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Goa is many things to many people. To some it is an escape from their daily routines, a haven of gastronomy and to others it is a sun & sand wonderland and the list goes on. An abode for the Sussegado lifestyle lovers, the rich and famous, and anything-but-ordinary types – Goa has something for everyone. It is unique in that sense that it can absorb everything and gives it a nice Sussegado shake to give you an experience that is truly and completely Goan in nature. When we decided to do a story on all things unique about Goa we didn’t realise just how massive the scale of the project actually was because this tiny State has so much to offer that putting it down in one single article was a unique challenge in itself! Nonetheless here’s our humble attempt at capturing the uniqueness of Goa through words and pictures...
A creative abode
There was a time when Goa was a sleepy State, a place for honeymooners, hippies and backpackers. Now the scenario is slightly different. The sleepy State now celebrates its Sussegado attitude with pride and attracts professionals from all walks of life to give up their relentless rat race and indulge in a bit of Goa. Like bees to honey, Goa attracts creative minds from all over the country and the world who give up the glitz and glamour of big cities for quaint villages and balcao studios. Truly a haven for creative souls, Goa’s laid back spirit and respect for personal freedom act as catalysts for those looking for inspiration. Writers, painters, photographers, models, actors, media moguls, business heads and even IT geniuses have been seduced by the wonders of Goa and the wonderful Goa life, and by the looks of it this love affair is far from over, in fact its only just begun.
Goa at the movies
Over the years Goa has caught the Over the years Goa has caught the imagination of film makers and _ lm goers alike. From the iconic Amitabh Bachchan starrer, Bombay to Goa, to Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai to the very recent Finding Fanny; Goa has been the playground for both Bollywood masala movies to even Hollywood spy flicks such as the Jason Bourne series starring Matt Damon. While in the past locations such as Dona Paula, Chapora Fort, Fort Aguada were the quintessential celebrity hot spots, one can now spot a _ lm crew in almost any corner of Goa’s green landscape be it the quiet village of Siolim, the hip beaches of Morjim and Palolem or the quaint island of Divar. Just keep your eyes peeled for the makeup van
Owing to its association with the Portuguese, Goa has a unique culture and identity that is difficult to ignore. The landscape is dotted with baroque style architecture in resplendent churches and aristocratic homes. This infuence however is most vividly apparent in the local festivals of Goa such as Sao Joao and Bonderam. Sao Joao, in June, is a spirited festival in memory of St John the Baptist where locals enjoy a fair share of feni and then jump into wells. Christian scripture tells us of John the Baptist leaping for joy in his mother, Elizabeth’s womb when she was told of Jesus’ birth. This festival recreates the same joy as Goans young and old leap into wells and ponds singing Viva Sao Joao. Bonderam festival of Divar Island is more cultural than spiritual in nature and celebrates the time when the Portuguese introduced a system of demarcation of boundaries with flags of various villages to avoid property disputes that were frequent at that time. These flags were knocked down by rival groups sometimes with stones. Today, in a parody of the past, this is commemorated with a “Fotash” flight (toy weapon of bamboo stem) and berries are used as missiles in a mock fight between rival groups to knock down an offending flag. On the day of the festival, the entire Island of Divar takes part in the float parade marking the event and each of the floats represent a distinctive local fl avour.
