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Beach Hopping: The Goa Experience – Part I

March 22, 2010 16 comments

There is something about a beach. The sound of the waves crashing, the touch of sand and the chills of the cold seawater on bare feet is but a generalization of an experience one can have on a beach. Yet it is amazing how each of these experiences is unique.

Over the last four months I stepped foot on more than 20 different beaches across Maharashtra and Goa. It is not an achievement I brag about (Well maybe I do :P) but it is the experience that I treasure. Some of these visits seemed mundane while others were pure bliss. After all what is a visit to a beach if it does not enrich your soul, calm your mind and clear your head?

It all began with a trip to Kashid and Murud beaches which are ahead of Alibaug. Regarded as one of the prettiest beaches in all of Maharashtra, Kashid was one place I was eager to go. White sands and calm and cool waters was what I expected and it is what I got, or rather, experienced. A blog post about the trip to Kashid and Murud is up here.

But little did I know, that this little trip will set in motion a chain of events that would lead me to the point of penning down my experience of many more beaches, some of them pristine, untouched paradises!

My second beach trip was not very far apart. An overnight trip to Diveagar and Harihareshwar concluded in mid-October 2009.

Diveagar

The long-deserted stretch of the Diveagar beach won me over while the more famous Harihareshwar was only a small visit for the sake of proof through photographs for I was too eager to head back to my new found solitude at Diveagar. Harihareshwar though is an excellent beach with the waters calm all throughout the year!

Harihareshwar Beach

Then, after a lull, came Goa. This party destination is the destination of choice to spend my new years eve. Unless I find another beach destination with lesser people and same old Trance/Techno/House/Electro music, Goa will continue to remain my preferred destination to ring in the new year. But this is not the only reason why Goa is a preferred destination.

Anjuna Beach

Sunset at Calangute.

For one, I am in love with Goan beaches and can never get enough of them. Secondly, beaches have a calming effect and no where but in Goa am I at peace within.

Be it basking in the sun on Calangute, or having dinner at Souza Lobo at Baga, or light snacks at Bob Marley Shack at Candolim, Goan beaches offer a lot more than sun, sand and booze and apparently great sights too ;).

Chill on every beach and enjoy the unique beauty was my moto on this trip. Offcourse, like a dog, I left my imprint on each beach I visited. The massive early morning waves at Calangute are not to be missed while the serene waters of Colva and the unpolluted ocean at Palolem is as close to heaven as any living mortal can get.

The Calangute Waves

The long deserted stretch of Colva. It was the only beach that wore a deserted look in Goa!

Palolem is a very pretty beach!

Anjuna has its own charm as well. The erstwhile rave capital of Goa still thrives just like any other beach. Tall cliffs that overlook the ocean make for a perfect sunset point. Baga, on the other hand, is dotted with clubs and discs and shacks that go on all night, but it is Anjuna where the real parties happen. It is not just the parties, the coarse Anjuna sand and the strong water currents are an attraction of their own.

Anjuna Beach.

But really, the most fun is the long stretch starting from Baga and ending at Taj Aguada. Different sands and a different colour of the sea every few 100 meters is a sight that greets one. It is like a beach buffet – every delicacy is there – choose the one you want! Speaking of delicacies, one should try out the Bob Marley’s Shack at Candolim. They serve good Vindaloo and excellent Veg Pakodas. It is also located in one of the less crowded parts of Candolim, partly due to the anchored ship there, which apparently no one wants to take responsibility for. Then there is X-Bar Restaurant at Calangute which serves good biryani and good food in general. Another is Manik which serves good Hukka too and has excellent chicken tikka! It is located just ahead of X-Bar on the road that leads to Baga Beach.

Calangute again, the sands stretch right upto Fort Aguada.

Moving away from the more commercialized yet very pretty north Goa beaches, we checked out the long deserted stretch of Colva. The day we went, there was a strike by the locals forcing us to take the longer, prettier road to the beach. Once there, didn’t feel like leaving.

A beach with so few people on it – surely this cannot be Goa in December. But it turned out that the strike was in part responsible for the desolation that was Colva. Anglers’ beach primarily, this is where many locals come as do the tourists.

The beach provided us with many photographic moments. Colva is a pretty beach to visit and with minimal crowds is an excellent place to relax, let go and just enjoy the beach.

But not satisfied with only one, we ventured on the roads once again to go to Palolem. So much I had heard of this beach that it was only a matter of time until I made it here.

