“Sun, sand and spices”.
Where is Goa?
Goa is the smallest state in India. Located on the southwestern coast of the Arabian Sea. Ninety-nine miles of white sandy beaches, it is a popular destination with both domestic and international tourists. Goa has largely shaken off its 1960’s hippie image. Now offering tourists exactly what they want. From the large 5* western-style resorts to palm-leaf shacks on the beach.
Goa has it all. After India gained independence from the British in 1947. India requested that the Portuguese territory of Goa be ceded back to India. Portugal refused. In December 1961, the Indian Army carried out Operation Vijay, invading Goa resulting in its annexation to India. Becoming India’s 25th State in May 1987.
Our journey from Mahabaleshwar to Goa was on the overnight sleeper bus.
Whilst in Goa, we stayed at a number of different places in various locations.
We stayed at MamaGoa, booked through Agoda.com.
Our luxury wooden Bungalow with AC came with its own garden space. Sunbeds in the garden allowed us to relax in the shade of the palm groves.
The restaurant provided excellent food, from an amazing breakfast to delicious evening meals. Situated right on the beach the resort offers a laid back relaxed atmosphere, with excellent service.
Our garden view cabin, although not quite on the beachfront, nevertheless, close enough. Allowing us to lay in bed and listen to the waves of the Arabian Sea crash on the sandy shore. So idyllic, we extended our stay.
We stayed at the Beachstreet Eco Resort & Spa, booked through Booking.com.
In a very basic back to nature Eco hut. The hut came with a private bathroom and ceiling fan. Not fully enclosed, the bed was provided with a mosquito net. The resort has a swimming pool and serves good food.
The beach has a freshwater lagoon behind it. Access to the beach from the Eco huts is via a bamboo footbridge over the lagoon.
Each day ended with us sitting on the beach watching the sky turn an amazing shade of orange. As the sunset over the Arabian Sea.
We stayed at Crystal Goa Emerald, booked through Booking.com.
Our stay here was plagued by power cuts, failure of the Indian supply network, so we thought. Until we returned to our accommodation after dinner on our first night. The only building in the whole street that was in darkness. A faint light was emanating from the reception, so we went to see what was happening.
Upon entering the reception area, there was an electrician behind the desk, tackling a huge birds nest of multiple coloured cables. Guy asked if everything was ok. Tania offered the fact that Guy was an electrician. She got the Paddington bear stare 🐻 from Guy. Who did not want any involvement in the complete mess of cabling behind the reception desk.
Apparently, there was a short circuit and it was being rectified. Although how an electrician can locate and rectify a short circuit with nothing more than a pair of pliers was baffling to Guy. Anyway, the power came back on shortly after we got to our room.
The next evening we were enticed out by the sound of live music from the Tuk Tuk bar & restaurant across from us. We had a fantastic evening, listening to a variety of different performers singing throughout the evening. On returning to our room, the lighting was fluctuating so much, it felt as if we had walked into a nightclub.
The ceiling fan kept speeding up and slowing down, while the AC unit just did it’s own thing, switching on and off. It became increasingly hot. Tania had a brainwave and opened the fridge door, which was adjacent to her side of the bed.
Well, of course, what happens when you leave a fridge door open most of the night. A rather large puddle on the floor! At least we were cool during the night.
The following morning as we were at reception checking out. Clearly there were still issues with the electrical installation as a couple of electricians were working on the problem, much to Guy’s amusement. Watching two men quite literally “hang” on 4 cables, stretching them as they did so, to pull them through a conduit had him shaking his head in disgust.
There was definitely a major problem with the electrical installation at this property during the period of our stay.
An idyllic place, not crowded no loud music, and a wonderfully long, clean sandy beach. With plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from.
We stayed at the Blue Lagoon resort, booked through Booking.com.
Our bungalow overlooked the beach and sea. It came with a private balcony, fan, mosquito net, lovely views, and an ensuite bathroom. Some of the bungalows have hot water in the bathroom, the others do not. Those without hot water can be requested at reception from 8 am until 10 pm. Delivered to the room in buckets as required.
Enjoy the breakfast, looking out to sea as you do so. If you are lucky, as we were, you will see the dolphins.
Places of interest
There are only really two things of interest in Goa. The 99 miles of pure white silky soft sand beaches and the Goan food. We stayed at four of the beaches and visited others as well.
Our views on the beaches we stayed at and visited are given below
Swimming from the beaches in Goa was great fun. The Arabian Sea swell creates a wonderful surf and rolling waves crash down onto the beaches. Quite a few rocks in the sea, so caution is required when getting in and out. Being a moderate swimmer is the bare minimum to venture into the sea here.
Ashvem beach is a beautiful area, quieter than most of the Goan tourist beaches, which suited us perfectly. One of the best kept secrets of North Goa. Located to the north of the capital city of Panaji, this beach offers delightful ocean vistas fringed by coconut palms.
Our garden view cabin, not quite on the beachfront but, close enough, allowed us to lay in bed and listen to the waves of the Arabian Sea crash on the sandy shore. The place was so idyllic.
Plenty of good places to eat and miles of empty beach. Indie boutiques sell designer fashion and jewellery.
Getting from Ashvem to Mandrem Beach was a short taxi ride. Mandrem Beach is a white sand beach with clear water. Sandwiched between the beaches of Ashvem and Arambol. A quiet and peaceful beach with the Mandrem Creek running parallel to the waterline behind the beach. Not so many restaurants along the beach, just the resort restaurants.
