We had been to Goa when I was 5 and Vibhi was 1 year old. I just remember enjoying the waves and Vibhi straight up denies that he has ever been to Goa before. So Goa had been on the top of our bucket list for as long as we could remember.
When Vibhi was planning to come to Bangalore for his winter break, we started making plans for a mini trip to some place nearby. Vibhi wanted to go to a beach place so I suggested Pondicherry. I knew Goa would be costly and crowded during December so I did not even consider going there. But when I started looking for hotels in Pondy I realized that Pondy was costly too during that time. That’s when Vibhi suggested to look for Goa. The costs were quite similar so I finally booked a hotel and bus tickets for Goa.
Going on a trip with Vibhi had been on my travel list since the time we were in school and used to fantasise about travelling the world together. So this trip was a double tick for my bucket list.
We boarded our bus at 7:30pm on Vibhi’s birthday i.e. 21st December and according to the booking website expected arrival time was 8:30am which was totally misleading.
Day 1 – 22nd December 2018
We reached Panaji at 12pm and took a cab to our hotel in Mapusa from the bus stop. By the time we reached Saiesh International Hotel we were exhausted by the long journey. We ordered lunch from our hotel and relaxed for a while. I checked Google map and planned what all places to go that day. We got ready by 3pm and asked for Scooty rental. They showed us a few scooties and Vibhi did test drive in front of the hotel before selecting a Scooty. They were renting it for 500/- which was less than what the people at the bus stop told us, so we took it.
After a 30min drive, we reached Morjim Beach. Morjim is a coastal village on the Northern bank of the Chapora River, situated in the Pernem sub district of North Goa. Morjim is now called ‘Little Russia’ due to the large groups of Russians that reside here. Morjim beach is known as the nesting place of the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle which is an endangered species. The Beach is clean, beautiful, long & serene. It is ideal not only for swimming, but also for long walks. We walked along the beach and spent more than 1/2 hr there.
Next we went to Chapora Fort which is best known from the movie Dil Chahta Hai. The present structure was built in 1717. Many rulers have held this fort for varied periods of time but main enmity was seen between Marathas and Portuguese to gain control over it. And although it was built to serve as a place of strategic importance for defence purposes, the fort fell very quickly in the test of military prowess. We had to hike a little distance, but the effort was more than worth it. The fort offers some of the best views of the setting sun. We could see Vagator beach from there. The place was too crowded so we decided to go to our next destination for sunset.
Our next stop was Vagator Beach which is the northernmost beach in the Bardez sub district of North Goa. The sunset time was 6:10pm and the distance was 10min from the fort. We reached Vagator Beach by 6:05pm. By that time the sun hid behind the clouds and the sky turned purple and golden. After the enjoying the delightful view of sunset we decided to go to our last stop.
We went to Anjuna Beach for dinner. The beach is situated to the South of Vagator, it is well known for its Flea Market. The beach had a line of shacks playing music and projecting colourful lights on the waves. We walked from our scooty parking end to other end and scouted all the shacks on the way. On the way back, we decided which one we would sit in. We went to Shore Bar shack because it had cool looking seats. While waiting for dinner, I was scammed by the temporary tattoo guy. I was not exactly interested in getting anything done, but I asked one of them for the cost out of curiosity and he said 350/- and just convinced me to get one and later he said that 350/- per inch and he had made a 3 inch design on my left hand. Since he had already drawn I had to pay him, I could not back out. I was quite sad that I got scammed on the 1st day in Goa, but I consoled myself that if it stays for the entire Goa trip then I would consider that I got money’s worth. It stayed till 6th January 2019 but the tattoo was on the inner side of my left arm, which is not usually visible unless I explicitly show it while taking pictures, which I always forgot. I also bought 2 glow in the dark bangles for 40/-. The waves were on high tide and we had to move our chair and table back a few times. The waves were brushing our feet while we ate our dinner. Dinner was a magical experience.
