If I have to name two states in India that are complete opposites, I would probably say Goa vs. Kashmir. The tourism and climate, nature and activities, the atmosphere and history are completely different – contrasting even. But my dad and I, we decided to switch from one extreme to the other, from one day to the next. From a war-stricken area to a beach & party capital.
North and South Goa have different things to offer, as you will soon discover. Based on a recommendation from one of my Indian friends, we went south first.
You have no idea how happy I was to feel the sun on my face and see palm trees everywhere. Especially after the cold, wet, grim days in Kashmir. At the same time, it was terrible to be around hundreds of tourists (esp. Brits). During my time in Bhubaneswar, I hardly ever saw white people. The east coast of India just isn’t that popular with tourists. It really took me a while to get used to the overpresence of foreigners and tourism.
We stayed in the Zuri White Sands Resort which was also recommended to us. It was a beautiful, modern hotel with spacious, clean rooms. During the day, I spent a lot of time near one of the pools – reading, swimming, reading… It became clear to me relatively soon that this was very much a hotel/resort where people come with their families and don’t leave the premises until the week is over.
South Goa equals relaxation. When I wasn’t lounging by the pool, I was making walks on the beach. Let me tell you about the beach! It was an extremely pleasant experience. It actually feels like your walking in snow, because of the way the sand makes cracking sounds underneath your feet and molds when you step on it. We walked all the way to the next beach resort, which happened to be a Taj hotel. There, we succeeded in getting a guided tour. I realized I was really happy to be staying in the Zuri Resort, which was a lot more colorful and a lot less stiff!
But of course we aren’t traveling in India to stay inside a hotel! After two days in the sun, my dad completely recovered from his illness and we left for North Goa, where there it’s much livelier (and that really is an understatement).
It was a short two-hour drive to our next destination. We had discovered a small, local bar a five-minute walk away from the hotel. There we found someone who was willing to drive us to the North for a rate much cheaper for us (and much more rewarding for him when not having to go through the hotel).
We stayed two nights in the hotel Acacia near Candolim Beach. Again, we had a beautiful, modern, spacious room. The hotel was actually built in an O-shape. There was no roof in the middle, leaving the “indoor pool” open, but also letting the noise from the next-door mosque come in freely. The hotel was located on the main street, parallel with the beach, but the only noise that disturbed us was that of the mosque at 5AM in the morning. On the roof there was a really good restaurant with sea view.
The sand in North Goa is rougher than in the South. It is also almost completely made out of bits and pieces of sea shells. It’s more crowded and, thus, there is also a different/better atmosphere! Candolim was crowded, but not too much. For the “real” Goan experience you go to Calangute, Baga, Anjuna or Vagator. You can walk most of the coastline (which is very long!) or take a taxi. By the way, you will spend most of your money in Goa on taxis and tuktuks. They are super expensive here!
For food in Candolim, I can really recommend the fusion restaurant on the other side of the street from the hotel. You shouldn’t skip Thalassa, where you can enjoy delicious Greek food and watch the sun set from one of the most beautiful locations in the state. (Don’t forget to make a reservation!)
For partying, you will rather go to Calangute, instead of Baga because it is a common place for women to get harrassed. In Anjuna you can go to the popular beach bar Curlies Beach Shack. And during New Year’s you might like to attend the Sunburn festival.
Looking for an exclusive night out that is still within budget? Head over to Club Cubana. It is located on a hilltop between Baga and Anjuna and you can reach either by walking or by hopping into one of the jeeps that the club provides. Some nights, women can go in for free, so keep that in mind! The Club itself looks like it was dropped in the middle of a jungle. Here and there you discover open spaces with a pool, an in-door disco, another bar… This is usually not my scene, but it was an amazing experience to spend a few hours here!
To Do in Goa
Be sure to try one of the seafood dishes Goa is famous for. Also, make use of this occasion to get a massage or attend a yoga class. There is so many options! What I personally really liked, was the biggest flea market of Goa, which can be found in Anjuna. It is almost impossible to reach by foot, so you’ll have to have someone drive you there if you didn’t rent a scooty. Did I mention people rent a lot of scooters here? No? Well now you know! Traffic in Goa is quite ok. You just have to remember to drive on the left. Lastly, there are also a lot of forts and churches you can visit that date back to the time when Goa was a Portuguese colony.
One thing is sure: it is impossible to get bored in Goa!
What might be useful to know for my western friends, is that Goa is touristy enough that you can wear whatever you like! Bikinis, tops, shorts, dresses… all is allowed! (But still, keep it slightly decent.)
On my last night in Goa, we celebrated my 23rd birthday on the roof of the hotel. The next day, we would continue our journey. On to Mumbai!