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GOA a name, often related to parties, beaches, sunburn and beer, is a tourist destination highly acclaimed by the Indian and foreign tourists. Goa has the vast stretch of sands, azure Arabian Sea, majestic western ghats, cascading waterfalls and beautiful churches. Goa is hot and sunny, here the temperature never seems to fall below 20 degree C. So considering the time that you would be spending on outdoor activities, the best time to visit this place is Nov-Feb. This is the peak season also, so unfortunately at this time, specially during the Christmas holidays, Goa gets overcrowded. If you are a party animal, during the holiday season you can shake your legs or if you are a boring fellow like me, you may enjoy the day trips across Goa and get indulged in chilled beer at evening in the beach shacks.
This year we were lucky enough to spend our year end holidays in Goa. Goa is well connected by road, air and water with its neighboring cities like Mumbai, Pune etc. In one of the travel blogs the author has highly appreciated the train route from Mumbai to Goa. As per the article it is one of the best routes. I got so overwhelmed by the article that by spending extra money we spent a day in Mumbai and then from the CSTM took the Mandovi Express.
Mae De Deus Church
Fishermen getting ready for the sea
A bit of Sea on the plate
From Anjuna we went to the Vagator beach. The famous Chapora Fort which was picturised in movie Dil Chahta Hai is over looking this beach. Vagator is mixed of rock and sand. Unlike Anjuna beach it was crowded. The water here was a bit muddy. When we reached Vagator beach the sun was about to set. Trust me this molten gold sunset was one of the best sunset I have experienced till now. Our Day 1 trip ended with Vagator beach. Though Goa was a Portuguese colony, it is dotted with many temples. On the way to our hotel we went to a Ganapati temple. I didn't spot any tourist there, so I think it was not part of any tourist attraction.
If you are travelling by train for the 1st time this journey might seem to be exciting. There is nothing special in this route, you will cross fields, tunnels, some part of western ghat and 2-3 rivers. Our train was running 2 hours late, it took us around 14 hours to reach Madgaon. In case you are travelling by train, and your hotel is near the Calangute beach, just ensure to get down at Thivim station. It is only 20 km from Calangute, where as Madgaon is around 50 Km! In Madgaon prepaid taxi service is available. We were charged INR 1400 for Calangute.
Here comes an end to our trip. Next day our flight was scheduled from Dabolim airport. Since we had more than 3 hours in hand on the way to the airport our driver took us to the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church which is in Panjim followed by a fishermen's village. This church has been one of the favourite destinations for Bollywood movies in India. Before I conclude I would like to reiterate few points:
1. Do carry sunscreen with SPF 60+, sunglass, hats, shoes, a pair of flipflops and swim wear. You may also buy the sunscreen, hat, flip flops and swim wear here.
2. Carry regular medicines
3. Do bargain for whatever products you are buying. It's applicable for cab rentals also.
4.Try Goan food and drinks specially the Chicken Vindaloo, Fish Curry, Chicken Xacuti, Sea Food platter, Kings beer and Cashew Feni
5. Last but not the least ...Enjoy Goa...CHEERS !!!
Basilica of Bom Jesus
We kept our day 3 for Calangute beach and shopping. We spent the whole day relaxing in shacks, shopping, swimming, doing water sports and enjoying Goan food and drink. Apart from shacks there are many good restaurants like Fisherman's Cove, Capricorn etc. serving Goan food drink. Do try Chicken Xacuti, Chicken Vindaloo, Fish Curry, Sea food platter, Cashew Feni and Kings Beer. Even if you are not a fan of samosa, do try it here. They are chrisspy, spicy and yummy! Cashew Feni is strong, it might make you feel thirsty but it's a must have when you are in Goa. Try to spend the dusk and evening in shacks. It's special to sip beer and watch the waves turning golden followed by a candle light evening snacks/dinner accompanied by more Kings. It was the only day when we really enjoyed the real flavour of Goa during the New Year's eve.
