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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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Manik, Calangute, Goa

January 6, 2010 1 comment

Manik wasn’t anything special the first time we visited this place . Not so cold Tuborg and nothing to write about Veg crispy was a real downer. However, we were here the next day as well as my friend wanted to smoke Hukka and Manik was relatively empty (in fact we were the only ones there!).

There was a marked difference in the attitude of the waiter the second time we came. A big broad smile greeted us and he was friendly with us throughout. We first ordered for a Grapemint Hukka and the waiter agreed to cut the price by INR 100 without we even asking him! This was a great move I though and the hukka he prepared didn’t let us down either. Good flavour and it continued for a few hours albeit with a few coal changes.

The wonderful hukka was accompanied by 2 plates of finger chips which was gobbled down or should I say inhaled by my ever hungry vegetarian friend! For dinner we ordered for Veg Manchurian and Chicken Tikka. Though the Manchurian was pretty bland, the Tikka was cooked in true tandoori style. Was absolutely delicious the chicken tikka – tender and soft and not overcooked even though it took some time to get it ready. The tikka was accompanied by salads and more finger chips.

Good hukka and some great chicken tikka really made my evening that day!. Surely going to Manik again. Though a word of advice – Me thinks, the cook doesn’t prepare veg meals as well as he does the non-veg ones.

Prices: Chicken Tikka – INR 210 (The most I have ever paid for chicken tikka!)

Veg Manchurian – INR 110

Finger Chips – INR 40

Hukka – INR 250 (Down from INR 350 without even requesting!)

Contact: 9860138091

Bob Marley’s Shack – Candolim, Goa

January 5, 2010 2 comments

I have some fond memories at Bob Marley’s shack at Candolim Beach in Goa. I go here everytime I am in Goa. I have always liked the food and drinks elsewhere but there is something about this shack that keeps inviting me back! This time around, I was there for a short duration. Got a large Kingfisher and to satiate my friend’s vegetarian needs ordered for Veg Pakoras. Took some time to arrive as usually they take a bit more time for the vegetarian dishes it seems. When the dish finally did arrive, it was a plesant surprise. The surprise was the size of em pakoras. Big and soft and extremely tasty! These were the best Pakoras I or my friend have every had! Infact we ended up ordering another couple of plates and were quite full by the time it was dawn!

But the best moment was, a beer in my hand, some awesome pakoras and Armin Van Buuren  killing it at Sunburn 2009 in the background!

X Bar and Restaurant, Calangute, Goa

January 4, 2010 1 comment

X Bar was one of those places I had been to before and was on my ‘go and hog again’ list. So took my veggie friend (ironic how I went with my a veggie friend last time too!) to X Bar late in the night. The waiter was very friendly and humoured us with his witty comments.  We ordered all our food together. Though we ordered drinks first, then starters and finally main course the food didn’t arrive in that order. Though we didn’t mind it one bit!

The main course came first but the starters followed shortly afterwards! The Chicken Biryani was good just like last time. Though this time, the amount of condiments were far too less than before. I guess someone must have told em ‘your biryani has too many unwanted particles (Remember hearing this from a foreigner at another restaurant!!). The crispy chicken though was nothing special with the chicken being pretty chewy! The veg side included Paneer Tikka Masala and Veg Spring Roll which according to a friend ‘he has had better’!

This wasn’t the first place where I enjoyed but my friend didn’t (not that I care! :P).

Overall, the place was a bit expensive for us as we paid around INR 250 between the both of us. The ambiance and service was good though and I think I would come back for some more biryani here on my next trip as well!

Chascaa Multicuisine Bar and Restaurant, Palolem, Goa

January 2, 2010 1 comment

My first trip to Palolem couldn’t be complete without trying out a restaurant here and what better than Chascaa, located on the south end of the beach. The view from here is splendid and as the day progressed we found out the food here isn’t bad either!

Hadn’t had fish in Goa yet so couldn’t resist ordering a Fish Tikka and what a good choice it turned out to be! Not sure what fish it was but it was good. Cooked well it did not smell like the way it does in many small eateries. Fish Tikka and beer was enough to make my day! My veggie friend though had a full meal. From Veg Pakodas to Malai Kofta and Rice. Even the veg items were great. Cooked well, the Kofta and Pakodas tasted nice. The combination of Jeera rice and Malai Kofta was good as well. One of the best things at Chascaa was that the flavours came out really nice and none of the dishes had any one single flavour overpowering the others.

Overall the meal was good. In fact I’d say it was excellent as the veg and the non veg items were both very good! An amazing view of the beach and of the ocean coupled with good food makes Chascaa a must visit place on Palolem! Also, the beer here is really cheap, at INR 35, it is the least I have paid for a Kingfisher Pint!

The bonus for me was when the owner played the song ‘bliss – kissing’ twice while we were here. It is one of my favourite songs and its been ages since I heard it last!

Weekend trip to Diveagar and Harihareshwar – 17-18 Oct 09

October 18, 2009 6 comments

It is been a see-all-the-beaches-you-can-while-you-can for the last few weekends and this weekend was no different. A 2-day trip to Diveagar was planned for the Diwali weekend of 17th and 18th October 2009. Planned by a colleague, Daniel, I tagged along with another colleague Neville and Daniel’s cousin Rohit and common friend Nilu. We met at 7 in the morning at Sion Station and headed out towards Vashi. From there we went to Panvel and took the Mumbai-Goa Highway (NH17). For most part of our journey we were on NH17 which is a pleasant ride! Finally after reaching Mangaon we took a right turn to go to Diveagar, the place where a 1000 year old full-gold statue of Lord Ganesha was found!.  Below is the road map of the route (Source: Google Images) we took to reach Diveagar.

