Skirts not saris, soccer not cricket, spongy buns not
tortilla-like nan. All these things may make the tiny state of Goa
on India’s western shore feel more familiar to many clients than
the hyper-colored exoticism of the country’s other regions, and its
long, tawny beaches offer a relaxing mid-journey escape.
Under Portuguese rule until 1961, Goa is an easily digestible blend
of East and West, its candy-like Hindu temples mingle with grand
whitewashed Catholic churches and European forts.
Discovered by American and European hippies in the 1960s, Goa is
more laid back than Los Cabos, more authentic than Cancun and less
expensive than either if clients play it right. More than a dozen
beaches, divided roughly into north and south by the capital city
Panaji, stretch 65 miles along the Arabian sea, bordered by
Maharashtra state to the north and Karnataka on the east and
Each beach has its own personality: Anjuna, Chapora and Vagator are
known for their raves and all-night parties, while Candolim and
Arambol are quieter. Benaulim, in the south, is considered less
touristy. But all beaches retain some of their hippie sensibility
and occasionally, actual hippies.
We staked our claim on Candolim beach, a serene enclave of
pinkish-brown sands and steel-blue water with an endless traffic
jam of tankers on the horizon and some of the coast’s best
“shacks,” restaurants in thatched beach huts that pop up each year
like a city and then come down in June just before the
A day at Candolim usually starts with breakfast (for people who
have been in India a few weeks, the possibility of bacon and eggs
is very enticing), and then it’s time to claim a thatched canopy.
Apply sunscreen; lie down. Watch the hawkers sell ankle bracelets,
sarongs and woven handbags that you’re not buying. Swim. Sleep.
Repeat for eight hours. Break only for a lunch of fresh fish and
I followed this plan for several days, then hopped on a moped when
my sunscreen ran out. I tooled around the narrow roads of the
neighborhood, climbing the steep hills past tiny, shaded churches
and wash lines fluttering with the saffron habits of Hindu priests,
to Fort Aguada, a fort as well as a watering station for Portuguese
ships when it was built in 1612. I savored the view, which once
helped Portuguese troops guard against seafaring invaders.
Days later, we set off in the other direction, exploring the
coastline to the north, just a few miles short of the Maharashtra
border. We swerved around cows in the road, passed men in
Ghandi-esque dhoti walking the narrow ridges of rice paddies and
stopped to crawl around the ramparts of Fort Vagator, yet another
crumbling remnant left by the Portuguese. We drove over more hills
to Morjim beach, where turtles sun themselves in the shallows from
September to February, and through the fishing village of Arambol,
where dozens of men in ancient-looking boats returned from
“You like fresh fish?” asked a shack proprietor as we waited for a
ferry to take us to Terekhol, the site of another fort, this one
converted into a hotel.
He was still there when we returned, waiting with a platter of
freshly caught fish. We selected our dinner and waited with a
Kingfisher, an Indian beer, while he disappeared to cook it. Indian
music squealed out of nearby speakers and an hour later, our
stomachs were full, our thirst quenched.
Just the fuel we needed for another action-packed day in Goa.
|WHERE TO STAY|
Clients can stay at one of the small guesthouses that dot the
beaches or rent a room from one of the shacks, which often include
meal, but the appointments are meager. A better choice for most
clients will be a full-fledged hotel. Taj Hotels offers several
properties in Goa.
Fort Aguada Beach Resort: Built on the ramparts of
a 16th-century fortress on Sinquerim Beach, the hotel has 145
rooms, including 42 cottages and 15 villas. Doubles from $180.
Taj Holiday Village: A mixture of 140 standard hotel rooms,
terracotta-roofed cottages and villas, the property is close to Ft.
Aguada. Doubles from $155.
Taj Exotica: Perched over Benaulim Beach on 56
acres of gardens in Goa’s southwest corner, this property offers
spacious deluxe rooms and two- or four-bedroom villas. Doubles from
Commission: 10 percent www.tajhotels.com
Rentals cost about $3.50 (150 rupees) per day, plus a liter or two
of fuel at $1.15 (50 rupees) per liter.