On the way to the Dolphin Point
On the way to the island we spotted 4-5 dolphins, few squids, jelly fishes. While booking the trip the agency told us that there would be proper arrangement for snorkeling but when we reached Grand Island there was no such arrangement. They asked us to plunge into the sea. There was no option for changing. So in case you know swimming and want to snorkel, do wear something in which you are comfortable even if you don't get the option to change after snorkeling. But I would suggest not to dive into the water, the area is full of jelly fish. We stayed there for around 15 mins but we didn't spot a single fish. My co-travelers who dived into the water told that there were no fishes, no corals. they could only sea jelly fishes and squids. Since the water was crystal clear we could also see the same from the boat. After the diving session they took us to the Monkey Island. They arranged a barbecue there. Both veg and non-veg options were available but don't expect something exotic. The food was eatable. Now it was time to return. Compared to arrival the return journey was adventurous. It was quite a bumpy ride. To add to our adrenaline flow, our boat went short of fuel on the mid way! When the motor stopped our boat started swaying like anything with the huge waves. Luckily they were carrying reserved fuel to drop us back to the Sequerim beach jetty. So as per me, if you want some adventure then only go for this Island trip. There is nothing in the water near the Grand Island for which you can snorkel or scuba drive. If you are interested to watch Dolphins then the Dolphin trip is good enough.
Next day was 31st December. Thousands of people visit Goa during this time only to experience the madness of 31st night. You can booze, go to casinos, can go for the river cruise, dance, party do what ever legal you want to do on this day. So you can feel how crazy Goa can become on 31st. Prices of things shoots up like anything on this day but still people love to experience that. On 31st morning we left for the Snorkelling & Grand Island trip. There are agencies like Gbananas, Atlantis Water Sports etc though whom you have to book the trip. But no need to worry about whom to contact, if you are interested ask your hotel front-office guys, they will guide you.
The agents arrange for the pick and drop facility. Around 8:30 am from our hotel our bus took us to the Sinquerim Beach jetty point from where our trip started. Our 1st spot was the Grand Island where we were suppose to swim and snorkel. It is about the largest marine island far out into the Arabian Sea, off the Marmagoa Harbor. it took us around an hour to reach the island.
A 31st night and that too in Goa can't be imagined without parties, clubs and booze. It's obvious for people to party in Club Cabana, Titos, Britos or would play in Deltin Casino etc etc. But I am am bit lazy. Trust me the roads were too crowded to motivate me to move towards any party hub. We found the shacks much better place to celebrate the eve than getting claustrophobic in the pubs. During your stay in Goa if you were paying only INR 30-40 for a pint of beer then on this date you might end up paying INR 150 for a pint! On 31st the price of eveything starting from cab fare, room fare to food spikes.
The next in the itenerary was the Aguada Fort. It's an old Portuguese fort located on the Aguada-Siolim Road in Sinquerim overlooking the Arabian Sea near the mouth of river Mandovi. The fort is named for the fresh water spring that gives it a constant supply of potable water. ‘Agua’ is the Portuguese word for water and ‘Aguada’ signifying a place where water is collected.There is a four storied light house which is not open for visitors. From the fort you will get a spectacular view of the surrounding. At present the luxurious Taj Aguada hotel stands within the fort walls.
From the fort we went to the Sinquerim Beach. People here were involved in water sports, swimming and sunbathing. Since we had so much to cover on that day after spending around half an hour there we moved towards Anjuna Beach. Unlike other beaches Anjuna is a rocky one, so not at all suitable for swimming or water sports. However, it will give you spectacular view of the sea against the rocky shore. Here the rocks are a bit slippery so it's better not to climb down much to reach the sea.
Sahakari Spice Farm
Next day was again a hectic one. We covered few more beaches of North Goa. We stared with Morjum beach. It's a serene, clean and less crowded beach to be truly termed as foreigner's beach. We were not carrying any swimming outfit as we were not aware that it would be so good. The water here is calm and crystal clear. We had our lunch here. From Morgim beach we went to Ashwim Beach. It was crowded,there was a mouth of a shallow stream of a river. After spending a couple of minutes there we moved towards Mandrem Beach. There was nothing special to mention about this one so we moved towards Arambol Beach. This was crowded but better than the previous two. Since we had a plan to visit the Tiracol without spending much time here we headed towards Querim Beach. From Querim there is a boat service across the Tiracol river to the Tiracol Fort. The fort stands tall and proud crowning the hilltop at the confluence of the Tiracol River with the Arabian Sea. There is a church and at present a part of the fort has been converted into a luxurious hotel. Unfortunately we reached Querim beach around 5 pm, and by the time the water level of the river dropped considerably making the movement of the boats difficult. It was bad we spent 3000 bucks (New Year special inflated rate) as taxi fare mainly to visit this fort! So guys if you plan to visit this fort try to reach here before 1pm.This was our last spot for that so from there we headed back to our hotel.
