Life & Style

Discover a hidden Goa

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Tourists are pouring in and Sunburn is readying to beat its past record of 3,50,000 fans. But where do you go if partying is not your thing?

There’s no contention as to India’s party capital. And it is not just the beach bums and the ravers who come to Goa, but the art aficionados (think Serendipity Arts Festival) and music buffs, too. In 2016, Vagator Beach saw over 3,50,000 people rocking at Sunburn. This year, as the music festival returns after a two-year gap, the crowds are expected to swell even more. But, even in the midst of such chaos and revelry, there are still pockets of peace to be found. Three personalities — who’ve built their lives and careers around people, and are expecting a hectic end of the year — tell us where they escape to when they need to get away from it all.

Discover a hidden Goa

Divya Dugar | Instagrammer and storyteller

This Diwali, when I planned our annual migration from Delhi, I wanted to find a place where the days unfolded at a slow pace. After a lot of research — as we travel with three indie dogs, Marcopolo, Tigress and Pari — we narrowed it down to Chorão island, home to the famous Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. After 31 hours by train, and a three-hour road trip from Sawantwadi station to the Pomburpa ferry crossing, we entered tranquillity.

For three weeks, we stayed in a 1920s Portuguese house, Villa Luduvina, tastefully restored to retain its Goan character. With a minimal aesthetic and beautiful large windows, it overlooked an overgrown garden full of flowers and butterflies.

The island has a way of making you fall into a lazy rhythm, sipping tea on the porch, watching people stroll by. The mornings were our favourite time, waking up to the horn of the poi delivery man. The hot leavened bread was a staple at our breakfast table and picnic lunches. Afternoons were all about eating a lazy lunch prepared by our cook Leena — who fed us freshly-made coconut curries, cafreal and xacuti, and filled us up on the village gossip. The late afternoons were reserved for naps, which we all took seriously, just like the Chorão islanders.

Discover a hidden Goa

Over the next few weeks, we strolled around the neighbourhood with our dogs, admiring the beautiful Portuguese houses and haggling with fish dealers over freshly-caught mackerel and sardines. We visited Salim Ali, walked along the river bank, enjoyed bird-watching in the wetlands, and took long hikes up to the church with fantastic views over the island. Here, sunsets were an event, a patch of green meant a good roll in the grass for the furry gang, and the simplicity of life was therapeutic.

For a bit of activity, we crossed to Panjim by ferry and spent an afternoon walking around Fontainhas, getting a drink at Joseph Bar or lunch at Venite Bar and Restaurant, where the staff always gave us the balcony seat so the dogs could enjoy the view while we ate. Weekly runs to the Mapusa market was a delight, with grinning Konkan grannies selling bananas, kokum juice and home-made Goan sausages.

We found a Goa we never knew existed. Chorão island — with a sound of its own (the chirping of birds sometimes so loud that I used to check my phone to see if my alarm was on) — is where time and life slow down.

Discover a hidden Goa

Prahlad Sukhtankar | Owner, The Black Sheep Bistro

We Panjimites are considered snobs. We don’t often cross the bridge and visit the North — Anjuna, Baga, Calangute and the like — because they are overly touristy. It is only when we feel like having an ‘out of Goa experience’ that we venture there, but even then we will find little pockets of peace, such as Assagao and Satish Warrier’s laidback Gunpowder restaurant.

But mostly, we stay in the South, with its quieter beaches like Varca [a cleaner, sandier stretch] and Galgibaga. The latter is a conservation reserve as it is the seasonal nesting and hatching site for the endangered Olive Ridley turtle. Many of my friends and chefs hang out there, often helping the conservationists.

Discover a hidden Goa

And if you explore the small villages, like Margao, you will also discover tiny farmers’ markets selling stollen cakes, fruit wines, ground spices, and chorizo sausages cured by local homemakers.

Discover a hidden Goa

Malini Ramani | Designer

This is my season and I really can’t get away from my store too often (drop by to check out a new line of sequinned party flats and dresses). So I recharge with small getaways. I regularly visit Dr Shikha Aggarwal’s Healthy Healing Center in Sangolda for her amazing vitamin drip therapies. It is quiet, I usually meet nice people there and I come out feeling re-energised.

I also visit my friend, and former model, Joey Matthew’s Daily Grind Cafe and Lodge in Harmal. It has an absolutely stunning beach, not too many people around, excellent food and you are well taken care of. Another favourite for a quick, quiet break is Mojigao Cafe in Assagao, with its yoga shala and great food (think berry smoothies and Mediterranean bowls).

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 7:23:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/discover-a-hidden-goa/article30412145.ece

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