Perhaps nowhere in the country the monsoons are such a celebrated event as they are in Goa. The entire State transforms into a lush green landscape, drenched and rehydrated. The hills come alive with springs and waterfalls that become popular picnic spots for locals as well as tourists. Monsoons in Goa offer respite in more ways than we realise, the temperatures reduce significantly, the weather becomes pleasant, air fares get reduced significantly as do hotel stays making it a very pocket friendly vacation as opposed to high season time. Since the beaches are closed for swimmers and the shacks pack up during this period, monsoons tourism largely revolves around adventure activities such as nature treks and white water rafting
Goa for water babies
Come September and the skies clear and Goa’s waters offer so many unique water activities that you are literally spoiled for choice. Be it sailing the mighty sea, exploring the backwaters, indulging in high octane water sports or simply learning the pleasures of swimming, there is so much to do here! We suggest you start with the basics, take acourse in swimming and hit the waves with a vengeance, the best time to be in Goan waters is October to May when the sea is calm and the swim is divine. The best beaches for a relaxing swim would be Palolem, Benaulim, Bogmalo, Sinquerim, Anjuna, Vagator, Morjim and Ashvem. If you like a bit of adventure then hop onto a jet ski, a banana boat or simply head out with a bunch for some dolphin spotting in the high seas. Hardcore water babies can opt for a short course in deep sea diving from any of the PADI certified instructors and go explore the reefs and shipwrecks along the coast. If you prefer a more scenic adventure then join the Goa kayaking club that offers the most beautiful kayaking experiences along the backwaters of Goa. Windsurfing and Kite surfing are more intensive water sports and require at least 6-8 weeks of training in Goa so if you’re taking a sabbatical here then why not learn to tame the waves! But if it’s just a leisure ride on the water that you crave then you can hire a yacht, a dhow or even a Shikara and have a party like no other.
A Ferry Land
Perhaps one of the most quaint and unique aspects of Goa are its ferries. The lifeline of locals commuting from the many islands of Goa to their offices, schools and markets, the ferries make for a pretty picture on the backwaters chugging slowly from one bank to the other carrying with their load of cars, scooters, busses and commuters. The ferry points along the rivers in Goa are delightfully picturesque spots where the regular commuters meet each time they ride together, catch up on local gossip and exchange notes on the bizarre behavior of tourists (read us) who are busy taking pictures. Do take a ride on one of these while you are here, just the sweet salty breeze and the smooth ride across makes it an experience to remember.
Tattoos and Goa have a special relationship. Perhaps it is the freedom of expression, a coming-of-age thing, or simply a memory that you want to last forever – a tattoo is all that and so much more for so many people. And Goa is the place to get yourself inked if you are contemplating it. The options are many, the service is good, the pain is bearable and the result is amazing (well most of the times!). Tattoos are an essential part of the ‘Goa experience’ and one out of every 5 tourists that comes here gets one. For most it is a temporary design applied in black henna by the hawkers at the beach but for some it is serious business that entails hours of research, a little bit of bargaining and then finally a teeth gritting exercise of a few hours with the needle that ends up giving them a scar that is both wanted and cherished. So if you are looking for a special take back of your trip here, then head to the nearest tattoo parlor, have a friend hold your hand and be ready to show off your latest acquisition.
If one is to seriously think about what Goa’s beaches offer that is different from the beaches in the rest of the country then the one thing that stands out is Goa’s shacks. For there is no other place in the country where you can lie back with your drink on a beach bed, enjoy the freshest catch from the sea, listen to great music and soak in the salty sea breeze – other than Goa. Goa’s shacks are iconic representations of all things Goan, the food, the drinks, the music, the vibe and the generally chilled out atmosphere. There is no rush here, you are encouraged to while your time away and simply ‘be’. From extreme north to extreme south, the shacks in Goa are temporary restaurants that come up from October to May catering mainly to the tourist population. Each of these has their own unique character and even though most of them serve a multi-cuisine menu, their specialty invariably is Goan seafood. In most shacks you can get a myriad of services besides food and drink, there are some that offer coco huts for accommodation, others offer foot massages and henna tattoos, and some even have tie-ups with water sports operators and can get you great deals. So if you’re looking for a one-stop beach bumming experience, plonk yourself on a beach bed in a famous shack and enjoy!
Global flavours and local brews
There is no doubt that Goa is at the forefront of a culinary revolution. Restaurants here have shifted focus from catering a tried and tested menu to doing global cuisine that appeals to the well travelled palate. of a culinary revolution. Restaurants here have shifted focus from catering a tried and tested menu to doing global cuisine that appeals to the well travelled palate. Be it Khao Suey from Burma, Sushi from Japan, Steaks and burgers from America, Lasagna from Italy, and Souvlaki from Greece or a Strudel from Germany – there is something for everyone in Goa as far as food is concerned. For foodies there is no place better. For where else can you be in striking distance of so many different styles of cooking, so many accomplished chefs and so many unique restaurants, but Goa?
