Yes, yes this one has come too late, frankly speaking the Chef doesn’t really like Goa or Goan food. He’s never really had a reason to visit Goa as the three times he went before were with his school friends in the 10th grade and then twice with his parents. So this time around the Foodie took him to places which we are sure even the biggest “Goa” lover didn’t know of. We had 5 days and a lot to pack in, the main area we decided to hit were Palolem — Cotigoa and Panjim — Dudhsagar. There are many places that we could have selected, many places to go and party it up and we’re sure you, our readers also would have had some suggestions. But we decided to go the alternate route, we wanted to see and feel the other side of Goa; which we assure you will leave you wanting for more!
South Goa the Place —
We took the train from CST and overnight landed in Goa, Madgaon in the afternoon. Now we must let you know, if you plan to hire a car, BE CAREFUL — the taxi union (read Mafia) are f*cking a**holes. Its a very dark world in Goa when it comes to getting a private vehicle for yourself, either you will have to fake the car belongs to you, or pay about 1500 per ride (on avg) to the taxi wala. We lied and got our own car — one of the best decision you can make. On route our hotel we decided to have a quick lunch at Longuinhos, a 65 plus year old restaurant serving Goan delicacies. Simple Pork Roast, Beef Biryani and Squid Recheado was quickly gobbles down with a cold Kingfisher and then we went on our way.
We had booked the Zuri White Sands at Varca beach (great deals as its Monsoon time) and had swanky room which opened to the pool directly. A 2 minute walking distance from the property was the private ‘white sand’ Varca beach which stayed true to its name. After a quick swim and walk on the beach we went to the Fisherman’s Wharf at Cavelossim for dinner. This is a definite must visit, had lots of tourists, great location and perfect ambiance with a band playing songs for you. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t order the best of items from their menu. Although their Seafood soup was a hit, everything from their Pork in Plum sauce and Lobster Thermidor was average at the most. We must let you know that we ordered from their regular menu and not their Goan delicacies for which they are known for.
The Zuri Hotel has a small make shift Casino, which for us was a total waste of time, but the number of people there in a small, smokey and dingy room seemed to be having lots of fun! A quick check of the place, losing 100 bucks and we were out! Next morning we woke up early, ate a really good breakfast and headed to Kuskem Waterfall at the Cotigoa National Forest reserve. An hour away from Palolem Beach is the reserve which isn’t the most visited, but that’s what made us enjoy it more! After you enter the park, a 12 km drive further in will lead you to a village from where you’ll have to hike another 2-3 kilometers.
It is truly worth it as the walk through the jungle, on a stone laden path and with Langurs jumping over your head is quite breathtaking. When you do reach the fall (a thin stream as we went at the end of the rainy season) and feel the cold water on your face all f*cks in life are forgiven and forgotten. Again we were the only ones there so it did feel like a private waterfall.
On our way back, we went to Palolem beach and walk further up towards Honeymoon and Butterfly Beach. Yup those are secret beaches which are unfortunately accessible only October onwards, but we still walked across Palolem to a really tiny beach with clear waters and a Kon Samet/Samui feel.
With absolutely no one on the beach, it was infact a private beach for us. Palolem is seriously one of my most favorite beaches in the World and this tiny beach just cemented my feelings! As it was off season, only one shack was open called Fernandes known for their burgers. So a quick meal with a Burger, Cafreal Chicken and Fish Curry Rice with Kings and Bira, we made our way back to the hotel.
Dinner was at the famous Martins Corner at Betalbatim 30 minute drive from Zuri (now you know the advantage of hiring your own car!!) which is also Sachin Tendulkars favorite restaurant in Goa. We called for Prawn stuffed Papd, Pork Roast and Fish Curry Rice to pair with our cocktail and Beer. We must tell you that the place looked fantastic and had a vibe somewhat like a Portuguese bar! People chit-chatting, local songs being sung and lots of merry making in the background. More than the food, we found that the atmosphere at every restaurant really adds to the entire experience of dining in Goa, and Martins is one place you must visit.
Panjim and Central Goa —
Next morning, after another brilliant breakfast spread at the Zuri, we checked out and went headed towards Panjim. We decided to give Panjim a shot this time as its quite central from everything. A great 2 hour drive from Varca, we had booked ourselves in the lovely Fontainhas (Or Latin Quarter) of Panjim in a small boutique hotel called Mateus Hotel. Built in the 1870’s and having just 9 rooms, with bright yellow exterior paint; every room designed keeping in mind the old Portuguese influence.
The mansion looks majestic from the outside with framed arched windows, ornate balconies and stucco moldings. The inside is breathtaking with high ceilings, little niches that add character and the flooring is a combination of the old Portuguese tiles and the original timber flooring.
Lunch was at the iconic Ritz Classic, located at the first floor near 18th June road. Its a little difficult to find, but once you do follow the correct trail, you will be welcomed to a hall full of waiting customers just to get a table. As it was just two of us, we didn’t mind sharing a table with some other guests. After looking at their vast menu, we decided to go for their Fish Curry Rice thaali and we were in for a surprise.
