Sunday, 25 March 2012

Goa - Intro and What to Wear When You're There

Palms of Goa
Where? Goa, India
Exactly? The Taj Holiday Village, Candolim
When? January 2012
Why? Annual family xmas trip to India
Best time to go? During winter peak season which runs from November to March, the weather is warm and pleasant. You can also go in the summer which falls from March to May, but it can get unbearably hot.
Local knowledge? Thanks to Jade Jagger, Annabelle and Sophia at Greene and Sheppherd PR and Bev Malik at Depths of Field, all lovers of Goa.

Flowers in our garden at the Taj Holiday Village
Packing - What to wear when you're there....

Me outside my beach bungalow wearing a Christopher Kane vest

Goan style is bohemian and eclectic. The vibe? Think laid-back beach looks during the day, wear palazzo or harem pants with slouchy vests, maxi skirts, sari-fabric sarongs and kaftans. For the evening the look varies depending on where you go, if you're heading to beach bars and cabanas you can just stay in your day outfit, it's very chilled out here. But if you're heading out for dinner at a 5 star hotel or going clubbing, the look is much more bling-tastic. Heels are a personal choice, but be warned, many of the streets have pot holes and uneven surfaces, so don't bother if you're going to be walking.

Dinner at La Plage - Clockwise from left to right: Indigo dress - bought at Anjuna Market Goa, Eye shadow Royale – Mac, Lapiz and silver cuff - Ibiza Hippy Market, sunglasses - Bottega Veneta, friendship bracelet - Astley Clarke, Clutch bag -  Buba London, Silver anklet - Anjuna Market Goa, Sandals - Baga Market Goa, Lipstick Fire - Dolce & Gabbana Makeup.

Sightseeing in Panjim - Clockwise from left to right: Pink dress - Rebecca Taylor, Beach bag - Buba London, Crystal bracelet - Swarovski, Pot rouge for Lips and Cheeks Calypso Coral 2 - Bobbi Brown, 08 Purple Passion Pure Colour nail polish -  Estee Lauder, Metallic bikini - Asos, Sunglasses - Prada.

Chilling on Palolem beach - Navy bikini - PilyQ at Beach Cafe, Printed dress - PilyQ at Beach Cafe,  Cats eye sunglasses - Vogue, Sandals - Office, Turquoise friendship bracelet - Satya, Nail Polish fire and ice - Revlon, Turquoise ring - Dorothy Perkins.

Above - Bag - Buba London, Pot rouge for Lips and Cheeks Calypso Coral 2 - Bobbi Brown, Eye shadow Royale – Mac, 08 Purple Passion Pure Colour nail polish -  Estee Lauder,

Beach bag from Buba London

Street Style - What to Wear When You're There

Girls looking bling at a boat party (
Boho style at Anjuna Market
Bev in a red belted sarong at La Plage (
Sophie looks chic in a red kaftan
Girls out clubbing at Mambo (
Me at La Plage

Goa - Shopping and Sightseeing

Anjuna Market
Palolem Beach

The main reason people visit Goa is to relax and chill out on the beaches. Different areas cater to different crowds. For beautiful beaches head to the South of Goa, which is quieter and more picturesque. Palolem is renowned for its picture perfect beaches. Further south, Gorkhana is an old-school hippy beach with pretty scenery and a great vibe. For those looking to bag a bargain in the numerous flea markets and bazaars, you need to head to North Goa, to Calangute, Arpora and Baga. And if you're looking for a spot of history and culture, a day trip to Panjim, the capital, should satisfy your needs.

There are several bazaars and markets to discover in Goa. Some better than others. 
My favourites are:

Mackies Saturday Night Bazaar in Arpora/Calangute
Stalls start setting up at around 4pm and stay open until 1am. The best buys here are embroidered fabrics, clothing, homewares, jewellery and decorations. Artisanal crafts like embellished Rajesthani puppets and embroidered dresses are also worth buying here. If you see something you like it is best to buy it that day, the quality of goods on the different markets vary wildly. I found Mackie's to have the best buys for a discerning foreign customer. As the night gets darker the entertainment hots up. Expect dancers, fire eaters and gymnasts.

The stunning lake which surrounds the Night Market

You can't beat the local stall holders in the street-style stakes
Mackie's is great for silver and semi-precious stone jewellery
Entertainment at the Night Market

Even the cows dress up for the occasion!

