India hasn’t always been on my bucket list of places I have wanted to visit. I suppose when I was younger, all I saw in the media was slums in India, and I had never been a huge fan of curry. My mum went on holiday to Goa with her parents, and she always used to talk of amazing trips she took deep into the jungle, eating curry out of large folded banana leaves, and visiting peppercorn farms. It never seemed to fit – the India my mum always talked about sounded so different from the India I had seen in the media.
The slums of Dharavi, Mumbai are the largest in the world.
Goa seems to be known as ‘the land of sun, sand, and spices’. Goa is the smallest state in India, and is found on the west coast, next to the Arabian sea. Before 1961, Goa was a Portuguese province, and the city of Margao contains numerous examples of Portuguese influence, such as a number of catholic churches. In Panaji, Goa’s capital, you will find an incredible 16th century church named ‘Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church’ which displays wonderful examples of Baroque architecture. On Sundays, the locals flock to the church for the weekly service, which is fascinating to watch.
In Anjun, you can find a wonderful Indian flea market where you can find beautiful examples of Indian products including intricate cloth, spices, and sculptures. The bustling market sprawls back from the beach all the way to the entrance of the paddy fields of the town.
Goa is justly famous for its beautiful Sandy beaches; the palm-fringed coast is lapped by the warm waters of the Arabian sea. You can grab a bite to eat from a local beach bar for peanuts in Calangute or Baga, the main tourist destinations. If you are looking for a taste of what Goa was like 20 or 30 years ago you should head to Arambol, a sleepy fishing village in the North, or Agaonda and Palolem in the South.
If you come across a group of locals in a roadside café or street-food stall, the likelihood is they will be eating fish curry and rice. Goa’s national dish – eaten twice a day by most locals – consists of a runny red chilli sauce flavoured with dried fish and shrimps, served with white rice and a couple of fried sardines. This dish is usually eaten with fingers by the local people – something that westerners find quite puzzling. Another of Goa’s most famous dishes is a ‘Pork Vindaloo’. Unlike the western ‘Vindaloo’ which is famous for being an ultra-hot curry, the original vindaloo evolved from a Portuguese stew that was seasoned with wine (vinho) , vinegar and garlic (alho). This dish is particular popular during Christian festivals such as Christmas and Good Friday.
Is Goa budget-friendly?
India is, unquestionably one of the least expensive countries for travellers in the world, and although the cost of living in Goa is higher than other parts of India, a little foreign currency still goes a long way. With provisions for tourists ranging from five-star resorts to palm leaf shacks, what you spend depends entirely on you; how you get around, what you eat, where you stay and what you buy.
Travelling to Goa is often inconvenient; it is difficult to find any direct flights from the UK. However, for approximately £500 you can buy a return ticket from London to Mumbai, stopping in Munich/Zurich, with a layover of only an hour. Flight time including layover is around 10h 40minutes. From Mumbai trains run frequently to Goa, for a small amount of money. Hotel prices range from £15 a night in a 3-star hotel to £200 a night in a luxury 5-star resort. Overall, flights and hotel costs wouldn’t get much lower than £700 for a two week stay.