Goa being the ubiquitous domestic seaside destination of choice for groups of friends, couples, families alike (since usually only the Cal people have been lucky enough to experience the waves at Puri), most people you know have been to Goa multiple times. This was not my first trip either, but in many ways it was a first. It was Goa in a very different mood…wet, lush, wild seas, gusts of rain, glorious views, lazy dusks, lobsters and crabs…who says monsoon isn’t “season”?
It did not start off on this high note however. When S declared after a hectic work month that we need to go for a relaxing holiday, especially since August was littered with long weekends, I of course happily started planning. He stopped me midway none-too-politely since the keyword had apparently been ‘relaxing’ while I was focussing on the ‘holiday’ bit. By this time I was far away sailing down the Kerala backwaters, snorkelling in the Andamans, or paragliding over the Himalayas – and was rudely brought back to earth at the mention of ‘Goa’. Meh. And that exactly was my reaction. We had been to Goa just two years earlier on a trip which has since gone down in history as one of the best all of us experienced. It was our first anniversary, and with us were 2 friends who had been there at the beginning of it all (and to the umpteenth person who asked what friends were doing on a ‘first anniversary trip’, no it was NOT any less ‘romantic’ and YES it was awesome fun – ‘we are like that only’). We had stayed near one of the pristine South Goa beaches that time, gone parasailing, hired a broken-down open Jeep resembling Archie’s jalopy (with doubtful brakes we were soon to discover) and gone around the city, gambled at the casino, taken the ‘dil-chahta-hai’ 3D pic, danced at Brittos, sat on the beach at night getting philosophical under the effect of the stars, sea and margaritas. I had dragged the three guys on a church visiting expedition for which they curse me even today (but I insist they secretly liked it). All in all a memorable time. So being the stubborn ass I am about not wanting to revisit a place so soon, I wasn’t in favour of Goa much. Thankfully S ignored my travel ideas for a change, and booked us at the Fort Aguada property of Taj in North Goa.
I advise anyone planning a Goa holiday during the rains to take advantage of the Taj monsoon package (no they’re not paying me, this is just free PR by a satisfied customer) – great food, not crowded, and nothing beats waking up to a sea right outside your window at almost jumping-in distance. It is one of the few hotels built ages ago when today’s restrictions on building hotels on the beach did not apply. There is practically no point in the property from where you can’t see the sea. And what a sea! Not the golden glittering white-crested waves against a blue backdrop – this was a sullen, grey-black affair, with angry waves rising sky-high to challenge the lightning. A magnificent monster of a sea, powerful, uninviting – and fascinating! Sitting on the terrace looking out at awe in the sea framed by the coconut trees bending backwards in the gale was an ‘activity’ we didn’t tire of. Usually trips see me active and pumping with adrenaline, ready for the next adventure – this was the no-agenda-except-lazing kind of stuff holidays were made of when we were kids. I guess for every woman with wings on her feet there has to be a man who sits her down and teaches her to be still . However, some notes of caution here. Bathing is prohibited at most beaches during this time, and there are no watersports. In fact most hotels won’t even allow you on their private beaches (public beaches are accessible, but dirty and crowded for the most part). So if thats the agenda this is not the right time to visit. Most shacks don’t have licenses to operate in monsoon, but the more ‘permanent’ ones like Brittos at Bagha or Souza Lobo at Calangute have attained ‘restaurant’ status and remain open. Although the beach at Calangute has nothing to recommend itself for, the lunch at Souza Lobo (humongous lobsters in butter-garlic, masala crab, beef chilly fry, the Goan bread ‘Poee’ and caramel custard for dessert) saw two erstwhile-hungry souls emerge into the world blissfully satisfied. Most meals were in one of the six restaurants of the Fort Aguada and sister resort Holiday Village, the best one being at the seafood speciality ‘Morisco’. We also tried a Goan thali at the ‘Beach House’, where my sweet tooth discovered the interesting ‘Bebinca‘ – a traditional Goan pudding.
Then there was the Night of the Broken Door. It was an evening after dinner and I wanted to go for a walk. It was raining intermittently during the time we were there, and while it added to the beauty of the place, getting wet had never been one of my favourite pastimes (another thing which I ended up enjoying in Goa contrary to expectation!). Being well aware of that, and not keen on post-dinner exertions, S calmly pointed out that it was raining. By this time we were walking along the long balcony connecting the main reception area to our room. It was open on both sides but in the dark I couldn’t make out whether he’s bluffing. When in doubt, stick to your point. So I did – with disastrous results. In his eagerness to prove me wrong S rushed into our suite and quickly opened the glass door to the terrace, only to have it (and himself almost) blown away in what was by now a full-fledged storm. The door smashed against the wall and shattered, pieces of broken glass strewn on the terrace, and some shards still sticking to the door! We stood in horror like guilty children as gusts of water rushed into the living room. I think it was proven beyond doubt that it was indeed raining. While I sneaked a peek at the raging sea which had something wild and desperate about it that night, S called up reception. Soon a maintenance guy materialized with a toolbox which he speedily discarded after cheerfully explaining that things were beyond repair. While we looked at each other guiltily he merrily boarded the door up with a cardboard square, promising to replace it the next day. And, in fact, a brand new door was in place by the next afternoon. S even pointed out some technical errors in the way in which the latch was placed, and according to him they were eternally grateful to him for the invaluable tips. I thought they just wanted him out of the way to get their job done, but refrained from disillusioning the man. I’ll leave you now with some pics of the holiday which was truly a vacation.