Day 2 – 23rd December 2018
We started our day a little late. We had breakfast in our hotel and planned our day. Our 1st stop was quite far from our hotel. We stopped at a few ATMs to withdraw cash. Vibhi bought crocs for the beach too.
After more than an hour drive, we reached Aguada Fort by 12pm. It was too sunny so we searched for a shed and parked our Scooty. We then walked to the fort. Fort Aguada and its lighthouse is a well-preserved seventeenth-century Portuguese fort standing on Sinquerim Beach. It was constructed in 1612 to guard against the Dutch and the Marathas. It was initially tasked with the defence of shipping and the nearby Bardez sub district. A freshwater spring within the fort provided water supply to the ships that used to stop by which is how the fort got its name: Aguada, meaning water. The fort was picturesque and the view from the fort was lovely. The white lighthouse was the best part of the fort and made it even more beautiful. This fort was also seen in Dil Chahta Hai and Dhoom.
Next we went to Sinquerim Fort which overlooks the beautiful Sinquerim Beach. The fort was used as the reference point for goods arriving from Europe. It was a small viewpoint with an excellent view of the beach. By the time we reached here, we were quite dehydrated due to the heat. So we sat for a while in the shed before going down to the beach.
After resting for a few minutes we went down the stairs to Sinquerim Beach. Sinquerim is located in the Bardez sub district of North Goa and is famous for the massive Sunburn Music Festival that happens there each December. I was still not feeling well so we again found a shed on the beach and enjoyed the view from there. We then decided to have lunch in one of the nearby shacks. We sat in Tony’s Restaurant & Cafe and ordered Goan style seafood. We enjoyed the food and the view a lot. After lunch we went to play in the water. We were enjoying in waist deep water when suddenly Vibhi said that he got stung by a jellyfish. We immediately rushed out of the water and asked the lifeguards what to do for first aid. He suggested us to put ice on the sting so we went back to the shack and asked for ice. The affected area had turned red and formed welts in the skin. He had been stung in left hand and leg. We sat for a long time there till he felt better. We then collected our belongings from the reception desk of the shack and started looking for scooty key. We could not find the key anywhere and we thought that we lost it while we were in water. We searched for the key in the shack and in the shed where we sat. We panicked a little because we had talked to the scooty owner in the morning. He had told us that he did not have an extra scooty key and we need to be careful with the key. The shack guy gave us a key maker’s number when he found out. But just to be sure, Vibhi went to the parking lot to check if the key was there. It turned out the key was still hanging in the dickie locker. We were lucky that the scooty was still there. After this scary episode we double checked the scooty key everywhere.
We then went to Calangute Beach to see the sunset. Calangute is a beautiful beach located in the Bardez sub district of North Goa. It was one of the most crowded beach in our entire trip. It was so crowded that we could not take a picture without someone photobombing it. But the sunset was beautiful as expected. The sky turned golden as the sun went down the horizon into the ocean.
We could see Baga Beach on the other end of Calangute. There is no distinct separation between Baga & Calangute Beaches. So we decided to walk to Baga and have dinner on the way back. Baga beach is known for its beautiful location, bordered by a hill and a freshwater stream on one side and the famous Calangute-Candolim stretch on the other. Today, it’s famous across the world for being the nightlife capital of India. Baga was as crowded as Calangute. When we reached the Baga River, we thought of crossing the stream like the others had done, but the current was too strong. Not even half way through the stream, I felt that my sandal might break due strong current, so we went back. After looking at the estuary formed by Baga river & Arabian Sea, we decided to head back. Baga has the highest density of nightclubs, pubs, bars and discos anywhere in Goa. Every shack that we crossed played dance worthy songs and had beautiful seating arrangements decorated with neon & fairy lights. I would hear a song that I like while passing by and all I wanted to do was stop & dance there. We stopped in Xavier’s Beach Cafe because they had some offer going on. We sat in the charming little tent with lights all around it. While we were waiting for food a girl sold me neon bangles for 10/- each so I bought 2 bangle. Later a boy gave me 8 bangles for 50/-. Another girl styled my hair with wool for 40/-. It was an delightful dinner experience. After dinner we walked back but we couldn’t find the place where we parked our scooty. Vibhi later remembered that Google Maps has saved history. So he opened the map history that we had used to come from Sinquerim to Calangute and realised that we had walked a lot more than we needed to. After a long walk back, we finally reached our scooty and went to our hotel.
