TRAVEL | A tale of two Goas

The incessant desire of that forever youthfulness has driven humanity since aeons to go to all extremes. Romans and Greeks were believed to use crocodile dung for bathing. Victorian women corroded their skin with mercury to get that flawless porcelain touch. A 15th-century Countess of Hungary even went to the extent of gore and apparently bathed in the blood of young women. Only had they acknowledged age being just a state of mind, or had a Goa, or even better, had two.

You can sense the irresistible influences this place is going to have on you as soon as you reach here. That slight whiff of coastal air is enough to bring the lost spring in your step. And as the confined system of a clock gives way to casual-defining flip-flops and bold tropical colours, you suddenly become a carefree spirit ready to live life again. And if that means letting your hair down till the wee hours, forgetting the concept of meals to stuff yourself with everything succulently tempting, so be it. North Goa seems to have that effect on everyone. And, the happy colours at Ibis Styles, Usain Bolt-themed room and a meal of fish and prawn curry also had the sports and food lover vacationer in me energised in an instant.

So, off I went to Calangute beach to feel that soothing sand under my feet and devour the creatures from the sea. The golden hues of sunset were just a sign for the shacks and the markets to light up the night. As I walked through the flea market, it was like being a teenager all over again, knowing how to find a good catch from a pile and bargaining as if life depended on it. And the very next moment, the fish and chips by the seaside, throbbing music from the shacks sometimes overpowered by soul-stirring strings of a guitar had me relaxed yet spirited enough to not let go of the night. These markets full of gems coupled with the vibrant life at beaches and beyond are a perfect melange of Arabian Nights and Bahamas.

Gastronomic treats

Add to that a little school-day trip to famous places and I was as young as I could be. Reading the engravings and inscriptions on the walls and floors of elderly churches of Old Goa to find a riddle of my own a la Da Vinci Code had a certain fantasy to it. And the spree was only broken by more-often-than-required stoppages to become a slave to gastronomic pleasures, the mouth still salivating at the sheer thought of that 'rava' fish at Soi and The Lazy Goose’s pork spring rolls and grilled parmesan-crusted chicken.

The vacation and indulgences continued for a couple of days, but the Goa had changed. The stretches of its south were not abuzz with activity; there were lonely patches too that are unseen in the north. Here, peace and silence seemed to be playing monopoly and winning it well. And, the serene setting and the tranquil air of Novotel Goa Dona Sylvia had me in a trance. Or, was it my older self? The riot of colours that I was enjoying in the north had given way to pastels and elegant Portuguese touches. The cobbled path led me to a wonderful surprise.

Beach hotspots

Goa’s waters were never dreamy like the ones from postcard-perfect environs, but I didn’t know they had blue in them here in the south. The white sand on the shore not only had me spellbound, but the absence of occasional glass shards like on the wild-partying beaches of north surely saved some people some Basanti (of Sholay fame) moments.

The inviting waters had the non-swimmer in me also take the dreaded dip and there was no looking back after that. Hadn’t I glided through the air up there like a weightless feather in an open parachute, the motorboat below controlling the navigation, I would have never known the beauty Goa beholds like a secret.

The daredevil acts that followed were of a person possessed. The tumultuous ringo ride over the waves made me hold on to the raft’s handles with every ounce of might for dear life. The high of a stunt, however, had me challenge the sea a couple of more times. And, by the time I had jet-skied and aced a few more rides, I had found my own destresser. No spa or treatment could have given me that glow of happiness. South had redeemed Goa’s waters for me, for, in the north, I had been keeping myself to the sand and away from the murky-looking sea for many years.

The quiet dinner at the cruise was the apt endnote for this new Goa I knew. Sailing quietly on Sal river, with stars above and distant lights for company, savouring local curries and desserts, I inadvertently started the perennial north vs south debate in my mind. But it was not too late before I realised that I loved both the Goas as they balanced the equation just right.


ALSO READ: A travel guide to coastal Andhra Pradesh

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TRAVEL | A tale of two Goas

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