A Unique Urak Bar Crawl

THE JUNGLE JUICE TRAIL

  By Crystal Coelho

Are you ready? ARE YOU READY for an utterly insane bar crawl around the bustling famous Calangute Market? We’re talking, of course, about Goa’s favourite, most loved holiday spot Calangute – the capital of fun and excitement, the epicentre of crowds, craziness and celebration, the MECCA OF MAYHEM!

We’re all very familiar with the name ‘Calangute’ when it comes to Goa. The long stretch of beach shacks which now look like Las Vegas, the famous pubs and fancy restaurants, the crowds that throng the roads, the endless street vendors flanked on either side, the hotels both cheap and expensive and the exciting nightlife. No, it’s no longer your relaxed laid-back ‘susegad’ beach town. Over the years, it’s changed beyond recognition. But, it still has its vibe and everyone from Indian tourists to foreign travellers to expats finds that special something that keeps them coming back to this magical place. Whether your goal is to dance until the wee hours of dawn, sing your heart out, enjoy some classy music and food, drink signature cocktails, simply relax at a beach shack or engage in water sports, this beach mecca will most definitely warm your heart in more ways than one and spice up your holiday.

You’ll read/ or hear a lot about the famous places to get a drink or grab a bite in Calangute. But, no one is ever going to take you back in time and tell you of the many local taverns and bars in the heart of the Calangute Market. These are the places where you’ll find the locals. No tourists at all. These bars are ancient, owned or run by Goans. The alcohol is cheap. The food is great. Each bar has a personality of its own. And the people are friendly, warm, welcoming and absolutely awesome!       

“Urak” or as they call it – jungle juice, is the first distillation from the local cashew fruit. Fresh Urak is seasonal and is available in many local bars from March to the end of May. The season is very short and ends with the onset of the monsoon. So enjoy it while it lasts. If you’re a seasoned Urak drinker, there’s no place in Calangute better and cheaper to go to than these bars, and if you’re a first-time ‘urak’ drinker, there’s no better place than here to start. And if you’re too nervous to try the wild jungle juice, I urge you to do so at least once. You’ll either love it or hate it. There’s no in-between.

Let’s take a walk through the famous marketplace. This urak bar hop itinerary will satisfy your desires and navigate you through the crowds and around the fish market and vegetable vendors to the oldest and most classic bars in and around Calangute. So I ask again, ARE YOU READY? If not, GET READY because you’re about to have an epic day! YES… went Urak bar hopping during the day!! (Think that’s crazy… well you’re in Goa and it IS “urak” season.)  

Started the bar crawl at 11:00 am (yes, you read that right!). We met the gorgeous, wonderful Karen Roach (she’s famous. Look her up on Facebook!) under the iconic Big Fish at the Calangute Fish Market. We were just 3 of us. After all, it was a Tuesday morning and it was only 11:00 am. It was crazy busy with lots of local women buying everything from fresh seafood, to veggies, to meat and poultry and lots of men already filling up the local bars. The first stop was the Railos Wine Shop and Tavern (owned by a local Rahul Deokar) – a small bar right at the entrance of the market. You can’t miss it. Ordered a quarter of urak each. And had it the traditional way, with soda, a dash of lime and a slit green chilli thrown in! Sipping on the yummy jungle juice on a hot sunny morning is most refreshing to say the least.

Morning poses at Railo’s Tavern

We didn’t really realize how early it is to start drinking as the bar was dark since there was no power (and that happens a lot around here). Now, that we’d had our first drink, we wandered around the fish market. Karen smiling away and EVERYONE “hello”-ing her! YES, she’s that famous! I was re-Christened “The Jamaican Girl” by locals in the shops around. Guess this was the first time Calangute market had a hippie-looking carefree girl twirl around the fisher mongers and other Goenkars absolutely high on life.    

Next stop was the Moonlight Braganza Bar and Restaurant (owned by Joseph, leased by Manjunath Naik), one of the most spirited and famous bars around. The walls are painted in a bright pink and magenta colour, and the TV was glaring with loud Bollywood music. Another interesting observation was that we spotted another woman drinking, usually you only see men around these small local bars. Also, this place is synonymous with delicious food that can satiate all food cravings. Especially their black gram masala and fish masala fry. Enjoyed every bite of it and washed it down with urak, Limca, soda, a wedge of lemon and not forgetting the slit green chilli. Definitely a must-stop-by on an urak bar hop!     

Time to get pumped! Seriously though… you’re now right in the heart of Calangute Market after walking through its narrow little inside roads. Next stop was Andrew’s Bar (owned by late Andrew D’Souza and Brazinha D’Souza, now run by father and daughter Subhash and Suvidha Toraskar) One of the most wildly decorated bars around. Old posters with swimwear models, ancient tattoo advertisements, racks of boiled eggs and empty soda bottles. We sat at the bar, up on our high stools and enjoyed yet another round of fresh urak quarters.   

  

We then crawled our way out (yes, you might literally be crawling by this point). We lost count of how many quarters each of us had had. There was no better way to embrace my current situation than immediately posing with a friendly fisherman in the market and his huge catch on the way out. A local then told us of another little tavern close by, so we walked to it. Filled our glasses yet again to the brim with more urak and high spirits. And then, crossed over the street to yet another local tavern for the last and final round of the wild, wild jungle juice. Honestly, none of us recall the names of the last few bars we’d stumbled into. I guess by that time all of us were just too high on the sweet, sweet delicious nectar.   

    

So folks, next time it’s urak season, and you find yourself in the heart of Calangute, don’t forget to look past all the craziness and action that fills the bustling marketplace, and you’ll find a rich history. Hope you’ve enjoyed this crazy urak bar crawl with us and trust you’ll venture out and try these local bars, even if it’s just for a beer on a hot morning someday! You don’t have to dress up all fancy, it’s inexpensive, the local snacks and food are yummy and cheap, the people are warm and very inviting and most of all… You would have experienced a very unique side of the famous Calangute, which not many know of! Why not support the local Goenkar? Why not support the little taverns?? Why not sip on Goa’s very own fresh wild jungle juice – Urak! You’ll find the world’s finest alcohol anytime, anywhere, everywhere. But, Goa’s very own poison is indeed rare! Find it, enjoy it, share it…    

Happy day drinking! Wishing you urak burps and a sweet divine happy high… HIC HIC HIC!!! 

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Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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