And with good food comes great wine. Home to the country’s only wine festival, Goa has the distinct advantage of being a State that promotes wine culture. It is no wonder then that manufacturers of _ ne wines and sommeliers from all over the world prefer to launch their latest bottles in Goa before they test in other cities in India. Now well known for its stylish Masters of Food and Wine evenings hosted by the best of starred resorts and properties which are now a regular feature of the social life here, these evenings also allow for the most exclusive of cuisines with pairings done by the wine masters and chefs together. While Wine clubs can be seen appearing on the scene now for the first time, culinary schools like the very unique Siolim House have clearly established themselves. Masterchefs, designer chefs and self-created chefs who believe in chasing their dream with a passion work out from Goa, like nowhere else.
If food and wine go hand in hand then perhaps the most iconic drink of Goa, the Feni, needs a special mention here. Distilled from Cashew fruits, this local brew has a sharp smell and even sharper kick. Not a drink for the faint hearted, the Feni is potent and packs a mean punch to even the most seasoned drinkers. Pair it with a masala fried fish and bunch of patraos and you can be sure that you will be in for an eventful evening.
Known as the party capital of the country, Goa wears this title with pride as the streets light up each evening with partygoers zipping around in all their finery. The nightlife in Goa, during season, on any given day can rival the likes of Ibiza and St. Tropez with its gleaming nightclubs, bars and cafes. The iconic Titos lane transforms into the most happening party street where the young and old catch up over cocktails and beers. Live music, Djs, EDM parties, Bollywood karaoke, you name it and it’s there for you to pick and choose your flavour of the evening in Goa. From nightclubs perched on hills, to headphone parties down south, Goa’s nightlife is vibrant, exciting and the best part –no curfew! While party places in the rest of the country wrap up by 11 pm owing to curfew on timings, the parties just about begin to warm up around that time and go on till it’s time for breakfast! So get your bling on, the party never ends in Goa.
Corporate Goa – MICE
Meetings, incentives, conferences and events, these four words sum up Goa for the corporate world. Teams from all over the country from all across industry prefer to hang up their boots and indulge a little when they come in to Goa for MICE. A preferred destination in the corporate circles, Goa with its myriad opportunities in R&R provides the perfect setting for high level business deals, team building exercises, company awards functions and dealer meets. Hotels are booked solid in the months of June to October as corporate India makes its way to monsoons in Goa. Voted as one of the best destinations for MICE, Goa is now in the top contenders for MICE travelers giving international destinations such as Bangkok a run for their money.
International film festival, Music festivals, Literary events, Advertising awards and Festivals of Ideas; world class events have dominated Goa’s landscape and with each passing year their presence is stronger and their ability to pull the right kinds of crowds even better. Goa plays host to some of the country’s most sought after events, annual properties that are marked in the calendars of the who’s who of literature, science, politics and culture.
The next big thing in ‘Destination Weddings’, Goa is now on the hot list of wedding planners from all over the country. With stunning beaches, endless expanses of white sands, lush gardens, romantic sunsets and exquisite turquoise waters, Goa offers the perfect backdrop for an exotic wedding. Couples from all over the world home on to Goa as the place to say their ‘I-Dos’ as thedestination has so much to offer. Custom Weddings, professional wedding planners in Goa, assert that Goan Beach destination weddings have been a hit among many bridal couples. However each couple want their D-day to be special and that’s where Custom Weddings step in. With 5 years of experience in executing spectacular weddings, no stage is ever too far or too grand for their talented team. The dedicated and specialized team at Custom Weddings are professionals who partner with the families to give them a truly unique and special wedding leaving no stone unturned. Right from the table centre piece to the peripheral ambience prop, every detail is customized according to chosen colour scheme and theme. So be it grand set ups with lavish drapes and flowers or elegant and intimate celebrations, Custom Weddings in Goa makes it all happen and how.
Text: Amina Azad
Pics Courtesy The One School Goa