Take the off-the-beaten path to discover the real beauty of the region.
It’s true, what you’ve read in the papers. Like a well-worn lover, Goa isn’t carrying middle age very well. It’s been 55 years since her independence, but the concrete jungle is quickly spreading, garbage is strewn everywhere and the industrial complex is making inroads into the lives of those who call Goa home. The romance of the sussegad lifestyle is showing cracks and leaving many disenchanted, including tourists. But if you’re willing to slow down and stay off the beaten track, you’ll find the beauty and character of Goa nestled in the details that reveal themselves to you— only if you are patient. If you’re keen to step off the usual conveyor belt of sightseeing staples, here are some of my favourite things to see and do while still having a memorable stay.
Find a village homestay
The image of Goa that tends to stick in people’s minds is of booze-fuelled partying and beach-swims. But the best way to see Goa is to wander through its villages on a two-wheeler or, better yet, a bicycle. Find a village that speaks to you and set up camp in one of the family-run guest houses that advertise rooms with signposts on their front gates. Tucked away in one of those villages, you’ll find yourself waking up to charming birdsong and the clarion call of the local poder (baker), delivering fresh bread from the nearby bakery in a basket perched on his bicycle. Choose between my favourite variety—slightly grainy poee, or fluffy palm-sized cubes of pao. Warm and fresh with a thick pat of butter, local Goan bread with strong morning chai is the only way to truly enjoy breakfast.
Coffee and a book in a heritage house
I’ve been getting to know ex-Delhi lawyer Diviya Kapur during our monthly book club gathering at her bookstore, where even Diviya’s gentle eight-year old golden labrador Frida gets to have a say on the latest book being discussed. Imagine a 100-year-old Portuguese-era house, with a living room lined with books from floor to ceiling. That’s Café Literati, Diviya’s beautiful vision come to life tucked away in the recesses of bustling Calangute. Diviya’s warmth and passion for books infuse the place with a hypnotic allure that makes you want to go there for a book and stay for a siesta. The monthly book club is a friendly group which discusses books over wine and potluck. If you visit, ask her for stories about the place and she might tell you about the time someone left a stack of second-hand books at the doorstep and rushed off so quickly that she wasn’t able to thank him. She realised the reason for his elusiveness only when she noticed he’d donated a collection of erotic literature.
Goa’s ethnography museum
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