In India, one is either planning to visit Goa or already has reached here! Such is the fascination for this tiny state full of tranquil beaches and a fun-filled lifestyle.
Have been living in Mumbai for a long time now, a lot of people found it rather ‘surprising’ that I had not visited Goa as yet. The coastal state tops the list of favourite getaways for Mumbaikars, thanks to the factors like geographical proximity and an easy access.
Goa remains vibrant and heavily frequented by tourists all year long, however, its energy is unmatched towards the Christmas and New Year season. We too decided to soak in the festive spirits and enjoy the December sun on our maiden trip.
Reaching Goa is never a problem for anyone as it is very well connected globally through International/ domestic flights, trains, buses and a labyrinth of roads. The 720 km long coastal Konkan region, sprawling from Maharashtra to Karnataka and Goa, is known for its exotic combination of lush-greens and blue ocean running parallel. I wanted to treat my eyes on the natural beauty and decided to board a luxury bus from Mumbai to Mapusa, Goa.
The ride, though long at 540 kms, was worth the distance. Bushes of wild flowers and swinging coconut trees all along the road had me swooning.
We purposely had booked a hotel close to the happening Calangute and Baga beaches to make the most out of stay. Needless to say that getting your bookings done well in advance if visiting Goa in the tourist season is recommended for a hassle free experience. Also, don’t forget to carry your photo IDs to be produced at the reception.
Calangute and Baga are buzzing with activities day and night. Crowded yet enjoyable! Wade in the waves, feel the cool sea breeze, sun bathe or settle for a pint of beer and sea food at any one among the many beach shacks. Life is good in Goa and inexpensive too! Food, liquor, accommodation and many other necessities for vacationers are available at very very affordable prices. Atleast, when compared to other popular beach destinations in the world.
There is something about Goa that leaves you lazy and comfy. May be it’s the laid-back lifestyle here. Hasting up into sightseeing is not the way you go about here! Plan your time accordingly, so that you get to visit heritage sites, churches, forts while also managing to wander in the Portuguese style old town and ending up spending quality time lying around the beach as well.
Goans are simple and peace loving people. Their main mode of transportation is bikes and small cars, which also are the best way to explore the sleepy serenity of Goa. We hired a gearless scooter at Rs 300 for a day. Bikes and cars are easily available through hotels, local households, roadside stores etc. One only needs to produce a valid driver’s license at the time of hire.
Petrol is cheaper as compared to the rest of the country and is sold packed in bottles at daily utilities shops apart from authorized stations. Don’t forget to wear helmets and carry driver’s license or cops might disrupt you.
We rode through lanes, markets, colonies, shores in and around the beautiful town, sightseeing and exploring.
The mystical coastal villages and countryside couldn’t have been experienced better than on a no-fuss bike.
Midnight Bazars and flea Markets
Complementing Goa’s colourful life are the lively flea markets, selling stuff like clothes, jewelery, watches, spices, utility- items and just everything under the sun.
The most famous among them all being the Anjuna flea market. Every Wednesday, Anjuna beach that overlooks the emerald green Arabian Sea attracts buyers and sellers. As the story goes, back in the 1960s-70s, Goa was the hub of weed smoking Western gypsies and hippies. On being run out of their money, they started selling their branded clothes, watches, guitars, trinkets, music, books and lot other things at the Anjuna beach.
Gradually, the entire stretch of the beach turned into a thriving market. Try it out once as it a paradise for shoppers. But don’t forget to bargain as much as you can!
Arpura Midnight Bazaar, however, was a sheer delight. A heady concoction of music, food, entertainment, dance and ofcourse a vast range to shop from. Arpura Midnight Bazaar is held every Saturday from 5pm to 6am. I began to feel the music, liveliness and thousands of lights much before the market was actually visible.
Despite being almost midnight, the narrow roads were bustling with enthusiasts eager to reach the place.
Once inside, the warmth and energy blew my mind. Couples dancing to live-band performances as if there is no tomorrow and foodies relishing cuisines away to the glory. There are a number of food stalls serving great meals at affordable prices. One will, for a moment, have to forget about hygiene as it is dusty and hot open air market.
Shoppers will be spoiled for choices with so much up for sale. Ethnic Indian clothes and jewelery, footwear, shawls, artifacts, spices, coffee, tea, herbs, beach wear, bags and so many other things, phew!
Indians may find the stuff expensive if they compare the prices to other markets. However, what caught my fancy were rustic looking sellers from Rajasthan, Gujarat and other Northern states speaking flawless Russian and English. A large inflow of visitors in Goa is that of Russians and Europeans. No wonder, sellers want to cash on every possible opportunity. Kudos!