The prettiest beach in all of Goa and by far the prettiest I have stepped foot on, Palolem was as enchanting as they come. A round cape, rocks and boulders mark the edges on either side. While the beach is pretty, it is the southern tip, which caught my attention. A natural pool by the sea, it was a pretty sight.

So much so that I chose to spend time sitting on the rocks there gazing out to the endless sea as if there was no tomorrow. A quick lunch at Chascaa was preceded by a long walk.

Amazed by the beauty, I felt sorry for the beach wondering how much pollution the resulting commercialization must be causing. But it was a clean beach suggesting that shack owners could be responsible for preserving its beauty.

Goa has so much more besides beaches. There is Fort Aguada with its majestic Lighthouse and the panoramic view of the Arabian Sea.

The Fort

The Lighthouse

The View

Then there is the Anjuna Flea Market which is probably the biggest I have seen so far. Excellent place to buy gifts and everyday items at throw away prices. Offcourse, one would need to bargain hard to get those throw away prices in the first place!

The Tibetan Market inside the Flea Market. This is one of the two major Tibetan Markets there.

Would you like to  buy some pipes?

Palolem was my last beach visit in Goa. However, beach hopping did not end there. It continued with frequent visits to beaches across Mumbai and Maharashtra. I have penned down my subsequent travelogues in the following posts:

Beach Hopping Part II: Alibaug Expedition

Beach Hopping: The Mumbai Excursion – Part III

Another one of those beach trips: Kelwa Beach

The pretty Gorai Beach and the imposing Pagoda

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Beach Hopping Part II: Alibaug Expedition

January 30, 2010 5 comments

Trance dude (TD,  Me) thought of dividing part two and one into separate regions than talk about a few beaches here and there. I planned most of the visits in a similar manner as well with this part talking about his visit to Alibaug and its pretty beaches.

Alibaug happened more because of an adrenaline rush to just get up and go somewhere on a lazy Saturday. Though the initial plan was to chill at Kihim beach, the hyperactive puppy that I am, couldn’t resist checking out three more beaches in the same day!

I had my partners in crime, Rock Chic and Lord Chicken (come to think of it, they are my best travel buddies!) to go with me on this planned (or unplanned) journey. We got up pretty early on a Saturday to catch the 6:00 AM ferry from Ferry Warf in Mazgaon Dock. This is the first ferry from Mumbai to Alibaug and we were fortunate to catch the ferry as it was about to undock itself from the dockyard. Phew!

So, in the cold winter morning, we set sail to the distant land of gardens and flowers (or at least that is what I think ‘Alibaug’ stands for). A one and a half our boat journey does cut down on the long road trip and for unfit guys like me, it helps to enjoy the place more than the ride! Anyways, the early morning chill did not dampen our spirits and we began clicking pictures of anything we got hold of – seagulls, mountains, the sea!, anglers and the ferry itself! It is a pretty boat ride and I will recommend it to anyone wanting to go to Alibaug from Mumbai.

By the time we reached the other end, Rewas Jetty, the sun was already out but it was still cold. Since we were at Rewas and Mandwa isn’t far away, we changed our plans and headed out to Mandwa before going to Kihim.

The beach itself is next to the Mandwa Jetty, which divides the beach into two parts. On either side you have adventure sports activities though the side on the left is far better for the usual beach relaxation.

It is a pretty beach with calm waves inviting you to just sit there and watch the birds (and I mean seagulls) go about their daily chores. An hour spent at Mandwa in the cold sea with hot tea was an awesome early morning experience for me personally!

After Mandwa, we headed off to Kihim. Kihim too is two-faced, with a rocky side one on end and a plain old beach at the other. The entire length though is dotted with private bungalows. I envy these folks with such exotic views day in day out!

Kihim is a pretty beach though the rocky end is pretty deserted. This is where we spent most of our time watching the anglers and women go about their daily chores. What surprised us was how close they were to the shore while fishing. It seemed hard work but the rewards made it worth the effort!

We moved to the more crowded part of the beach but there was room for 1000’s of people there and we were just three! It was a low tide and anyone could walk quite a distance into the sea. Got into my shorts so that I could go in a bit deeper (still do not know how to swim, shame shame!) while the rest were busy clicking pictures.