Anjuna Market
Also worth checking out is the Wednesday day time Market in Anjuna. The quality of goods isn't as good as the Saturday Night Market. Many of the stalls simply sell bongs, marijuana memorabilia and general tat you can find in Camden! Lots of stalls are repeats of whats next door and by lunch time it becomes incredibly busy and unbearably hot. But all this aside there are still some really fantastic bargains to be found here.

If you're getting a bit sick of your sun-lounger, a lovely way to spend an afternoon is to visit Old Goa and the capital, Panjim. You can learn a bit about Goa's history and Portuguese heritage. The main sites are the Basilica of Bom Jesus and the Se Cathedral. For an insight into the Hindu culture of Goa you can also visit the Mangueshi Temple.

The cheapest and safest way to get around is to hire a driver who is also a tour guide and for around £20, (depending on how far away from the old town you're staying) they'll pick you up from your hotel and take you to all the places worth seeing.

Panjim church
Basilica Bom Jesus

Goa - Eating and After Dark

After Dark
Many people head out to Goa in search of the legendary beach parties of the 90's, but these are a thing of the past. Full Moon parties no longer happen due to strict government restrictions on sound. 
Goa is definitely a chill out zone these days, don't expect Ibiza style partying, you'll only be disappointed. There are club nights in specialist venues, but the latest clubbing trend to take Goa by storm is the silent disco. Normally located on the beaches of South Goa, speak to locals in the bars to find out venue details as they change regularly.

La Plage outdoor bar
La Plage
Ashvem Beach
Road to Mandrem,
Pernem Goa

My favourite night spot in Goa is La Plage, a French owned bar/restaurant in Ashvem. It's quite hard to find, especially at night, as it's located at the end of a rather long, pot holed, un-lit, dirt track. But once you get there it is totally worth it. Maybe take a torch if you're walking. Once inside, expect slick cocktails and delicious French food with a firey asian kick. This place exudes bohemian spirit amidst the coconut palms, swathes of colourful sari fabrics hang from the wooden pagoda style beach huts. It was recommended to me by Jade Jagger, which is a good indicator of the sort of crowd that hangs out here.

Fairy lights and al fresco dinning at La Plage
The tables are decorated with handwriting at La Plage

854 Martins Block
Miramar Road

Mothers from various parts of Goa have helped compile the menu for Mum's Kitchen. It is part of a growing trend of restaurants trying to preserve Goan food traditions. Mum's Kitchen doesn't have a stunning interior, it's simple and rustic, but the food is great and it's a good place to refuel if you're in the capital, Panjim.

Beach bar on Baga


The main commercial hub for tourists in Goa is called Baga Beach. The beach here is lined with bars and shacks serving drinks and playing techno music. Yes, techno is still really popular out here. You can get food in the bars, but I wouldn't recommend it. 

Head to the beach to watch the sunset while sipping cocktails, then a little further up the road you can try Tito's for dinner. Baga is not the chicest or most beautiful area in Goa, but it's popular and Tito's has become part of the establishment here. After dinner and few more drinks you can always head to Mambo, be warned though, it is a bit of a meat market. The partying doesn't really get started until midnight.

Tito's Lane
Saunta Vaddo

Saunta Vaddo

My beach bungalow at Taj Holiday Village

When deciding where to stay in Goa you really need to think about what you want from the holiday. If you want beaches and total relaxation head to the South of Goa. To be near markets, bars and restaurant areas, the North is more lively and better for you. It is quite rough around the edges though, areas like Baga are quite dirty, but this is the main commercial hub of Goa. We stayed in the North at the Taj Holiday Village in Candolim.

Set amidst the swaying palms of Candolim beach the Taj Holiday Village is a luxury hotel with impeccable grounds and service. We stayed there for a week and didn't want to leave. Our beautiful beach bungalow had a colonial style interior, elegant and chic but with all mod cons, such as rain showers and wide screen TV. We stayed over New Year and the hotel was filled with Bollywood film stars. My favourite memory - eating breakfast on my personal garden terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean.
The bar at the Taj Vivanta
Other places you can look into are: 
Beach shacks in Palolem,
Fort Tiricol if you're looking for a heritage hotel,
or check out the luxurious Nilaya Hermitage