Day 3 – 24th December 2018
Since it was Christmas Eve, we decided to visit Churches in Panaji. Panaji also known as Panjim, is the capital of Goa and the headquarters of North Goa district. It lies on the banks of the Mandovi River estuary. Panaji was quite far from Mapusa where we were staying.
Our first stop was Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church. The colonial Portuguese Baroque style church was first built in 1541 as a chapel on a hill side overlooking the city of Panjim. It was eventually replaced by a larger church in the 1600s as part of Portuguese Goa’s religious expansion. Baroque style was the Roman version of the Renaissance, and often celebrated the triumph of the Catholic Church. The church is painted in bright white symbolising Virgin Mary. The interior is simple yet colourful. The main altar has Mother Mary along with two other gold gilded panels on either side of the altar one denoting the Christ’s crucifixion and other is dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary. This church also boasts of having the second largest church bell in Goa, which was installed in the bell tower in 1871; originally taken from the ruins of St. Augustine Tower & Church at Old Goa (Velha Goa) on the Holy Hill. Josh, Aashiqui 2 and a few other Bollywood movies have been shot here. Vibhi was not allowed to go inside because he was not wearing full pant. I was allowed to go because of my long dress because knee length dress that I usually wore was also not allowed. The church was quite picturesque and I understood why it was Bollywood’s favourite church location.
Next we went to see a few Old Goa Churches. The road to the church was beautiful with river flowing on one side along the road. The churches we went to were walking distance from each other in a huge campus.
The first church we went to was Se Cathedral. Being one of the oldest in the country, the Se Cathedral was built to celebrate the victory of the Portuguese ruler Afonso de Albuquerque for capturing a Goan city in 1510. Given that the day when the enemies were vanquished was also the feast of St Catherine, this church was built commemorating her. Displaying a Portuguese-Manueline architectural style, the church has Tuscan exteriors and Corinthian interiors. Inside the church, there is a large bell called the Golden Bell – which is the largest in the state. The church was grand and beautiful.
Next we came out of the campus on the other side & crossed the road to visit Basilica of Bom Jesus which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. ‘Bom Jesus’ (literally, ‘Good (or Holy) Jesus’) is the name used for the Ecce Homo in the countries of Portuguese colonisation. A Jesuit church amongst churches in Goa, this structure is considered to be amongst the finest representations of Baroque architecture. This church was pretty crowded with tourists. They had decorated the garden with Jesus’s birth story for Christmas. The red brick wall of the church provided a perfect background for some good pictures.
We thought we had seen all the churches in the area and we were returning when I realised there was another church which we had assumed to be a museum. So we went inside Church of St Francis of Assisi which is amongst the revered Roman Catholic churches. Known for its Barque and Corinthian architecture, the church’s interiors are finely inlaid with ornaments. On the tabernacle reside two statues – one of the Christ and the other of St. Francis of Assisi. Inside the church, the gilded interiors are beautifully decorated. There are numerous paintings depicting the life of St. Francis of Assisi. The carved woodwork and frescos are also exquisitely done. The church was smaller than the other 2 churches. This church also had a museum which we skipped because we were very hungry.
Since we were going to the beach we thought we would eat lunch in the beach shack but Miramar Beach did not have any shack. We saw some local people carrying picnic baskets. So we searched for restaurants nearby. We found some restaurants that were walking distance from there. When we reached some of the restaurants were closed because it was 3pm. We luckily found Temptation Bar & Restaurant which was not closed yet. We were their last customer and they said that we would not be able to order after the initial order. We wanted to order fish/prawn dishes but they said we could only get squid & chicken dishes. So we ordered those along with fried rice. Later we realised we had ordered too much due to the fear that we might not get more food if we are still hungry. So we sat for a long time and some how finished everything.