It was only 11:30 AM and we were already tired and hungry. Said good-bye to Kihim beach and made our way to Alibaug. Had lunch at Hotel Fulora and then asked for directions to Alibaug Beach. This is the main beach of the city. A well-developed promenade, seating space, organised boat tours, vehicle parking was all there – reminiscent of Juhu beach (minus the boat tours!). We walked around looking for shade yet found none. The blazing sun beat down on us mercilessly but it was 2:00 PM so quite expected was this treatment of thee mortal souls at the hands of the all-powerful sun god (A bit too much eh? Nah! I am just getting started).

The Alibaug Fort is only a short boat ride away (or a short walk during low tides) and is a must visit if one is in Alibaug. As for us, our purpose was different (and besides the heat didn’t help either). We spent some time at Alibaug and later moved on to our destination.

Asked around, got lost, asked around again, got lost, asked around yet again and finally got the route! It was the last beach for the trip and my oh my, wasn’t it just worth the wait! A magnificent beach, it reminded me of Diveagar. A beach just ahead of Kihim (in fact there is an inner dirt road that goes here from Kihim). Oh yes! Trance Dude speaks about Awas, a place, for which, he has already made some special plans.

Awas is in fact like a copy of Diveagar with a creek on either end where anglers can be seen laboring throughout the day. A deserted beach, we shared this long stretch of sand with another group of around 15 people who were busy playing cricket.

It is hard to describe how pretty I found Awas in its raw state. Yes the beach needs cleaning up, Yes the sand isn’t as fine as in Goa, Yes there are way too many crabs for my liking but nothing was going to stop me from falling in love with Awas. Took a long walk on the beach and was quite surprised to see three different types of sands as well as a clear (clearer in fact) patch of sea in the middle of the otherwise muddy waters. Don’t get me wrong, the water was quite clear, just that the sand seemed loose for most of the stretch resulting in the ‘muddy looking water’.

It is a perfect beach for a long lazy day with your friends. We were here for around 3 hours and didn’t see as many people come even as the sunset neared. Sadly, had to get back to Rewas Jetty for the 6 PM ferry back home and hence caught the sunset whilst on the ferry and not the beach. But there are no regrets, for I found for myself a damn good beach. (Maybe I shouldn’t be posting here in the first place, the lesser people know about it the cleaner it stays!).

Anyhoo, that was the end of the second part. Four beaches visited in one day didn’t tire me out. Maybe, I am made for em’ beaches afterall! I will leave you with some more pictures I clicked from my faithful Panasonic FZ5, the grand daddy of the FZ Series!

Seen at Alibaug circle.

A kite feeding on fish it caught at Awas Beach

The three idiots.

Spot the crab!

The entourage of seagulls following our ferry back home.

Hotel Fulora, Alibaug

January 23, 2010 6 comments

A trip to beaches around Alibaug cannot be complete without trying out a restaurant there. We decided to go to Fulora in Alibaug City. Located a few meters away from the St. Bus Stand, Fulora is popular among locals and tourists alike. So Trance Dude, Rock Chic and Lord Chicken found a cosy table to relax and eat.

First up we ordered for Chicken Lollipops along with Prawns Chilly. The lollipops were pretty standard though the Prawns Chilly Dry was a big disappointment. Small in size were the prawns and the dish didn’t taste that good. It was below average for my liking. We though things may get better with the main course but the quality only went down. Ordered for a Chicken Afgani which was green in colour! The meal wasn’t spicy but quite oily. In fact we could only taste the oil and not the masala or the chicken.

Overall the food was a big disappointment as we had expected something better.

Vibha Restaurant – Nagaon Walanj Paroda

October 13, 2009 2 comments

My Trip to Korlai was not just about ancient forts, lighthouses and pristine beaches but also about trying out the food in these areas. Sadly, there wasn’t anything available in Korlai so we went to Nagaon. A little tour of the beautiful Nagaon beach revealed that only Bhurji Pav was available at the many stalls at the beach. We weren’t looking for a snack but a full meal. So asked around a bit and finally arrived at Vibha – a full 30 minutes of searching!

It is amazing how place like Nagaon does not have as many restaurants as one would have liked. Do I smell a business opportunity here?? hehe! Anyways, once we reached Vibha, it become quite clear that there is indeed no other restaurant close to the beach. (Vibha itself would be around 15 minutes from the beach!). Though there are many resorts there, they do not offer lunch or dinner facilities to non-guests, which is quite a letdown!