Diveagar_Roadmap

We took 5 hours to reach Diveagar which was good time covered considering we took a couple of wrong turns, stopped for breakfast and stopped a few times to ask for directions! We booked a room at a cottage run by a family which, incidentally, is also a Hindustan Petroleum (HP) gas dealer. The name is Vrindavan but asking for ‘HP Gas Dealer’ works better :D.

Interesting here to note is that if a ferry ride can be availed from Murud to Dighi then Diveagar is only a short distance from Mumbai and not the 200 Kms that we covered! A quick search led me to some forums which state that ferries can be transported from Murud to Dighi. So its quite possible to do a one-day trip to this serene beach.

After reaching the cottage, we freshened up and went for lunch at Prathamesh Holiday Resort which only serves fish in Non-Veg Thali and Watana in Veg. The food though, is nothing to complain about. The Surmai Fry and Surmai Masala were really delicious albeit a little too spicy for my liking. Per Thali costs came to INR 140 which is cheap considering the amount and quality of fish served! A point to add here is that, it is better to speak in Marathi or they might not understand the order correctly even though it is a simple menu!

The delicious lunch was followed by a trip to Diveagar beach, which at 3 PM, and rightly so since it was quite hot, was deserted with only the Migratory Seagulls sharing this long beach with us! The beach is clean and one of the most picturesque places I have seen so far! One has to go through a dense cover of coconut and Betal Trees to reach the beach. The feeling you get after passing the forests and finally getting on to the path from where the sea is visible is irreplaceable. You have to be there to believe that such a place exists and is not so far from Mumbai or Pune!

We had earlier decided to only ‘have a look at Diveagar beach’ and head to Harihareshwar but instead we ended up spending close to 2 hours there! At 4:30 PM we finally did move on to the temple town of Harihareshwar which is considered to be one of the holiest towns in Maharashtra. The original plan was to watch the sunset at Harihareshwar and we almost ended up missing the sunset as we had a late start from our cottage. But thankfully, due to some skillful driving by my friend Neville and the fact that the days are longer for it being the summer season, we reached just in time to catch the beautiful sunset.

P1040670

The sunset picture clicking session was followed by a light snack at the adjoining MTDC Resort. We had Kanda Bhajiya and Batata Bhajiya both of which were good and filled our tummies! Though it was a fun drive to Harihareshwar for the sunset, we soon realised that the more exciting part of the day, or should I say night, had only just began. It was pitch black and we had to drive all the way back, 35 Kms, to Diveagar! Scary but adventurous came to my mind. It was a slow drive back home and a bit eventful as well with the suicidal toads (the name we gave the toads that only crossed the roads when a vehicle would pass by) crossing the roads every now and then and the beautiful Diwali fireworks in the distance on our left. We did halt for lunch at a roadside Chinese eatery which is nothing to write about. It is unfortunate that we ate there since after arriving at Diveagar we realised that most eateries here remain open until 10 PM.  Sigh! We did have ice cream at an Amul Ice Cream Parlour close to our cottage. That ended our first day on this short trip.

Day 2

Day 2 started early, very early. Went to Diveagar beach before sunrise to catch the beautiful morning sun against the backdrop of the Betal trees. Took a round of the beach as well. Checked out the small creek which is teeming with fishes which in turn feed the migratory Seagulls! Ah! The cycle of life. There was a high tide in the morning which did catch me by surprise cause I had crossed over on this small patch of land divided by the creek and crossing back was a bit scary!! Anyways, after the scary incident, got back to my group, clicked a few pictures, took a bath and went back to the cottage. For breakfast, we were served Poha with grated coconut. It is the best Poha I have ever had and the grated coconut made it all the more better!

Waves

Sadly, it was time to leave as the check out time is 11:00 AM. We said goodbye to the family and headed back home. On the way back, we stopped at Vadkhal Naka for lunch at Upkar Restaurant which serves some good Prawns masala. That was the last stop until Neville’s car stalled as the LPG fuel had gotten over! Not a big issue though as he switched onto petrol (after a good 20 minutes did the car finally start!) and refueled at a nearby petrol pump.  After that we headed back home, nice and safe and very very tired!

A brief Trip Log – Total Distance covered approximately (450 Kms, excluding the distance covered by taking some wrong turns here and there!)

Route taken (as seen from the map) – Mumbai-Panvel-Pen-Mangaon-Mhasala-Diveagar. We took the same route while coming back home.

On a closing note, I feel that a full 2 day/2 night trip would be suitable to visit all the places in and around Diveagar/Harihareshwar and Shrivardhan. They not only offer beautiful beaches and scenary but also quite a few temples.

Here is the contact detail of the cottage where we stayed:

Name of the place: Vrindavan

Contact Person – Sameer or Vasant B. Gandre

Ph: Diveagar – 952147-224270/71 | 9594142591

Mumbai – 9702037865/9960627965

Pune – 9890927965

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