It was a massive thaali, consisting of Rawa fry Pomfret, Prawn Curry, Clam masala, Dry Prawn sabji, Red Pumpkin Masala, Bhindi, Rice, Pulses and Sol Kadi — ALL FOR 180 RUPEES ONLY!!! This was the meal we were really looking out for, not only was the taste spot on; everything just went down so well. Meal of our trip for sure, just look at the Thaali!! This is a must visit when not only in Panjim but in Goa!!!
On our way back we stopped at many old Churches, Bungalows but one place that caught our eye was a small Bar called Josephs Bar right next to our hotel; promising to return back to the bar in the evening we went back and slept. The Foodie had a craving for Khow Suey and that’s why we decided to go to Goenchin, a really old restaurant serving old-school Chinese food. But before we made a quick stop at Josephs for a quick Bira, and what a stop it was! A really tiny, literally hole-in-the-wall space with 4 stools, 4 Beers on tap, 4 types of snacks and 2 old Goan men running the show. It really seemed like a small part of Portugal was in Goa, the music played was Portuguese, the few customers there were just chilling with their beers and chit chatting. We did not feel like leaving the space but unfortunately Khow Suey called us!
A short walk away from our hotel is Goenchin restaurant. A Thai inspired decor, the servers looked old, maybe they’ve been there for a while and the entire restaurant smelled of sesame oil (which is a good thing.) We ordered for Prawn Laksa (Khow Suey not on their menu) Black pepper Prawn and Chili Garlic flat noodles with Chicken. If there was one meal that we’d like you to add when in Panjim, it would be a meal ta Goenchin. The soup was perfect, with great Prawn flavor and a smooth coconut milk texture. The Black Pepper Prawn had a bang of pepper, but it wasn’t harsh on our throat. And the noodles were some of the best we’ve had in the entire country! Wasn’t too heavy on our stomach or our pocket, Must Visit Guys!!
Next morning, we had a quick breakfast and made our way to the mighty Dudhsagar Waterfall deep in the heart of the Goan forests. Its a 2 hour drive from Panjim to Kollem, one can also take the train from Margao or go for one of those planned tours. No one thing no one tells you in the blogs and various articles id that there is a varied season to visit the falls. During the rain, the Taxi services are shut as the river gets totally flooded, from June to September there are bike services which will cost you 1000 per head (Only for an hour). If the falls’ pressure is too strong they will not allow you to go near. One can take the train to Castle rock railway station (in Karnataka) and walk back towards the falls but that is now banned and people will be heavily fined if caught (You can also bribe the police guys to let you go!)
So we drove upto Kollem Railway station, and from there got on the hired bikes which will take you through the forests, on the railway track, onto a make shift mud road route till you reach the base. From there its another 10 minutes walk which will take you to one of the best sites in Goa. We were lucky as the rains had just receded and flow of the fall was just perfect! You can swim in the waters at your own risks, your co-riders are also the life-guards so you have to listen to them. Many people have lost their life trying to get too close to the falls. After a great hour spent, we got back and drove to Panjim.
Totally famished after the drive we just wanted to eat some junk food to get our energy back so we headed to Route 66, an American themed Diner with burgers to kill for! They have a really large menu, but their massive burger list got us excited. We each had a burger a boy was it a treat! Buff patty, Bacon, Pork Ribs, Jalapenos, Cheese, home cut Potato Chips everything was spot on! Getting back to the hotel, we just passed out! In the evening, as all evenings were in Panjims Fountainahs, it had to start with a beer at Josephs. Great vibe, we had a Bira with their Goan sausages and the combination was fantastic! Our last meal was going to be at the famous Viva Panjim, set in a historic Portuguese bungalow. The restaurant has 3 parts, AC and Non -AC inside and a lovely open seating for 12 outside.
The inside had a really strong vinegar aroma which our Foodie couldn’t handle so we decided to sit in the open air section. Menu again was authentic Goan, so we decided to go with Sausage Chili Fry, Fish Ambotik, Rawa fried Fish and Rice. The food was simple and tasty and that Sausage Chili was to die for! Perfectly cooked sausage bits with peppers and onion and it went really well with just the rice. The Amobotik which is a sour and spicy gravy complimented the steamed rice perfectly as well! The best way to eat this food is with your hands so we dug in and finished off everything we could! Great way to end our last meal in Goa.
After dinner we walked about at the riverfront, many off-shore Casinos have opened up, and the line to get in was crazy! Its a prepaid concept and as the minimum buy-in was too high we just decided to stroll away and enjoy the beauty of the various lights on the river. Walking around we found this really famous bakery called Cremeux, which is all over the city and they are known for their cookies. Picking up a pack each of Chocolate and Vanilla we headed towards Mateus for a good nights sleep.
Goa is most certainly a magical place, its got History and Architecture, Great Food and Liquor, its a Party hot-spot and the beaches are some of the best in the country. But in the past years due to its ‘partying/ cheap booze’ status it has attracted a lot of negative elements. Its up to us, the people of the country to maintain its beauty and culture. If we don’t start to make a difference now it will be too late to save this little state, small things like not littering, or making less noise while partying it up are just a few things that will go a long way to make sure Goa survives!