Anyways, back to Vibha. The place itself looks like a makeshift restaurant, ready to be transported to any part of the town in a jiffy. We got the seat closest to the entrance but that didn’t matter really. The order was placed for two half Chicken Biryanis, one full Prawns Biryani and a Plain Rice and Dal Fry. The order took a long time to arrive as; apparently, we were in line as the tables previously occupied, were to be served first! A lot of people ordered for Biryanis – seems to be a favourite dish to order at Vibha! Until the food arrived, we quenched our thirst with Thumbs Up and Coke. Nearly 30 minutes late, the Biryanis arrived and so did the Plain Rice and Dal Fry.

The Biryanis weren’t as oily as I had expected, which is a good thing mind you! The chicken Biryani was tasted though the Prawns Biryani was delicious! The prawns were huge as well and not like the small ones we had at Murud. We also ordered a Chicken Kolhapuri to go with the Rice. This is where all the oil, which was apparently missing from the rice, was utilised! The chicken was good. wasn’t overcooked but wasn’t tender. Thankfully it wasn’t chewy or rubbery either. The meal was over in no time. The quantity was definitely lesser than what we had at Murud but the quality and the lack of oil made up for it! The total damage came to INR 500 (INR 120 for the Prawns Biryani and INR 50 for the half Chicken Biryani) which is reasonable for a full meal amongst 5 people!

Overall, the food was great though the slow service was a letdown. Pricing was great at well placing Vibha in my ‘must eat at Vibha when at Nagaon’ list :D.

Short and Memorable trip to Korlai Lighthouse and Fort

October 13, 2009 7 comments

It’s become a feature of my weekends now. A new place to visit and explore every Sunday and last Sunday was no different! Korlai was always on the agenda and this time my friends and me were eager to check out the lighthouse and the fort. Though the initial plan was to ride all the way to Alibaug, where Korlai is located, we decided to head by boat to save on time (Which we eventually didn’t!). A quick view at the Google Maps made us relatively comfortable that Ferry Warf (Bhaucha Dhakka), from where bikes can be ferried to Alibaug wasn’t so far away from Bandra, but alas we still ended up getting lost! Thankfully some really helpful and extremely sleep uncles (yes in that order) did help us figure out the way to Bhaucha Dhakka and boy were in time or what! Reached there just 5 minutes before the boat left the shores! Phew!

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Once on the boat, it was going to take us 1.5 hours to reach Ravas Jetty, where the ferry unloads the bikes and passengers. Ravas is around 10 Kms from Mandwa Dock and around 10 Kms from Alibaug as well.

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The nearest beach, I think, is Kihim. The road towards Alibaug isn’t good for bikes at all and is in stark contrast to the road leading to the Mandwa Dock – you know how I know this? Because while coming we took a wrong turn and ended up at Mandwa (this must explain how I would know how many Kms Mandwa is from Ravas!!).

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It did not take us long to reach Korlai and we were directed by the locals towards the correct path to the fort and the lighthouse. The path is a bit narrow and only one car can pass at a time. Since we were on bikes it wasn’t a problem for us at all! The path towards the lighthouse is very pretty! The sea and a beach on one side and a hill on another side topped by the Fort make for a pretty heady combination! I can imagine why the Portuguese must have selected this location! When at peace, the men, women and children come out to play on the beach!

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Anyways, once at the lighthouse, we were given a tour of the place by the guide there. He told us about the various characteristics of the lighthouse and what makes it different from others. Was quite a short but extremely insightful tour! The tour was succeeded by a visit to the fort.

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The fort is situated in a good location and canons, rusted at that, dating back to the 16th century are still there. The fort is not as big as it is long. Infact it is hardly as wide as a 2 lane road and is rectangular in shape. It is a shame the fort hasn’t been renovated like the Shivneri one, but efforts are on to preserve this once might Fort. The visit to the fort was a satisfying one as it was only the 3rd fort visit for me in a year!

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The visit left us hungry and dehydrated as we descended to Nagaon to find a restaurant. After nearly 30 minutes of searching we finally found and soon realised that we were lucky to find it in time as it seems to be the only one present in the vicinity with a descent menu! We ordered mainly for rice items including a Chicken Biryani, Prawns Biryani and Dal Fry and plain rice for the lone vegetarian in the group. The food was much better than what we had at Murud!

We then headed back home but missed the last ferry from Ravas to Mumbai which is at 4:30 PM. So we ended up taking a very crowded ferry to Uran and headed back to Mumbai. Reached home at 8:45 PM – extremely tired, exhausted but very very satisfied with the trip! Looking forward to doing another one soon!