The next day was for Dudhsagar and parts of South Goa. The Dudhsagar water fall is around 90 km from Calangute. It is a four-tiered waterfall located on the Mandovi River in the border of the Goa-Karnataka. Considering the distance and the time that one would spend there for collecting the entry pass, it's better to start early morning. Our cab took us to Molem, from were rented jeeps were available for the Dudhsagar trip. The jeeps are normally 7 seater, costing INR 400/pax *. So in case you are not in a group of 7 you might have to wait for the best group where you can fit in or might have to pay the full fare and get the jeep. The jeep takes a route through a forest, crosses a flowing river. So once you board the jeep you may get your camera set.
The best time to visit this Dudhsagar falls is Aug-Oct. As shown in the movie Chennai Express, there is a railway track across the falls. The nearest railway station accessible by road to the falls is Castle Rock station. Previously visitors could get in a train from here and disembark at the Dudhsagar stop, but now it has been discontinued by the government. The jeep took us to the gate of the Dudhsagar water fall from where we all trekked. Considering the rocky way it's better to wear shoes.
Here people are allowed to get into the icy cold water of the falls. Even if you don't know swimming, you may carry your swimming dress as you would have to take life jackets before getting into the jeep. Normally here you will get an hour to spend. Here mobile towers don't work so before leaving for the trekk get the assembling spot fixed.
Sao Jacinto Church
From Dudhsagar we went to the Sahakari Spice Farm. Here the entry fee is INR 400 / pax* which includes lunch and farm tour. The welcome drink was refreshing, the food here was good, simple but tasty. Lunch was followed by a guided tour of the farm where we got to see plantation of spices, herbs etc. There is an in-house organic product store selling spices, essential oils etc. however, those are costly.
On the way back to our hotel we went to the Mangesh Temple. This Lord Shiva temple is one of the largest and most frequently visited temples in Goa. After offering prayers here we left for Basilica of Bom Jesus church. It's an old Portuguese church with beautiful interior and is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier is in the mausoleum, in a glass-sided coffin. It was Christmas time, so the church was beautifully decorated. Just opposite to the church is the Archaeological Museum. The museum at present has a collection of about 8000 objects, which includes Stone Sculptures, Wooden objects, Bronzes, Paintings, Manuscripts, numismatic collection, anthropological objects, clay models etc. The museum closes at 5:30 pm and is open from Moday-Friday. So if you wish to visit the museum, plan your trip accordingly. From the museum we returned to our hotel. We were too tired to cover anything else on that day.
The Hot and Happening GOA
Goa offers serene beaches, blue ocean as well as beautiful temples, churches, markets and waterfalls to it's travelers. If you want to explore Goa and is staying for at least 3 days, you should cover North Goa on day 1, Dudhsagar and parts of South Goa on Day 2 and can keep the Island trip/South Goa beach trip and shopping for Day 3. Since we were in Goa for 5 days we got enough time to explore. On day 1 we covered the beaches of North Goa. The cab took us INR 2600*. We started with Baga Beach. This beautiful golden beach is famous among the tourists for water sports, happening clubs and shacks and clean blue water. There is a market near to the beach. So in case you get carried away by the clear blue water and feel like plunging into the sea but not carrying any swim wear, you could test your bargaining capacity hear. From the Baga Beach we went to Sinquerim for the Dolphin sighting trip. On the way to the beach we visited the Mae De Deus Church.
For the Dolphin Trip we reached the Sequerim Boat Jetty from where we bought the tickets (INR 300 * per pax). The dolphin spotting tour is one of the famous tourist attractions in Goa. It's a 1 hour boat trip. We were lucky enough to spot dolphins doing somersaults just a few meters away from our boat. However, they were too swift to get captured in my camera.