Thursday, February 18, 2010

Colva Beach, Goa.

The only reasons we came to this beach was my desire to see the beach where I almost drowned 16 years ago and the fact that we had time on our hands to kill while we were in Madgaon.

The visit to Colva turned out to be a bad idea right from the start. Firstly, we reached there on a mid summer hot afternoon, with the Sun at its cruelest best. Even then to our surprise we found the beach choc-a-block filled with people. It being a sunday and with the Carnival to begin in a matter or coupla hours, this was already turning out to be a bad idea. With the Sun so hot and the beach so crowded, we walked straight towards one of the shacks on the beach. without even bothering to touch the water. After a good two hours of surf parasail watching we left, much to our own disappointment.

The only positive about Colva is that parasailing here is much cheaper than what it was at Benaulim. This beach is best avoided, if solitude is what you are looking for.

Getting-there: Colva is bang in the middle of Madgaon, around 6kms from the city central. You can hire a bike and move around. Ask the locals for direction.

Must-Do: Adventure sports, as they are cheaper here.

Must-Don't: Littering.

Ups: Cheaper adventure sports, one of the best white sandy beaches in Goa.
Downs: Too crowded.

My Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Palolem Beach, Goa.

Much has been heard about Palolem being the best beach in Goa. At the same time, many have also claimed that Palolem has lost its charm with too much commercialization. But still I was determined to check out the place, thanks to pictures showing the palm trees extending into the pristine white sands. And so on Day2 we checked out of our resort in Benaulim, and hired a bike to Palolem - one of the southernmost beaches in Goa. The 35km ride from Madgaon to Palolem (in Cancona Town) was one of the best I’ve experienced in recent times. Most part of the journey through the ghat roads were thankfully less crowded and sometimes even deserted.

Palolem did indeed turn out to be highly commercialized. The entire stretch of the beach is lined-up with shacks apart from numerous other hotels, guest houses, restaurants, gift shops, grocery stores, internet cafes et al. But luckily the beach in itself is not much of a disappointment. The geometrical dimension of the beach though, is a little weird. The small alphabet "u" best describes the shape of this unique beach. It also reminded me of Kudle Beach in Gokarna as it lies cuddled between two hillocks. Palolem as we found out is a good place to pick up some good-looking shells.

The sunset was a slight disappointment as it just disappeared towards the fag-end of the phenomena. On the whole, but for the extreme commercialization, Palolem is a great place to relax and rejuvenate.

Getting-there: 35kms from Madgaon. First beach after the Ghat roads.

Must-Do: Enjoy the Sun, Sea, Sand and the Shells.
Must-Don't: Littering.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Benaulim Beach, Goa.

After 16 long years I went back to the place where I almost drowned. Goa for me, has always been more than just beautiful beaches, booze haven, Da Vincian churches and mummified saints. It was during a school trip to Goa when I almost drowned in the Colva Beach. The images of that nightmare are still fresh in my head. So it took a little bit of effort to fight the demons in my head to undertake this trip. But then time is a great healer and I remembered the incident only when I went back to the same (except that it’s thousand times more crowded now) Colva beach after all those years.

The route we chose to reach Goa was circuitous and tiring, as we had to pick people on the way and there were no reservations available. We took an overnight train from Bangalore and reached Londa. From here we hired a khataara Jeep on a shared basis (after a lot of haggling) and reached Madgaon. Word of Caution - Do NOT take the road from Londa to Madgoan. The road in certain parts can put a rocky terrain to shame. And once you cross this nightmare, comes the worst of all. Close to a thousand trucks lined up along the street going in the same direction as you and about half of them coming in the opposite direction. And no, I’m NOT exaggerating the numbers. The reason for this is a iron ore industry somewhere in there. But luckily, our driver who's quite accustomed to it successfully drove us out of it, without losing much time, but not before having a few close shaves and heart-in-mouths.

Once in Goa we found a decent cottage - The Palm Grove Cottages - on Benaulim Beach. It’s an ancient-looking cottage drowned in greenery. Living amongst such greenery though being a truly exhilarating experience, it still has it downsides. The downside being, you have to share your room with mosquitoes, frogs, moths and lizards. Just make sure you tire yourself so much during the day that even Iron Maiden would fail to wake you up.

After a quick freshening-up we hit Benaulim Beach, which was a 10 minute walk from our room. Benaulim is pretty much pristine with its clean white sand as far as the eye can see. The total length of the beach could be close to 4 or 5 kms. And for this reason, it’s not very crowded. You can find many spots in the beach where there's hardly any crowd. And the best part about most beaches in Goa is that they have Life Guards a la' Baywatch style sans the busty babes. The water is gentle and clean and hence very enjoyable. There are lots of shacks on the beach where you can eat. Benaulim also offers parasailing opportunities. And since, this beach is mostly frequented by Westerners, the prices are a tad higher here compared to Colva. Bargaining for prices is always a good idea, anywhere in Goa, as they are highly spiked up. The only thing that comes cheap is beer of course.

Seafood is the staple food in all Goan restaurant menus. While some of them are tasty the others were simply forgettable. Try the Goan rava-masala fry of any fish to try "something new". Most restaurants get their Squids and Prawns right. Leave the chicken items for rest of India. Also try Kokam water. Locals vouch for its stomach-cleansing power. So probably it’s a good idea to detox your stomach of all the Fish and alcohol. No prices for guessing the local alcoholic drinks. Fenny is the word when it comes to liquour in Goa. There are two versions of Fenny - Cashewnut (famous in North Goa) and coconut(famous in South Goa). Cashewnut scores over its cousin though. Also try the Portwine while you are alcohol-tasting. The sunset is a must-watch here, as is the case with most beaches in the west coast. The other best time to be in this beach is early morning, when most of the party-goers are still in bed and sun is just about warming up for a hot day ahead.

Getting-there: Benaulim is about 9 kms South-West of Madgaon. Both geared and non-geared vehicles are available to move about Goa apart from numerous Taxi Services. Oh, even bicycles are also available on rent.

Must-Do: Watch the sunset. Bargain on prices quoted for any service! Try some Goan Cuisine and spirits.
Must-Don’t: Miss out on adventure sports. Littering.

Highs: Beautiful beaches, Parasailing, Seafood, alcohol, bikes-on-rent.
Lows: Too crowded, getting ripped-off everywhere.

My Rating: 7/10.