Here are the Ferry costs: INR 30 per person/ INR 30 for loading the bikes/ INR 30 for holding the Bikes (not sure what this means but basically just to have the bikes on board after loading them costs INR 30 extra!). The rates are the same while coming to Mumbai though to Uran it’s a bit less since its just 15 minutes from Revas!

Food Costs (Vibha Restaurant): INR 120 for the Prawns Biryani, INR 50 for the Chicken Biryani – cheap rates, good food!

Links:

Picasa: http://picasaweb.google.com/godzi.85/KorlaiFortAndLighthouse

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=330964&id=764395346

Alibaug Trip

May 27, 2009 2 comments

Its been sometime now since the Alibaug trip has happened so pardon me if the posts are much shorter than expected.

A brief about the trip: We were a group of seven people – 3 guys and 4 girls with one car and one bike. The trip was planned to get away from the city and the normal routine that is ‘a weekend’. We were going to be staying at a friend’s relative’s place in Alibaug so that effectively increased our chances of spending money on something else, which we did!.

So we set on this 2 day long trip to a place most of us haven’t been to. A road trip, if I can call it that, was the most desireable way to go rather than taking the ferry which would have effectively disallowed the usage of a digicam while at sea. So we drove, asking for directions at every turn, taking pics, chatting and making fun. Some good roads, some bad, some amazing scenery, some just plain and boring. And finally we reached the place. Quickly washed ourselves and headed out for lunch. Had lunch at Lilac which is close to the Alibaug bus depot and decent place to eat. More on this in the next write up. We lazed around a bit after lunch, played carrom and even indoor cricket at my friend’s house!! Offcourse she was unhappy with that but then thats exactly why we did it.

After lazying around we went to get ourselves wet in the sea. A friend had contacted a sailing company, Aqua Sail, to make the trip a little more adventurous. We were introduced to some of the country’s best sailers including national champions who were going to be our guides in this excursion. Though on the expensive side of things, it was worth a shot especially since not many of us present there would be doing anything similar for a long long time.

So began we, all decked up, in our suits and the first boat was a yacht. IIRC, it was one of those racing yachts and quite a big one at that though the trainer said there are much bigger ones available. We were allowed to steer the yacht and man it was fun. At one point, one end of the yacht (the one at the opposite end to where I was sitting) was nearly touching the water surface but the trainer pulled it up quite easily like it was child’s play. It was great fun, letting the wind control the boat and the most you can do is not topple the boat over! On a side note, we could see the skyline of Mumbai and it was quite a sight!I wonder how it look like when you have your own boat to sail in! I really wonder..

Anyhoo, after the yacht trip was done we were given the task to maneuver the hobie cat, (I think it was a Hobie Wave) which could take four people easily. Since the wind speeds were low, we were only at cruising speeds which was quite fast even then! Was a fun boat to ride on and surely it could go much much faster if the wind speeds pick up. This was pretty much a small round of the ocean and back. As I said before, maybe if the wind speeds were higher, it would have been much more fun!! Next up was the Kayak which was to be driven solely by us, novice sailers! Was quite a challenge to paddle it against the waves and with my partner not helping it was left upto me to get the job done! Got some help from the lifegaurds there in turning the boat the first time but by the time I took my third round I was pretty much a pro at it!  The last boat I think was also a Hobie Cat and if I am not wrong I think it was a Hobie Bravo. I was allowed to maneuver the boat pretty much all the way and this was quite exciting as the boat had to be taken through a maze of small fishing boats and trailers parked in the water. Loads of fun was this activity!

Since that was the last activity and darkness was approaching fast we decided to call it a day. Took a shower, had some snacks and chit chatted with the guys for a while to get some insights into their business. Quite an interesting one it is. Oh and before I forget, they were generous enough to let us have a sneak peak at one of the boats parked on land. It was basically a 1BHK floating apartment and quite a well furnished one at that. With pretty much all the amenities at hand, you could stay in that boat for days on end without having to worry about anything!.

That was pretty much what Day 1 was all about and what the trip was all about too! Day 2 was when we visited Vasoli beach, played cricket and ate misal pav and masala dosa on our way back home. It was a pretty good trip overall. I think one of the best trips I have had in a long long time. I think I will be doing a few more similar trips soon. But yes have to learn swimming as soon as possible if I have to get anywhere close to an adventurous trip.

Next up, is the food blog, what we ate, what we drank, what we liked and did not like.