Then we walked back to Miramar Beach. The beach is situated very close to Panaji, so locals prefer an outing here. It was a small and not too impressive compared to the beaches we saw previous 2 days. So we spent 1/2 hour there and decided to go to our next destination. While we were walking back to our scooty I felt queasy and puked a little on the sand. It was because of overeating in the restaurant. After drinking water and resting I felt better and we left from there.
We went to Dona Paula View Point which is a waterfront landing with expansive ocean views, a lookout tower & an area of food & shopping stalls. It was so crowded that we could not even see the view properly. So we searched for a beach nearby and went there.
We reached Caranzalem Beach which is located to the west of Miramar beach along the mouth of the Mandovi river. This beach was quite empty and peaceful. After a whole day we finally found a gorgeous beach. We could see Aguada Fort & Dona Paula hill in the distance. The beach had colourful fishing boats on the shore. We ended up watching the sun set behind the Dona Paula hill. After sunset we went back to our hotel and reached there by 7pm.
After resting for an hour we decided to go for dinner in Spice Goa which was less than 1km away from our hotel. It has 4.4/5 rating on Zomato and is said to be the best Seafood Restaurant Chain in Goa. They have an extensive Menu serving Goan & Chinese Cuisine, but are most famous for their Goan Seafood preparations, which are always freshly prepared & tasty. The menu & place mat were very creative and had illustrations on it. The food was very tasty and is a must visit place for seafood lovers. We had to checkout the next day so we went back to our room and packed our bags.
Day 4 – 25th December 2018
We woke up early and checked out of our hotel. We kept our luggage in the reception. Due to peak season we had to pay 1000/- for scooty that day. Since we had our bus at 5pm we decided to have a relaxed day and just visit one or two beaches.
We went to Ashwem Beach which is located in the Pernem sub district of North Goa. Ashwem is famous for its rocky beach that has been shaped by shellfish, giving the rocks a unique shape. It is a resort beach and isn’t well known among tourists. The beach had very few people who mostly lived in the resorts along the beach. Ashwem was one of the most beautiful beach we visited in this trip. We were a bit hungry but all we could see were resorts, so we walked for while and saw a shack called Then & Now and went inside. We enjoyed our breakfast with a nice view. After enjoying this beach, we decided to go to Morjim Beach for lunch since it had more shacks. We pinned Morjim Beach in our Google Map and it navigated us to some interior village on the other end of Morjim beach far from our first day visit. So we put our hotel in the map and backtracked a little and finally figured out the way we took last time.
After our little detour we finally reached Morjim Beach. Since it was too sunny Vibhi parked the scooty in shed and we walked to the beach. The waiters of Plannet Bollywood Shack offered us beach bed on the condition that our bill would be 500/- or more. We knew our bill would be more than that because we had planned on eating seafood so we took the beach beds near the beach. It was almost noon so it was high tide. We were too near the shore, so our sandals started floating in the water as the waves came. So we went to the beach beds behind our current beds. We relaxed and enjoyed the beach view. At around 12:30pm we ordered food as we had to go back to our hotel. Both pomfret and prawn was very tasty and the experience of eating seafood sitting on the seashore was amazing. After lunch we went to dip our feet in the sea for the last time before heading back.
We reached our hotel by 3pm and they gave us room for an hour to freshen up and rest before going to the bus stop. Our scooty owner had told us that he would drop us at the bus stop so we didn’t book a drop off cab. He came to pick us up at 4:30pm and took us to the bus stop in the scooty that we had rented by tripling. After waiting for 15-20 min, we got into our bus and headed back to Bangalore with lots of pictures in our phone and many beach memories in our mind!