. Goa Trance is typified by a hypnotic tempo that gradually builds – both the energy and euphoria – to 150 beats per minute.
The bars in an around Vagator Beach are among the best places for Goa Trance and you can also catch ad hoc hill top rave parties overlooking the ocean at Vagator.
Hire a Bike, Hit the Beaches
There are at least 20 beaches along Goa’s coastal strip. Take time out from the more popular beaches such as Baga and Calangute and Candolim, hire a moped and take time out to explore the less touristy, more unspoilt beache:
Palolem beach, South Goa, is acclaimed as one of Goa’s prettiest. It is known for its ‘Money Stone’, a sculpture by American conceptual artist Jacek Tylicki, though now it is best recognised as the Goan residence of Jason Bourne in the film The Bourne Supremacy.
Mandrem is a bolt-hole for the cool marketing kids from India’s cities – Jade Jagger runs a beach boutique shop here.
Grandmother’s Hole is a beach accessible through a hole in the fort walls of Fortaleza Santa Catarina in the Goan city of Vasco de Gama. Its name is taken from local folklore which said that a grandmother used to sit at the hole waiting for her son to come back from the sea.
NB, the River Princess, a 240-meter cargo ship, that from 6 June 2000 spent 12 years shipwrecked on Candolim beach has finally been removed.
Less Wild-er Life
On an evening and into the dawn-breaking hours, Goa has lively reputation, but it also has plenty of natural wildlife, too. On the beaches it’s common to see cows relaxing or a troupe of macaque monkeys frolicking (visit the Tree House monkey rescue center), you can also see dolphins basking in the shallow waters (try Butterfly Beach) or watch turtles hatching (there’s a turtle conservation program on the beach at Morjim).
Deeper inland, in Goa’s forests, you’ll find a cornucopia of animals including leopards, deer, Indian bison, the sloth bear, the slender loris, wild boar and mongoose. You’ll also find 23 types of snake and, although most are non-venomous, beware the likes of the king cobra, Russell’s viper and bamboo pit viper.
True to its hippie heritage, yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic massage are popular Goa pursuits. Meditation and yoga centers can be found across the state. From long-stay, intensive courses at specialist retreats, to ad hoc beach sessions, there’s an option for all levels.
The cost of living in Goa is low, making shopping a popular and fruitful past-time for visitors. Like many off-the-beaten-track destinations you can pick up good quality curios, antiques and handicrafts from independent shops. However, Goa’s famous flea markets, many taking places on and around the region’s beaches, are a real tourist draw.
The weekly flea market by the beach at Anjuna is probably Goa’s best known. Taking place on Wednesdays from mid-morning until sun-down, it has stalls from both locals and ex-pats, so there’s a mix of the usual tourist tat (cheap t-shirts, CDs and the like), but also good quality gifts including locally-crafted ornaments, clothes and jewellery, as well teas and spices.
Once your shopping is complete, reward your haggling endeavors with a drink at one of the adjacent beach bars and watch the sun slip over the horizon.
Where to stay
Located on the popular Candolim and Calangute beach avenue, Phoenix Park Inn Resort is just a 45-minute drive from Dabolim Airport and a 30-minute drive from the railway station. It has two restaurants: Chapora offers authentic Goan cuisine; Sal has alfresco dining. From October to May, guests can also enjoy the Colval barbecue.