With the option of travelling to Patnem by train and getting there at 2300 hrs, we felt this was too late. So we made the decision to take the bus. Well, 4 buses to be precise.
The most expensive part of the whole journey was the taxi ride from the accommodation in Mandrem, the Beachstreet Eco Resort & Spa, to Mapusa bus station. A cost of 1000 Rupees for the half an hour trip.
Once at Mapusa bus station the fun began. It was complete chaos, well to us it was. Organised chaos. Buses all over the place, not parked in bays as expected. People jumping on and off moving buses. Conductors all shouting the destination of their bus, in an auctioneer type of voice.
Ask anyone where the bus you are looking for goes from and they tell you. It took no time at all to locate the bus for the first leg of our journey, to Panjim bus station. There was only one seat available on this express bus. Tania sat there with Guy ending up sitting in the driver’s cab along with the driver.
As Guy looked around the cab, questions were raised as to whether the bus was actually roadworthy. Looking more like it had been stripped out and modified to go racing! Cables everywhere, loose panels with buttons and switches fixed in a Heath Robinson fashion and for some reason 3 horns! Why would you need 3 horns?
Express journeys 🚌
A 30 minute trip for 50 Rupees each. With some questionable driving techniques and maneuvers but, nonetheless, it got there!
With the help of the 3 horns. Horn 1, the manufacturer’s horn to indicate the presents of the bus. Number 2 a louder horn, get out of the way. Finally number 3 the air horn, this bus is coming through and is not stopping, your last chance to get out of the way.
Panjim bus station was similarly chaotic and just as manic. Once again a simple question had us going to the correct bus bay for our next bus to Margao bus station. We had to wait about 5 minutes or so for the bus to arrive. By this time there was a small crowd waiting to board. As the bus arrived, the crowd surged forward and started to board the bus. Guy looked at the number of people, the size of the bus, and stepped back allowing the crowd to board. There was only about half the bus capacity in the crowd. We boarded and got a seat without having any issues.
This journey was an hour’s duration at a cost of 30 Rupees each. This trip was far better than the previous bus.
On arrival in Margao, we again asked directions to our next destination of Canacona bus station. The bus was ready and we boarded and waited the 20 minutes for it to depart. Not as busy as the previous 2 buses but, this driver was on a mission, weaving in and out of the traffic. He and the conductor used a system of whistles to advise each other when to go and when to stop. It worked well and meant the bus got underway quickly after people had got on or off.
This journey was for an hour and a quarter at a cost of 35 Rupees each. Arriving at Canacona bus station was a pleasure, a quiet and tranquil bus station. A vendor in the station advised us that we would have to get a taxi to our final destination of Patnem beach. Being wise to this now. We asked at the ticket office they confirmed that there was a bus going to our destination shortly.
It arrived after about 10 minutes of waiting. With help from the conductor, who dropped us off at the end of the road from our accommodation, Crystal Goa Emerald. Paying only 10 Rupees each for the 10 minutes or so journey.
Patnem beach is an idyllic place, not crowded, no loud music, and a wonderfully long, clean sandy beach. Along the top of which there are plenty of restaurants and cafes.
We hired a scooter for 400 Rupees for an entire day, fuel was extra and amazingly, available at most shops in plastic 1 litre bottles!
Hiring a scooter allowed us to visit:-
Galgibaga beach also known as turtle beach
Miles of clean, sandy beach virtually unoccupied, except for the lifeguards. There were a few places to eat at one end of the beach, with a couple offering beachfront huts to stay in.
Well worth the drive out to visit. Pop into Surya’s Beach Cafe for a drink or a fresh fish meal.
From there we drove to Palolem beach then onto Agonda beach. Both of which were again long sandy, clean beaches, more populated than Galgibaga beach but, still not crowded. From there we drove on to Cola beach and found our next destination.
There are many reviews about Cola beach on various blogs and TripAdvisor, some good, some bad. Below is our view based on our experience of our 3-night stay during December 2019.
Getting to Cola beach is a mission in itself. Our scouting visit was via a scooter, down the signposted unmade, undulating and rocky dirt track. Some 2kms from Major District Road (MDR) 49 between Agonda and Canaguinim. A bumpy and uncomfortable journey encountering cows on a few occasions. Limited parking and a short walk down some steep steps entering into the bar and restaurant area of the Blue Lagoon.
On our second visit, we were picked up by the Blue Lagoon taxi. Taking a different route, turning off the main road much sooner. Still having to go along the very bumpy, unmade dirt track this time for about 1.5kms. At the end of which there is an area to leave cars, not a car park.
From there it is a longer hike down steep steps, then across the stream flowing out of the lagoon. No bridge, just rock hopping or paddling across. Either way to Cola beach isn’t easy and involves steep steps and a bumpy dirt track leading there.
The once large lagoon has greatly diminished, still leaving an area of fresh, cool water to paddle in. This has allowed the sandy beach to remain, even at high tide.
There is quite literally nothing to do at Cola beach except, relax, walk along the beach, eat in the restaurant or sunbathe. No shop but, provided you have your swimwear, what would you want to buy? Apparently there is no mobile phone network coverage, so nobody on the phone, although WiFi is available and with the difficulty getting there, the crowds stay away, making it very peaceful and relaxing.
Both Uber and Ola are banned in Goa. Taxi journeys can be expensive and will generally always be on a fixed price basis. Taxi drivers rarely take fares on the meter. Getting a taxi on the street can leave you paying a hugely inflated tourist price. The best option is to ask your accommodation to get one, as the price will be fair and fixed.