The weekend starting January 23 being a long one, my friends and I decided to embark on the quintessential college student trip to Goa. If you’re going with a relatively large group of people, travelling by train would be your best and most entertaining option. A sleeper ticket from Pune to Goa cost us Rs. 350. We had booked our tickets through an agent who claimed that all our waitlisted seats would be confirmed the day before our journey “one hundred and fifty percent madam!”. We landed up having only two berths amongst five people. So I’d advise you to make sure that all your tickets are confirmed.
Another option for travel from closer areas in the country is the sleeper bus, which we wound up taking on our way back. Even though it is slightly more cramped for space than the train, an overnight journey is comfortable and will cost you Rs. 500. Our timing was perfect; right after the New Years crowd had left but while the weather was still pleasant.
Now being a group of college students, we were on a pretty tight budget. But Goa seems to be the perfect holiday destination even for the stingy traveller. We managed a stay of five days in Rs. 4000, including travel and accommodation. Goa has a multitude of choice when it comes to lodgings.
Depending on your choice of beach, you can stay either down south, which is more relaxed and quiet, or in north Goa, with more places to party and a younger vibe. I personally quite liked the beach we were staying at: Baga. Although slightly crowded, it was reasonably central to all places we wanted to visit and relatively cleaner than the rest (read: Calangute). There were enough and more places to stay. Small, clean rooms were available between Rs. 600 – Rs. 800 for any number of people. The rates aren’t fixed so you may have to bargain a little, especially if it’s a busy time. No advance bookings are required. Ask around in the local market and you’re sure to find a room to your liking.
To describe food in Goa is quite a task. You’ll find an abundance of excellent restaurants with great food, ambience and service. A holiday in Goa without a visit to Brittos on Baga beach is almost criminal (I am yet to taste anything leaving their kitchen that isn’t par excellence and their strawberry tart is to die for). For the local Goan cuisine, comprising mainly of seafood in coconut gravy with rice, Souza Lobo on Calangute is a must. For a delicious breakfast after a night out, the legendary Lila Café is the place to be. Run by a middle-aged German couple, this quaint European styled café, albeit slightly heavy on the pocket, serves the most mouth-watering food. I’d suggest you try their stuffed omelettes (the ham and cheese one, and I kid you not, was at least two an a half inches tall). There are plenty of shacks on most beaches with good food and beer. The quality of food and service, however, in almost all of them is identical. So pick your favourite and stick to it.
Being Portuguese territory for quite a while, Goa has a host of beautiful sites to visit. To get around the place, you can rent a scooter for Rs. 300 and a jeep for Rs. 800 a day, fuel charges extra. Fort Aguada is a beauty at dusk. Although the fort itself closes entry at 5:30 p.m., we found a spot about two kilometres away, where I witnessed a gorgeous sunset.
The Chapora Fort (of Dil Chahta Hai fame) is also worth a stopover. Relatively near by is the Anjuna market, where you’ll find lovely jewellery and distinctive bright, cotton ‘goa’ clothes. If you’re there on a Saturday, make sure that you visit Ingo’s, the Saturday night flea market near Anjuna Beach. With great food, drinks, music and stalls; the market is open and alive till the wee hours of the morning. Of course, a visit to Goa couldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the many tranquil, charming churches. The Basilica Bom Jesus, the Se Cathedral and the church of Mary Immaculate Conception are all beautifully constructed pieces of architecture that engulf you with a supreme sense of serenity.
If sight-seeing isn’t up your alley, I’d definitely recommend water sports. With an array of options to choose from: banana boat rides, parasailing, water skiing and the like, they are safe, exciting and rather moderately priced. A banana boat ride will cost you about Rs. 80 per person for one ride. Here again, there is a slight margin to bargain.
For things to take back with you, Port Wine is on the top of my list. But beware; its sickly sweet taste often leads you into undermining its potency. Cashewnuts are another often purchased commodity. Bebinca, a traditional Goan dessert is also worth a try.
All in all, Goa doesn’t let you down. There’s something for one and all: be it the sightseer, the relaxer or the party-goer. Long, lazy days on the beach are the perfect way to unwind. Affordable and oodles of fun; I’d suggest Goa to everyone, especially groups of students like us, for a holiday you won’t forget.