With some time to play with during the Eid holidays, we made a last minute decision to head to Goa for a week. I hadn’t been to India before so this was a light intro. We flew with Jet Airways and despite a totally bizarre transfer in Mumbai airport, it was a very smooth journey with really good inflight food of spicy chicken wraps and what else? – curry! The Mumbai transfer involved quite a bit of faff: an unnecessary half hour queue in immigration when we could have gone straight through with the man who we asked directions from in the first place! He was quite a character, and made a visible gasp of fright when he asked me to look into the camera without realising he would be comparing it to my boyfriend’s passport picture. We then had to collect bags and queue once again in the massive customs line, all whilst very conscious of our short turnaround time to make the Goa flight. After being frisked by an angry woman in uniform and being asked for baggage tags by someone new every two paces, we then resorted to walking around exclaiming “Goa…..Goa?” we were finally directed to the right place and a short hour later arrived in Goa where we were able to walk straight out of the airport, somewhat making up for the Mumbai hassle.
With only a short trip, we had booked accommodation in advance so got a taxi straight down the coast, past countless dogs and cows in the middle of the windy roads to Simrose Resort in Agonda beach. I was instantly in holiday mode, no longer in the sandy yellowing desert with sprawling highways and flash skyscrapers; the narrow winding paths, lush palm trees and jungle as far as the eye could see was a welcome change. We arrived at Simrose in time for breakfast so it was cheesy masala omelettes and strong coffee to start. Our digs were right on the beach and as beaches go it was a beaut – clean, quiet with decent waves. Once we’d dumped our stuff in our room – basic but very nice, had a fan, a balcony, private bathroom with hot water – we headed down for a swim and a beer, the local brew was Kingfisher which went down well all holiday.
The theme of the day was food, as we alternated grazing on the likes of palak pakora, chilli and garlic prawns, sipping on giant Kingfishers with swimming and playing in the sea and walking along the almost deserted beach. As it wasn’t quite the season there yet, there was still a lot of construction going on with the beach huts all along the shore, it looked like only Simrose and another resort called White Sands a bit further north were open. We carried on feasting well into the evening as the coloured lanterns came on and you could only hear the waves crashing up against the beach it was exactly what we were after, going to bed very full and happy!
Waking up sweaty but well rested in our four poster, under the dreamy curtain of a mosquito net we sauntered down for another leisurely breakfast. Feeling a bit more energetic we decided on a walk up to the next beach, piece of cake yeah? After some half-baked google mapping where we worked out the next place up was called Cola beach, we set off only to find an impassable inlet so it was off to the main road. After half an hour, and having asked several locals how long to Cola Beach (receiving varying answers) I was starting to wish I’d not worn a) sandy wet shorts and b) flip flops. Another half an hour later and there was a perceptible shift in the air, a light breeze and a gradual slope in the road downwards – finally, beach!! Smugly walking down the hill past yet more cows we were keen to get a beer and go for a swim, only to find that we had walked for over an hour in a loop back to the very beach we set off from. Not good. Cola Beach was now becoming a mirage in the jungle but now we had our bearings and wouldn’t make the same mistake again so on we went up hills, down hills, past a barrel of monkeys, past countless people who were all clever enough to travel by scooter rather than by foot in the tropical heat.
A car stopped beside us & asked where we were headed, after dashing our hopes by telling us we’d already passed it despite us having no idea how, we finally admitted defeat and turned back. A few minutes later, the same car appeared “sorry you were right, it’s not far we’re just really stoned, do you want a lift?” So, in we got and were dropped off shortly after at a sign for the elusive Cola Beach. Very much over our little adventure at this point, I couldn’t muster much excitement for the dirt track that stretched ahead. Thankfully a couple from our guesthouse appeared on their motorbikes so we hopped on for a very bumpy ride until the road sloped so steeply that we had to jump off and continue down to the beach on foot. It was a great feeling to have finally arrived at our destination but water rations were low and there was a fleeting Wilson from Castaway thought or two that popped into my head. Once again ALL I wanted was a beer and a swim, alas there was not a refreshment in sight so swim it was. We both threw ourselves in feeling like we’d thoroughly earned it only to emerge to the shouts of a stern lifeguard telling us we couldn’t enjoy that either so it was back on the road pretty sharpish having trekked 2 hours, acquiring several blisters only to discover a properly rubbish beach. The thought of walking back through the jungle didn’t appeal so we stuck our thumbs out on the way back, hoping to be pitied by a passing motorist. Thankfully a jaunty horn sounded and we turned round to be faced with the party bus, throwing out some banging tunes we ascended and got back to Agonda beach in mere minutes! Back in civilisation we finally had our sunset swim followed by several curries and copious amounts of garlic naan. That night, sat on our balcony we heard some distant beats. Too curious we took our beers down to the street and were surprised with a lively festival, the street full of people following a truck resplendently decked out for the festival of Ganesh. Was a real bonus to see something to different.
Having learned our pedestrian lesson we hired a scooter and, after wiping off all the bird poo, headed South to Palolem beach which was a lot more touristy. The journey was wonderful, with the wind in our faces and avoiding the cows as we whizzed past it was definitely the best way to see the surrounding area.
Palolem was more bustling, with shops touting spices, I heart Goa t-shirts, hand carved tea chests and more fridge magnets than you could shake a stick at. We had palaak paneer for lunch with an obligatory Kingfisher then ventured down the beach for a swim. The view of the beach from the sea was stunning, it looked like something out of Jurassic Park, with the beach almost getting swallowed by the surrounding Jungle. We were very sad to leave Agonda beach having been so well looked after by the Nepalese trio of Ajay, Bikash and Sanab at Simrose, the food was also incredible. However. we had booked into a resort further up the coast as a bit of a treat for the second half of our holiday called Kenilworth Resort & Spa. After a nausea inducing journey bombing around the windy coastal road, we arrived mosquito bitten, sunburnt and slightly ragged to our very swish new digs.
The resort was gorgeous and our room looked out onto the pool and the sea beyond. It felt all very colonial and old worldy. We settled in and headed to the pool for a cocktail, chose a coconut number which consisted of coconut feni which was the local liquor and some coconut water. We had to wait quite a while for them though while someone went off to cut the coconuts from the tree first!
Don’t think you can get fresher than that. Other highlights from Kenilworth included the beach which was absolutely pristine and completely empty apart from ourselves, balinese massages at the spa, a swim up bar and an excellent bed!
Downsides were that because it wasn’t yet full season there was some construction going on, being taxed three different ways for a drink and a snack was a major drawback also the zero atmosphere restaurant which, although the food was good meant we didn’t bother again. Instead, we happened upon a cool restaurant called Zeebop further up the beach which you could only reach by making your way along a bridge of sandbags – harder on the way out after some old monk and rums had been taken than on the way in! Overall a very relaxing trip and was glad to stay in two separate parts along the coast. I would definitely go back to Goa, probably once the season is in full swing to take advantage of the Saturday Night Market up in North Goa which sounds epic, I will also be hiring a scooter for the duration!