Where does a ‘quiet’ traveler go to in the party destination of the country? Where the beaches are amazing but you’re longing for a change of pace. When the alcohol runs out and the parties die down. When far away from the beaches, the world is erupting in gorgeous green. When it’s possible that for some of us, Goa’s biggest appeal is the designated siesta time each afternoon. Designated siesta time, enough said.
I revisited Goa in slow motion during the Monsoons. It took me four trips to appreciate and enjoy it in true Goan ‘Sussegado’ style, loosely translated from Portuguese as ‘content’ or ‘relaxed’. Here are a few snippets from my time there.
Goa in the rains
There are fewer people on the road during the rains. I’ve always found that odd, but that’s perhaps because growing up in Shillong, life never stopped because of rain. That’s when the fun truly begins! I would say the exact same thing for Goa – gorgeous, lush, so inspiring. The drives through villages, paddy fields, and cashew farms were spectacular.
Stormy afternoons by the sea
The beaches -especially in North Goa – tend to be crowded even during the low tourist season but finding the right one isn’t tough. Rising seas, dark skies, and a seat to watch all of it from. I was perfectly happy just watching and soaking it all in. | Location: North Anjuna
There is a Goa beyond the shacks and the sand strips just waiting to be explored. On each of my trips here before, I always felt like I was missing something. I never seemed to bump into people who actually lived in Goa. Everyone I met was either passing through or working the tourist trail. It was only when I left the beaches behind that different stories began coming together for me. The first stop was the fantastic Mario Gallery in Porvorim.
There is no finer example of art imitating life and holding up a mirror to it, than the fabulous cartoons and illustrations by Mario Miranda. Unless you drive farther out to charming villages or to Old Goa, it’s quite difficult to catch glimpses of everyday life: of bustling markets, people dressed in their Sunday finest, the curious mix of Portuguese with Konkan heritage, couples sneaking off for a little alone time together. The Mario Gallery is the perfect setting for a slice of what Goa must be like for Goans. The gallery contains delightful postcards, prints, curios, and books with gorgeous illustrations and reflections on life in Goa. | Location: Porvorim
Reading a book about the place one is travelling in has always been an immersive and enriching experience. Journeying back and forth between the pages of the book and the world around me is a sensory overload of the best kind! We skipped visiting churches while we were there because old habits die hard. But we didn’t have to…Serious empathy with the chap in the extreme left bottom of this illustration. | From: ‘Mario’s Goa’
There were also some observations on people from other parts of the country. For those of us who live in the north, you would agree that the expressions are spot on! This cracked me up for days on end.
Walks in the Old Heritage Quarters at Fontainhas, Panjim
Fontainhas is a wonderful heritage quarter located right in the middle of Panjim. We walked through winding streets lined with villas, cafés, shops, and art galleries. Almost like walking through little Portugal, I was told.
Houses of Goa Museum
I’ve been ridiculed for visiting a museum in Goa but when one looks like this, I think it would be criminal to pass by. The Houses of Goa museum is a few footsteps away from the Mario Gallery in Porvorim. It takes you on an astonishingly detailed journey of Goan history, architecture, and culture.
Predictably, I found myself lingering at the music station for a very long time. It was quite lovely to be surrounded by all things authentically Goan, watch the CDs whir, and listen to some upbeat Konkani music.
On the quest for Bebinca
We couldn’t seem to get enough of Bebinca – that sweet slice of heaven on a plate – so off we went in search of a local bakery. I was bent on buying some that was freshly made, difficult to find in department stores at Candolim or Calangute. That’s how we found ourselves driving to the Mapusa market. Yes, I’m known to do anything for food but the drive was worth it!
The Mapusa market is your usual Goan bazaar most days of the week. Except for the Friday market, when you can find everything here from handicrafts and pottery to spices and meats. I absolutely loved the scent of fruits and spices wafting through the market. Bazaars are such incredible places where everyday routine – which otherwise tends to get mundane – becomes larger than life, pulsating with magnified energy and buzz. I enjoyed watching a group of grandmothers make a fun trip of it together, with their grocery bags in tow. They were kind enough to direct us to the nearest bakery!
Playing on, at Cavala
There’s comfort in the familiar. Cavala at Baga never disappoints when it comes to fantastic live music! We had our hearts and bellies full with their lively calendar of gigs throughout the week, some port wine, and fried Goan sausages. Reserving a table is highly recommended!
Goa is a riot of colours in the Monsoons with gorgeous spots of calm in the storm (see what I did there?). There is so much scope to do nothing and everything in equal measure. A long drive to faraway villages is on the cards for when I go next. Because, of course, one always goes back to Goa!